“chak moun bezwen yon moun…” Emeline sings, everybody needs someone.
Dating is awkward. One interaction ends, and when you feel ready, you pick yourself up and try to start a new one. I stumble through it, hoping for at least a good story to tell, wondering what could I have done to prepare myself for this phase of my 20’s. What could I have told myself as a teenager to get me ready to sit across the table from a handsome stranger at a restaurant one day, hoping to eventually build something?
“Gen yon bagay ki di ou, ke’w antre nan lavi’m pou’w rete…” Something tells you they’ve come into your life to stay, Emeline sings with confidence.
Nobody ever taught me how to do this whole romance thing, and sometimes I feel like I missed a class that everyone else took. In my upbringing as a girl in Haiti, romance was something I read about in books. Teenage love was a Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen film where the girls travel to a random city in Europe, and just so happen to meet two cute boys in their age ranges that they end up kissing at the last scene. Male interaction was smiling at boys from across the aisle at church on Sunday morning, whispered conversations in youth group meetings, passed notes in the classroom about who you would like to take you to the school banquet. What phase did I miss that would have educated me on how to deal with the number first dates would do on my self-esteem? Nobody equipped me for the moments of doubting my desirability; the moments in romance that precede the feeling of pa gen manti nan sa.
“Se yon jan mwen santi’m, yon gwo feeling ki anvayi’m cheri...pa gen manti nan sa.” ...It’s just an inkling, a feeling that overcomes me. There’s no doubt about this. Pa gen manti nan sa. No doubt about this
My 16 year-old cousin visited me for a week. I wish there was some kind of wisdom I could impart on her. I’m not sure what this wisdom would sound like. Something like: “Baby cousin, Haitian parents don’t want you to interact with boys much as a teen, but as soon as you hit 23, they’ll expect you to be in a healthy loving relationship that is headed towards marriage. So, get ready, but don’t freak out.” No, that can’t be it. I watched her, her beautiful face, almond shaped eyes, dangerous womanly curves that she knows not the power of, and a promise ring on her finger. Love is something she will do as an adult when she’s old enough for it, when she’s my age. And I realized, in these beginning stages of dating, I become just as clueless and vulnerable as she is, as if I’ve never been through this before. I am once again that girl who watched American teen romance movies with terribly synced French voice overs, pretending to identify. Feigning graceful womanhood as I await my feeling of Pa Gen Manti Nan Sa.
Pa Gen Manti nan sa...
Maybe there really isn’t anything that prepares someone for this. Maybe underneath her grace and poise, and before her overwhelming assurance, Emeline too melted on the inside, as I do every time.
I lie back in my bed, turn up the volume, and sing along “Pa gen manti nan sa…” My iPhone flashes with a notification of a new text message: a request for a 2nd date...