Oyga, Tienes Un Novio?

“Tienes un novio?”( do you have a boyfriend?)

*I pensively weigh of my options, do I make one up?*

“No” I reply.

Surprise is apparent, the questioning continues.

No boyfriend in Ecuador? In the States? Not even one in both?

Smiling, and amused by the  third option, I tell them “Soy un independiente mujer!” I’m an independent woman!

This is the normal line of questioning, from taxi drivers, family members  and basically anyone who I just met. It might seem prying to US ears.

People ask you upfront, practically 10 minutes into knowing you, if you have a novio(boyfriend). I have been responding, in a joking way, that no I didn’t have a boyfriend and that I was an independent woman. Even though I said this a couple times in different situations, with compleatly different people I eventually got the same comment from whatever young ecuadorian woman who was in the conversation with me: I wish I could be like you. I figured out that the girls were not (at least immediately) understanding the sarcasm I was using but taking the term independent, and the idea of not needing a guy, to heart. I’ve heard this from both of my sisters in my Quito home and my current Azogues home. It’s always a quiet moment that’s serious contemplation on my part, trying to understand the context and cultural meaning of relationships for young women in Ecuador, and a sort of far away look in the other girls eyes. Then the conversation turns right back to being humorous and fun. I have said, of course you can be like me, to which they still just shake their heads and smile.

When I interviewed Mandy*, a 14 year old girl from my work in the orphanage, she told me that she wanted to become a policewoman. She motioned toward one of the woman at my work, who has a 2 year old, and told me that when you have kids the same opportunities for work and school aren’t there anymore. You have to take care of the child. At the moment she doesn’t want kids, or to get married. She’s looking forward to the future, and for herself.

*name has been changed