25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Visiting Oneís Girlfriend
Estimado SeŇor Pablo, (Dear Mr. Pablo)
With all due respect that I have for you, I send you this letter to ask your kind permission to visit your house. Your daughter, Rosita, and I love each other and we would like to make formal our relationship. It has been several months now that we have been talking and thinking of our love and now I would like your permission to visit at your house if you are kind enough. I promise to respect you and your family and to visit at the specified days and time that you may grant me.
I really love your daughter and I beg your kindness in allowing me to visit her at your home. I shall appreciate your reply to inform me when I may start visiting.
With this letter Antono, who has been courting and seeing Rosita at the park, at parties and on the streets, announces to Rosita's parents his good intentions towards their daughter. She also thinks that Antono is a gorgeous man with a good future as a fisherman and she encourages him to ask permission to visit her formally at home. For his part, Antono also wants to make formal his relationship for he is already twenty and she is fifteen. She has been his "enamorada" (girlfriend) and now he wants her to be his "novia" (fiance).
This letter, 25 years ago, Antono would write in his best handwriting or have a confidential friend of his write it out. He would place the letter in an envelope and send it to his future father-in-law. He could pay any little boy on the street 25 cents for special delivery. If he wants to look good and gain favor with the family, he would send it with a young brother of his girlfriend. Now if he is courageous and really wants to gain the upper hand and admiration of the father-in-law, he would deliver the letter personally.
This custom of writing letters to request visiting privileges and rights to a girl's home was common 25 years ago. It was official. It was a required and necessary practice. A father would feel offended if a boy would start coming to his house without this formal request and his official consent. A young man could accompany a girl to her home and perhaps remain a few minutes in casual conversation, but never would he enter the house and stay for a considerable time.
After receipt of this letter, the father would then do several things. He would inquire whether the daughter also loved the young man. He would discuss with his wife whether she consented to this relationship. He would also talk to the young man's parents to find out whether they know and approve of this relationship. He would also inquire whether this particular young man has written and sent other similar letters to other parents and whether he was a "don Juan" (Casanova). Once satisfied of his investigations, he would then respond with another letter. This sometimes took a week or two or even a month. During this long week or weeks, the boy is in tension and almost in fear. He, of course, would be his best self. He would dress well and pass often by the girl's house. He would not drink, trying to cause a good impression. He would not smoke, nor curse, nor swear and try in general to be a fine gentleman. And then finally, one day a little boy would approach him with an envelope with a reply letter. And then the nervousness and tension increases. This could be a letter of rejection or a letter of acceptance.
Here is Don Pablo's reply.
"Estimado AntoŇo" (dear AntoŇo),
I received your letter requesting permission to visit my house and to formalize your relationship with my daughter Rosita. I regret to inform you that at the moment, I am not in the disposition to grant that permission to you or to anyone else because my daughter is too young. She is only 14 years old and has a lot to learn yet before she can make that step in preparation for marriage.
I want you to understand that I hold nothing against you. In fact, I like your family very much. If you have a sincere love for Rosita, I am sure you can wait for about a year and then I will consider it again if you are still interested in this relationship.
This was a typical letter denying the young man the permission requested to visit a young girl who was only 14 years of age and just out of primary school, but 15 was also quite common.Here is another typical reply letter received by some boys 25 years ago on the same subject but with a different tone.
You are sincerely wasting your time soliciting my permission to visit Carolina at my house. You will never get my permission since I have found out many things about you.
First of all, you have visited two or three other girls, and your relationships are all broken by you since you are not serious with girls. It is clearly known that you like to play with girls' feelings.
One more thing, you have the bad habit of drinking and when you are under the influence of rum, you like to talk bad about the girls whom you are dating. That is not a manly thing to do, and you are not going to have the opportunity to do it with my daughter Carolina. In fact, I do not want you to approach her ever again. If you do so, I will have to arrange this thing "de hombre a hombre" (man to man).
With this letter Marcos could insist with Carolina if he really liked her, or he could decide to "give her up" if fooling around was really his intention. Or more interesting, he could challenge Don Pedro Bolas on the street or better yet when he met him at Daddy's Club by the beach. They could have an exchange of fists and permanently put that affair into history.
So as you can see, twenty five years ago, getting a girl to like you was only half of the job. You then had to win the admiration and approval of the father and the girl's family. Quite unlike today, girls meet boys and go out steadily many times without the knowledge of the father. They meet in the streets and all the dating is outside the home. There is little opportunity for the parents to get to know the young man, so he can be a loafer or a drunkard, a drug addict, or a basic "nincompoop" and the father has little say in the affair. The young girl does not get the benefit of parental advice because the parents do not know him. Similarly, the young man does not know how the young lady relates to her parents and family.
It is not that dating 25 years ago was better, but it certainly ensured a better understanding and more stability in the marriage, which followed. It was a formal affair, and marriage too was serious and formal. That is what is lacking in many relationships of young people today. Let's go back to 25 years ago! Agree? Okay, get your paper and pen to write your letters requesting to visit your girlfriend. Oh no, can't do it by phone. You've got to have the courage to do it in formal writing.
So the custom 25 years ago was to write a formal letter requesting permission to visit a girl at her home and the father would write back either with a letter denying that permission or accepting. Finally here is the long awaited approval letter about a week or two after it was mailed, sorry I mean sent with a little boy (and it cost 25 cents special delivery; the same cost of a local stamp today).
"Estimado Alberto", (Dear Alberto)
I received your very cordial letter requesting our kind permission to visit Angelita at our house. You will be happy to know that both my wife and I are very happy and proud that both of you have decided to make formal your "noviasco" (courting period).
You may start coming to our humble home as of Monday, December 5, and visit from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We would like this "noviasco" to last about a year to a year and a half since we have another daughter, Amparito, who has an "enamorado" (boyfriend) who might start to visit in a year's time. I trust you will behave in an honorable manner and respect our house.
Boy oh boy! Alberto is so glad to receive the news on Saturday night that he invites his friends for a "parranda" (spree). He buys a bottle of rum and some Coca Colas, and his friends meet downstairs of the Adventist Church by the beach for their party. There is fun and laughter and a lot of jokes made on Alberto. Later that night, they go on a "serenata" (serenade). Angel is there to strum the guitar and Joe is there to play the accordion. Lucky for them, Felipe and Roberto are there and they know a lot of songs (rancheras) They take their serenade to Angelica and Dianita and Carmelita and all the other "novias" of the guys in the group, but not to Angelita. You see, Alberto does not want his fiancČ and especially the future "suegros" (in-laws) to know that he was in a "parranda". He wants to be his best self for at least one more month or two to gain the respect and esteem of his in-laws.
Angelita is also excited. She gets the news from her father that he has conceded to her boyfriend's request to visit her, so she dreams like an angel. The next day she will iron all her clothes since she will need a different one every night to impress Alberto. No more walking about the house from 7 to 9 p.m. in her ragged T-shirt or nightgown. Se also plans to go to dona Raf to put on her perm because "a su novio le gustan sus chorros" (her boyfriend likes her curls).
The father will re-varnish or re-paint two chairs for the "novios" and the mother would change the curtains and clean the "sala" (living room) for Monday night. Everyone is excited. The parents and even the Angelita's younger brothers and sisters are excited for Alberto will bring chewing gum, candies and at times chocolates as treats when he comes to visit. But Angelita is the most excited. They have become novios and from now on they will be in each other's company for two long hours every night as long as the boy was in town, I mean in the village. They both know that now they must "cut off" all other relationships with other boys and girls. It means that now other girls will not flirt at Alberto because now he is committed. If there is a dance and another young man would come to ask her to dance, she must refuse because now she has her "novio". And if there is a dance and Alberto is out of the village, she will not attend because she now has her "novio" and she must be faithful to him even before marriage.
Exciting and romantic, isn't it ? Exclusive dating was a very formal and serious matter. Consequently, the marriages were very stable also. Good family life did it twenty five years ago.
After writing letters to the parents of his girlfriend, Alberto finally received the letter of consent and he is overjoyed that now Angelita is no more his girlfriend but his official fiancČ. They are no more "enamorados"; now they are "novios". It is Monday, August 5, and it is the day that Alberto will start to visit Angelita officially as her "novio".
At Angelita's house there are new curtains, a freshly scrubbed wooden floor, two new chairs and the children have been instructed that they must be in bed\hammock before 7 p.m. Angelita has made the best of herself, making sure she put on her "chorros" (curls) which her novio loves so dearly.
Alberto, on the other hand, has put on his nice black pants, which he normally only used to wear for Easter, a long-sleeved shirt tucked in, and he placed a white handkerchief in his back pocket with a tip of it showing outside. He goes to the store or saloon to buy a pack of spearmint or P.K. chewing gum and a bar of chocolate for his "novia".
At 7 p.m. sharply, he heads towards Angelita's house, only a block away. Mrs. Tulita Rosado, the mother, greets him a good night and invites him to come in. Angelita shyly says "Good night", and sits down. Alberto sits beside her on a wooden chair, and Tulita and Ramon Rosado also sit down. Mr. Ramon lights up a Colonial cigarette and tries to start a conversation. He settle down after Alberto offers the ladies chewing gum, the mother taking only one piece and Angelita gets a full pack of spearmint chewing gum. She will not chew them. She will save them throughout their courting period and in a year she will have a box full. After a short time, the mother and the father leave the room so that the couple can have their private moment and be able to interact, which was the purpose of the visiting period. Whenever Alberto would get the opportunity, he would steal a kiss from Angelita. After a two-hour period, the mother would start to indicate that it was time for Alberto to leave. She would walk about busily indicating that she was ready to go to bed. If Alberto did not budge, she would clear her throat loudly indicating to her daughter that she should bid him good night. If Angelita still did not do her part, the mother would put a broom upside down and everybody knew what that meant. Besides, it was common belief that the visitor would soon have need to use the bathroom.
Alberto knew that he had to court or visit the home for about two years. This was the necessary time required for them to fully know each other. During this period, never would the boy be allowed to enter the girl's room. Never would he take her out to a dance alone. They would have to be chaperoned by the mother or some close relative like an aunt. Never would he be allowed to travel to some other country in the company of the girl. Never would there be any kissing or petting in public. The parents expected their daughter to be respected.
Now believer it or not, with all these tight regimental rules, there was still some hanky panky at time. From time to time there was a teenage and unexpected pregnancy. From time to time a young girl eloped with her boy because she could not wait for two full years or because the mother was not treating the boy right.
However, dating twenty five years ago meant visiting the girl at her house. It was a way of life and he was expected to visit every night as long as he was in town. If he did not show up, that was an indication that something was going wrong. By the way, for the record, the longest visiting time was 8 years. So long in this exciting series of dating twenty five years ago.