Welcome to ¡Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at [email protected]
A year ago, I started talking to this guy on Bumble. My bio mentioned I’m from Colombia, which seemed to really interest him. He asked me questions about my background (in Spanish) and said his own mom was Colombian, which I thought was a neat coincidence.
When we met in person for coffee a few days later, we only talked in Spanish. His was accented to be sure — a product, I figured, of being born and raised in the U.S. — but he actually sounded like a Colombian in many ways, too. He had recently spent a year in Bogota while completing his thesis. We went on more dates after that, and the relationship grew into something serious.
We reverted to talking mostly in English, but I knew I could always throw in some Spanish whenever I wanted. As an immigrant here in the U.S., it can feel comforting to stumble upon someone who is familiar with where you’re from, who speaks your native tongue, and who you’re able to freely code-switch around.
Fast forward to this past Thanksgiving. We traveled to his hometown to spend the holiday with his family, and I quickly realized that his mom is not Colombian. Like, at all. In fact, no one in his family has any Colombian heritage whatsoever. When we were finally alone, he told me how sorry he was about making that up. He said he didn’t think I’d agree to go on that first date with him if we didn’t have that in common and that he never expected an eventual first date to lead to anything. He said he’d been wanting to set the record straight for a long time but was terrified I’d leave him if I knew.
Obviously, making things up about your family is — most of the time — a trivial, basically harmless, super silly thing to do. But I was really taken aback when I realized someone close to me (who I thought I knew well!) had been lying for a whole year. I guess I was unwittingly lying as well, since my own family just loved hearing about how I was dating another Colombian.
It wasn’t just one lie, Papi. I’ve asked him so many questions about his Colombian side of the family, about the reasons that pushed his mom to leave, about his siblings’ relationship with their mom’s home country… and he always came up with really detailed answers that I now know were complete fabrications. It’s just such a strange thing.
And more than strange, I think it was even sad of him to randomly claim Colombian heritage for the sake of just... seeming more interesting? He was new to town when we met, had just gotten back from his year in Bogota, and he must have thought no one would notice the “reinvention.” He even joined the Latin American club at his grad school.
Anyway, what do you make of this, and how would you proceed if it happened to you? Bolt for the door?
Como La Floored
Buddy. Amigo. Mi amor. I looked for the term “ex-boyfriend” in this letter twice thinking I had surely missed something, but I never found it. Am I to understand you are still with this person? If that’s the case, then you need to go from his Latinx to his Latin ex immediately. It sounds like you’re dealing with a pathological liar.
Please don’t take my shock that you’re still together as an attempt to shame you. I’m willing to bet that you’re very confused right now and — in all likelihood — a kind person who gives people the benefit of a doubt (or 10). So if it helps, I’m more than willing to walk you through all the reasons you should break up with Michelada Dolezal.
I think it could be useful to put yourself in his shoes here and just imagine all the steps you’d have to take to do what he did. You’d have to lie in the first place, yes. That’s Not Good™, but as you said, some truth-stretching might happen on a first date (I’m being VERY generous here).
Next, you’d have to keep the lie up. Imagine yourself weaving a series of complex tall tales for your partner just to keep them in the dark, about something as sensitive as immigration no less. This person you’re lying to is a person you ostensibly care about, by the way! A person who actually cares about where they come from and whose family cares about it, too. But whatever. You’ve got an alternate identity to assume.
Finally, and perhaps most outrageous of all, you would have to invite your partner to your house where you are 100 percent aware that they are going to meet your very not Latino family. Don’t you think that at least, at least, your boyfriend could have told the truth before dropping you into that situation? I’m guessing he thought he’d be more likely to get away with it after spending a holiday together. Whatever his reason, I ask again: What about you?
This is a scandalous letter, CLF. But I’m less worried about the (100 percent terrible) thing that happened to you and more worried that you haven’t broken up with him yet. We can get over the first part with time. Yes, you were lied to about something important. No, it wasn’t your fault (Latinx people come in all backgrounds and colors! How were you to know?).
But my concern is that you didn’t immediately book a ticket to Nopeville and get out of the relationship. It’s important to understand our own worth and what we’re not willing to put up with in any dynamic. I won’t tell you what to do or make any decisions for you, but “repeatedly telling intricate lies” is among the redder of the red flags. That’s not even taking into account that he alleges he only did it to have a shot with you in the first place. That sounds like a roundabout attempt to put some of the blame on you.
While there’s a lot going on here, my advice is pretty simple, CLF! Break up with him. Or in Spanish: ¡Déjalo! ¡Rompe con él! ¡Córtalo! ¡Viva la Independencia! Etc.
Con mucho amor,