After Antoño writes his letter requesting permission to visit his girlfriend at home, he awaits patiently for the father-in-law to reply. During this highly nervous period, Antoño is at his best behavior. He does not drink, does not curse, nor stays out late at night. He dresses properly in his black pants and white shirt properly tucked in and tries his best to keep out of trouble. Finally after about a two-week wait, which seems eternal to him, the father-in-law writes back. This letter is delivered by a little boy at a price tag of 25 cents, more or less the same cost of a stamp today.
So here is the father’s letter to the young lover.
I received your kind letter in which you request permission to visit Angelita at our home. You will be happy to know that both my wife and I are very happy that you two have decided to make your noviasco (courtship period) a formal one. You may start coming to our home as of Monday, December 5 and your visiting hours shall be between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Please do not force us to ask you to leave, but we must have some sleep by that time. We ask you to respect our house and don’t do anything that will cause my wife to call your attention. We ask that this noviasco (courtship) will last for about a year or two at the most because we have another daughter that might soon accept home visits also. If after two years you cannot get married, then we will interpret this as a waste of time.
Oh man, Antoño is so happy with the news that on Saturday night he invites his friends for a parranda (spree). He buys a bottle of rum with some Coca Colas and his friends meet downstairs of the Adventist Church by the beach. There is fun and laughter and lots of jokes made on Antoño. Later that night they go on a serenata (serenade). Angel is there to play the accordion and Joe plays the guitar. Lucky for them that Felipe and Roberto are there and they know a lot of Spanish romantic songs. They take their serenade to Angelica, Dianita, and Carmelita, but they do not go to Angelita because Antoño does not want his girl’s parents (his suegros) to know that he was on a parranda or spree, for good and obvious reasons because Monday he will start visiting and meeting the parents everyday at home.
Angelita is also very excited. She gets the good news from her dad and she makes preparations for Antoño’s visits. The next day she will iron several dresses for she will need one every night. There will be no more walking at home in ragged T-shirts or in nightgown. She must cause a good impression on Antoño. She also plans to go to doña Raf to put on her perm because “su novio le gustan los chorros” (her boyfriend loves curls).
Father is also very busy. He must re-varnish or paint over two chairs for the novios. Mother is busy putting on some curtains for a fresh look for the visitor. The children are excited because they know that visiting boyfriends would bring chewing gum, candies, cookies or even chocolates. But the most excited one is Angelita. She will spend a lot more time in his company. If they go to dances, she has to turn down other boys who might want to dance with her because now she has a novio (fiancé). If he is out fishing and there is a dance, she should not attend because she has a novio.
Exciting and romantic, isn’t it? Exclusive dating was very formal and very serious business 25 years ago. Family life was closely knitted and there was much stability in the homes. Divorce was something unheard of 25 years ago. Sex before marriage was unheard of too. And living together was unthinkable. It did not even cross a young girl’s mind. Next week, we will experience the actual dating time, how the evenings were spent, and how the courtship proceeded. Stay tune to Ambergris Today for this exciting episode of Twenty Five Years Ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist