During my junior year of high school I began my first serious relationship with a man. He was 22, I was 17, and we were each other’s first true love. My parents went along with the relationship at first, knowing that he was from a good family”and thinking this would be a passing fancy.

Two and a half years later, he and I were still dating and our relationship had become quite serious. While I had just embarked on my second semester of college, he was completing his final year of a Mechanical Engineering degree. By that time he was 24 and because he was a full-time student, he was still living at home. In Mexico, it is extremely difficult to work, study, and live on your own. Ever-changing university class schedules make it almost impossible to hold down a steady job, traffic makes going to work or school a two-hour ordeal, wages are pathetically low, part-time jobs are not legal according to the government, and affordable housing in decent areas of town is virtually non-existent.

My parents were incensed that this 24-year old man could still be living at home while finishing his degree. They told me, with these very words, that he was a “loser”, that he would never amount to much in life, and that – in comparison – my father had been living on his own and working & studying since he was 15. Of course, they failed to mention three important items (and I was too scared of my father at that time to talk back):’the first being that my father was financially supported by his father during his teenage years; the second, that Mexico City was a lot more affordable and housing was more readily available twenty years back; and the third being that my father never completed his college degree because he was too busy working and discussing communist agendas with friends.

Being totally dependent on my parents and wanting to please them at all costs, I had no choice but to agree with them. They were my parents and of course they wanted what was best for me…Right? After not giving it much thought, and with a string of flimsy and nonsensical arguments, I broke up with my boyfriend on a cold Winter night. I rambled on about his lack of ambition, his failure to secure a job, and the fact that he was still living at home. I still remember the pain I caused him, the confusion in his eyes, and the hurt in his voice when he said that he was already saving for an engagement ring so he could ask me to marry him.

I got home and cried throughout the night, terrified of the pain I had caused him but thinking (in my silly 19-year old mind) that I had done the right thing. In the morning, I went to my parents’ room and found my mother still in bed. I told her what had happened and burst into tears. My father entered the room while my mother consoled me, and he asked what was wrong. My mother told him and he merely shrugged, shook his head, and left the room. Everything I had done, all the pain I had inflicted on my boyfriend and on myself, was with the purpose of pleasing him. And he didn’t care…

I moved on after this incident, went to college abroad (where I started working at the age of 19), started my career, and put this pain behind me. Meanwhile, my brother, who’s three years younger than me, graduated from high school. He was admitted to a prestigious college in Boston, and my parents not only paid for our tuition but also gave each of us a credit card for emergencies. My brother spent the next two years partying with his wealthy classmates, missing class, and racking up $2,000 a month in clothing and nightclub charges on the credit card.

After depleting my parents’ bank account for two years, he was finally recalled by my father to Mexico City. There, he was given a cushy job in my father’s business and was paid enough money each month to live handsomely on his own (i.e. rent his own apartment, pay for his own food, etc.). He was 20, and he chose to live with our parents and spend his considerable income on parties and clothing, once again.

Thinking that my brother would be better off living on his own, my parents shipped him to the U.S., set him up in his own apartment in San Diego, CA, gave him thousands of dollars to start a small business, and consoled themselves with the fact that he was attending a community college. A year later, he had dropped out of school and had bankrupted the new business. He was 23 and not only was he not completing a college degree, but he was still dependent on my parents and had NEVER held down a real job in his life.

Not wanting to admit that their son was a “loser” (sounds familiar??) my parents returned him to Mexico City and once again took him under their wing. The partying, boozing, and gallivanting continued until one day – at 24 years of age – he decided he wanted to finish his college degree. My parents, eager to see their only son make something of his life, agreed to pay his exorbitant college tuition at a European university. Now, if you’re keeping track, 24 was the age my boyfriend was when I was told to break up with him or fear the wrath of my father’s disappointment.

To make a long story short, my brother is now almost 28 years old and the only job he’s ever held was a part-time position offered to him by one of his teachers in exchange for some tuition money. He finally graduated from college at the age of 27 and is once again living with my parents – rent free and without a job – while he submits applications to Master’s programs.

What I find insanely funny (in an “I need to laugh or else I’ll cry” way) is that my brother has been dating a girl five years his junior for the past three years (exactly the same age difference and relationship span as the one I related at the beginning of this essay). My parents love her and think she’s perfect for my brother, and they support their relationship to the degree that she will come live with my them during the year that my brother is sitting around the house preparing to send out his Master’s applications.

So, here’s what gets me: If I had told my parents that I was going to go live with my 28-year old boyfriend in his parents’ house because he didn’t have a job (and has never had one in his life) but was spending a year applying to Master’s programs…They’d kill me. Seriously, they’d brand me a pathetic disappointment and would want nothing more to do with me. Yet here is my brother, 28, unemployed, living at home, and BRINGING HIS GIRLFRIEND TO LIVE WITH THEM…And they couldn’t be prouder!!!

I can see the damage they’re doing to him; I don’t envy him and would not like to be in his shoes. I do wish, however, that my parents would open their eyes to what they did to me, and to what they’re doing to their son.

P.S. I recently found out some information about my old boyfriend through a mutual friend…He graduated from college shortly after I left the country, found a good job, made enough money to move out on his own, and is now happily married and gainfully employed. He refuses to speak to me.

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