"I’m getting married! I proposed to him!”, Mercedes said to me as we appreciated the warmth of NYC night in early Fall right after we had enjoyed a Fashion Week function together. My emotions swirled between joy, shock and absolute terror like the Brooklyn Cyclone Coaster at Coney Island.
My friend, Mercedes, is marrying the same boyfriend who 3-4 months ago she was "plotting her escape" from.
This is the same fiancée she described as overwhelming her with the bulk of emotional labor in their relationship which had put a crushing effect on her mental health. Mercedes was absorbing all the stress her partner brought home from his demanding job as a Wall Street banker. The emotional labor/ domestic labor women/femmes perform is often undervalued and uncompensated. Mercedes is a West Coast transplant in NYC pursuing her Master’s degree from a working class/ poor Mexican-American family.
While Mercedes never characterized her boyfriend as abusive, 70% of victims of psychological abuse suffer from PTSD. Her facial expression seemed blank, aloof and anxious as she relayed details of their struggle. I could sense the agony it was causing her feeling so stuck in this situation. Mercedes simply wanted to find a new job that would empower her to afford new housing in addition to leaving her boyfriend. I frantically sent her web links to job openings. She promised me she would be fine.
I needed to be thoughtful about the way I reacted to the news of her engagement. I had considered Mercedes a very good friend. Her bright smile and palpable joy illuminated the night sky like Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks. I wanted her to savor this exciting milestone in her life but more so wanted to protect her. I am so proud of her as a millennial feminist Latina cis hetero woman of color defying patriarchal structures by proposing to her life partner.
"So….Remember all those concerns you share me about him awhile ago? "
On average Latinas are paid 45% less than white non-Latino men. Minimum wage in NYC is $11 hourly. The more realistic national minimum living wage is estimated to be $20+ hourly. The median cost of housing in Manhattan is $3,1114 and $2,607. The cost of living in New York City increased more than 23% in just 5 years from 2009 to 2014. New York residents spend nearly 70% of the median income for rent.
"Yeah, you know things have changed. That was just a hard moment in our relationship.”
Mercedes ’s experience isn’t different from my other QPoC friends, all of whom have traveled to NYC to pursue their education. Each one of them is surviving on the wealth accumulated from their partner’s access to white privilege or male privilege. Andre, my Black sexually fluid non-binary masc friend, lives with their white passing male partner, Steve. Steve’s upper middle class West Coast family assisted them in securing a renovated apartment in Manhattan.
Sacred, my Black bisexual cis woman Californian friend, shares her apartment with her boyfriend. His family’s excellent credit was a major factor for them successfully securing their home. Sacred sometimes stays in their relationship when the two of them are on the verge of a break up to avoid disrupting their housing situation.
Generally, LGBT households earn up to 70% less than their heterosexual counterparts. Lesbian couples especially lesbian Latina and Black women experience double the wage gap and up to $1 million in lost wages over their career. Each one of my friends has expressed fear of becoming housing insecure if they leave their partner because they happen to be miles away from their hometown . Luckily, Andre, Sacred and Mercedes have families to return to if their living arrangement gets rocky.
In 2016, There were as many as 60,000 people in 274 shelters operating in NYC for people who had limited resources to fall back on. If we’re maintaining a relationship for housing and/ or income, is it then called survival not commitment? Is it less about love or more so for the purpose of preventing our own housing insecurity? If being together is not for love, Can it be consider subset of sex work?
Netflix + Oxytocin: Why We Cuff When We Cuff
The cultural phenomenon of cuffing season is the short period that stretches over the Fall/Winter holiday period that from Halloween to Valentine’s Day like a seductive bod-con dress.
With New Year’s eve out of the way and cupids arrow on the horizon, cuffing season, has almost reached it’s climax. It’s safe to say if you haven’t found a bae by now it won’t happen at all during this time. The term derives from African American Vernacular English or Ebonics. The cultural contributions of Black youth to America as well as internationally are so often overlooked and uncredited.
Cuffing season is a social and scientific phenomenon. Seasonal depression also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder sets in during the colder month. A chiller climate forces us to spend most of our hours indoors with limited sunlight. Oxytocin is a “feel good” hormone that produces the same sensations of pleasure in the brain as a dosage of cocaine would. It is released through bonding, child birth or sex. More children are conceived in America during this time than any other time in the year. Winter holidays are a time that society and other families members may put pressure on us to be in at this time.
Cuffing Under Trump’s America
25 million Americans lose their health care, as affordable housing becomes more folklore than fact. As living wage is uncertain under Trump’s America, survival sex or survival relationships will rise. These changes will impact low-income and other marginalized groups the most. Sex work may become a lot more commonplace.
There is a plot twist however. Trump’s transition team includes Vice President Mike Pence, who is anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parent, anti-Transgender bathroom protection, and anti-birth control contraceptives. This leaves sex workers or any human capable of reproducing at risk if they are assaulted or contraceptives fail. Safety net programs like Medicaid, Food Stamps and Section 8 are highly likely to be cut or disposed of all together. When there is nothing to fall back on and survival is at stake, bigger risks are taken.
*All names have been changed to protect privacy.*