Real Talk: Why Dating Basque People Sucks

A couple of weeks ago I extolled the social and cultural benefits of marrying a fellow Basque person, but let me be frank about why this is a far away dream for many of us. In a lot of ways, dating within the Basque community presents challenges. Let’s explore.

1. Pre-Relationship: Flirting, Crushing, “Talking”

Traveling around to Basque festivals, meeting great people both at Udaleku and picnics… All of those things are lovely. But sometimes you get stuck with a not-so-great situation—like if you actually find someone you want to date.

Say you meet the person of your dreams, from another Basque club. You hit it off and you’re totally into each other. Eventually it’s time to go home (whether from Udaleku or a picnic/festival/Convention/Jaialdi).

The reality sets in that your new friend lives in Elko, Rock Springs, Boise, Winnemucca, or any of the other Basque American towns hundreds of miles away from where you live. Or even worse, you fell for an actual Basque person, FROM THE BASQUE COUNTRY. Then what?

For many young people, that one festival with your honey is all you get. We’re not in a position to move, leave school, quit jobs to make the picnic romance last. And for many people, trying a long distance relationship is way out of the question.

So that’s it. You’re just left with a smidge of post-picnic depression and a hope that maybe one day your fling will miraculously work itself out and turn into something more.

2. Dating/Relationship

Now, let’s say you’re lucky enough to find someone from your own Basque club you’d like to date (and who wants to date you back!). Congratulations! That’s awesome. Everyone loves a cute young Basque couple.

But maybe a little too much… People begin to constantly ask you about your relationship, wanting to know where you see it going. People joke and hint about marriage and kids, even if you’ve only been together for a month.

Then the betting begins. Your friends and family place bets on if/when you’ll get married or if/when you’ll break up. Your relationship is completely open to scrutiny from members of your Basque community. People get all up in your business.

And you’ll definitely hear it from older people or even your peers if you show any amount of PDA at a Basque function. Everyone is happy you’re in a relationship, but absolutely no one wants to see evidence of it.

3. Break Up

The cold hard truth is that many relationships end in break ups, even Basque ones. And if you thought people were invested in your relationship before, this is the time when you find out how much they actually are.

People pick sides in these break ups. Not just your friends and family, as you might expect, but people you had no idea even knew who you were or cared about your relationship status.

Inevitably, community members pick someone to blame for the break up, and Lord help you if you become the scapegoat. Breaking up with a Basque person can be quite uncomfortable.

I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve seen time and again Bascos having to “take a break” from community events after a break up to avoid uncomfortable conversations. I’ve heard people say some really horrible things in the midst of a Basque couple’s break up.

So while many of us aspire to finding that special someone from within our communities, the reality is that dating a Basco is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of dedication and patience with nosy people.

For me, right now, it’s not even worth the trouble.

Do you think it’s worth the effort to date a Basque person? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

6 Ways to Impress an Aita

If you’re lucky enough to be dating someone from our lovely Basque American community, the big meeting with the family is inevitable. Meeting your partner’s dad, specifically, can be incredibly intimidating.

Basque dads, a.k.a. Aitas, are remarkably tough or easy to please, depending on your perspective. Get a few simple things right, and you’ve got his approval. Get them wrong, and you will forever be known as that skinhead who took his daughter to prom (true story).

To avoid Aita’s immediate disdain, be sure not to utter any of the Top 5 Things Not to Say to a Girl’s Aita. To win him over completely, take the following advice to heart:

1. Respect his family.

Whether you’re dating his son or daughter, the #1 way to impress an aita is the same: respect his family. Do not interrupt his son or daughter (presumably your boyfriend or girlfriend) when they speak, keep PDA to a minimum (or even better, leave it out entirely in his presence), make eye contact when speaking, greet everyone appropriately, compliment him on his home, and thank him for his hospitality.

Above all else, Aita wants you to be someone who will integrate well into the family, not someone who will shake things up. Find the balance of being polite and respectful without being a suck-up, and you’ll go far in winning him over.

2. Be Basque.

Aita loves fellow Bascos, especially as potential spouses for his children. If you’re of Basque descent, you’ve won half the battle already just by your genealogy.

However, check to see if you come from a family the aita in question likes. Basques are known to have their prejudices and disagreements, so it’s no use being Basque if Aita doesn’t like your family.

If you’re a Montague, don’t be surprised if Capulet Aita gives you the cold shoulder at first. I won’t tell you to stay away from the Capulets entirely, as love is love and opinions can change, but just know you might have to work a little harder to prove you’re better than those family members of yours that Aita dislikes.

Now, if you’re in no way, shape, or form Basque: show appreciation for Basque culture. Your honey should have filled you in on the basics, so you should know a bit about it. Ask Aita about where he came from, tell him you love Basque food, or just express that you would love to learn more about the culture. Respecting his family’s roots is key (see #1).

3. Show knowledge of any of the following: agriculture, sheepherding, cattle ranching, dairy farming, landscaping, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, construction, car maintenance, property management.

Preferably, have knowledge in Aita’s specific area of expertise, but it helps to know something about any of these topics. Most likely, Aita has spent his entire life engaged in manual labor or as part of a family that has, so showing appreciation for his background can go a long way.

To have him instantly love you, actually work in any of the fields listed above. Aita will automatically make positive assumptions about how you make good money, how hard of a worker you are, and how handy you are around the house/garage/yard.

If you don’t know anything about these manly fields, don’t make stuff up or pretend that you do. Aita can smell a fake from a mile away. Just ask him questions about his work and show interest. That’s how my charming, white collar ex managed to crack my Aita’s tough exterior.

4. Present yourself as clean cut and polite.

Ditch the ponytail, shave the beard, dress appropriately for the occasion, cover up your tattoos, take out your piercings, show up on time, and accept any food and drink offered you with a “thank you very much.” Aita doesn’t want any hippies, punks, skinheads, gangsters, or hoochies associated with his family.

Part of good presentation is making sure your car (or truck–Basque bonus!) is clean and well maintained. Yes, Aita will most certainly judge you on your vehicle of choice. Make sure you stop by the car wash before you head to his house.

5. Be prepared to answer difficult questions.

Like all dads, some aitas are quiet observers and other are a little more in your face. Prepare for the more confrontational ones just in case–even the quiet Aitas have brazen Amas for wives who would be happy to ask you personal questions.

Be able to articulate what your intentions with their son or daughter are. Practice tactfully answering whether you practice a religion, want to get married, want to start a family, hold certain political views. Being ready for anything will make you look cool and confident under pressure. Aita will respect that.

6. Bring him wine.

You can check with your boyfriend or girlfriend to see what kind of alcohol Aita likes best, but chances are you can’t go wrong with a bottle of wine.

If you’re more of a green thumb, Aita also loves homegrown fruits and vegetables so bring those along. They could be an excellent conversation starter.

If all else fails with the first five steps, Aita won’t think you’re a complete loser if you at least have the decency to bring him a bottle of wine.

What other things would you add to this list? What impresses your Aita or Aitatxi?