There are many phenomena which occur when you marry into another culture. Your norms are challenged, your flexibility is stretched, your worldview adjusts, you grow, fight, grow. This is a frustrating, exasperating, eventually wonderful and transformative process. It is not for someone without a willingness to change and compromise. In our relationship and marriage, we have gone through this and, I imagine, will continue to experience it for the rest of our lives. So many details could be discussed on this one point alone.

It was early in our relationship that I realized I was dating not only Alex, but another omnipotent presence: FUTBOL. I’m not sure if it is clear to Americans just how deep the love for fútbol runs among, well, most of the world, but especially, from my lens, Mexicans. When I married Alex, I married fútbol, and the two shall become one.

Perhaps, from our frame of reference, this type of reverence can be compared to some NFL or Redsox fans. Yes, there is a period of time, for the truly devote, that the world stops when Boston plays or our favorite NFL team is on ONCE A WEEK. Heck, I grew up with a father who I’m pretty sure forfeited large chunks of our college education fund to his local bookie buddies on the ramp come (American) football season. But nothing, and I mean nothing folks, in the American mainstream culture compares to the Mexican devotion to fútbol. Let me give you a few examples:

1) There is always a game going on somewhere in the world, ALWAYS. And usually, this can be applied only to Mexico, where our local cable will broadcast any Mexican game, any time. And, heaven forbid, no Mexican games are being broadcast, please take your pick of any world game which, thanks to modern technology and the vast variety of time zones throughout our wonderful planet, will no doubt be available for your viewing pleasure at any hour. In the US, our sports run seasonally. Soccer throughout the world runs 365. If the Mexican championship has ended, you can entertain yourself with any variety of world matches, some of the most important being: the Champions League in Europe, the world cup qualifiers, the UEFA cup, La Liga in Spain, the British Premier League…take your pick.  My husband, along with the vast majority of Mexican males,  had a microchip installed in his brain at birth programming him to be instinctively intuned with whatever game is going on in the world, as well as whatever TV channel is broadcasting this game. This means ordering cable which includes channels such as ESPN8 en español, and allows you to surf into the 600s. This means that daily, the background music in our household consists of GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL, and OAAAY OAY OAY OAAAAYYYYY, OAYYY OAYYYYYYYY….anyone with me here?

2) The first example was just day to day. Now, this daily activity is ramped up a few hundred notches when, gulp, YOUR TEAM is playing! Oh yes, and of course you can’t have just one team. First you must have a local team, perhaps a foreign team, and of course, the National team. For my husband, this is Los Tigres, the Dallas Cowboys, and, of course, the Mexican national team. (yes, I’m a lucky fútbol and football wife). And when YOUR TEAM is playing, the world stops. It is assumed, that on Mexican national game day, that is WHAT will be happening on that day. You don’t ask a Mexican guy (and many a gal) on Tuesday of game day, “what are you doing tonight?” You ask, “where are you going to watch the game?” You know that the streets will be empty. You know that the bars will be full. You know that you cannot try to go to the drycleaners or have the repairman come during that time. You know that the government will not be holding any meetings. Construction will be put on hold.  An entire chorus of city-wide screams will arise in perfect synchrony at opportune moments. And after, on a win, honking until two in the morning. Mobs in the streets. Team jerseys worn for days. As if this is the first time Mexico has ever won.

My husband, who works 12-16 hour days and is made to be available nightly until 10-11pm, is magically free at 3, 4, 5, 6, 7pm when game day comes around. I consider, if Mexico enters the World Cup, to have a baby born June 10, 2010. I will have a stay at home husband for the entire summer.

(Note: there are Mexican men who do not like soccer. Yes, it’s true. They live among us. They are good people. But, as in a friendship between a liberal Democrat and conservative Republican, there are JUST SOME THINGS YOU NEVER TALK ABOUT)

3) Such is the devotion of my husband to this game that he sacrifices half of his Sunday afternoon to playing the sport. And not only playing, but awaking early, taking the Metrobus 30 minutes, taking the light train 45 minutes, then walking 25 minutes to a field in the middle of nowhere in Estado de Mexico (outside Mexico City limits) to run a couple of hours under the hot sun and repeat the process home. Mind you, it may be 4am Sunday morning when we get home from a BIRTHDAY PARTY, but he will be up at 8am to stagger off to the field. (note: BIRTHDAY PARTIES are another cultural phenomenon meaning any time, any place, there will be a friend, coworker, boss, relative, distant acquaintance, grandma’s best friend, cousin of you aunt who is having a BIRTHDAY, and you CELEBRATE it, no matter if you’ve met the person, any time, any place. Because, of course, this holiest of occasions, second perhaps only to game day, only happens once per year for the millions of people you know.) Anyhow,  why, do you ask, would my husband bust his buns to go this distance and take this time to play on a smelly field on his precious free Sundays? Why not chose a team closer to home, in a park, perhaps? But of course, he tells you, the fields out there are better, and the farther you get from Mexico City, to closer you get to playing real fútbol with real people. Such is the love my husband has for this game.

Is this love of fútbol a source of contention among us? In reality, no. I love my husband, and as part of this love, the things that bring him the most joy are things I welcome. Even with all the fanaticism, it doesn’t interfere that much with our daily lives, and fútbol does not take precedent over family. That is a lesson that took me a long time to learn; you and your partner can have vastly different interests, and it’s ok, you don’t have to be carbon copies of one another. I used to think I had to marry a person with a list of qualities. Musician, check. Actor, check. Deep and aloof, check. What? It turned out that people who had all those qualities didn’t make me happy. It comes down to the individual, who they are, how you interact with them, how much fun you have, how much you can be your true total beautiful ugly self, how well you communicate, how much you laugh. His love for soccer may puzzle me, much like my ability to sing every lyric to every Broadway show ever written puzzles him. (only slight exaggeration here). But in the end, it’s ok. All three of us get along quite well.