Being the man that I am, I need you to trust me when I say that I don’t think about emotions very much, let alone feel them. I have a difficult time understanding why anyone would ever write in a diary, and I continue to be confused by the clear, salty stuff that comes out of people’s eyes when they’re sad. Instead, outward displays of emotion on my part are rare and, if they do occur, strictly limited to one word expressions such as “ow,” “neat” and “tenderloin.” Or at least, I should clarify, they used to be.
You see, going abroad changes everything. It’s cliché, but true. Suddenly, you find yourself dropped in a foreign country with no one to talk to except the 15-odd Americans in your program who, if my experience is any indication, will slowly terrorize and make out with each other until everyone hates that one Korean girl who goes to Smith. The result is that the few remaining outlets through which you can funnel your spiraling cultural and linguistic isolation are limited to talking to your family through a delayed Skype connection, drinking saturated Coca-Cola, and listening to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” on repeat until you fall asleep. Your emotions run wild — in my case, like they never have before — and you find yourself feeling everything from frustration to joy to anger to, indeed, love.
In Rio de Janeiro, where I am currently studying, the latter of these emotions is particularly unavoidable. In such a notoriously seductive city, love abounds. Lovers spoon on the beach, lovers spoon on the bus and lovers look for other lovers to spoon with while they’re spooning with their lovers. A customary Brazilian introduction with a woman consists of smiling, giving her two loud kisses on her cheeks, and entertaining the possibility that maybe 20 is a bit old to still be unmarried. And, as much as it pains me to admit it, I can’t help but fall prey to the amorous games of the world’s most attractive country, despite being the emotional equivalent of a Geo Prism in the Grand Prix of life.
In spite of emotional shortcomings, I’ve managed to reach a few conclusions about love. The American man in me has somehow managed to identify, domesticate and harvest the passion flowing through my Portuguese-infused veins. I have met love, smiled at it, given it two enthralling kisses on its metaphorical cheeks and now know exactly what I want out of it: a wife. But not just any wife — a wife from a country within the Eurozone, because the Euro is really strong right now.
In fact, to say the Euro is strong is an understatement; it’s dominant. Europe may be losing political influence, its citizens may be dying faster than they’re being born, and its men may wear those weird man-capris, but none of that bothers me. What matters to me is that its currency is robust, its markets are booming and its immigration laws are lax enough that an American can get a European Union passport just by marrying someone.
If you think my idea of love is reductive or callous, I would counter that the Eurozone encompasses a variety of ethnically and culturally diverse countries, all of which happen to have citizens in whom I could become more and more emotionally invested as their currency strengthens. To be sure, I would also accept, via marriage, British pounds and Canadian dollars, as I don’t want my pursuit of love to appear elitist or ignorant of other countries whose currencies are stronger than the dollar. But as a side note, I will not, under any circumstances, enter into a yen-denominated relationship, as Japanese markets are much too volatile for my fragile heart. The yen and I have been through a nasty breakup before, and there is no way I’d want to relive the heartbreak of the 1997 East Asian Financial Crisis.
So, my sights remain fixed primarily on the Euro. At the time of writing, the Euro stands at a robust €1.44 per dollar — a nearly 50 percent increase over its initial offering in 1999 — and economists expect it will strengthen even more against the dollar in the coming years. This means, of course, that my love will strengthen, too. Speaking frankly, who wouldn’t want to enter into a relationship in which love, barring any unexpected financial crisis in Europe, is bound to increase significantly? While many married couples grow tired of their spouses and struggle to cope financially, any marriage of mine will most certainly remain passionate, strong and firmly secured in a Deutsche Bank account in Frankfurt.
I understand this emotional revelation is strange, but please bear in mind that there is no one definition of love. Some discover it young, others not at all, and others while angrily reading Bloomberg reports on the declining dollar. I don’t doubt there’s a beautiful, preferably Portuguese maiden waiting for me somewhere in Europe with an open heart and a healthy exchange rate, and the prospect of finding a wife whose currency may be the one gives me chills at night.
Being abroad has indeed taught me the meaning of love, but it has also taught me that there are several intrinsic human commonalities that can never be ignored: love, to be sure, but also language, money and, perhaps above all, your native culture, which you can never quite shed. As an American living away from his home, I have realized that Americans, despite having a healthy variety of different ideologies, ambitions and heritages, share one common trait: We are ruthlessly and unflinchingly competitive. We stop at nothing to work, claw, sweet-talk or marry our way to the top, and we’ll be damned if anyone gets in our way.
As a country, we’re Darwinist and economical — in every sense of the word — and as far as I can tell, the only people in the world who walk on escalators. It doesn’t really matter to me that the dollar is weak, because, being the good American that I am, I’ll just find a better currency and make it my own. We’ll market anything to anyone so long as there’s a buyer, so why shouldn’t my love to available to the highest bidder? In fact, I can think of few things more American than auctioning my love to a European — except maybe for divorcing her when the dollar gets strong again.
Daniel Zier is the little spoon. The EU is the big spoon.