Being the Sancha

“She be wifed up for not even a hot minute and she already lookin’ for a sancha.”

Coming from a small university town and moving to the big city was an adjustment in many ways, the least of which was the language.

“A what?” I asked. Thankfully, this friend was my Urban Dictionary: the one who recognized I was a little white girl from the middle class who knew virtually nothing of slang.

“A sancha*—you know, a woman on the side. Sancho, a man on the side—like that.”

“Oh, like Sancho Panza from Don Quixote!”

“Yeah, okay.” Complete with weird look of “Nerd.” Little did I know I was about to spend the next year being the sancha three times over.

A few months later, I hooked up with a woman from my hometown. We spent a fabulous weekend in bed, followed by promises to meet up again once I returned to school, since school wasn’t too far away from home. I got back to school only to experience radio silence for the next week. Finally, I saw on Facebook that she had gotten back together with her ex. She’d never mentioned they were talking. This was my first experience being the person on the side: not too bad, granted, but I still felt sucker-punched upon finding out that I had been played. See, I’m usually fine with keeping things casual, seeing other people, whatever. But if someone’s going to leave out facts to make the situation seem simpler, well, that’s lying by omission in my book, and I’m not okay with being lied to.

A little while later, I made a Mistake. It was one of those mistakes that I knew was a mistake going in, but I still had to do it. A friend of mine had recently come back into my life after a long hiatus. He was one of those people that would go MIA once he was in a relationship and the rest of us would only see him again after the relationship started to go sour. He and I had long-standing sexual chemistry, and him showing up on my doorstep was no coincidence. He said he was still in a relationship, but that he was in the process of talking his girlfriend into opening up. (Open and polyamorous relationships are a pretty common thing in my world, so this didn’t come as a surprise.) We hung out all night, the air thick with unsaid wants, and if there had been matches anywhere near, I’m pretty sure one spark would’ve sent us up in flames. The next night he came back, but I wouldn’t let him in until he cleared it with his girl. I knew I wanted him enough that I wouldn’t care that he had a girlfriend once he came up. He told me he sent her a text with the request, and read the reply aloud, “I don’t care—do what you want.” Now, most monogamous people would take that as, “You do and I’ll kill you,” but in my world, where people say what they mean and sleeping with people outside the primary relationship is both okay and common, I was thrilled. A hot, kinky, sweaty, sexy hour later, I found out the text had actually come from his best friend. His girlfriend had not signed off, and I was officially the other woman. Like I said, I’m not okay with being lied to—I didn’t talk to him for another nine months.

Not long after this Mistake, I found myself in the most egregious of all my sancha-ing. I was heading back home for the summer break and I wanted a snazzy summer boyfriend. I had just the guy in mind: dark wavy hair, dark eyes, killer smirk, an edgy streak and a great sense of humor. Problem was, he and his girlfriend, while having been on the rocks for a year, were still together. My actions here are the most heartless I have ever committed. I wanted him. I knew they were going to break up, but I wanted them to break up on my timeline, so I could have him for the summer. Everything fell exactly into place a mere two weeks behind my preferred schedule, and he and I were together. I called him my boyfriend, we were together with all of my friends, but every time we saw someone he had known with his ex, we were “just friends.” This might sound trivial, but it’s a small town, so most of the time we were in public, we were closeted. Here I was in an opposite-sex pairing and we were closeted. Oh, the irony.

As everything was falling into place with this boy, I had this odd feeling that I should feel guilty, but I didn’t. Rather, I felt guilty that I didn’t feel more guilt. I knew I was hurting this girl, but from everything I knew of their relationship and the horrible way she treated him, I felt justified. I was offering him the kindness she didn’t show him, the love that she refused to give him. I did not think highly of her, and my strongest emotion towards her was apathy.

Three months later, Summer Boy and I broke up, right on schedule. It took me a while to process the anger that I felt about the relationship, but once I did, I realized some important Life Lessons:

  1. By golly, it’s not good to thwart the intentions of the universe! I was able to make events unfold exactly how I wanted them, despite all the signs that said I shouldn’t do it, and I wound up with a thoroughly unsatisfying relationship.
  2. Being referred to as “Her” feels like I’m some evil deity. And as much as I like things going my way, I don’t really like feeling like the villain in my own story.
  3. Respect is not necessary for relationships, but it is necessary for good relationships. I didn’t respect any of us involved—the boy, the girl, or myself. I was playing with power that wasn’t mine to take, and that was a misuse of my humanity and integrity.


I can already hear the outrage of some of you reading this: “How could you hurt that poor girl like that?!” “Have you no shame?!” And my answers are: relatively easily, and no. Self-interest makes a lot of things very easy, and shame is a useless emotion. I did not feel shame at the time these events unfolded, and I feel no shame now, looking back. I know many people will want me to feel ashamed of my actions, but if I were a man who had broken up an abusive relationship to get with a woman, I would be hailed as a hero. If I felt shame for all these situations still, all these years later, I would not have actually learned anything. The lessons are worth more to me than self-flagellation.

Of all them, the most important lesson in my own development, though, was my realization that I’m actually okay with me making mistakes. Being the perfectionistic Virgo that I have been for so much of my life has kept me on a pretty short leash, and I think my series of sancha-ing was my own rebellion against myself—my way of proving that I can fuck up and be okay, and still think of myself as a good person overall. I can have those moments (or months) of selfishness and not think less of myself.

I recognize my mistakes, and I learn from them, but I refuse to dwell.

Author’s Note: The term “sancha” is used here as insider language, which means that because of my history with Mexican / Latino culture and because of the cultural and racial diversity within my social circle during the time of these events, I am using the permission of my own Latino-American community to call myself a sancha. This does not give White people in general permission to use such terms, nor does it give me permission to appropriate other people’s cultures willy-nilly. Feel free to continue this conversation in the comments.

Photo by Meggyn Watkins
Photo by Meggyn Watkins
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  1. I find it fascinating how your “sancha” experience progressed. You started off as the one that got screwed over to the one doing the screwing. I am hearing about similar situations to your stories more often which gives me the inclination that we will all be a part of the “sancha” experience some time or another whether or not we know it. (“Sancha” Experience…I’m gonna make it happen, Regina George)

    Regardless, this was a nicely written article showcasing how well rounded your “sancha” experience was. We all learn from our mistakes and I’m relieved to know that you decided to be compassionate now. I don’t shame you for knowingly being a jerk because we all have been curious about what it would feel like if (fill in the blank with a bad decision). The difference is that you actually did it.

  2. “I don’t really like feeling like the villain in my own story…” No kidding. Your honesty is so powerful, in both this and your other stories. Loved reading them. Thank you!

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