Monday, August 31, 2009

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Really?

My last week in Colombia included a trip to the glorious coast. La costa is another side of Colombia, filled with the tantric rhythms of cumbia music, the musty smells of seafood and the Atlantic, and the sticky, dewy glaze of 90 percent humidity like icing on your skin. The piece of me that lived in Florida relished the Caribbean-Latin concoction.

I traveled by myself for a while, sitting on buses and planes taking in the landscapes and reading. But inevitably, friendly (there really are no other kind) Colombians (usually of the male variety) would chat me up, my obvious gringa-ness driving them to show

me something fabulous about their town. I took it all in stride, and enjoyed learning every nook and cranny factoid of every pueblito I passed.

Inevitably, the question came. What question? The “are you married” question. At first, I answered honestly, which means no. This invited a series of questions, lectures, sermons, you name it, all in the name of my being a single gal.

William, who I met on a beach crowded with fisherman selling off their daily haul, told me I didn’t want to be married. He waxed on and on, as he waited for the best fish of the day, telling me there was nothing physically wrong with me but that my time was running out. This continued until a boat coasted onto the beach by only the moonlight, with fish as long as my forearm. Finally, William could go home with what he came for. Phew.

No man in North America would ask me this question after knowing me for 20 minutes on some beach while waiting for the fisherman to come in. In fact, I don't even think an Argentine would ask (not as friendly as the Colombians, for starters). I think it has to do with the currents of traditionalism that have a strong hold in Colombia. Women get married, women are married. And if not, there has to be a reason why not. In North America, maybe people are too polite but if you were even asked the question, I can't imagine the discussion going down the road of mine with William.

After that, I decided to create an imaginary boyfriend. Somedays, he would be a dashing Argentine, others just an ordinary North American. Lawyer, doctor, or mechanic. Either way, he was lovely and fabulous and better than any real boyfriend a girl could have. In fact, it might have been better than having a real boyfriend. At least some days.

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Joli said...

Are you kidding me? Argentines ask that question all the time. Are you married? It´s so common, I had a business card made up with the answer to all their questions!

Unknown said...

Ha Joli! The Colombians are just smoother... even a man who doesn't want to get in your pants will ask you.

Unknown said...

Good insights! It´s weird. Being female in LatAm I think makes these questions all the more inescapable. They ask about your relationship status all the time-- offical docs, you name it -- soltera, casada. Drives me nuts. Miss you here in BA. What´s next after Colombia?

Marc said...

I think it's a first world thing to NOT ask about marriage anymore. I mean think about it- unmarried women were considered pariahs and spinsters until recently, were they not? But something has change here. First world society may still believe the same, but we certainly don't voice it as directly anymore.

Unknown said...

agreed marc... we are becoming more like the europeans and not even bothering to marry anymore. only for health insurance or tax purposes.