I recently did an interview with a fellow blogger in Argentina and among her questions was one about the cultural differences between how men treat women here versus how women are treated in the U.S. I made some smartass reply about how the male flattery is sort of charming here and that I don’t let it bother me too much.
Well, I spoke too soon.
The other night I was coming home from dinner around midnight. The bus was stuffed with people just starting their night, the smell of too much cologne and freshly washed hair temporarily overpowering the odor of the bus fumes. There was a guy who was drunk, crazy, unstable, who knows what exactly and itching for someone to talk to. With a mullet straight from 1977, disheveled clothes, and a bag that looked like he has fished it out of a garbage can somewhere uptown, I considered he might be homeless.
Two stops after me, a young woman dressed in painted on jeans, a powder white jacket and a tiara (and no, she was not a drag queen) got onboard. Homeless mullet began to try talking to her, but not in a nice way. He began saying nasty things to her and just generally being a pain in the ass. And no one did anything.
Tiara left, he got worse. Two young girls got on, no more than 16 years old, with heavily lined eyes and shorts that were perhaps half an inch more than your standard issue Daisy Dukes. The minute these girls boarded the bus, mullet man was like a wolf going for two little cublets. The bus settled into an uncomfortable silence as mullet man made disparaging comments about girls with the budding bodies of women, but the maturity of munchkin sized maidens.
They stuck together and scampered off for a seat right in front, next to the bus driver. I wanted to yell out, to curse, to scream at this fucker. But I also did not know how mullet man would react. I was a coward, unable to pull the words in Spanish from my gut.
There were two boys who were nervously gigging at mullet man’s demeaning diatribe and to them, I shot daggers. They couldn’t even look me in the eye and stopped with their girlish giggles before too long.
Finally, mullet man got off on the edge of Palermo and we were all free from his sexist terrorism. But this incident changed my mind about the “charming flattery”. Fuck that – it’s the sweet nothings that paved the way for the mullet man to act with impunity and yes, it does bother me.
To this end, my own Spanish homework is now my fuck you, leave her alone speech. Will share soon.
I got over thinking it was flattering within a few months of living in Argentina. I mean, there is only so much you can take of men hissing (yes, folks, hisssssing) "che, hermosa!" before you just want to scream! It's just gross! The hissing makes me feel like an animal. That or they make kissy noises as though calling a cat to come to them.
Though, I have to say, my visit to Chile made me like Argentina better. In Chile, men followed me very aggressively, talking to me the whole time, not leaving me alone. Like being lost in a pack of wolves, ;-)
Now I live in Italy and I do get the occasional "ciao bella!" but at least they speak it instead of hissing it. ;-) hehe
How is Argentina any different than Mt. Pleasant? Hehe :)
@Tina, I had the same in Chile... scary!
@Yonas, it's like having thousands of 42 buses to take and nothing else!
I love your blog!!!
When you start preparing that speech you realize you have really made the transition from tourist to resident :) I have my very own Italian one too.
I've composed so many of those speeches in various places around the world--at least it makes you feel better, right?
Peru's actually pretty good. This is the first time I've traveled with a guy (a husband, actually), but even when I'm solo I don't get much more than "hey, where you from?" from guys who want to practice their English. There are a lot that stare, though, as though they've never seen a woman before.
In Venezuela they would call out nice things like "Mi reina! Princesa, que bella!" although they did hiss, too. Spain was always "Ay, Rubia!" which was annoying until I went to France and, like your experience in Chile, would be followed by creepy guys even while I swore at them in Spanish.
My favorite Peruvian comeback I've heard was a gal who was being harassed and shot back at him: "I went out with your brother last week, and if you're half as bad as he was in bed, I think I'll pass."
I need to learn more Spanish to shoot that one off, though.
That is a brilliant comeback... working on it now! Is that subjunctivo? hahah!
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