I’m cute. Pretty, even. Mostly cute. But I’ve never been the kind of girl that guys (and other girls, Margo) dream about. They never stopped buffing the fender of their car to watch me walk by.
Until I went to Mexico.
In the spring of ’97, I did my study abroad semester in el Distrito Federal. That’s Mexico City to you. And I tell ya, guys would cross streets to come talk to me. In the subway station, they would approach me and offer to accompany me to wherever I was going. Taxi and pesero drivers would propose marriage on a regular basis. Those who didn’t want to engage in conversation or holy matrimony would cat-call:
- Hermosa (Beautiful)
- Guapa (Hottie)
- Güera (Light-skinned, light-eyed girl)
- Si yo fuera tu hombre… (If I was your man…), and of course,
- ¡Que pechote! (Nice rack)
Or they would just hiss. Sss-sss-sss-sss. That’s Mexican for “DAMN, WOMAN!”
I have to say, though the cat-calling offended my feminist sensibilities, for the most part it was awesome. After years of insecurity about my body, I went around baring my midriff, more than a little swagger in my step.
Of course, coming back to the States was a jarring. All my food tasted bland with no chile on it, and nobody was whistling and leering at me. Men certainly didn’t ford rivers to come talk to me.
I was walking along the Eno River, when I saw a guy climbing out of a swimming hole. I smiled and said hello, which is what I do with every person I see along the trail, and kept walking. About ten yards past, I heard him say, “What are your dogs’ names?” I turned around and introduced Redford and friend-dog Barley who I’d brought along for the jaunt, and explained that I had another at home who was laid up. The dude introduced himself. He had a firm handshake and the warmest, I-love-life smile on his very beardy face. We chatted for a little bit, and I hiked on. On the way back, I met up with him again, and discovering we had parked in the same place, we walked back together.
After being out of the water for a while, he was drying off. His blondish hair looked about four days away from dreading, and he put on a tie-dye shirt that said (I shit you not) We Be Jammin’. He was covered in colorful splotches. I asked him what he’d been painting. Murals, found objects, he said.
When he effused about the beautiful spot we were in, I listed off a bunch of other great hiking places I knew in the area. “Sounds like we need to do some hiking,” he said.
Though we barely knew each other, everything I said seemed to confirm this awesome belief he had in what a wonderful, interesting person I was. It was weird. And lovely.
As we crested the bridge, he said, “I’ve never been over this.”
I responded, “But how did you get over to the swimming hole?”
“But what did you do—swim across the river?”
“Yeah, I had to come say hi to you.”
Every time I meet a man, I start cataloging the reasons why he and I won’t work, and today was no different. But he called me tonight. (Me: “So how was your Sunday?” Him: “Great, I met you.”) And I’m going to a little art opening he’s having this week. And maybe, just maybe, I should open myself up to the possibility of dating a carefree, no-deodorant-wearing, most-likely-pot-head artist who thinks I’m worth swimming a river to meet.