Sunday, October 25, 2009

I want to be alone!

posted Sun, 24 Oct 2004

What is it with men and personal space? This morning at church, with about a gajillion empty pews, including four right in front of me, this guy sits right next to me. Right next to me. There is plenty of room in front of me. Plenty of room across the aisle. Plenty of room in the church. But no. He has to sit next to me. Why? Yes, I know my stunning beauty draws men as a flame draws moths, but really, can’t I have a moment’s peace?

When I lived in Miami, I took the train to work, boarding at the airport, which was the first stop. There were very few of us on the train at 6:00 a.m. One morning, I was only person in the coach. This guy got on. First, he sat across the aisle from me. Then he moved to across from me. “Good morning,” he chirped.

I looked up from my newspaper. I was wearing a suit. I had a briefcase. I was clearly on my way to work, not on my way to meet men. I need to nip this in the bud, I thought.

“There are a million empty seats on this train,” I said. “Why do you have to sit in that one?”

His eyes flew open. He stood abruptly and muttered something like “bitch” under his breath as he walked away. I didn’t care. I had a 90-minute ride ahead of me and didn’t want to have to listen to this guy the whole way.

See, I’m from Texas, where we are nice to people. We make eye contact and say “hello.” But these are merely pleasantries to make life nicer for everyone. They are not invitations to bed. In Miami, and in Latin cultures in general, I have discovered that if a gringa – and a blonde one at that – says hello or even makes eye contact or even happens to be in the same general area as a man – it seems to mean that she is seducing him.

When I left Chile, I came back to the States over land. I spent three months traveling by bus and boat through most of Latin America with my backpack. I learned that I had to be rude to get men to leave me alone. I had always thought really beautiful women were lying when they talk about how annoying it is when men won’t leave them alone, but I learned they were telling the truth.

I was an easy target – a blonde gringa by herself. These men had all seen Baywatch. They knew what American women are like. We’ll sleep with anyone. Thank you, Hollywood. I learned that The Code that American men understand did not work with Latin men – that I had to say things like, “Do not sit here. I do not want to talk to you.” Even then, they would ask, “Oh. Are you feeling sick?” No!!! I just don’t want to talk to you! There doesn’t have to be an external reason!

A little Haitian guy sat next to me on the train to work one morning. I was working on my computer, but he still talked to me. He asked for my phone number. I promise I had said or done nothing to indicate I would be interested in seeing him! I told him that my husband didn’t really like it when I dated. “Oh, it’s OK with me,” he assured me.

It must work enough times that they keep doing it. Sheesh.

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