Friday, January 18, 2008

A Cultural Observation and A True Wifely Rollercoaster

Ok, so let me preface this by saying that in no way am I attempting to put myself down or put myself on some type of pedastal....this is purely a cultural observation and something I am trying to adjust to. I consider myself to have a pretty healthy self-image, all things considered, so dont worry about that in reading the following.

In America, as in, all of my life up until now, I was not what one would consider stand-out pretty. I think, normally, you have to be blond, extra tall or thin, or bronzed skined to garner extra attention from the male species. (Excuse all my broad generalizations, please) I have long been average height and weight, very white, and decidely brown-haired. Nothing that attracted a whole lot of obvious attention in public.

Here, however, I automatically stand out because I am American. And you can see in my sidebar picture just how much whiter I am than people here. In Rochester, there is a pretty diverse cross-section of many nationalities. Here, it is pretty much completely, uniformly, Mexicans. I am very different. (I am also very thankful for brown hair so I can at least blend in a little bit!) I draw attention. I mean this in the most innocent of ways as well as the not so innocent of ways. I am pretty sure that I am remembered by my 2nd visit of any of the little shops, cybers, or even the supermarket I frequent. I am memorable. But also, when I walk by myself somewhere (which I do somewhat regularly since I do not have my own car and happen to like walking), men on the streets are staring at me....and occassionally vocalizing their attention.

Being recognized in the places I frequent is something I appreciate. It makes unfamiliar places and things feel comfortable and safe faster, especially since it makes for that many less people I have to worry about understanding the fact that I am not yet fluent in Spanish.

Being whistled or stared at is something I do not like at all. I am currently reevaluating my wardrobe. Do I own things less flattering? Mind you, I usually just have on your basic pair of jeans and a comfortable top. Should I buy a few baggy, shapeless items for when I leave the house alone? Do I dress as always and just continue to act like I do not see or hear these men? Thoughts, anyone?

My oh-so-wonderful husband hopes it never happens in his presence, because he thinks he will react in anger. However, I am pretty sure it is unlikely to happen as long as I am with him. He says to just ignore it as I have been, though.

So, I lost it last night, just broke into tears, while talking to my husband. I am sure you all can understand.... I mean, he told me he did NOT want his breakfast sandwhich this morning quite the way I planned on making them. That is obviously cry worthy, right? You all see where I am coming from here, I am sure.

Seriously, though, I got pretty upset when he made faces and expressed the exact opposite of interest in the combination of ingredients I mentioned (and that I was actually looking foward to). I insisted he at least try it (he never had before). But I did not realize how upset I was until he said something to the effect of, *Ok, I will try it. Just please dont be sad about this, ok?* At which point I started crying.

At first I wasnt even sure why. Then I realized, I have been a little stressed about the whole cooking thing. Cooking for him is one of my most important wifely tasks, you know? And I need to cook at least 2x a day.... culturally, you eat a big, cooked breakfast that can last you until the big, main, midday meal. But I do not know how to make very many of the dishes he is accustomed to, at least, not yet. And one of the ones I thought I did know how to make (eggs with chorizo), he had told me a few days earlier he prefers a different way!

We have discussed that at times I will make things I am familiar with and that he is more than willing to try them. I had always found him to not be very picky, and it appeared he´ll eat just about anything. But as I said, this week he actually asked me to make something differently, and now he was telling me he did not want what I planned on making for breakfast. You can understand how I suddenly had nightmarish visions of him regularly refusing to eat what I made, particularly anything I am really comfortable making. And so I lost it. (This would be the low point of my above mentioned wifely rollercoaster.)

I was able to express what I was feeling, he did his usual great job of comforting me, and agreed to try things even if it sounded strange to him (he ended up liking my breakfast by the way). We also discussed the possibility of me spending time with him mom and sisters so I can learn more about the dishes he is used to (which was something I had thought I´d be able to do back when I was going to live with them before the wedding).

And now you may be wondering, what about the high point of my wifely rollercoaster?

Well, I made rice today for our midday meal. And it was good.

That may sound silly and little to you all, but let me explain. This is coming from the girl who only ever bought anything other than instant rice one time when I first moved out of my parents house and didn´t acutally know the difference between real and instant rice but only saw that it was cheaper. I don´t think I ever made it more than once...? In case you weren´t sure, they don´t eat instant rice here.

To further explain, not only do they not use instant here, but it is not cooked in a saucepan. They cook it in a frying pan. In fact, they start out by cooking it in oil. Then you add flavorings and something that turns it pink. And the few times I tried to ask anyone about how to do it, I got very vague instructions (cause it is just one of those things that everyone here does, and does slightly differently).

So maybe now you can appreciate why it was such a high point for me, especially after last night´s cooking breakdown, to successfully make tasty rice, and be told by my husband (who did not know I had never made it before) that it was really good. :)


Inkling said...

Ahh, marriage and femininity and cooking...I'm with you sister! =)

I'll be praying for you as you develop your cooking skills in a totally different culture, and can well imagine the interesting times you'll get to have. (By the way, I think green peppers are called morons in Spanish, only you pronounce it morrones. Still, I used to scare the teenage girl who walked to market with me in Argentina by telling her that I was going to ask the grocer for two morons please.)

As for the dressing thing, just be yourself. Be modest, but be you. Hopefully, the novelty will wear off and those men will not get any more obnoxious in their observations. I'll be praying about that too. I can understand just how many emotions and questions that whole situation would bring up.

And just so you know, I'll be praying for your language acquisition too, as well as your new home feeling like just that.....home.

Carole said...

I know it sounds stereotypical, but I'm pretty sure that there is a cultural assumption that American women are "easy." I got a lot of cat calls when I was in Mexico years ago (same as you - I'm not 'boasting' about it - I am almost embarrassed, actually, wondering what I was wearing as a 19 year old alone in Mexico!!!) I will pray also! Perhaps going out and shopping with your sister in laws, mother in law, and friends would be good as opposed to by yourself. ?
Are there any other American women down there at all that you can get advice from?

Well, sounds like you have a great husband and a big learning curve ahead. And we know that God is faithful. :)

Carole said...

I tagged you. Check out my site for details.

(IF you have time)

OTRgirl said...

Being the white girl in the mostly not-white neighborhood, I grew up getting catcalls on the street. Honestly, it doesn't matter what you wear. I was skinny as a rail and looked like a boy. It's not about attraction, it's about getting the exotic/other to notice you. I would ignore it all and just go about your business.

As I grew older and more confident, there were times I interacted with the guys. Usually not. But when I did, I gave a fake name. That way, if someone called out, "Hey, Amy!" I knew we weren't really friends (so to speak).

One Mexican matriarch who was friends with my grandfather told me to never wear pants (and definitely not shorts) in Mexico as it makes you look trashy. After going to Guadelajara, I had to conclude that she was a bit old-fashioned...

scarp said...

Thanks for the prayers, ladies! It has actually been several days since I´ve had any catcalls, so that´s been nice!

otrgirl - her generation still always does dress in skirts that fall about mid calf, regardless of occassion or weather. In touristy areas, you will see lots of shorts, but here in Saltillo, for example, shorts are very, very rarely seen in public. People will use them in the house, but hardly ever go anywhere in them. Pants, though, are pretty much everywhere ;)