Window seat: male, because all the good ones are taken.
Public telephone: male, there´s a lot of them around, but they aren´t very useful anymore.
Hour glass: female, because over time all the weight shifts to the bottom.
Pretty good, right?
But one girl's comment so accurately encapsulated one aspect of Dominican culture between males and females, that I have to share it with you. The noun is "gum", and according to the student, "gum should be male, because the more you step on it, the more it sticks to you."
Hmmmm? You don´t understand? That´s ok, your American, it´s not your fault. Let me explain.
Dominican culture, for better or worse, is very macho. It´s a male dominated society and that plays a huge role in the way that men and women think and behave. For example, In most parts its completely acceptable for men to compliment and/or cat-call a woman walking down the street. It may also be acceptable for a 50-something man to hit on a 20-something girl at a bar, and if he´s rich, its even likely that he may succeed! And just the other day I discovered its also the norm for a college age males to date a high-school girl under the age of 18. What? That´s statuatory rape in the U.S. All I know is that if I had a high-school-age daughter, no way in hell would she date a boy in college. Not sure where this maternal instinct for an imaginary daughter is all the sudden coming from.
But anyways, back to the joke: once a man sets his sights on you, it becomes his mission to make you his. He becomes extremely persistent, whether you want his attention or not. This is perhaps why Dominican males are so "romantic", doing or saying anything to woo you. They are extremely open with their emotions and if they are interested in you, they will make it very clear. So much different from my experiences with American culture in which boys are so wishy-washy about their feelings, or try to play it cool all the time. But by the same token, Dominican females have become immune to this consistent "woo-ing." In fact, they can be flat out mean to their male suitors. And here in lies a fundamental difference between U.S. culture and Dominican culture. When a woman says "no" in the U.S., men generally take her at her word and leave her alone. When a woman says "no" in the D.R., does that deter the Dominican male? Nope, it just means he is going to try all that much harder to win you over. "The more you step on him, the more he sticks to you." At first I thought this sentiment (although meant to be funny) was rather cruel. How could Dominican women be so harsh to these poor Dominican boys who seemed madly in love with them. I mean, it seems kind of sweet that a guy could be so in love with you that he won´t give up until he has made you realize that he is perfect for you. And maybe that is the case sometimes, but one of my female students gave me what might be a more accurate explanation: Dominican men just can´t accept that you don´t like them. Believing that you might not be interested in them would be a serious blow to their machismo pride, so they choose to ignore it. Interestingly enough, none of the males in the class argued the point with her.
Knowing this, I suppose, has kind of changed my outlook on how to handle male attention here.
Being a young American woman, I´ve received my fair share of Dominican male attention. Having fair skin here is generally considered attractive and maybe even a little exotic. Not to mention I carry around with me the stereotype that all American women are loose. That combination makes me a prime suspect for wandering male eyes. I´ve had more guys ask me for my number here in 2 months than in the 25 years I lived in the U.S.! The museum security guard, the boy who tried to sell me pineapples, the young guy whose barbershop I walk past every day. I´ve even been stopped twice by men driving by in cars as I walk home from school. They pull up to me and start having a conversation as I walk along!
"So how are you finding the male attention?" A peace corp friend asked the other day.
"Frequent." I responded laughing.
"And how have you been managing?"
"Pretty well I think."
That may be because about 90% of the conversations I have with males here are just to practice my Spanish. Terrible, I know. But it wasn´t always like that. When I first arrived I talked to men to be nice, because I didn´t want to appear mean by ending the conversation or walking away. Now that I´ve been here a while though, things have changed. Last night I went out to jazz night at a bar with a friend and the old man sitting next to me started chatting me up. He immediately slipped me his card, pointing out his phone number. I obviously wasn´t interested (really I was a little disgusted), but the whole time I was talking with him, I was thinking, "Yes!, this is the perfect opportunity to practice using my ´Usted´ form!" (That´s the formal form in Spanish that is used to show respect, often with people older than you or people you don`t know well)
Was I shamelessly using him? Yes. Do I feel bad about it. Not really. Afterall, I didn´t start the conversation and I´m sure he expected to shamelessly use me as well.
So does this mean that all Dominican men are macho and egotistical? Of course not! It´s important to point out that I know many upstanding, hardworking, intelligent Dominican men. I definitely do not want to generalize or stereotype in the way that I am sometimes generalized and stereotyped. I just want to share some of my own personal experiences.
In summary, I could choose to be frustrated at the way I am sometimes stereotyped or the way that women are sometimes objectified here, and sometimes I am, but ultimately I prefer just to take the compliments and the conversations and use them to my advantage: let the compliments make me feel good and use the conversations to help me with my goal of fluency in Spanish. "If you can´t beat em´, join em´" And if somewhere in there, the conversation turns out to be pretty good, well, great, you never know where a good conversation can lead. But for right now, I am perfectly content with where I am.
So, finishing thoughts...I received about 7 compliments on the way home from school today. That´s a little more than usual. I am feeling pretty good :D