Play of the dayPosted: March 27, 2011
A play of the other day, really, what follows is the story of the thirty minutes I spent helping a nice, old porteña lady walk to her apartment.
In order to alleviate the terrible suffering caused by a day spent trying to write something to elicit funds from the impoverished California University system I left the building for a walk. It was a holiday so the streets were relatively empty but as I turned a corner I noticed a gang of young men hanging out on a stoop a block ahead. I, despite my striking beauty and stylish manner of dress, don’t get a lot of piropo (or cat calls) here• but during my years of urban travel and residence I have developed the habit of avoiding such groups. I crossed the street so as not to walk through this small crowd of rat-tail sporting boys. Just as I stepped onto the sidewalk on the other side, an old lady asked if I might accompany her a few blocks. She was having considerable trouble walking with her cane and I agreed. When she realized, rather quickly, that I was foreign she looked a little startled but once she could see that I speak Spanish she relaxed, grabbed my arm, and (very, very slowly) off we headed together towards her apartment.
She told me about her grandchildren, about the other foreigners she’d met. She asked me about Obama and lamented the bad deeds of the Bush administration. She complimented me on my Spanish and talked a little about lunfardo. It was a pretty great little break in the day and I can now say, officially, that I’ve helped an old lady cross the street. Several streets, actually. And, better still, that I did it in a foreign city and spoke to her in a language that isn’t my own. Not bad for a day’s work. One question: can I put that in the ‘service’ section of my C.V.?
*This was the cause of some anxiety a few days ago when the subject of Argentine piropo came up in my Spanish class. The professor was quick to tell us that while foreign women are sometimes offended by the catcalls, porteñas feel ugly or fat if a day goes by that they don’t receive a few objectifying shouts from male passersby. Um, so, how should I feel about the fact that the only men who’ve cat-called me during my time here have been in their late sixties, obese, and very obviously drunk? It has happened a total of three times in the two and a half months I’ve been wandering around Buenos Aires. What, prey tell, could this mean? In order to avoid a potentially disastrous crisis of confidence I choose to believe that the lack of overt, public flirtation directed my way is due entirely to my devastating good looks and general self-confidence. The poor souls are merely intimidated by the spectacular phenomenon that is me.