Monday, April 11, 2011


Here's something. I live in a country where topless sunbathing is totally chill but walking down the street in anything other than an actual potato sack is license to be catcalled and whistled at and just generally creepily harassed. I mean, I'm used to working in Manchester, where the most hitting-on I ever had to deal with was an occasional, appreciative two-syllable "da-yum" from a guy in a doo-rag, or a barista shyly telling me that he likes my Wilco shirt. I am so not equipped for this.

And really Spain, what the fuck? I guess I think I'm decently cute, but I normally dress in a way that Barbara Bush the elder would find appropriate. My style is probably best described as "cool librarian" or on a more casual day, maybe "artsy camp counselor." But apparently it doesn't matter that I'm walking down the street dressed like Peggy Olson (but cool Manhattan Peggy with the lesbian friend and the new haircut, not sad Brooklyn Peggy). I'm an American girl, and that's all the go-ahead these assholes need. Part of the problem is that literally everyone can tell that I'm not Spanish. I have a big round Irish pancake face and practically albino skin--and American girls definitely get the brunt of the creeptastic shit that goes down on the sidewalks of Spain. (Spanish men think we're all MTV girls). And no matter how Continental I try to dress, I still end up looking about as un-Spanish as speedy service in a restaurant.

Now, I've been working on my bitch face. When I walk alone in the mornings I pop in my headphones (yes mom, volume low, not trying to get hit by a bus) and put on my sunglasses whether I need them or not. There's ways to avert some of it, but especially as the temperatures are starting to edge into the eighties and skirts and dresses are becoming more the norm, it pretty much is a cemented part of the daily routine. (The only surefire way to avoid it is to be walking with a guy, but we only have three on our program so they're in short supply as chaperones) There's no one type of guy who'll do it--some of them are fifteen and some of them are eighty-five. Typically it's a group--guys the world over are just more dickish when there's a bunch of them (not a stereotype if it's always true). Sometimes it's just a whistle, sometimes it's a full-blown speech about "beautiful American girls." Once or twice it's been bad or weird enough that I tossed off a "leave me alone" or a "fuck you" but usually the only sensible thing to do is ignore it and keep walking.

Unfortunately, the truth is it is part of the culture. One of our Spanish professors was shocked when we tried to explain to her that in the US only certifiable creeps yell things at random girls on the street. I won't say it's everyone, because I've met plenty of perfectly nice and polite Spaniards too, but it's a whole hell of a lot more than any city I've ever been in in the states--as in, it happens to us every day. And it's getting really, really old.

People (most of whom happen to have testicles) try to tell you that this is just a part of the culture, that's just how they are, try not to let it bother you, they're just "appreciative." Well, fuck that. For real, it blows. And saying that it's part of the "culture" is the most inane argument I've ever heard. I mean, for christssake slavery used to be part of our culture. And when two guys follow my roommate and me for four or five blocks making kissing noises and mumbling things about "guapas" and "bonitas" at 2 o'clock in the morning, that doesn't feel appreciative, that feels fucking scary. Flamenco guitar is part of the culture. Getting harassed on the street is getting harassed on the street. File this one under "things I will absolutely not miss about Spain."

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