Friday, March 12, 2010

let's get physical

I had a really weird night. I met up with my French-Canadian love affair in San Telmo and then I waited for the 24 for at least half an hour before hailing a cab. It is like a 25 peso cab ride to my house, but I am twenty times more likely to take a cab when it's late and I have a few drinks in me.

We were having the standard conversation that I am used to having: how's your night going, seems pretty busy/quiet tonight, what's going on? I'm from the States, been here for 3 months, working, you know. When we got close to my house, the driver asked me if I wanted to go on a little tour of the city, because I wasn't familiar with his barrio. It was just after 1 a.m. and I was a little sleepy, but I can never pass up an invitation like that. He shut off the meter and invited me up to the front seat.

I was a little leery of hopping up front after the leg-touching situation on Tuesday night, but like I said, I am trying to get over that shrill, pointless feminist in my mind screaming "DON'T TOUCH ME" when it appears to be harmless. So I got in the front and we drove around a bit. We eventually stopped at a gas station where you can buy illicit beers. He drove me past where he plays soccer, through a super tony suburb of Buenos Aires, and then we parked by the Rio Plata and drank beer and talked about life. I trusted him.

The weird part came, of course, when he started touching me. At first it was just my hair, which he found fun. And then he told me my shoulders were fucked up--which they are, from carrying around my behemouth camera all the time--and was kind of giving me a little shoulder massage, which I wasn't really into. But the whole time we are talking, and I don't feel unsafe because even though it is the wee hours, we are parked next to a police station and there are people outside, fishing for god knows what. I would not eat anything that even looked at the Rio Plata.

Anyhow it was obvious that I didn't want him to touch me, so he asked me what was the matter, and, remembering the experiences of this week, I tried really hard to articulate myself. I didn't want to offend him because I still don't understand the cultural norms around physical contact with strangers. So I told him that Chinese people aren't very physical, and even though I'm American, as a woman I don't feel particularly comfortable when men I don't know touch me. We had been talking about our families--his parents died when he was young--and he said that although Argentines are very touchy, he tends to be even more so, because he lacked physical contact growing up. He apologized profusely for making me feel uncomfortable. But then he wanted to know what happened if he put his hand on my leg--did that make me uncomfortable? What was I thinking? I said while the contact itself was not abhorrent, my Chinese-American-female mind was rejecting the pleasure receptors. Or something like that. He didn't speak a lick of English, so this was all being discussed in my really excellent Spanish.

In the end we hung out for three hours. It was kind of incredible. I know you all read my blog with a fine-toothed comb, so you remember clearly the episode where I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality in a cafe with two young boys asking me if I liked it up the ass. This was kind of the same situation, where I was trying to confront something that has been puzzling me, and I'm pretty sure it is a combination of my personal hang-ups, confusion with the cultural context, and the language barrier.

It's true that I did not grow up in a physically affectionate family. For me physical contact is kind of forced, or just there when greeting or parting ways. The taxi driver articulated that I was the kind of person who only lets my hombre touch me. Not since I baby-sat for two little boys have I had so many people touch me--or so I thought. But then I thought about all the dates I have been on in the past few years, and how I get weirded out when certain people touch me. I'm not sure if there is any rhyme or reason around it. I definitely was not weirded out when Friend of Friend was macking on me, or when the French-Canadian reached for my hand last night. I wish I understood my reactions more, because they are so strong. I think that a lot of time I don't want the physical contact if I think it will put me in a conflict zone--like one caress could lead to me fighting off unwanted sex, dealing with rejection/slippery slope, or I am just physically repulsed.

I don't want things to be this complicated. I just want to figure out how to deal with men. But it is not like figuring out algebra; every situation is so different. Or maybe I am making it complicated. I don't know.

1 comment:

bill said...

I know about the 24, especially in San Telmo. It takes forever and it's worse at night.
But BA is a wonderful place to be tipsy, cuz people almost always leave you alone.