It was a typical morning here on the island of Cozumel. I woke up to wet noses pressing my face repeatedly at 5 in the a.m. This actually made me smile since it was an hour later than my one pup usually lets me sleep in; I will be buying a crate soon. Then we all walked in the park after which they enjoyed a breakfast while I had my coffee. Once these little rituals were finished it was off to the gym for me on a purple bike that no-one seems to want, including me (I don’t even lock it up anymore). Nothing much was going through my mind other than I was just glad to be living in “paradise.”
The gym I belong to is called EGO and it is located behind the Mega in the Corpus Christi neighborhood of the island. It is a luxury that I just know I’m worth and I look forward to my time in the air conditioned, machine laden environment. They have a bit of everything including a juice bar, locker room, and trainers if I need extra help They also have the music to help one to stay motivated. If you are a gym aficionado you are familiar with the musical style that I’m talking about. Loud, with a strong, steady beat, and lyrics that you can sing along with, or not.
This last part is what prompted me to write this little piece. There I am, doing my lat pulls, sweating up a storm, and nodding my head to the beat blasting out of the loudspeakers. All is going well and I hardly noticed that the “songstress” has started to cuss. “F*#k you,” she “sings.” I just put my head down and smiled. I was assuming that, since the woman was clearly speaking in English, the staff didn’t know any better and what’s one little cuss word? But, wait, there she goes again. “F*#k you,” she repeats herself, and then again, and then again. In fact, now she’s shouting it so enthusiastically I’m starting to take it personally. I’m now looking around for kindred souls of the kind who might also be suitably offended. I mean, I consider myself a liberal, but come on; everyone has their limit.
While I’m angling my head around I noticed another English speaking woman that I’ve just met recently. She’d put down her weights and was facing my general direction so I decided to walk over to her to commiserate. Sure as heck, she’s noticed it too and even makes a remark about how this could be the subject for one of my blogs. I just smiled at the idea, exchanged a few opinions with her and went back to my machine. But, little did she know that she would plant a seed that would absolutely refuse to die. Between her suggestion, that music, and my unfortunate memories I have spent the last few hours thinking about the power of language, cultural differences, and my continued lack of efficient Spanish skills, which becomes significant when one lives in Mexico.
I first moved to Mexico in 2008. I had no Spanish skills at that time, whatsoever, but I must have assumed that I was in a Danielle Steele novel. I mean, how romantic an idea to move to another country and learn the culture and the language once I’d arrived. Yes? And, how important could Spanish actually be, they’d all spoken English when I’d visited the resorts. Right? Okay, I wasn’t that naive, but I wasn’t far off either. After just a few weeks, my first experience with a tropical storm was also my first experience with the difficulties I was about to face. When I attempted to tell my concerned neighbors how I felt I managed to tell them I was a little sh*tty rather than a little scared. For those of you who know Spanish, well, there you go and, if you don’t, welcome to my world.
Over the next year, or so, I managed to ask directions to a “dirty pig of a man,”ordered coffee with a side of blue car (azul, actually) and, when asking for an ashtray was apparently asking the waiter to light a cigarette that was already smoking. Now, I can laugh about these things with no shame other than at my audacity to move here without first taking classes. But, there is one mistake that still makes me blush and want to avoid any and all taxi stands in Cancun. I’d like to mention that I’ve written about this before so let me first apologize for repeating myself if you’ve already heard this one. But, it’s a memory that just keeps popping up and I thought I’d share.
I’m in my late fifties. The reason I mention this is because I no longer worry about men trying to pick me up on a daily basis (not that it was ever that much of a problem anyway). So, imagine my surprise when I suddenly became quite popular with taxi drivers while living in Cancun. For months, after a brief chat, I would be asked if I had a boyfriend, a husband, and, on more than one occasion, if I even liked men. That last part, I assumed, was due to the fact I began to wear my hair quite short and makeup still seems superfluous when it’s boiling outside. It also didn’t occur to me to be insulted, at the time. Back to the cab drivers. Not sure why it was happening and, since I was never doing anything other than discussing the weather, I didn’t give it much thought, but I walked with my head a little higher. It was nice to be appreciated and, yes, I was proud. That is until the day a friend, who speaks Spanish, was in a cab with me.
“Oh my God,” she choked out. “Do you know what you just told him?” Of course I had no idea what could be so funny since all I’d done was tell the cab driver that I was always hot. I’d explained to the young man, like I always did, that since I was from Ohio and it was much warmer in Mexico, I was always hot. I patiently repeated that to my friend. “But, caliente doesn’t mean hot,” she responded. “It means you’re spicy, you know, ready……. well, horny!” The look on the cab driver’s face confirmed what she was saying since he, apparently, could speak my language way better than I could speak his, and I was mortified.
Yep, that was the day when I personally learned about the power of language. Now, this particular memory is not what popped into my head this morning by the time the tenth obscenity was being “sung.” But, it is the memory that repeats itself whenever I start to think about the effect of words, and the effect that one word had on me this morning was surprisingly visceral. I was quite happy that there was another English speaker around to help me gauge my reaction. But, I’m still curious about the staff. Is it me, or isn’t that word fairly recognizable by most? Maybe it isn’t a language thing, maybe it’s a cultural thing? Maybe an age thing? Am I really that old? Ahh, who knows. I’m just glad I wasn’t bench pressing. Salud!