1.

Remember that campo love story? I didn’t see my friend on Noche Buena or Christmas evening. When a group of us were sitting in the shade the day after Christmas she was talking about the new outfit she had been wearing on Christmas. I asked where she was, assuming she’d gone to a nearby town.

“She didn’t leave the house!” one of the women yelled, laughing.

I looked at her, “Seriously? You stayed in? In that outfit? Why?”

“Her husband wouldn’t let her leave.” I gave a small smile. I still wasn’t sure if they were serious.

“What did you say to him?” I asked.

“Oh, I screamed at for a while and got mad but then I just went to bed.”

This was the same couple whose love story I loved? In my mind I was yelling, Fuck. That. SHIT.

But that doesn’t really change anything, does it?

2.

My nephew was showing me pictures he had saved on his phone. One was a text conversation between novios. The translation is roughly:

Hey babe, a bunch of my friends are going out tonight and I want to go with them.

When it rains it pours.

That expression doesn’t go…

Neither do you.

I looked at him for a long moment and said, “I would never ask my boyfriend for permission to go out with my friends.”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” he agreed, nodding as if to say, why would you?

That’s when I realized that I can come here and be like, I want to be with a man who can cook and is a good father and won’t have another family and will help with the cleaning and will be an equal partner, but it’s not changing the way these men think about or treat women. I am white, American, blond(ish), educated, rich, etc. All these things give me the privilege to say all kinds of crazy things like those mentioned above and they accept it from me because I can get away with it.

In some ways I fear my presence and exaggerated differences from the girls here only forces women to more firmly resign themselves to a subjugated position. They don’t have the ‘tools’ I have. If they want a man, and want to keep him, they have to live up to the ideal of the Dominican woman/wife.

It reminds me of a book I read called Jane Sexes it Up in which femininity is described as a women performing, aiming for the bulls eye (this metaphor would be apt for masculinity as well). When you have the things that I do: blue eyes, ‘good’ hair, white skin, all my teeth – markings of a privileged life – you have a lot more leeway in terms of the rigidity of femininity. Does that make sense? I can opt not to do my hair or nails or wear make-up or skin-tight clothing but I’m not proving anything to the men or women here. I get away with it because I still have the desired skin color and hair texture and nationality.

A woman here is expected to clean. They think it’s kind of cute that I want a man to share that responsibility with me. But it wouldn’t be cute for anyone else to say they want that in a man.

I’m not even going to go into the ways of thinking that I see being reproduced here every day that lead to violence against women, including femicide, because it’s depressing and I don’t feel like it. Maybe another post. I will just say though that it’s here, in my community (and in this country, and in the U.S. too), and yet in most of the interviews I do, when I ask if they think there’s a problem with violence in the community the majority of women respond without hesitating, No.

3.

I often spend long afternoons at her house. She has the best-behaved children in town, all six of whom adore her. I’ve never seen her youngest, who’s under the age of ten, throw a tantrum. I thought of her and her husband as superpower parents. She laughs so easily that she makes me feel funny. She supports my ideas, even when they sound crazy, like a creative writing class. I describe her on the phone as a Mother Teresa type.

One afternoon I told her that when I start my writing class, I want her to be in it. I want her to write stories.

I used to write in a diary.

What happened?

My husband found it in a drawer of my clothes. And he read it. He got so mad saying, You’re only remembering the bad times.

What happened? I asked again.

He had another family. I wanted to leave him but I had all my children and his from his first marriage. I couldn’t. My father had died and my mother couldn’t support us.

(Note: She raised his 4 motherless children as her own, from the age of 13, when they were married. He was 25).

I do not believe in hating men. I absolutely do not. I have known too many good men. But goddamn some of these men. And the thing is, her husband is super active in my community and wonderful and so kind to me and has been respectful (which is certainly not always the case). So, WHAT THE FUCK. 

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