Category Archives: Tales from the Basque Country

Güiris Go Home

Teach me English. / Enseñame inglés

Look how badly they speak Spanish. / Mira que mal hablan castellano

Don’t you know anyone who can teach my kids English? / No conoces a nadie que pueda enseñar a mis niños inglés?

They’re not integrated at all. / No están integradas para nada

All you güiris know each other. / Todos estos güiris se conocen

A friend from here? / Un amigo de aquí?

 

I was sick so I wasn’t at the jam. I think that was fate. I might have said something ugly.

Estuve enferma entonces no fui al jam. Era destino. Es probable que habría dicho algo feo.

 

He said at the end that the jam needed more basque musicians, “güiris go home”. 

Dijo al final que el jam necesitaba más músicos bascos, güiris go home.

 

“But you’re not a güiri!” He told me.

“Pero tu no eres un guiri!” me dijo.

 

I’m a güiri every day. 

Soy un güiri todos los días.

 

I’m a güiri when people give me dirty looks for ruining a bar with my stinking presence. 

Soy güiri cuando la gente me miran mal por arruinar un bar con mi presencia apestosa.

 

I’m a güiri when I make an appointment on the phone and people hang up when they hear a foreign accent. 

Soy güiri cuando hago una cita por telefono y cuelgan el telefono cuando escuchan un acento extranjero.

 

I’m a güiri when I work and pay rent, instead of living with my family or in one of their properties. 

Soy güiri cuando trabajo y pago alquiler, en vez de vivir con mi familia o en una de sus propiedades.

 

I’m a güiri when creepy dudes hear a foreign accent and they try to talk to me as I’m “easy”. 

Soy güiri cuando babosos escuchan un acento extranjero y me intentan hablar porque me perciben como “fácil”.

 

I’m a güiri when some old dude touches my arse in a crowd as I’ve forgotten to stop smiling so I look foreign. 

Soy güiri cuando un viejo me toca el culo porque se me había olvidado no sonreírme y es obvio que soy extranjera.

 

I’m a güiri when my friend tells me that a doctor has given her an unnecessary breast examination because he felt like feeling her up. 

Soy güiri cuando mi amiga me dice que el médico le ha dado una revisión de los pechos porque tenía ganas de tocar sus tetas.

 

I’m a güiri when a “friend” follows me to the bathroom to sexually harass me and all my friends are “neutral” because he’s from here and I’m not and a friend from here is worth 10 foreign friends. 

Soy güiri cuando un “amigo” me persigue hasta el baño para acosarme sexualmente y todos mis amigos son “neutros” porque el es de aquí y yo no soy y un amigo de aquí vale 10 amigos de fuera.

 

7 years I’ve lived abroad for. 7 years of this catch 22. I’m sick of fighting. I have 3 months left. 3 months to sell all my shit, give away as much as possible, do everything to close this chapter. 

7 años llevo fuera. 7 años de este circulo vicioso. Estoy harta de discutir. Me quedan 3 meses. 3 meses de vender mis posesiones, regalar lo más posible, hacer todo antes de cerrar este capítulo.

 

I’m not going to go back to the jam.

No voy a volver al jam.

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Old (Basque) Men

Last night I was reading and an old dude came up and started talking to me about the music in the bar, the book I was reading. When he started to touch me (on the hand) I asked him not to and returned to my book. He then started shouting at me and stormed off angrily.
 
My friends arrived. I was outside with them. He shouted at me again briefly.
 
Last week I saw a similar thing happening to another woman on the bus. She was from here.
 
The old man was short, thin. I could have easily knocked him out. He uses the fact that it would be shameful to physically accost someone so weak in order to try to humiliate young women he wants to harass.
When I walk home from the gym, old men make comments about my body, with their old men chums. My hair is plastered to my head with sweat.
When I’m at a bar, old men are shouting “NIÑA” so loudly at the woman who runs the bar I feel sick. She herself looks disgusted but says nothing.
I remember when I’d left my keys at home, and went to a bar across the road from my house. An old man started shouting about how they shouldn’t let women in the bar. I was tired and sad about my mothers death so I pretended I hadn’t heard and just read my book.
There’s a young man who sexually harassed me two years ago. I went sick and lost all my friends. Our friends in common gave excuses for him, said that he was sad about his mother’s illness. I took care of my mother and watched her die slowly, her face twisted in agony. Only men get free passes.
Whenever he sees me with another woman or alone, he calls my name. Whenever he sees me with a man, he says nothing.
There’s a lot of men here who could do with a good slap.
I am tired of patriarchy.

Another “Friend”

I first met him outside a bar in Bilbao La Vieja in 2016. He was an older dude, maybe late fifties. He was nice and said he could get me a gig teaching dance once a month in a social centre. I taught there for 6 months.

We messaged every now and again. I proofread a speech for him that he was giving in English at a university.

I asked him for help with getting into radio in Bilbao. Is this course worth the money? Are there any places I can apply to? Do you know anyone?

He suggested we go to the beach to talk about it. I was mildly apprehensive about going in the car with a guy I didn’t really know. I don’t like to depend on other people for transport, especially men. I feel trapped, as if it all goes tits up (like they make a sexual advance and you say no, you’ll be left high and dry). I thought that, maybe because of the age difference between us (around 25 years), he might feel a fatherly affection towards me.

The beach we went to was a nudist beach. I don’t tend to go to them so much as in my experience they tend to be full of naked men. After being masturbated at several times, I don’t feel comfortable around naked men.

I deliberately didn’t wear make up or nice clothes. Some people call this “uglification”, when women behave like this (like when I chopped off their hair and felt more “comfortable”) to try to ward off unwanted advances.

He stripped down as soon as we got there. I really didn’t feel 100%comfortable but I tried to be cool about it. I’m foreign, maybe that’s normal here? Maybe I’m just a big ole square.

Despite my apprehensions, the day went smoothly, without any sexual advances.

That was 6 months ago.

Then, this week, there was the big all day drinking fest of Santo Tomas. He was messaging me, asking where I was to go for a drink etc. I hadn’t been feeling well so I had been chilling at home all day, then went out for dinner with a female friend. We then met up with my best male friend, and the three of us went for a few drinks.

I bumped into my older friend other on Barrenkale, my little group and my older friend’s little group. He was visibly very drunk and the first thing he did was put his hand on my arse. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt (I was wearing a long coat, maybe he made a mistake?) and moved away.

-That guy I saw you with the other day is your boyfriend, isn’t he?

-No. I wanted him to be but he said no.

(One convenient thing about having a boyfriend is that you have an instant excuse to politely decline unwanted advances. I didn’t want to lie)

Dame un beso (Give me a kiss)

-No

Por qué? (“Why?” he asked me, over and over)

Porque no quiero. (Because I don’t want to)

Por qué no podemos follar de vez en cuando?”, “Why can’t we fuck every now and again?” he asked me over and over. I rejected him politely, over and over again. “Because I fall in love with people I have sex with”. His response was always: “But why?”.

My male friend, my wing man, my work husband, saw what was happening and called to me: “Sarah, we’re going now, come on”, giving me an excuse to leave the situation. He gives me faith in malekind.

At the time, I laughed it off, but the next day, I felt deeply saddened by what had happened. Why does “friendship” with women to many, many men, mean sex? Why can’t colleagues do favours for each other and there be professional boundaries without someone putting an unwanted hand on someone else’s butt?

This is basically why women find it so hard to advance in all fields. Grades are a small part of a successful career. It’s all about making contacts. Men hold the majority of the positions of power, and they form networks, they help each other out,  then they “help” women, but in return for future sexual contact… Women learn to keep men at arms length at all times, or else get accused of “inviting” the sexual advance, or using their “wiles” to manipulate.

I used to be “pretty”. I used to have long hair, do make up, heels, have lots of clothes. But I just got sick of it. Conforming to beauty standards, being “hot”, using my sexual power to manipulate men. Of course, at the time, I didn’t realise that that was what was happening. All I knew was that people were nicer to me when I dressed up, and I loved it. But it is a fleeting and precarious type of power, and leads to all sorts of (sexual) favours expected in return.

The next day, I received a message from my older friend, not of apology, but again propositioning me for sex. I didn’t reply.

I went out after work with my work husband, planning on having a few drinks and then meeting up with a guy I’ve just started getting to know who seems to be a total muffin. He just seems so honest and genuine, intelligent, interesting to talk to, makes me laugh a lot, tells dark stories, is better at me at darts but chill about it…

It turned out that this guy had missed his transport connection and wouldn’t be able to meet, seeing as a close friend of his was in town, and he had work the next day etc, but luckily (or unluckily for him?), we bumped into each other anyway. I was merry, chatted on a bit, didn’t leave him to hang out with his friends… Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I walked him to his door (it was on my way to get a taxi, and I always get taxis home if I’m too drunk to cycle as I can’t be arsed to get attacked on my walk home alone. Even if it’s just a grab grope, it ruins my mood for weeks).

Emboldened by alcohol, I kissed him goodnight, properly. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to want to kiss me back that much so I pulled away…  His body language wasn’t a “yes”, and if there’s no clear “yes”, then it’s a “no”.

I didn’t ask him “why” repeatedly. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone in for the kiss, but I think it’s important that women initiate stuff like that… Blurred lines, although an undoubtedly catchy song, is not something that applies to me. If I like you, if I want a physical relationship with you, you *will* know about it. And if you reject my proposition, I’ll wave you on your merry way, without any hurt feelings or resentment. I am aware that I am a strong flavour, and not everyone’s cup of tea.

The next day, I had to run some errands, and I saw my older friend walking down the street on the other side. I pretended like I hadn’t seen him. I was tired and had to do some last minute Christmas food shopping. This was the first year where I was doing my own Christmas dinner, the third Christmas after my mum’s death. I had bigger fish to fry.

It seems to me that maybe some men like to hang out with younger people in order to keep feeling young, and this logically overspills into the sexual, ya que el roce hace el cariño. I wonder if when we are “equal” (in the economic sense), will rich older women do this? Are some of them doing it right now? If I was in that type of situation, would I want that type of relationship?

I know several women my age who are in stable, loving relationships with guys that are 20 (or more) years older than them. They seem so happy. I don’t judge what works for other people.

I wonder if my older friend genuinely likes me, feels attracted to me, or just wants to use me to feel younger. But, seeing as I don’t get that sexual attraction chemical reaction with him, there’s no point in hypothesising. I am not the fountain of youth, my time is precious, and what I really yearn for is to invest my time in deep, loving, long term relationships, in my friendships and romantic relationships.

Asking Guys Out

So. As heterosexuals I believe we do this weird “dance”, where:

-Masculinity: men are expected to do all the asking out, be active, be more “sexually driven”

-Femininity: women are expected to be more coy, be passive, like sex less.

A lot of times, there can be miscommunications between men and women in the start (or rejection) of an advance towards a romantic/sexual relationship. Women often don’t feel empowered to say “thanks but no thanks” directly, without some sort of unpleasant consequence, seeing as, as we all know, some men are absolute psychos. But they also don’t feel empowered to say “Yes”, or make the first move.

As a radical feminist, I try to be as transparent as possible in my relationships with men, be they platonic or romantic. “I fancy you. I don’t fancy you sorry. Do it like this. I love that!” is something I think it’s important to say, and in the Basque Country, it seems to freak people out a bit.

A few months ago we were looking for a new person for our house. The owners had stipulated that the house should be all female, unless it was a guy we knew well (e.g. through friends etc). Not my choice, but I accepted the terms. Men… it sucks to be on the receiving end of prejudice, but it also sucks the weird shit that some men do that women spend our lives avoiding. Fact.

As soon as I put the ad online, the phone started ringing. Message after message from a million internet weirdos, ranging from criticisms of the advert, to people wanting to move in with their small children (consider my heart strings pulled), to people’s annoying grandmother’s insisting that they move in straight away without us even having met the person.

It was a huge pain in the arse. Most messages from men I didn’t reply to, as the ad clearly stated only women, but I did recognise one guy’s dog.

I’d met him at a party the year before. He was a friend of a friend. He seemed nice. I remember having had a bit of a crush on him…

He came round, we chatted. He was nice. I got the sense that he wasn’t telling the whole truth, like he was trying to take less drugs or something…but then who ever tells the truth in a job/flat interview? He said he didn’t want to share food (as me and my housemate do. One person cooks, the other cleans, we eat together a lot etc). He left, with me saying something like: “Well, for me, you can live here. But I’ll have to speak to the other housemate”.

We talked it over. She said it didn’t sound like a great idea to her, if he wasn’t into sharing everything etc. So I sent him a message, apologising but saying that we had talked it over and that we had chosen someone else. I added at the end, in Spanish clumsy as fucking shit, that I didn’t want to live with someone I thought was hot either…

My friends back home, in the UK, commended me. I felt like some sort of feminist hero, a bit like the following sketch:

Just like in the above scene, he rejected me, by replying and making zero reference to my advance. That is completely fair enough. He said “no”, no harm no foul. Peace bro!

My friends from Bilbao were aghast. First of all, the language I used was way too strong. But I also got the strong sense that women saying directly what they want (in terms of men and sexual relationships) is not the “done” thing here.

My friend said: “What if it was the other way around? That’s so aggressive”. I was shocked that she had such a different view on what I did. It’s not aggressive to me to put it out there, say it once, especially seeing as men aren’t the ones afraid to walk home on their own at night… He said “no thanks”, and that was that. I don’t ever think “Qué pasa si fuese al revés?” because it’s unlikely that a woman will rape a man on his walk home, as it’s unlikely that a man will have a woman’s kids taken off her and use them in order to extort money from her. Call it biology, call it society, but that is the way it is, and we have to change it.

This friend and my other friend had started seeing each other recently, and I had found the way that my male friend came on to my female friend and that my female friend pretended not to like him to be kind of… not ideal. I even spoke to my male friend, saying: “Be careful. You’re bordering on sexual harassment.”. But then… he actually wasn’t. My friend did relent in the end, and they’re in a happy relationship now, but for me, situations like that are…

I’m really big on consent. I’m tired of men pretending to be my friend and then sticking their erections in my back. I try to be honest and direct in sexual relationships. So as to protect myself from feeling betrayed, or from confusing signals, I have a strict “no friend fucking” policy. I like to keep my friends and my lovers separate. It’s a system that has it’s disadvantages, but it works for me for the time being.

I remember a friend of mine talking about her experiences in South America, saying how to people there, asking if you can kiss someone would be such a moment killer. Maybe that is a bit much but… Consent is important.

The experience made me realise two things. Firstly, if I’m a strong flavour in the UK, which is no utopia by any means, then here I’m like some sort of martian when it comes to philosophy produced by (too much) life experience. Secondly, no matter how long I live here, I will always be basically like… “disabled” in Spanish. Unfortunately, I gain my sense of worth/self-esteem from the idea that I am in some way funny, intellectual, interesting, and… I’m none of those things in Spanish. I’m the weird foreigner at the party that no one wants to talk to. I’m the person that mispronounces things. I’m the person with very little interesting to say. Worst, I’m a “radical” for saying things like: “it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear. Men are not animals can control themselves.”

This episode, among others, made me realise that I at least need a break from the Basque Country next year. If anything, I have forgotten how shit things are in other places, so I can go and reremember all that and then come back here, rested, and ready to learn Basque properly.

 

 

 

 

Fallout from a sexual attack: some 2 years later

This is a story about two men. One was my friend, who said he was a feminist (bless him), and another who was his cousin, who sexually harassed me to the point of me losing my fucking shit.

Two years after the incident, I bumped in to my former friend. He looked at me with eyes that glittered with… hatred, anger, upset… hurt. Maybe he’d had a bad day. One of those terrible fucking days, when the rug is pulled from under you and you land on your arse with a jolt and your like “fuuuuuuuuuck”, this is a terremoto of  a day, bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeh can’t deal. Can’t process.

I’d written some shit. What had happened was vile, complicated, as sexual violence always is; some people reacted, others stood by, some sides were taken…

My side is a lonely side. But it’s where I live.

It’s arrogant to think that his look, his terrible look, was because of what I wrote. But, the honest to god’s truth is, I’m still, two years later, so traumatised about what happened, I can’t even bear to look at what I did actually write. To reread. To relive. (There should probably be some hyphens there. Fuck hyphens.)

Maybe I said/wrote something awful about him.

Look again. Face what happened.

No. Not strong enough. Can’t relive. Can’t face.

Did I make a mistake? Of course. The best thing is probably to always retreat, to be cautious, to feel out others. Group dynamics. La manada, pack mentality. Avoid, smile, “Oh, thank you sooooo much for the compliment, I just have to go over there now. Have a great day. Love you so much. Byeeeeeee”.

My former friend, the guy who I had thought was really awesome, is cousin to the person who seriously harassed me. I’d gotten on well with him. I held him in regard. Until what happened, happened.

When “it” happens, “it” being the nightmare you are always trying to anticipate, always trying to avoid… Fight or flight. Only two responses?

No. There is a third response. And that is FREEZE.

You come out of the bathroom. The bar is empty. All your friends are outside. The bad guy, the cousin, is there. He’s blocking your path. He’s telling you a bunch of vile shit.

“I don’t care if your boyfriend is a boxer. I’m going to take you like this, I’m going to do this to you…”.

My soul froze.

It was less than five minutes. It could have been three. Maybe it was even two.

I wish.

wish.

wish.

wish.

WISH.

I wish that I was that strong girl I have shown to the world for so long, fearless. Bullies can smell fear. The wolves come after you.

Anyone who knows me, really knows me, knows that beneath the fachada/façade, I am so sensitive, and that I feel things so deeply. But you cannot show that to the world. No one can. No one, or very few people, can say: “I was vulnerable. I was xxx”. Whether that “xxx” is being fully raped, or just all those other “little attacks”, little femasculations… You wish it didn’t happen. Had never happened. You can wish a lot of things away.

He didn’t rape me. He didn’t lay a finger on me. But to me, the threat was there, the threat that cut me like a knife. And my reaction was from that deep, nightmarish fear, and the lack of support from everyone, the silence of everyone else, was the real nightmare.

What if he’d done more? He could have done anything.

He didn’t. He only went a few steps down that road.

My female friends stopped to say “hello” to him in fiestas. I turned on my heel, went home immediately, betrayed.

“His mother is sick. He’s got so many problems”.

No excuse.

My mother died of cancer. I spent six months living in her house 2 weeks a month. It fucked me up big fucking time. I was a mess for a year after, I still live with the aftershocks.

Did I do weird shit like that? Did I threaten to rape anyone? Did I?

No. I was fucked though, more fucked than I’m ready to admit right here, in this little story. I lived with my then boyfriend at the time. After we parted ways, I told him “Yo, I’m sorry that I was such a cunt while my mum was dying and after.” He was surprised. He was like: “I don’t remember you being like that at all. AT ALL”.

Maybe I want to believe that. After all, we all want to believe that we are “good”, that our position is “right”. Hitler, me, everyone; no one wakes up in the morning and thinks: Today I’m going to be a complete fucker and fuck everyone over that I possibly can. The bigger the arsehole, the better. Mwah hah hah haaaaaa. Not even Tr*mp.

Ok, maybe Tr*mp.

Everyone justifies. People beat their partners. Emotional scars last years. Men, earning more money than women, beat their wives for years, and the woman stays. Women, having power of custody over the kids and all that, can right royally screw a guy by stopping him from seeing his kids. But all abusers see themselves as victims, that’s how they conceptualise the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual breaking of another being. Everyone is right, so everyone must be wrong as well.

Except me. I’m right, right?

After what happened happened, I’ve seen the cousin about 10 times. I completely, utterly,  100% blank him. If he sees me with girls, he calls my name, over, and over, and over again. If he sees me with a guy (he often sees me with male friends. I have a few good eggs that I cherish), he’s silent.

I wish I could punch him in the face, break his nose, nut him. I would love for it to stop. But the idea that violence solves conflicts is a fantasy. He is a man, he has problems, he acts the way he acts. The more violence I show him, the more I am in the wrong, the more he is the victim. Like when he started making unwanted sexual advances to me at lunch time, then a few hours later, he followed me to the toilet, to get me on my own, to sexually harass me. Bullies are so empty inside, they need the easy prey. If he’s calling to me in the street, calling my name, and I go up and twat him, he’s the victim. That is the justification he wants and needs.

So, my former friend looked at me.

I can live the whole rest of my life without seeing that look again.

 

Don’t write about me on your fucking blog!

In the past two weeks I’ve had several people get annoyed at something I wrote on this blog. One person, who I know well, spoke to me in person, and he seemed genuinely upset. The other person contacted me through WhatsApp and he was writing in Spanish (and I in English) so I can’t really tell the tone of the messages. Sometimes things seem stronger in Spanish, when it’s just that the person is really passionate about the topic. I don’t know where the line is and am often criticised for not doing it right, which I then wonder is more about someone else’s interpretation of what I said and their own projections than about what I wrote (in Spanish). “We thought you were being sarcastic when you said ‘have fun’ “. Well, that’s the last time I try to be nice? Lol.

My sponsor says that as long as I don’t use people’s real names and that I’m honest it’s ok to write stuff. Am I honest? I suppose I tell things from my point of view. I suppose my view of myself and my own actions might be the best version, might be the one I paint with the kindest eye. I like that my sponsor reads my blog sometimes and tells me things that I haven’t realised, like “You never mentioned that alcohol figured so much in this when you were talking to me about it”. It makes me realise that I have a super human power of denial growing up trying to ignore the elephant in the room, and that this is affecting my adult life.

No one has ever paid me a penny to write on this blog, so why do I carry on if all it brings me is more conflict, and people telling me I have hurt them? Just after my mother’s death, my cousin said that she had read about Mum’s last months here and I felt that that made us closer. Like somehow, there are things that spoken conversations just don’t cut and…

I think I’ve always preferred to write than to speak. Gives me time to choose the right words, the right way to say something. As a kid I was always playing with typewriters, scribbling in notebooks. My mother wanted to be a writer, I suppose that’s why they were lying around, why no one was speaking. It’s ironic that now my job is helping other people to speak, helping young people to have the confidence to express themselves in their third language, when I myself am not so great at saying what I really want to say in the moment.

I have a fantasy that if I just say in the right words, just explain enough, then people will understand and things will change. My sponsor says that things will change organically and that my pushing and judging (who me? judgemental? 😛 ) will have the opposite affect, but that I just want a fight. I believe this (grudgingly) to be true, and why I carry on talking things through with her. A friend might not mention to you something like that, they might just agree with you, because they want to carry on being your friend and hanging out.

The blog helps me get my thoughts out. Sometimes I feel like they’re trapped, running around my head, and my stomach and back hurt when I get really stressed. Diagnose it as what you will but it’s my reality. The last time I went to a psychiatrist (when I was completely fucked after my mothers death and I wanted to throw myself out the window for months and months because I couldn’t help her) he told me that I should have a baby as my problem was I’m just bored so… I’m done with diagnosis for a while. I thought it was better to let things out here than burden friends with my moaning, or bitch about one friend to another, which I catch myself doing more than I would like.

I’ve often thought that people don’t get annoyed at what is being said unless there’s a grain of truth in it. I remember times when someone was nasty or mean to me, completely out of the blue, and I just thought: this is literally nothing to do with me.

I think people feel a lot of guilt, and that makes them behave defensively (because who likes feeling like shit) which then stops them from admitting they did something wrong so that they can learn from it and try to do better. I like the acronym for shame:

Should

Have

Already

Mastered

Everything

The worst thing about someone getting pissed at what I wrote on here is that it just churns me up so I need to write more. Then I’m in a quandary. I don’t want to hurt the person involved any more, as they’ve told me they were hurt by what I wrote etc etc, but… the need to write is there.

Today someone said to me via text that what I write is on the internet for “everyone” to see. Jesus fucking christ, I thought. My mother was one of the only people who read my blog and she’s dead as a doornail now, so… (dark humour. It’s how I cope). According to WordPress (they have a nifty little stats thing) people only read my blog when I post something. They potter over (probably looking to promote their own blog), maybe give me a like, send me a message to see if I’ll like their posts… Anyway, I started to learn about digital marketing this year with a friend and there’s a reason people pay Google and Facebook to make their ads appear at the top. If you don’t do that it’s almost impossible to find things, even if you’re directly looking!

Apparently someone had “stumbled” on to my blog. Nah. Nit. No way. There’s no stumbling on to a shitty personal blog like this. There’s searching, there’s reading, there’s  getting pissed about something because you’re looking for something to be pissed off about.

I have this fantasy that if I just say it right, if just this time… No. People change when they’re ready to change, and I’m not in control of anything except myself. I just need to keep my side of the street clean, do the next right thing, and when I mess up own it and try not to do it again.

How other people feel is not my responsibility. You can’t “make” someone angry or sad, they just either are, or they aren’t. Sure you can say mean shit to people, but if they don’t believe it to be true, then they aren’t bothered. Or are they? I don’t know anymore.

The dance floor

It was carnival weekend. Everyone was out in their finest fancy dress, having drinks with friends and smiling.

We got to La Ribera bar at 11:30pm. The band still hadn’t started yet. People were dancing Lindy and having fun.

As usual, there was a large group of people standing on the dance floor, people who (as far as I knew) didn’t dance. I said to some friends “How about we go round and politely ask people to move to the sides?”. My friends responded “Or we just go like this when we dance” and motioned kicking and pushing them.

I decided to ask them politely when the live music started. I started like this:

“Hi guys. Would you mind please moving to the sides because people want to dance?”

The group had about 10 people. The girl next to me pretended like she hadn’t heard.

One guy, who I assumed was gay, said “brrbrbrbrrbrbrbrbr”. (yes, ok, sometimes when the music is loud and I don’t know someone I don’t understand what they say in Spanish)

I asked him to repeat it.

-I’ve bought this drink. This is a bar. I have a right to be wherever I want.

-Yes, of course. But this is the dance floor. There’s a lot of other space in the bar.

-It’s aggressive to ask.

-I don’t understand. How is it aggressive? It’s a question of safety. Girls dancing with heels have really hurt my feet and ankles, more than once.

-Yeah yeah, whatever. We are dancing.

I suppose it was aggressive in a way, because as gay men, these people have probably been told they’re not welcome in a lot of places, in both overt and subtle ways. I’ve experienced being at bars where there is football, and feeling very unwelcome, and getting shouted at for getting up to get a drink and obscuring people’s views.

I waited for the guy to finish his g and t. He held the glass for a long time. Then I asked him to dance.

-Noooo. I don’t know how to dance

He said, with a strange look on his face. Maybe he knew that the dance culture was already too heteronormative. Maybe he was tired of standing up and being himself to that tide of shit.

-Please. I’m a teacher.

-Of course you are.

-Would you like to dance as a leader or a follower?

-A follower I suppose.

-Let’s do it!

-No. Really no.

Soon after they left. I suppose they only came for one drink on their night out. Judging by how rude they were, I suppose they were from out of town, as people tend to be dick heads when they think no one will see them again.

It wasn’t a nice experience. I suffer from anxiety so as soon as he told me “he had every right” etc, I felt very nervous and didn’t want to walk past his group, nor dance near them as I didn’t want to be shoved in to them by leaders who were bowling with followers by accident, or accidentally do that when I dance as a leader with a  follower. This is something I don’t observe men being preoccupied with, as they dominate the dance floor, people making space for them. Sigh. How can I learn to be half as confident as a mediocre white man?

What I’ve learned:

Bring lollipops to partner dance events to give to people who get the frick off the dance floor. SWEET SWING BABY! YEAH!