miércoles, 9 de enero de 2013

On How I Learned About PDA and Why That Knowledge (and Other Stuff Almost, Not Quite) Broke My Heart

This one's for Sam Sabzehzar, a.k.a Sunshine G. Lighthouse
 Love, always and till we meet again

Being born and raised in Mexico, one takes for granted many things (as I suppose happens with being born and raised in any other part of the world). One clearly understands that when a Mexican says "you are welcome to your house", the speaker is referring to his or her house, not yours; one entirely accepts (and sometimes indulges in) the use of diminutives and the extreme, even annoying, cordiality of a con permisito (excuse me, just a little bit) or a por favorcito (little kind of please); one totally gets that when things are due en un ratito (in a little while) they might actually take much, much longer. And amongst all things, one knows as a Mexican that dropping by unannounced, that popping out of the blue, just like that, no warnings, no nothing, is some serious case of rudeness. We Mexicans need to know who to expect (what to expect is optional) and when to expect someone: that's one of the best kept secrets for our world famous hospitality, being aware of the specifics of all our guests, regarding physical location, estimated time of arrival, likes, dislikes, phobias, allergies, special needs, and so forth. But what to me was perfectly understandable and publicly acceptable -namely kissing everywhere, almost all over the place, such as we Mexicans do- came to appear as a potentially distressing and quite embarrassing situation in the USA, known as PDA. Here is how I learned about it, and why that (together with some other stuff almost, not quite) broke my heart.

Last December, I flew to Oakland to meet up with some dear US friends from the Caravan for Peace. The idea behind the trip was to surprise them all, even though my Mexicanness, for lack of a better word, strongly advised otherwise. So, a bit unsure of it (oh, how wrong I was!) I joined in the surprise plotting and subsequent surprise rampage and was instrumental in carrying those surprises out: I myself was the surprise, most times. There was another powerful reason for going to California: reconnecting with a very, very special friend that I happened to have a crush on (oh yes, the plot thickened right then and there). He didn't know I was visiting -being the first in our list of surprises- and when I appeared in front of him he was absolutely delighted, to say the least (his screams of joy must have been heard all over The Golden State and even reached some border towns in Mexico). I must confess my heart was racing before, during, and even after the deed was done, first out of sheer emotion of the thought of seeing him, and later on just out of being close to him again.

To make a long story short (and to solely reveal that which I believe is revealable for the sake and purpose of storytelling), in the early morning hours of 2013, Sam and I agreed to just kiss for the time being, no further shenanigans in the getting physical department. And out of a very Mexican fear of not wanting to even slightly upset anyone, I didn't push forward my lets-go-further agenda (which I did keep hidden up my sleeve, which did throb and pulsed inside me... oh, the pangs of despised love...). Thing is, when I agreed to just kiss, I was thinking in Spanish: unlike Sam, I understood (and still understand) kissing in the Latino vein, not tenderly and almost coyly locking lips together without trying to make two breaths one. Because kissing -simple and sweet kissing- at least around these latitudes, encompasses every single possibility in the smooth and glistening realm of the tongue.

As a result of this cultural, semantic, and even translational misunderstanding, I spend the next few days (and nights) looking for the right second to get our lips going, to speak the language of tongues, to breathe his breath and make it my own... but it just wouldn't happen, at least not organically, sort of naturally, as my experience had borne witness before (but, then again, we did kiss, although not always Mexican style, we did get close, embraced, and held hands...). Why wouldn't we kiss on the beach? Or under the bridge or at a bar or under the California sun?, I wondered (thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought...), unaware that my clumsy attempts at frequent and shameless mouth-lips-tongue closeness were definitely not considered in our initial agreement. Because it was not just that I was rooting for something else entirely from what we had agreed on, but I was also going for it in public (some times). It would take one cold night, a brash move, and a couple of drinks to make me catch a glimpse of the unfathomable complexities (and evils... sorry, I couldn't help it) of PDA in the USA.

We were at a wine bar in San Francisco, fittingly named Blush!, when I leaned over Sam and briefly kissed him full on the mouth (a little tiny bit of a tongue must have taken part in the action, but for my passion standards that tongue slip qualifies as very mild kissing). He graciously backed off, and I could sense the discomfort I had caused him. "Maybe I should have told you before about PDA", said Sam. "PDA? What's that?", I asked. And Sam proceeded to explain that Public Displays of Affection, such as making out, are frowned upon in the US (for instance, see this entry in the Urban Dictionary; I particularly agree with the second definition). "But I was not trying to make out with you!", I protested. "Well, kissing with a tongue is making out", Sam said. A great, big, unexpected culture clash started to unfold and thus embarrassment, on my part, quickly ensued. Until that very moment, I had always understood "making out" as heavy petting, as venturing into the (somewhat dangerous) territory of outercourse, as foreplay that in my Mexican frame of reference is to be performed away from the public eye... And so it happened that I had been mistaken about our agreement, that I had inadvertedly broken it, over and over, for which I did apologize to Sam (and still do). As I realized this, even more embarrassment ensued. Sensing it, Sam generously kissed me on the lips. Misunderstandings happen... plus one cannot always get what one wants.

I asked Sam whether I could write a post in my blog about my PDA shock and even use his real name in it. He said yes, here it is, and it really means a lot to me. You see, most of the times I don't call people I write about by their full names to maintain anonymity, to avoid exposure, not to mingle with their privacy. And that's why I very much appreciate Sam's willingness and  kindness to openly become one of the protagonists in this story, to become an essential part in this real-life narrative, so in writing I can overcome both our culture clash (funny cause it's true) and our sweet little love desencuentro (I use the Spanish word because it's so much powerful than a mere disagreement, misunderstanding, discrepancy, or non-meeting...).

As suitable closing for this story (and I hope as subtle reference to all the fun times we had: I wish I were good at "palindromizing"...), some last great words Shakespeare once wrote and a wink at a bitter sweet film: If music be the food of love, play on, / Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken, and so die. Play it, Sam. Please play it again dear.