“Gimme Your Guitar” — By Lydian Shipp
Guanajuato Mexico Uncategorized

“Gimme Your Guitar” — By Lydian Shipp

I wouldn’t say I’m new to dating/courtship rituals but… well, I’m new to dating/courtship rituals in the “real world.” Since I’m 18 now and working with adults instead of kids, it’s almost like all the “experience” I have from when I was younger is invalid. It’s not, since I’ve thought seriously about every relationship I’ve had from a variety of angles to get as much as I could out of the experience, but since I was working with young people in a different culture from the one I’m living in, their behaviors were different from what would be expected in the “real world” in Mexico.

Looking back on the guys I dated in the States, I can say that things were very different there than they are now and here. I can understand what I liked or was attracted to in the guys I dated, but looking around at the guys here… well, there are more boys doing things or who have unique personalities or whatever than there were where I lived. There are more interesting people in general of course, but it’s just amazing to compare and contrast (not just from there to here, but even just here too).

For example, there’s a 16-year-old boy in my estudiantina who, although he seems 16 (not in a bad way, he just does), I can totally see that as he gets older he’ll probably turn into a kind, decent young man with thoughts and opinions and interests and such. But, he’s doing something. I went out on one date with a boy of the same age from a different estudiantina (I’m never asking a guy out on the first date ever again), and although he was okay to talk to, he ended up being what my mom and I refer to as a “dud.” Or, as the Millionare Matchmaker says, he didn’t know how to “hunt and fish.” This boy noted that he enjoys watching YouTube in his spare time. He appeared to be good at selling tickets, but he wasn’t playing an instrument, in contrast with the 16-year-old in my group, who does play an instrument and probably spends at least some of his spare time working on developing music skills. The contrast between these two people is crazy… I can clearly see how the boy in my group will go from being a somewhat awkward boy to a confident man, but the boy in the other group… well, I can’t see the trajectory from boy to man as easily.

I recently decided to take a Facebook-hiatus because I realized that, basically, it was hurting my ability to make friends and do what I came here to Earth to do. I wasn’t happy, and it was a huge waste of my time. But without Facebook, it’s been interesting to navigate the waters of attraction without being able to just search up someone’s page and Facebook stalk them for hours to gather “information.”

Facebook stalking does not yield information. End of story. It yields doubt and insecurity.

I’m interested in a few boys in my group (and there are a few that I’m definitely not interested in too), and normally, my first reaction would be to find their Facebook page, friend them if I hadn’t already, and then analyze and carefully monitor their posts. When I put this process down into writing, it looks really bizarre and screwed up… because it is! Seriously, who does that? Everybody in this day and age, I would guess. But it’s still freaky. And I like that without Facebook I can let myself have questions about people based off of their actual actions or what information I gather from other real people instead of what someone posts on their Facebook page (which doesn’t say practically anything).

Not to say information directly from the mouths of other people is always legitimate or completely truthful. It’s not. But it’s still more interesting and engaging that looking at Facebook.

The other day when I was hanging out downtown before going on a callejoneada, I decided that I’d try and seek out another female from my group (or another group) and strike up a conversation. In the spirit of meeting people and opening myself up to social interactions after my long period of Facebook Addiction, I went up to a girl in my group who’s often in the centro selling tickets. Let’s call her The Girl (because I don’t know enough about Mexican names to come up with a believable fake name).

The Girl seemed nice enough to me when I was talking to her. She said she was 27 and had two kids, a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old. She wasn’t married, but had a boyfriend she lived with (she didn’t appear to like admitting this fact). Her kids went with her ex on the weekends, while she went out partying (she invited me to go along, so we exchanged numbers). She told me she’d seen me walking up Tepetapa late at night, and that it’s dangerous. I should take the bus.

Later on, I realized that the questions she’d chosen to ask me were way too personal and pretty damn far from the script of questions that people generally ask me. I also realized later that I’d felt like I couldn’t escape from the conversation (also a red flag). Seriously, no one that I’ve talked to has asked me if I have a boyfriend. And they’ve definitely never assumed that my dad in the Big Yellow FJ was my boyfriend (except Muslim men… but that’s a different discussion). And, even though The Girl supposedly lives in my neighborhood, she really shouldn’t have been watching that close. I’ve never seen her on Tepetapa, why the hell does she know where I am late at night?

Other suspicious things include:

  1. Supposedly, she’s also from Nebraska (wait, what?)
  2. My dad said he’d seen and waved at two people from my group one night when he was coming home. I know the guy my dad described seeing, and from The Girl’s statements, the girl with the guy must have been her. Which means she was going home with some guy that isn’t her boyfriend (who is in a different group).
  3. Her story about how her kids go with her ex on the weekend while she goes out partying reminds me of my dad’s story with his ex-wife (who we later discovered was a heroin addict).
  4. A girl who plays in my group told me later that she’d seen me talking The Girl and asked me if The Girl and I had talked in English or in Spanish. Supposedly The Girl speaks English. Hmmm…

As me and The Girl were talking, I noticed that the musicians in my group were gathering over by the church. Obviously, since I too am a musician, I needed to head over to the group (and besides, I saw that one of the guys I was interested in was over there). I oriented myself to where I was facing more toward the group and paused while looking at the group and grabbing my guitar strap. Normally, this is a cue that says, “hey, I gotta go, but nice talking to you!” And then I go and all is well.

But, The Girl chose this moment to say (in Spanish), “I was married to [the guy I’m interested in]”

Wait… wtf just happened?

So I asked her about it. According to her, he’d been possessive and hadn’t accepted that she had kids. Basically that’s the jist of it. I should say that the guy I’m interested in is 23, and again, The Girl is 27. In the moment of course, I had to go along with this information that The Girl had given me and assume that wow this is good information and now I don’t have to be blindsided by this mean, awful guy. But after I went home and started recounting the whole story to my parents, I realized how crazy it sounded. The whole damn thing sounded wild, and I haven’t even put it all down here, and I’m not going to because it’s not worth it. So now, I get to feel wary of this guy because of information that’s stilted if not completely false. But, because I’m not using Facebook, I also get to consider just straight up asking the guy I’m interested in about what The Girl told me instead of Facebook stalking to gather more false information and see if what The Girl said is true.

As I’ve talked about before, the people stuff really confounds me. I’m not doing too bad, but I feel really funny about all of it. Am I flirting with this guy in the wrong way? Am I dissing that guy in the right way? Did I go too far in my conversation with that person? What if she thinks I’m weird and starts spreading rumors about me? And on and on it goes.

And y’know, some of my confusion and doubt is justified. There are some pretty weird flirting things (and people stuff in general, like with The Girl) that I’ve encountered lately.

One of the things that I really appreciate about the group I’m in is how I’ve been integrated and accepted as a female musician. In the United States, the vast majority of my experiences with male musicians have been less than satisfactory. The example I always think of is a story my mom told me when I was working on starting my band. She was jamming with a couple of other musicians to have fun and meet people (in short), and things had been going well for the most part, until one time she was playing her guitar and a guy that she was playing with waved his hand and said, “Gimme your guitar.” What’s amazing is that I’ve had this happen to me too. The exact same situation.

So far though, I haven’t really had this experience (or any variation on it) in the estudiantina. That is, I hadn’t until last Tuesday when a short fellow wearing all black and a cape (not a costume) took a puff of his cigarette, breathed out, looked at me and said in accented English, “Play me something.”

I stared at him for a minute, unsure of what to say exactly. I decided to respond in Spanish, since I’ve discovered that although I can’t say as many things in Spanish that it throws people through a loop when I don’t reply in English like they think I will.

“What, do you not believe that I can play guitar?”

I ended up playing something, but I wanted to make sure that I’d hit him with something to show that I wasn’t completely oblivious or insecure about my musicianship. I figured this was an isolated incident with Short Man. I was wrong.

Later that evening when we weren’t playing and the group members were talking a bit, Short Man came up to me and put his hand up for a high five. I looked at him weird, and he said, “Gimme a high-five!” So I gave him a half-hearted high-five. And then he asked for another. I said no, I only do one high-five per night, per person. This made him laugh, but I was totally serious. Dude, leave me alone, I’m not a 2-year-old, nor am I a weak, submissive, giggly female. STOP.

So then, I thought I was done. Nope.

Short Man was there the next night I went out on a callejoneada. And although he was okay at first (he helped me with my guitar strap when it broke, which I was grateful for), I started noticing some… behaviors. The most significant of which was that Short Man noticed that I was interested in one guy in the group, and that when the guy I was interested in did/said certain things, I’d laugh. So, Short Man decided to try doing these same certain things to try and get me to laugh. It was gross, not amusing.

But this behavior has happened before, which makes the phenomenon even stranger. When I played a concert with the estudiantina, there was also a guy that I was interested in there (a different guy, just for the record). When we were paused on stage for a moment, this guy reached over and tapped my shoulder. I looked behind me to the left, no one was there, the guy was actually on my right. I laughed. Later that night, a creepy old dude did the exact same thing to me as I was heading up some stairs to leave the theater. I turned around smiling, since I thought maybe the guy I was interested in was doing the same thing again, but then my smile turned into a grimace after I saw that it was actually a creepy old guy who was trying to be… cute?

This whole behavior where guys mimic each other’s actions to get a girl’s attention is strange to me. My mom said it was strange to her too, which makes me think that it’s probably some sort of cultural phenomenon. Nonetheless, it’s frustrating. How do you “turn down” a guy that’s doing this sort of behavior? If I don’t react to some other guy dancing weird because I’m just plain not interested, is that an insult to the guy that originated the idea of the weird dancing in the first place? Will other people notice if I have to be shitty to some guy because he’s not getting the hint? What do I say if they ask me about it? Nothing? Something? The truth? Whatever comes out of my mouth in the moment?

These are all learning experiences I suppose. Even if they’re frustrating, uncomfortable, strange experiences, I feel sort of lucky though to get to see some of the “behind the scenes” stuff in the culture I’m living in. It’s a rare opportunity to actually get to see the inner workings of things like courtship rituals and flirting in other cultures. I can ask questions, but without these experiences I’d just assume ultimately that courtship in Mexico is exactly the same as in the United States. I’d know instinctively that there were differences, but I wouldn’t have any idea what they were. If I asked a Mexican about differences they’d have the same problem answering me, since they don’t know the subtle nuances of American courtship and they view what I think are the weird aspects of Mexican courtship as normal. But, as it is, I get to actually experience the differences for myself. So as weird as some of the differences are, I’m grateful to learn about all of it first hand. I think it’s pretty darn cool.

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