14 Jun 2017

Prior to my trip, I knew I would be appreciated in Cuba the way I know if I go into any country bar, I could literally be on fire and still be completely ignored by the male clientele. I knew this NOT because I am – as one, misguided, would-be suitor put it – “a spicy concoction” which I assume is a reference to my decidedly un-Asian derrière, but because Cubans worship ALL forms of beauty.

In general, purchasing a plane ticket to this Caribbean country is a worthwhile investment every woman should make if they’re in need of an ego boost because the Cuban appreciation of beauty is all-inclusive. With limited and controlled access to media, not only are locals blessedly unaware of even the LEAST famous Kardashian (Kourtney? Rob? Maybe censorship isn’t always such a bad thing…) but nor do they have a standardized ideal of what is considered beautiful. Full, tiny, dark, light, curvy, slim – listing all the womanly virtues that Cubans enjoy sounds like the beginnings of a Dr. Seuss book.

Cubans have elevated the art of flirting to the point where it is as necessary a cultural experience as visiting a museum or sipping a mojito. If you’re used to the more subtle, non-flirting that is typical of polite Canadians – where you know a guy is checking you out if he’s looking everywhere BUT you – then you might find the direct way Cubans let you know they’re attracted to you to be offensive but there’s no reason you should! You just need to understand the culture and how flirting is just a way to be playful with the opposite sex and all YOU have to do is relax and revel in the adoration!

REASONS PEOPLE GET OFFENDED AT CUBAN-STYLE FLIRTING
(and why they shouldn’t be)

They flirt with anyone (and anything) with a pulse!
When a guy tells you “Muy bonita!” and minutes later you witness him complimenting another girl, it doesn’t make you feel like special little snowflake. Why can’t he genuinely think that you’re beautiful AND that other girl is also beautiful? It’s not a competition wherein another woman’s beauty detracts from your own. Luckily, beauty is not graded on a bell curve!

He’s just trying to take advantage of me because I’m a tourist.
Maybe, but maybe not. If you grew up and lived in the same place with the same people your entire life, with little chance of ever travelling outside of a country where news and media does not necessarily reflect reality, wouldn’t you be curious to chat up the exotic foreigner? I can’t say the motivations of EVERY Cuban male is as innocuous as that but don’t automatically make assumptions….But it could also be a “Taken” situation so be smart and vigilant!

I should be able to walk around without being constantly harassed!
The more we rely on technology for communication, we’ve forgotten how to engage with each other IRL because it’s about as taxing as a someone throwing out a friendly “hi”…..except they’re hot and tell you you’re pretty. Maybe everyone else in the world is fortunate enough to hit their daily compliment quota but I personally never get sick of being called “bonita” by well-groomed, broad-shouldered, muscular men. EVER. Plus, I found Cubans to be pretty respectful so if you’re not into it, just keep walking.

So you could really get an idea of what it’s like, the following are
65 Thoughts I Had While Getting Hit On In Cuba:

At a fancy paladar that I foolishly went to for dinner, solo:
1. Is the prerequisite for working here that they be hot and male?
2. I immediately regret coming alone. This is awkward.
3. I don’t think I need five (hot) servers but I’m not complaining!
4. I regress. Forgot about my performance anxiety.
5. This must be what Gal Gadot feels like in EVERY room.
6. I'd go off men for her.
7. Is that one of Wonder Woman's secret powers?
8. Are they going to watch me eat ALL night??
9. I guess I’m considered entertainment for the employees.
10. Ugh, flashbacks of being in musicals in high school.
11. Forget food, I need a mojito. Fuerte!
12. When did eating soup become so difficult?!
13. Don’t spill. Don’t spill. Don’t spill.
14. Complimentary 15-year old rum and cigar? So nice!
15. Oh I see, he wants to smoke it WITH me.
16. But I have to meet up with people in like five minutes..
17. I don't want to just bounce with the cigar ….seems so scrub-like.
18. You know how I feel about being a scrub…
19. Do I say goodbye….?
20. Disappearing into the night seems like the less-awkward alternative.

At a salsa club, practicing dancing with one of the instructors:
21. I’ve literally transformed into the salsa emoji.
22. “Lady in rreeeddddd is dancing with me…cheek to cheek.” Not really a salsa song…
23. I feel like I should probably tighten the straps on this dress…
24. Shit! Rogue boob popped out. Maybe he didn’t notice.
25. He noticed.
26. Ugh. He probably thinks that was my way of flirting.
27. AH, the other one popped out!
28. I should probably stop twirling so much.
29. “I feel like I know you so much better now.” Yea I bet you do.
30. I wish I wasn’t so bad with accents. No idea what he’s saying.
31. I say “I don’t understand Spanish” in Spanish SO well that they think I’m lying.
32. What? He wants to be my novio Cubano for the rest my trip?
33. How convenient since that’s only two more days…
34. So “fuckboys” exist in Cuba too.

Encountering a VERY attractive Cuban guy in Habana Vieja:

35. Heeeelllloooooo!!
36. Wow, they are well-made in this country *slow clap*
37. He’d be a better souvenir than Cuban cigars.
38. Don’t understand why he doesn’t have a shirt but I don’t mind AT ALL.
39. If I were that hot, I’d burn ALL my shirts as a favour to the world.
40. Is he waving at me?!
41. Maybe he doesn’t own a mirror so he doesn’t realize how hot he is…
42. He wants a picture….WITH ME??!!! Yes.
43. Take the picture Kelly. Take the picture. Take the picture.
44. He’s saying the same thing to his friends but in Spanish!
45. Clearly we’re soulmates. Overboard?
46. I need proof of his attractiveness for when I’m old, wrinkly and trying to convince my grandkids that I was desirable in my youth.
47. I mean, realistically he’s probably using his looks to distract me from the fact that he is plotting to turn me in to a skin suit…but WHATEVER.
48. Good thing Kelly is here to play translator since my Spanish is limited to food, alcohol and novios (boyfriends). The important things.
49. Damnit! Stop trying to barter me for things, woman!
50. He’s so pretty. Ok, I don’t mind being sold for three mangos to this guy.

Walking around Havana in general, with friends:
51. Why am I getting so many stares?
52. They must not see Asians very often.
53. Seriously, is there something on my face?
54. Is my dress tucked into my underwear??
55. Is my dress see-through???
56. I’m probably naked and I'm the only one who doesn't know it!
57. Was I on the news for killing someone?!!
58. OMG what did I do last night?!
59. I was probably documented doing something stupid and now I'm a meme that’s gone viral and they recognize me.
60. What’s this kissy noise they’re making? Is that a come-on?
61. They’re making the same noise at Tom so it probably doesn’t mean what I think it means.
62. Or DOES it…
63. Oh, he needs me to get out of the way, that’s what the noise is for.
64. Maybe it’s be better to take a bike taxi to sightsee..
65. Of course I get the only bike taxi driver who had an Asian ex-girlfriend.

ETC is the overflow of thoughts in the mind of Teri Yeung. It’s a place full of stories of travel adventures, imparted lessons learned from life’s achievements and failures, behind-the-scenes of projects and experiments, and anything else that inspires excitement and joy.

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