Daisy Valera

HAVANA TIMES – I’m waiting for a friend on the steps of the Yara cinema. A man with a mustache and cigarette sits in front me and the game begins.

The rules are basic: he will persistently try to make eye contact and I will employ all my talents to evade it.

I start scribbling some ideas in my MADE IN CHINA notebook but the April heat will not let me finish even a phrase. I keep trying.

He takes my measure and sizes me up with his look. I start to feel as if I’m suddenly in the middle of a telepathic interview. The smoke drifts up from his cigarette and I sense his desire to shine a yellow bulb in my face.

At this stage of the game I have to repeat to myself mentally and for a few seconds: don’t let him come close, let him clear off, don’t let him come close …don’t let him torture me with those phrases he’s taken straight out of the manual:

What’s a pretty girl like you doing on her own? Do you have a boyfriend? Can I invite you out?

The man, a compact copy of so many other gentlemen, youths, adolescents and old men of this city / country, smoothes his hair, stops smoking and focuses on the seam of my skirt and the twisted strap.

I want to continue on my own, completely alone on this corner of Vedado. I don’t want to relinquish this square meter of shade that is one of the few oases on the Rampa at noon.

I resist the desire to run off. I continue the game: if I look at his eyes, I lose. I give him permission to execute a feline leap onto the step I’m standing on.

His gaze continues fixed on my face; I look at the sky in response, the roofs, the ground, even the traffic lights a block away.

It’s my turn to prepare the sharp responses, responses that are always more effective when pronounced in a phlegmatic tone:

I really like women: slim, no butt, black hair (any other combination is just as effective).

My husband will be in a few minutes; yes, I am a married woman (the status of boyfriend is usually not taken too seriously).

Another way of countering the attack is to pretend to be deaf or autistic.

Then my friend arrives and releases me from the final stage of the game. The one in which the man is undeterred and insists on his slimy approach and I wish to hit him, strike a final blow to leave him speechless, unconscious, in pain.

I’m tired of playing, of just accepting the pressure without any chance of coming out winning. Of feeling an illuminated sign screwed on my shoulders saying something like “available meat”.

The rules of the game preclude the possibility of a break or downtime.


Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

5 thoughts on “Game Plan for a Woman on a Typical Day

  • Gee, Daisy, perhaps I did not express myself well. I was, and am 100% in support of your feelings and your article.

    It is disgusting when a man ogles or leers at a woman in an open and abusive way. Frankly, there should be laws against it, as a misdemeanor form of assault.

    I will try to express myself better in the future. I loved your article. Cheers.

  • Thanks for your support Kian, Grady and Kian, at least you have noticed my point.

  • I have played this game too – or, more accurately, tried to avoid playing it! When I am a visitor in Cuba, I often employ my camera as a shield from the fatal eye contact.
    In the reverse, I have sometimes observed female tourists behaving in the same ravenous way regarding Cubanos. That game is equally repulsive.
    People are people, no matter what sex or where they are. Everyone deserves to be respected. No means no in any language…so to speak!

  • Well, men are geared by biology both to desire and to seek out mates, and this will always involve “visual prospecting.” (This, of course, is also true of women, and sunglasses are a great aid!)

    But is unfortunate it that men–whether in Cuba or the US–may not be taught sufficiently that it is ungentlemanly, unethical and just plain asinine to “ogle” women in an obvious and abusive manner.

    For some reason, male construction workers are among the worst offenders. (But male construction workers will usually not censure a co-worker who ogles a passing female, for fear perhaps of being thought “gay.”)

    What I would suggest, Daisy, is for Cuban women to make, as part of their social and cultural movement, the effective and broad teaching of men (and boys) that obvious, abusive ogling is (1) a demonstration of a man’s unworthy character; (2) a disgrace on his parents and his upbringing; and (3) a sure way to turn off any prospective mate.

    This is not to put the onus of blame on women, but to suggest that society–and the organized women’s movement as part of society–ought to assist men and boys in learning the rules and acceptable modes of behavior with regard to “visual prospecting.”

    It seems to me that the teaching of boys and men, with regard to ogling, should begin in the home, with mothers, fathers, grandparents and female siblings taking the lead. But the PCC, the CDRs, the churches and the socialist media should assume their appropriate share of the responsibility.

    One

  • I think as a human being and a woman you should have a right to end the conversation whenever you want too
    loved reading your experience

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