Candied Flowers

By Irina Echarry

This is a tribute to ugly women, they need it more.

That’s what Federico says, a friend who believes in the magic of sweet words and dreams of being indispensable to someone.

As a little girl I listened to men make flirtatious comments. My mother has always been a beautiful woman, elegant, and although she doesn’t have a sculptural body like many Cubans, she awakened the masculine sexual appetite.

They would approach her with pretty, naughty and clever phrases. That was a while ago, not only because my mother is now logically older. It’s another more complex matter: the Cuban mischievousness has become vulgar.

The custom of the flirtatious comment, which at one time was praised so -in the 1980s a well-known Cuban writer wrote a book on the subject-, is now an unpleasant situation for the majority of women.

Instead of flattering, the flirting actually attacks. No longer does the man approach the women in a low voice or subtle approach. Today the louder they shout the better. The rudeness is at all hours, day or night.

The lead attraction used to be the beauty or the sensuality of the woman, now it’s the macho. The macho that grunts and grabs to call attention as if we were wild gorillas in an “urbanized” desert.

It’s common now to hear shouts of how “good” or “bad” you are depending on the standards of beauty of the flirter, of his intellectual level. If we don’t thank them, at least with a look, they attack your defects in the most scandalous manner.

Violence prevails in communication; relations between men and women don’t escape it. What’s sad is that some women follow the riddle, that’s why they spare nothing when expressing themselves. Fathers do it in front of their sons who learn to insult at a very young age, thinking that’s the correct thing to do.

Nonetheless, last night, when I was walking my dog, a neighbor surprised me: “One of these days I’m going to make a candied flower to give to you,” he barely whispered as the words flew stealthy to my ears.

My first reaction was a smile, but then I realized who it was and sadness overcame me. It was a man with mental problems that lives to one side of my building. I don’t know if he makes sweets or was simply making an effort to please me. I don’t know. But knowing that a pleasant phrase could only come from a sick person troubled me so much that it was as if I never heard it.