At first I thought it was just me. My self-esteem had never been so high. On a near daily basis, while I was traveling in Northeastern Brazil, I got compliments on how linda, or beautiful, I am.
But then I started talking to other female travelers. It turns out that every foreign woman is gorgeous in Brazil. The compliments come from women as well as men. It was only slight a letdown, to find out that every other female traveler I talked to was having a similar experience: being told that she was linda, linda, linda.
Now I am back in Rio, though, and almost wistful for those days. I remember Carioca men as being incredibly aggressive, and that’s certainly their reputation. But I have noticed now that there are downpours and droughts. It’s hard to know why men don’ t serenade me any more–maybe I am giving off a jaded, inaccessible vibe now. Maybe I stopped meeting their eyes.
Brazilian men are legendary for their passion and persistence. It’s exciting to feel so wanted, their eyes can be so insistent in a way that North American eyes don’t have the courage to be. But on the other hand, it becomes hard to understand why you want to marry me when we met only fifteen minutes before. Their passion seems so ephemeral, and at times, almost insultingly generic, like they are passionate about any foreign woman.
Being blonde takes the experience to a whole new level. “Being blonde in Brazil means you never have to wear jewelry,” my German, blonde friend Teresa said to me one day, and I knew she had hit the nail on the head–I had stopped bothering with earrings. I have never felt particularly exoticized as a type before.
When I went home to Rhode Island in April, I dyed my hair a slighly darker blonde, verging on brown. Perhaps that’s why they are less drawn to my honey.
I talked to my friend Marcello about the Brazilian penchant for passionate, urgent overtures–he explained that when Brazilian men feel something, and they want to express it, even if the depth of their feeling seems kind of bizarre.
I used to compare San Francisco men to Brazilian men and wish that San Francisco men were more forward, but now that I have seen the flip side, I’ve grown appreciate the subtlety and slowness with which American men say what they are feeling–they say less, but I trust them more.
Then again, my ego is missing the outrageous flattery from Brazilian men now that I am not getting it. What can I say? I want it all! There’s so much that I like about Brazilian men in general: they’re generous–always quick to pour the beer first for everyone else at the table; helpful to a fault; fun; optimistic; funny. Where can I find a passionate, genuine man? More subtle and trustworthy Brazilian men are rumored to exist. Is he here, or in Bali (where Elizabeth Gilbert–and soon in the movie version, Julia Roberts–found her ideal Brazilian lover in Eat Pray Love?)
Nice post. I mostly agree and I’ve certainly see it happening, but it’s funny that you never ask yourself why gringas are so flattered in Brazil. Maybe something to do with a fetish for the colonizer? Not in a strict sense, more like in a North > South sort of domination. Brasileiro é meio deslumbrado por gringo….
It happens with Brazilian girls and gringo boys too, and with gay people, same same. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but I guess the socio-political aspect counts a lot more than it is apparent in your post! 🙂
Thanks for writing, I’ll start following your blog!
Thanks for your comment and pushing me to articulate and think more. As for why I (or we gringas) enjoy the flattery, it’s novel. American and Northern European men are restrained. We don’t have the same passion-driven culture and if men in our countries ever behaved similarly it’s been trained out of them by feminism. Men are trained to not treat women they meet casually as sexual objects. And so, for a little while, it’s fun to be sexualized–and to have these combustible, ephemeral encounters. In my experience, it gets old after 3 weeks because the story always turns out the same.
A male Brazilian friend read this post and told me I got it half right. Brazilian men come on strong, yes, but not just to foreigners. They play the same games with all women, it’s just that Brazilian women know better how to defend themselves. How do they defend themselves, I asked. Oh, you’ll have to suffer more and learn on yourself, he joked. So if you can tell me how Brazilian women respond, I would love to hear!
One more thing: You’re right of course that there’s an undeniable lure to know what’s diffferent, exotic. I just doubt that Brazilian women lay it on so thick with gringo men, and then move on so quickly. I could be wrong since I haven’t been in that situation. I think the experience of being here in Brazil is really different for gringo men and women and when I hear about their experiences, I think, wow. That’s another post entirely.