October 9, 2011 – My To Do List
The first item on my list is Don’t Worry. Mainly don’t worry about money. Worry isn’t going to pay the bills or bring home veggies from the market. I still have to remind myself of this because I’m always playing the worst case scenarios out in my head. Sometimes I end up on the steps of a South American bridge with a cup held out for money. Or in a bus with a rented baby to help me beg. In others I wind up on my parents’ front steps with nothing to call my own but the clothes on my back. “Oh hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. Hey, dogs. Do you guys mind if I crash here for a couple days (ie., indefinitely)?” My imagination frequently stages these mild insurrections and tries for hysteria. Relegate yourself to fiction, I tell it. To my mind I say, Just live in this time, everything will be fine.
When I get to thinking too hard and I can feel the lines deepening in my forehead, I remind myself Don’t Worry. It works even better when I write it down.
I mark down a couple business items like Organize New Schedule and Work on Blog and Finish Yamilet’s Story and Start Research for Next Book. I’ve got to live up to my own expectations of what it means to call myself a writer. I have high hopes. I have a lot of ideas, characters, twists, surprises, changed clichés, scenarios, sorrows and joys I want to put on paper. I want to stop feeling embarrassed when I tell people I’m a writer because I’m not making a monetary living by it (yet) and be comfortable in my skin under the label I’ve attached to myself. I’m a writer because I write things down. I write things sideways and crossways, and every now and then, backwards. I write because I love words. My list just reminds me that I need to be a tad bit more organized in how I go about living day to day. Even when I'm in South America.
Third to last on my To Do list is Smile.
I like to smile. It’s not usually a problem. I know it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. I know that smilers probably live longer. I like that friendly interaction with other humans.
But here in Lima I’ve guarded my smiles, locked them away, rationed them out. It’s felt like a necessity. Self-preservation.
Here’s why. [The following is my theory based on experience.] Not smiling prevents me (and Peruvian women) from receiving unwanted Latin Men Attention. However, that said, not smiling does not always prevent this. Not making eye contact does not always prevent this. Blatant ignoring also does not always prevent this. But, a smile, to the Latin Man, is an open invitation for approach. A smile is the opening move to a long and involved game of Hard To Get.
What these Latin Men don’t realize is that I didn’t enter the tournament. They think they’ve made it to the Play-Offs when I’m not even playing the same sport. In the game I’m playing they’ve all received Technical Fouls and have been thrown out completely; out of the game, out of the season, out of the sport. This ain’t just a temporary suspension. Sorry about your bad luck, bro.
|Me. Not Smiling.|
While I don’t want my smile to be misunderstood in a cultural light, I also don’t like how not smiling makes me feel; secretive, stingy, stern, silenced and many other S words as well. I want to be me. I want to smile when I want to smile. I want to greet the humans I encounter throughout the day in a friendly manner. I want to walk with my head up. I want to read people’s faces. I want to see expressions. I want to look around in wonder at this world. I want to join in others’ joy without feeling like I’m spying on their lives or invading their private moments. I want to let them know that I acknowledge them as living, breathing people and that I like to be acknowledged as a living, breathing person too.
With all this in mind, I decide to do a social experiment.
An experiment of smiles.