I don’t know what it is about my life right now but I feel like a 1950’s wife. Is it Cuba or is it being the wife of the director of the film school or a bit of both?
It is true that life in Cuba in many ways has stood still since 1959. The most obvious icon is of course, the 1950’s car. There is something Madmen-esque about this world, even down to the Lucky Strikes, a world where men are men, like Don Draper. Ice cream parlours, art deco hotel bars, trilby hats, cigars, sling back shoes, hourglass figures, no traffic, slow traffic………. And the music.
When my friend asked for some more modern music at a party the other day the DJ responded with the line. In Cuba we are about memoria. I disagree; I think Cubans should be shouting from their crumbling rooftops that CUBA IS THE FUTURE and the future’s so bright you gotta wear shades. Otherwise Cuba will sell its soul to the capitalist devil along with Che memorabilia and black market cigars. And Cuba I really do hope you find your modern soul and get yourselves a future, I do, I do, I do …..
Another favourite expression I heard before I arrived was that your heels get higher and your dresses tighter in Cuba. I am not sure what that says about the island but I definitely have acquired a couple of pairs of heels since arriving to get me to the many receptions to which I am invited. And yes I have dusted down some of my more feminine outfits, which did not see the light of day on the dusty or damp streets of backpacker, American tourist town Antigua. More opportunities to get glamorous here definitely.
Are Cuban men more chauvinist, more machista than your average Puerto Rican, Mexican or Venezuelan man? I’m not sure. For me machismo is rife all over the Latin world, you don’t need to come to Cuba particularly to sample this cultural phenomenon.
However there was a Cuban documentary on the TV the other day just titled Los Machos. It appeared to be a celebration of all things male. Lots of images of good looking guys hanging out in the streets chatting, back slapping, playing dominoes, talking baseball……. laughing. Just generally making that whole thing of being a man in Cuba look pretty damn cool! There were even some very cute images of Cuban Dads with small beautiful children staring up into their eyes with love and admiration for their father’s tender manliness!
Obviously it wasn’t a serious or realistic documentary as I didn’t see any images of fat men with their T-shirts rolled up to reveal their sweaty large bellies or angry men clouting their young children for crying for a toy, like I saw in the plastic toy shop on quinta the other day. The shop was full and nobody said a word except me. I was so shocked and angry I had to tell him…well done, you’re a really strong man ……. Muy muy macho, muy fuerte! As I was watching the tears of confusion and shame fall down the cheeks of his toddler son.
But, truth be told, in general, Cuban men are an attractive bunch and their charm and seduction generally a little more subtle and laid back then many other races I have come across in my years of living abroad and travelling. But I am getting old, and now a mother of 3, so maybe I am no longer a typical target for any lustful lewdness anyway!
Although apparently according to some of the students at the film school I am La rubia con lo mejor swing ……… which is a very Cuban way of looking at things. It is not just about what you’ve got but how you move it! And unlike my husband I like to think that I am the one with the best swing who just happens to be blonde rather than the one with the best swing out of a small subsection of blondes. Yes, yes I know I am clutching at straws but we all need to clutch at straws sometimes to lift the ego.
But I digress, why do I feel like a 1950’s wife and mother? Is it an accumulation of many years of devoting myself to my husband and my children partly because I wanted to and partly because I didn’t have much choice if I wanted this family to stay together, and I did. Most days I see the upside of the story. I am lucky to have been able to be with them so much, I have always been provided for, I have had many wonderful experiences and adventures with my family, I have enjoyed the added bonus of a husband with an interesting job. No boring corporate partners dinners for me, just film festivals and parties and interesting film-makers both old and new. So I should be grateful for this life and happy to be with my children guiding them though their bi-lingual, bi-cultural upbringing. And I am very proud of them when their bickering and whining has not ground me down. The global mother of 3.
But on the other hand I have been feeling suffocated. Suffocated with the never-ending domestic trials and tribulations of living in Cuba and it feels like I have fallen into the last century. I have 8 people that come and work in my house (I know it is ridiculous, believe me!) and I still feel as though I never have time for anything, or any time to myself. If it is not my children that want my time it is my employees who need me to solve their problems. I have still, after nearly a year, failed to turn that dynamic around ……. I want them to resolve all my problems and leave me free for the fun stuff and the stuff that is purely mine.
Oh in the mists of time I did have a career, I was going places, I was meeting interesting psychologists and sociologists. My ideas about the creative career were bouncing around and taking me into new greenfield areas of research.
I have been wistfully thinking about my last summer in London when the sun shone, I cycled everywhere, did want I wanted, had an intellectual life, a career, people wanted to talk to me or help me, or collaborate with me because of my ideas and my research not because I was the wife of somebody.
Anyway …….. I took photos of the most amazing sunset last night, we have lots of friends flying in for the film school graduation and parties, we will get to have a holiday soon for all the family, I live in a beautiful house on a beach and I have a husband I love and loves me and takes care of me ……. and I have the best swing … sometimes.
But rising slowly up from the ashes is that feminist that I had forgotten about, the one that got out there and grabbed every opportunity going for herself, grabbed the moment and her own money ……. and she will be back, and she already has lots of ideas up her sleeve, just got to go downstairs and sort out the drama of the temperamental 1950’s plumbing and the drains in the kitchen which have flooded, but I’ll be back with more gutsy feminist adventures soon ……. I promise