Thursday, June 9, 2011

In which the cute guy in my Portuguese class turns out to have sweaty hands and poof my crush is killed

When I lived in Miami, I didn't have a TV, so I needed things to do in the few short hours when I was not at work in the salt mines known as Ryder corporate finance. When a person does not have TV, she is forced to do things. Horrible things. Things to fill her time. Things like read. Like tutor algebra to high school students, which she thinks will be solving quadratic equations and factoring polynomials but instead turns out to be times tables and converting fractions. Like take violin lessons. Like go to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers parties.

Like take salsa dance lessons. Like learn to speak Portuguese.

It is far far better to own a TV than to be forced to entertain onesself. How on earth did I survive my adult life until I met Primo and married him and his big-butt TV?

True confession: I did have a TV when I was in grad school. I had bought it shortly before grad school so I would have something to distract me while I polished the brass candlesticks that my mother had "let" me keep when she and my dad moved to Saudia Arabia. I jumped on them because what 20something decor is complete without large Turkish brass candlesticks? That need to be polished? A lot?

Once I had the TV, I got into the 30something habit. (And yes, I am watching my library's website to see when they get their copy because I am not willing to pay $25.97 to just for a fleeting pleasure. I could save that money for shoes! or purses! Although the dark and brooding Michael. So sexy. So whiny. Maybe he's worth $25.97.)

There were some other shows I had to watch. Me, who used to snicker at her grandmother for dropping everything to watch As the World Turns every afternoon, had become an addict and remains one to this day. I have become my grandmother and am an ardent Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey and Glee fan. I do like me my soaps.

I even have Primo hooked (ha! Hook 'em!) on Friday Night Lights. At first, he didn't want to watch a

1. Stupid
2. TV show
3. about Texas
4. and football,

but five minutes into the first episode, I knew he would like it and forced him to watch with me. I used my usual "You only have to watch 30 minutes and then if you don't like it, we'll turn it off" tactic, which served has served me well for musicals (Oklahoma, My Fair Lady) and some romantic comedies.

Here is the My Fair Lady strategy:

Me: Thirty minutes. That's all. If you don't like it after 30 minutes, we'll turn it off.

Primo: It looks stupid.

Me: Maybe, but it's Thanksgiving weekend and you don't have to work and you can spare 30 minutes to watch a movie with me.

Primo: Fine. [Grumble, grumble, grumble.]

Thirty minutes later. I grab the remote and turn off the movie.

Primo: What are you doing?

Me: I said only 30 minutes. It's been 30 minutes. Your suffering is over.

Primo: I don't know.

Me: What do you want to do? Should we put together a puzzle?

Primo: It's not that bad.

Me: No no no. I said only 30. That I wouldn't make you do more than that.

Primo: I guess I could watch the rest of it. It doesn't suck.

That technique has gotten Primo hooked on Friday Night Lights. Here is how hooked he is:

When we realized the library did not have Season 3, we bought it.

That's right.

We paid money for a TV show. We don't even have cable, y'all. If you don't count our property taxes and our prime fees, we do not pay for movies and TV. We get them from the library and from amazon prime.

Where was I? Oh right. Hooked on TV shows. So I gave my TV to my brother when I went into the Peace Corps and never asked for it back because I wanted more out of life than vicariousness. Is that a word? I wanted to live my own life, not watch someone else's. Now, of course, I am perfectly happy to watch someone else's drama. As long as it isn't my drama, I'm happy. Vicarious is fine with me.

And now back to Miami and the Portuguese class and the sweaty-handed guy Claude.

Oh the Portuguese class. When I signed up, I thought I could go straight into Portuguese II because I already spoke Spanish, but the world-weary clerk told me that mami, in Miami everyone already speaks Spanish.

Then she would not take my registration form unless I completed the "race" box, which annoyed me to no end because seriously, Miami public schools adult education program? Does it matter what my race is if 1. I want to learn to speak Portuguese and 2. I am paying you money to teach me?

But the clerk, she does not care. She is like the clerk at the marriage license office when Primo and I applied for our license. I filled out my section of the form, ignoring the stupid "race" box because again, it's relevant to my marriage how? and pushed the form across the counter to the clerk, who was busy busy busy looking at her fingernails. She slowly looked at the form, then pushed it back to me, telling me that I had to answer the question.

I should have

1. told her to look at me and decide for herself what I was or
2. written "human," because is that not what we all are in the end?

Alas, I had not found my inner revolutionary at either point, so in both cases, I chickened out and wrote an answer, although who knows? Maybe I do have some other ethnicities in me of which I am unaware. People 300 years ago got around more than we think. I could be a little bit of everything.

In the Portuguese class, where I was slotted unceremoniously into the Portuguese I section and where it did indeed turn out that everyone in the class already spoke Spanish, which was not a problem except when the conversation turned, as it always does in Miami, to that maldito I spit on heem Castro, the conversation was no longer in Portuguese, which was what I wanted to learn, but rapidfire Spanish, which I already speak albeit not with a Cuban accent, which meant I had to concentrate very very hard to understand what the heck anyone was saying.

But I learned some Portuguese, enough to get by, and enough that when the teacher assigned us our end of class speech assignments, I could turn the tables on her.

Why do American men prefer foreign women? was the topic that she, a carioca, assigned to me.

Oh heck to the no. Uh uh. I was not going there. Betray my kind? No thanks.

Instead, I wrote about why foreign women preferred American men.

American men are not the most handsome, I noted. Italian and Argentine men are the most handsome.

They're not the most sophisticated. That's the French. Maybe. I don't know.

But they're the nicest. American men are the nicest. Sure, men do bad things to women in all cultures, but in the US, it is not socially acceptable to have a mistress.

After the speeches, a professora made us sing "Over the Rainbow" in Portuguese. I don't want to step on any toes here, but that is a vile song in English, much less a pretty language like Portuguese. I think she hated us.

But that's not what this post is about.

There was this guy, Claude, in my class, in both Portuguese I and Portuguese II. I spent all of Portuguese I trying to figure out how to get him to talk to me. In Portuguese II, I somehow succeeded. And I somehow convinced him to go to the Sunday evening salsa class in Miami Beach.

Gosh I miss Miami. In January, it is almost always warm there. It's mid April and we are having thunderhail here. It snowed three days ago. I have a space heater pulled up next to me. I can't get decent Cuban food here. My Spanish has gone to poop.

And finding a decent salsa class here is nigh impossible.

In here's defense, we do have killer bratwurst, cheese curds and frozen custard.

Primo has been promising to take dance classes with me for a couple of years. Yet he keeps loopholing out because of class conflicts with our theater tickets or travel or whatever. There are not enough salsa classes to overcome our other obligations.

But in Miami, there was a class every Sunday night in Miami Beach. The teacher's name was Luz. She was the best dance teacher I have ever had.

After the salsa class with Luz, I took a swing dance class that did not require one to sign up with a partner. I was the only unpartnered person in the class. The way the teacher is supposed to handle this situation is to have everyone change partners every few minutes. You're supposed to be learning the steps, not how to dance with a particular person.

But this teacher - "Bad Teacher," or "BT" for short - didn't do that. Instead, she told me to practice by myself.

Practicing alone is not a good way to learn to dance.

When BT would see someone doing the step wrong, rather than gently correcting that person, she would stop everyone, look at the ceiling, and announce, "SOMEONE is not rocking back on the two count."

We would all look at each other, at our feet, and at BT, wondering if we were the SOMEONE of whom she spoke.

Luz was not like this. Luz had us split into a line of men and a line of women to learn the basic step, then she would have us practice with each person down the line, correcting us as we went along.

I had told Claude about the class and he for whatever reason said he would accompany me. I picked him up at his apartment, which was not far from my cute little Coconut Grove WWII-era duplex that has since been knocked down so that a crappy condo can be erected in its stead.

We went to the class.

I danced with him.

Reader, he had Sweaty Hands.

I know, I know. How can I, a flawed human being, demand perfection of another human being? How can I demand dry hands when I don't even have slim, toned thighs and naturally curly hair?

But Sweaty Hands! Ick!

My crush, she was over. Finito.

I didn't think Claude was interested in me at all. I thought he just wanted to learn to dance.

But when I dropped him off, he asked if I wanted to come up to his place for a drink. I think he might have said "coffee," but at that time, I did not know what joy coffee would bring to me and so my first thought would have been, "But I don't drink coffee."

Actually, I think those were my words to him. "I don't drink coffee."

When Person A extends the Sweaty Hand of Friendship or Seduction to Person B, the proper response is not, "I don't drink coffee," unless Person B is not interested in Friendship or Seduction.

Or unless Person B is so darn rude, clueless and unsophisticated that she blurts out the first words that cross her brain.

The world's most sophisticated women are not to be found in the United States. Or at least they are not to be found in my car.

Claude looked at me, startled at my abrupt response/rejection of his Sweaty Hand of Friendship/Seduction. Um OK, he said. See you in class.

And that was the end of my Portuguese salsa dance adventure with Claude.