A few months ago, I met an attractive and super talented Cuban musician at a concert, and for about ten minutes, he was my boyfriend. Mind you I never called him my boyfriend because well, that would be rather presumptuous. For starters, he lives on the other side of the country, and we’d only know each other for a hot second. Yes, we were texting excessively and talking on the phone most every day, but the closest thing we’d had to a date was hanging out together on Skype. Not exactly my definition of anything serious. So when he told his friends to be quiet because he couldn’t hear and was trying to talk to his novia, it shocked me… but I kind of liked it.
Although pet names had already become part of our usual communication, novia felt a lot more like a title than a term of endearment. I puzzled over it for a couple days, and it crossed my mind that the weight of the word might be slightly weightier in my head than in his. Since we only communicated in Spanish, I had to think about how I would bring it up and whether I would be able to articulate the accepted significance in English, how it likely differed from Spanish -specifically Cuban Spanish- and why this distinction would matter. As a linguist, I was nerdily fascinated by the whole thing.
The next time we talked he was at a noisy club, getting ready to play a show and was going on and on about whiskey. Why? I don’t know. I listened while I attempted to pack to head out of town for a conference early the next morning. It was frustrating. He kept asking me why I wasn’t talking, and I kept telling him because I’m trying to pack. Clearly this was not the time to have the “What does novia mean to you?” conversation. We hung up, and I told him I would call the next day when I got to the hotel, so we could have a conversation when I was less distracted, never mind that he was at a bar, and I could barely hear what he was saying AND he had been drinking and was speaking in an even more relaxed way than normal. He was –as they say- eating all his syllables: “¿Po’kno eha ablano?” which is difficult to understand even without the background noise.
However, it turns out that I didn’t even need to have a linguistic discussion with him because while carpooling on the way to the conference, I discovered that he had been pursuing a friend of mine simultaneously, despite her stating she was not interested in him as she was already in a relationship. Novia my ass.
When I got to the hotel, I texted him as promised to let him know I’d arrived and to share the news I had just learned. For some reason, he didn’t understand why I seemed upset. Really?!
And so our relationship ended just as quickly as it began… if it is even possible to say that it ever actually started.
To be fair, I knew from the beginning that it was risky and potentially foolish to agree to date someone long distance (absence makes the heart grow fonder?) who is a musician (tienen mala fama i.e. bad reputation with the ladies). But I don’t like to buy into stereotypes, and I didn’t want to be jaded, not yet. I’m still too young. So I did it anyway.
And even though it turned out to be true in this case, I’m not offering this story as more proof that single men are all liars, long distance relationships don’t work or that the caricature of musicians being mujeriegos (womanizers) is true. It does not serve anyone to perpetuate that story because we, human beings, are better than that. And we are bigger than that too. And I have to believe that there are people who meet my basic requirements for dating: are bilingual, dance salsa and are basically, good, kind people, who don’t also find it necessary to try to get with every other available -and not available- woman who passes by at the same. damn. time …It is possible, isn’t it?