Sunday, January 3, 2010

White Lies, Where are you?

I miss my American white lies.

Against my better judgement I went to the hair dresser to get my hair done for New Years. It is straight and thick and doesn't do well in curls. It didn't turn out well and I didn't want to come home. I knew what waited for me.

True to form, my host mom said: "Ivai kariay", which translates to: super ugly.


Also, there's this rule where they ask you really personal questions and you pretty much have to answer or risk seeming rude, and then they make judgements on your personal life that you didn't want to share in the first place. It's like being strip-searched and then having the strip-searcher say: Wow, your thighs are so thick!

Like: "How much did you pay to get your hair done like that."

(Internal sigh) "15 mil"

"Oh my God, that's so expensive! Why did you pay so much when she doesn't know how to do anything?!"

All this on top of a bad hair day.

The ironic thing is that Paraguayans are at the same time timid and yet brutally honest. If you invite them to a party or a meeting and they know they won't go, they'll say "Sure, I'll be there," and then just not show. But if you're fat, your food isn't good or your hair is having a bad day, they have no problem telling you and everyone else.

Just yesterday I was wearing a dress and my friend said I looked pregnant. They other friend who was trying to help jumped in and said, "Oh no, she just needs a little exercise, right Pauli?"


The worst was a while ago when I spent a month on this ao po'i with a beautiful dress in mind. I had the dress made with the fabric I had embroidered, and it came out too short and too not-cute. Oscar did not spare me.

"Yep, it's really ugly," he said.

I got upset, mostly at the situation, but also at him.

"What?!" he said, genuinely confused. "It's an ugly dress. If your dress is ugly, I'm going to tell you. Why is that a bad thing?"

I wanted to say: Where are all the women in America when I need them to be on my side?

I want to say: It's RUDE! It's rude when he tells his mother her food sucks. It's rude when my host mom takes one bite of a cake at a wedding and says, "Ndahei" (It's not good). It's rude when they tell me all the time that I'm fat or I'm too skinny or I've burned my skin again and it looks really ugly. It's rude!

But it's not rude. It's just not acceptable in my culture. And although I know this in my mind, my heart can't seem to catch on to the spirit of it: It's just hair. It's just food. It's just your body.

Why do we lie those little white lies, in our culture? To spare feelings, we say. I'm in a place where those feelings are not expected to exist. Yet I can't help it, I packed them anyway.

1 comment:

Ken, Christie, Camille, Caroline said...

Yep, my skin crawls and I do what I can to change the subject every time I hear the gordo word, but, man, I hear it all the time! It's odd the differences in what constitutes rudeness and politeness, huh?