Many of the places I’ve been have only been within the United States, so it’s easy to say that these places don’t count, but when I was thirteen I went to Mexico to live with my grand parents for two months. Luckily enough for this essay I was actually truly changed and shaped from my experiences.
The culture is vastly different from how people treat you as being a foreigner, especially an American, to the fact that I wasn’t only American, but also a girl. I remember walking from the church along the beach down through the dirt roads in to. The only paved road was the main one into town but even then once you got there it ended. I was listening to a conversation my grandmother was having with another lady about the word “no” and how men interpereted it differently in Mexico. Being thirteen and a virgin I wasn’t sure what she meant.
Being curious I asked her about it and she described to me that in Mexico “no” in any courting form was, to the men, merely a girls way of saying yes without saying yes. I was horrified at the mere thought of talking to the male gender after that. If you couldn’t say “no” then what on earth could you do! what made it worse was that I was being confronted by men who wanted to get to me for my money, and for being American. I was a terribly shy girl and didn’t wuite know how to handle these situations with polite force. I didn’t want to say yes…or no, and I didn’t want to be looked down apon.
The image I had of a woman that men were attracted to or respectful to was that of someone who was elegant, reserved, and allowed men all the curtousies of opening doors or carrying bags and being neccissary to have to succeed and be happy. To show confidence or independence was in my young mind to show strength. I thought to show strength in any form was unfemanine and that I would be mistreated for not being a lady.
I was left in a catch 22 which at the time with that situation was a frightfully tight place. Should I be shy and polite so as to help my stay in a foreign country and not attract any negative attention? Or show confidence and independence possibly hindering my ability to be in public alone and be taken advantage of. Be it an over priced store item or to be put in the proper woman’s place? At thirteen I was not ready for that feeling. I may have over exaggerated how bad it was, but I was young and easily scared by that type of thing.
That trip to Mexico showed me that there is beauty in strength. I realized this as I got older and saw past all the social influences. I came back from Mexico and realized that America forces these same “ideals” on women but that it’s done in a more veiled way. Slowly I see change and I only feel so fortunate to have seen such a disease, to have suffered from it, and over come it. It has made me stronger and I feel beautiful.
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