Be Prepared for This One Different Custom In Mexico
I'm such a hypocrite. In a past blog I made pretty snarky remarks about expats and how they dress in public.
You should see how I have looked when my Mexican friends have dropped by.
And they drop by. This cultural difference has taken a long time to sink in. When was the last time you dropped in on someone?
If you're over 50, you'd barely remember it. If you're under 40, you might never have dropped by anyone's place or been dropped by on your whole life. It's practically disappeared from our culture, probably forever.
This story by Vox goes into meaningful detail about how housing choices in the United States, and the discouragement of spontaneous encounters negatively affects us as humans, as a tribe. We know friendships are important but almost universally, older people struggle with making them.
As I've mentioned in many of my whiny blogs about friendships in the U.S., we treat friendships like work, fitting our friends in between errands, grousing over what we are going to do together, rather than realizing that the time together, not the event, is the goal. By the time we reach 40, we haven't just hung-out with our friends in years.
In Mexico, I've had two people drop by on the same day. Once six people knocked on my door at 10:00 at night.
Don't get me wrong. I love it. I want to ply them with wine and inhale every single incomprehensible word they're saying.
This custom of dropping by reminds me of what life is all about: putting down the work or a project for a person you like, maybe even love (You definitely don't need to understand every word, maybe not even most of the words to love someone). I've finally, after all these years, learned and earned the right to stop what I'm doing and say, "This is what matters."
In the United States, we now have more people living single than not. That's not a problem until you get to the point of not wanting to initiate social engagement, which is paradoxical because part of learning how to be happy living alone is creating rich solitude.
Then before you know it, you've created a little too much rich solitude and you lose a bit your conversational edge when you find yourself back out in the world.
In light of the new statistic, maybe Americans should think about reinstating the custom of just-dropping-by. With a nod to Bill Maher's show segment "New Rule," our new rule should be if they want to see you, you want to see them, even bleary-eyed, hung-over or smelling like bacon.
Those days of my time being too important or smelling too badly to spend a few minutes with a friend are over.
That being said, I feel totally inadequate serving the wine, and getting out the chips, hot sauce and lime when I'm wearing an ex boyfriend's knee-length gym shorts that I accidentally packed in my bag when I left him, and my hair is tied with a bread bag tie.
My Mexican caller, whether male or female, never fails to look less than stunning. I usually spend the first few minutes staring. The hand bag goes perfectly with the jewelry. The stacked heels look adorable with the romper. The starched shirt is worn as if weren't 95 degrees outside.
Meanwhile, in the spirit of all things single and American female, I am wearing a tank top I haven't laundered practically since my arrival, denim shorts with a zipper that always seems to open itself and dirty socks that I wear instead of house shoes.
Only one time was I lucky enough to be caught wearing work-out clothes that at least matched and some mascara.
When I leave for Guadalajara in six weeks, I'm taking every item of clothing that no longer looks good on me, getting it laundered and leaving it sitting on my bed for the maid to take away after I've left. I'll be doing some shopping. I'll still be sweaty and smell bad but the clothes are a start.
My advice is that if you're planning on staying in Mexico for any length of time, do not pack a single item of clothing you wouldn't want to be seen in, or I promise one way or another, you will be.
Even when I think back to my very first tour (how I refer to each stay) people were dropping in, people I barely knew, even expats.
Why are these Mexican visitors so important to me? As I stand there sweating and apologizing (and uncorking the wine), they are quick to remind me that I am in my own home... and to them I'm beautiful.
Most recent: Five scenarios in ten days of how even a little Spanish makes a difference.
Kerry Baker is a blogger and author of two books, the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best free tools online, with links and study plans, and "If Only I Had a Place," a guide to renting in Mexico for potential expats.