Note: As a reminder I'm guest posting about Colombian salsa over at Raising Colombian Kids. Feel free to stop by as I spread my "wisdom".
If I grew up thinking dancing was reserved for the elite athletic types and those lucky enough to be born Latino my husband grew up in an opposite environment. Arnold lived in Colombia until he was about 26. In Colombia nobody grows up without knowing how to salsa. When you go to a house party, you salsa. When you attend a high school dance, you salsa. Some of my Colombian friends break out in a sweat at the prospect of having to dance to “American music”. “I don’t get it,” my friend Hernando once told me “What am I supposed to do?”
American music stresses them out. I know! It cracks me up too.
So of course on his first day in the USA Arnold and the aforementioned friend would head to a salsa club, right? I mean they were both here on missionary visas (long story) so a night out dancing seemed apropos. Right? Don't all missionaries head straight to the club?
Hmmm? What? Just my husband. Okay then.
No English? No Problem! Arnold doesn't let himself be bothered by such trifling inconveniences. Hernando taught him a survival phrase “Would you like to dance?” That Hernando he’s a solid wingman, always helpful with the good advice. He’s a Catholic priest now. I mean, obviously, right? But I digress (yet again).
I remember the night we met clearly because it was a great night. The club was packed with my friends and I was feeling pretty popular. Remember how I was a geek? To be in demand at a salsa club was SURREAL. That night Arnold was one of many guys I met but I remember him very clearly, because I thought he was weird.
First off he asks me very formally “Would you like to dance?” except that he is literally fresh off the plane from Bogota so it sounds like “Wood jew lick two dans?”
Personally, I’m partial to accents and quite frankly if you ask me to dance I will say yes. Asking a stranger to dance takes guts and unless you are creepy scary, I’ll say yes. (Actually I’ll say yes even if you seem creepy-scary however if you continue to act creepy-scary it will force me to fake an injury halfway through the song) Anyways, so he busts out this very formal invitation and then says NOTHING else for the whole song. Not talking during a dance is not unusual but only if you are busting out more than the basic step. But no, not Arnold, he invites me to dance and then, having run out of all his English proceeds to stare at me blankly while I ask him various questions in English/Spanish. He responds to none of them.
I’m just sayin, it’s helpful to learn a little follow-up phrase like “I don’t speak English” for just these kind of situations.
Arnold has never been much for the small details or planning ahead though so he was just fine with his one phrase and the staring. I asked him later why he didn’t respond to anything I said in Spanish. His response “I don’t know.”
I like to think he was just totally entranced by my charm.
I was annoyed by the whole exchange. Since I'm a natural born blabbermouth I don’t think lack of language is an excuse for silence. I say this as a person who has one-phrased my way through many a foreign country. Arnold however thought we were having fun. The next day he saw me at the bookstore and told Hernando “Oh there’s the girl from last night. She was really nice.” If I had seen him I would've said "Ugh, there's the guy who doesn't speak..."
How we got from that first night to a married couple 1.5 years shy of their 10th annniversary is a long and bizarre (trust) story for another time but like Aesop, I have a lesson for you, me and everyone we know. It doesn't pay to have a closed mind. The man who stares at you blankly the first time you meet might also be the same one who will bring you french fries after a hard day at work. He might be the one who holds you when you cry and forgives you when you yell. He might be weird, but maybe he'll turn out to be the exact perfect weird for you.