Monthly Archives: February 2013

Message in a Love Song

Music plays a huge role in our culture. It fills uncomfortable silences, speaks to our current emotions, and serves as a soundtrack to our lives. Many songs are about love; falling in love, unrequited love, being happily in love, falling out love, spurned love. I thought I’d take a look at what kinds of messages can be found about different stages of love, with Valentine’s Day having passed and White Day approaching (look it up; it’s like a Sadie Hawkins holiday with white chocolate). This may be the easiest blog to write since I can just turn to my iPod and create my own not-so-random sample. The blog is for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, though, so I will milk my Cuban heritage and Miami upbringing as it is reflected in the music I listen to.

Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin
“Now I will stand in the rain on the corner,
I watch the people go shuffling downtown.
Another ten minutes no longer
And then I’m turning around ’round.
And the clock on the wall’s moving slower,
Oh, my heart it sinks to the ground
And the storm that I thought would blow over
Clouds the light of the love that I found, found.”

This has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid simply because of the melody. Now I appreciate the self-doubt, insecurity, and dogged refusal to give up on love all wrapped up in a blindly hopeful Samba breakdown.

Valió Le Pena by Marc Anthony
” Valió la pena lo que era necesario para estar contigo, amor.
Tú eres una bendición.
Las horas y la vida de tu lado, nena,
Están para vivirlas pero a tu manera.
Enhorabuena,
Porque valió la pena, valió la pena…”

A rare song about appreciating the opportunity to love rather than being bitter that it ended. Translation: It was worth it, what was necessary to be with you, my love. You are a blessing. The hours and the life by your side, girl, are there to be lived but by your way. Congratulations, because it was worth it, it was worth it…

Bleed to Love Her by Fleetwood Mac
“Once again she steals away
Then she reaches out to kiss me
And how she takes my breath away
Pretending that she won’t miss me
Oohh I would bleed to love her.”

It’s quite the risk to pursue someone who engages you in a push-and-pull relationship. The challenge can make the grass seem greener on the other side (or the blood seem…redder?) but is it really love and is it really worth it?

Tres Palabras/Without You by Desi Arnaz
“Oye la confesion de mis secretos
A base de un corazon que esta desierto
Con tres palabras te dire todas mis cosas
cosas del corazon que son preciosas
Dame tus manos ven toma las mias
Que te voy a confiar las ansias mias
son tres palabras solamente, mis angustias
y esas palabras son ‘Como Me Gustas’

I’m lost without you.”

This is an old Cuban classic by Osvaldo Farrés that has been covered many times. My favorite version is by Desi. It touches on the trepidation and optimism in pursuing someone. Translation: Listen to the confession of my secrets based on this deserted heart. With three words I’d tell you everything, things of the heart that are precious. Give me your hands, come, take mine. I will trust you with my cravings. They are only three words, my anxieties, and those three words are “I like you.”

Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
“Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you.”

It’s possible to find a sense of belonging and a mutual love. It is apparently such a joyous feeling that you will want to rhyme “Alabama, Arkansas” with “Ma and Pa.”
And “Pumpkin pie” with “Jesus Christ”.

Llorarás by Oscar D’Leon
“Por tu mal comportamiento,
te vas a arrepentir
muy caro tendrás que pagar
todo mi sufrimiemto
Llorarás y llorarás
sin nadie que te consuele
y así te darás de cuenta
que si te engañan duele.”

This is the ultimate ‘70s salsa song about karma and retribution from a scorned lover’s perspective by Venezuelan Oscar D’Leon. Translation: For your bad behavior, you will regret it. You will pay dearly for all of my suffering. You will cry and you will cry with no one to console you and so you will realize that if you are cheated, it hurts.

Not Fire Not Ice by Ben Harper
“The true love is priceless.
For true love you pay a price.
But there’s nothing can keep me from loving you.
Not fire, no not ice.
Not fire, no not ice. “

Love is sacrifice and it’s a choice to remain in love after a certain point. The giddy infatuation stage fades somewhat and you’re left with something more stable and concrete. There aren’t many songs about this stage of love because we glorify the fleeting burst of passion in the beginning of relationships and love. This stage is also worthy of fanfare.

Ten Words by Joe Satriani
Instrumental

You don’t need words to communicate comfort, faith, or hope. Or love. Sometimes words won’t do and sometimes words screw things up. A chord and a physical embrace can touch the same part of your core that makes you want burst with ecstasy or collapse in despair.

Gender Bending in India

Over winter break I was fortunate to attend a field study to India. I was ready for the cold weather –until the airline lost my luggage for five days– I was ready to eat vegetarian, I was expecting bucket showers and squat-style toilets, and I was ready to brush my teeth with bottled water. What I was not expecting was for other people to think that I was a female on a regular basis.

To be fair, I have had my gender confused in the States as well, but not multiple times daily, and it never really made a difference like it did in India. Also in the States, it usually only happens when people get a side or back view of me, and even I think that my now-shoulder-length-hair looks pretty from that angle. However, if I’m facing someone or talking to them directly, it has never been an issue before.

The first time I was sent to the women’s section was during a Hindu chanting session at our ashram in Rishikesh, located at the foothills of the Himalayas. One of our hosts directed me to the left-hand side of the room, where the women were sitting. I quickly noticed the gender segregation –there were many more women than men– and sat down with the other men on the right side. Within less than a minute, someone walked up in front of me and politely yet purposefully directed me to stand up and go to the other side. I decided to simply follow directions rather than argue during a chanting ritual in a foreign country.

The Ganges River, outside the ashram in Rishikesh

The next time was in Agra as we were entering the grounds of the Taj Mahal. There were separate lines for men and women, and our tour guide put me in the women’s line. Asserting my male privilege really paid off this time, because the men’s line was significantly shorter. However, the person checking my ticket looked at me skeptically, and again I had to assert that I was indeed a male.

 

At the Taj Mahal

At several of the restrooms in India there was someone holding paper towels or napkins that they would then give you to dry your hands. By one such restroom in a roadside restaurant in Agra, this person pointed to the ladies room as I approached. I pointed to the men’s room and proceeded.

Since my sexual orientation is straight, sex is male, and gender expression I presumed was male, I never thought that I’d have to assert that I belong in the men’s restroom or worry about what other people thought as I entered. After this experience I always had second thoughts when entering the restrooms in Indian airports.

Just so we have everything straight (yes, the pun is intended), sex refers to your biological sex –organs and stuff. Next, there’s gender identity, which refers to whether you feel like or identify as a man or a woman or both or neither or something else. Next, there is sexual orientation –who you are attracted to. There is also gender expression, which oddly enough, is how you express your gender. Sounds simple, but there are also gender roles, or how society believes that a person of a specific gender should act and present themselves.

Even in America but more so in India the gender role that I am breaking is the length of my hair and perhaps looking pretty. An employee at Rollins actually said that I look pretty enough to be a girl, to which I responded, “Thank you, I think.” Besides the few above stories, I was also referred to as “mad ‘am” countless times during our field study, including in the Paris airport and on the airplane.  Much of the gender-segregation in India seemed to be in place because of all the places we visited where we could not get in without getting patted down at security, such as at the airport and the temple at the birthplace of Krishna, where I stood right in front of the security guard and said, “I am a man.”

The only other men with long hair that I noticed were members of the Sikh religion, who cover their un-cut hair with a turban. I also can’t grow nearly as much facial hair as men are apparently supposed to.

I’ve grown used to it by now. My official count for the total number of times it has happened is in the 20s, although I could not keep track of them all in India. After the first few times I was starting to question my look, which I always thought was relatively adequate, but never feminine, despite my slender figure and beautiful hair. The gender role of masculinity is tall, big, muscular, short hair, and perhaps facial hair; none of which I fulfill.

The Indian field study was only ten days, and mix-ups in America are far between and make little difference. However, there are people whose sex, gender identity, and expression play a significant factor in their daily lives just because they do not match dominant values, and it can make a big difference. Something as simple as using a public restroom can be difficult when your identity does not match one of the two nice clean shiny boxes in a binary perspective of sex and gender. Or perhaps your marriage would be considered illegal just because it does not fit a narrow standard of what a marriage is. I just got a minor taste of what it can be like, and still there were times when I was thinking, “Maybe I should just go through the women’s section.” It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like living with something like that every day.