At first I thought it was just me. My self-esteem had never been so high. On a near daily basis, while I was traveling in Northeastern Brazil, I got compliments on how linda, or beautiful, I am.
But then I started talking to other female travelers. It turns out that every foreign woman is gorgeous in Brazil. The compliments come from women as well as men. It was only slight a letdown, to find out that every other female traveler I talked to was having a similar experience: being told that she was linda, linda, linda.
Now I am back in Rio, though, and almost wistful for those days. I remember Carioca men as being incredibly aggressive, and that's certainly their reputation. But I have noticed now that there are downpours and droughts. It's hard to know why men don' t serenade me any more--maybe I am giving off a jaded, inaccessible vibe now. Maybe I stopped meeting their eyes.
Brazilian men are legendary for their passion and persistence. It's exciting to feel so wanted, their eyes can be so insistent in a way that North American eyes don't have the courage to be. But on the other hand, it becomes hard to understand why you want to marry me when we met only fifteen minutes before. Their passion seems so ephemeral, and at times, almost insultingly generic, like they are passionate about any foreign woman.
Being blonde takes the experience to a whole new level. "Being blonde in Brazil means you never have to wear jewelry," my German, blonde friend Teresa said to me one day, and I knew she had hit the nail on the head--I had stopped bothering with earrings. I have never felt particularly exoticized as a type before.
When I went home to Rhode Island in April, I dyed my hair a slighly darker blonde, verging on brown. Perhaps that's why they are less drawn to my honey.
I talked to my friend Marcello about the Brazilian penchant for passionate, urgent overtures--he explained that when Brazilian men feel something, and they want to express it, even if the depth of their feeling seems kind of bizarre.
I used to compare San Francisco men to Brazilian men and wish that San Francisco men were more forward, but now that I have seen the flip side, I've grown appreciate the subtlety and slowness with which American men say what they are feeling--they say less, but I trust them more.
Then again, my ego is missing the outrageous flattery from Brazilian men now that I am not getting it. What can I say? I want it all! Where can I find a passionate, genuine man? There's so much that I like about Brazilian men in general: they're generous--always quick to pour beer first for everyone else at the table; helpful to a fault; fun; optimistic; funny. More subtle and trustworthy Brazilian men are rumored to exist. Is he here, or in Bali? (Where Elizabeth Gilbert--and soon in the movie version, Julia Roberts--found her ideal Brazilian lover in Eat Pray Love.)
Sasha Cagen is traveling through Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina in 2010. Read more of her adventures and observations at quirkyalone.net.