Monday, 27 September 2010

Open Letter to Girl Dating Ramon

Dear Girl Dating Ramon,

You probably don't remember me. I was the middle-aged lady with red braids and a huge brown hat on the train from Manresa to Barcelona. You were sitting beside my husband, a British man who spoke enough Spanish to tell your friend he must not smoke his weed beside me. Across from you was Ramon, who said he was from Cuba and was probably high on drugs. At least, that is what my husband thought, and Ramon certainly acted like it.

I remember you because when you realized I knew the man beside you, you offered me your seat. I was grateful to be able to sit beside my husband, for your friends were very loud and embarrassing. I didn't like how Ramon pestered the Russian lady beside him; I thought in Spain older women were treated with respect. However, I really know next to nothing about modern Spain. Possibly there, as here, most teenagers don't worry about honour and reputation and all that old-fashioned stuff romantic people like me associate with Catholic countries.

I also remember you because you looked very young and very pretty--much prettier than your girlfriend who had streaked her hair blonde. You have the sense to leave nature alone and your dark hair goes much better with your dark skin and dark eyes than blond streaks would. You had less make-up on than your girlfriend did, too. I don't know if it is a sign of aging or what, but I don't like to see 14 year olds wearing heavy eye make-up. This is totally hypocritical, as when I was 14, I wore heavy shadow to my eyebrows.

Pardon me if you are not 14 but 16; I won't believe you were older than 16. Ramon and his pals may have been, but you and your girlfriend certainly weren't. I would have been surprised at your parents allowing you girls to travel to Barcelona with older teenage boys had I imagined for a second they had the slightest idea that was your plan.

Now, about the incident that compels me to write this letter. It happened underground, or I wouldn't have seen it. I was sitting quietly beside my husband, and you were now across the car sitting on Ramon's lap, and I was looking at the window, which reflected you and Ramon perfectly against the dark of the tunnel wall. So I saw when Ramon's hands suddenly bounced up and squeezed your breasts.

Your first reaction was to remonstrate with him. But then--and this is where I felt sad instead of angry--you kissed his cheek. And he kissed your cheek. And went on to grab your girlfriend's leg and poke his fingers through the holes in her jeans.

My dear, I have no idea if Ramon loves you or not. Perhaps he does. But he has no respect for you. And this is very foolish of Ramon, for you deserve respect. You are a very young girl, and you have all your life and all the world before you.

I am not sure why you are so afraid of losing Ramon that you would give him a conciliatory kiss after very properly remonstrating with him for his very disrespectful, very public gesture. I suggest that any young man who is high on drugs at 5 in the afternoon is not worth keeping. And I am not sure why you and your friend just sat there allowing Ramon to paw the both of you. I am perplexed. Perhaps you are not old enough to know how to properly deal with men. I suppose you have a strong idea that you love Ramon and that you should stand by your man. But if I were your mother, Ramon would have been on the floor, bleeding from his nose.

It is very unlikely that you will ever read this letter or that you currently know enough English to decipher it. However, I will let it stand for the sake of other 14 year old girls who are dating other versions of Ramon, who feel their breasts grabbed by the boys they love and don't know what to do. What they--and you--should do is get off Ramon's lap and leave the train. Take the next train home and when Ramon telephones, tell him there will be no more of his disrespectful behaviour. If he subsequently tries to show you he's the boss, leave forever. Try to choose more wisely next time.

I'm sorry if you've already lost your virginity to Ramon--and I apologize if you haven't, but that's how it certainly looked to me--but that is no reason to put up with disrespectful behaviour. Young men only behave that badly when the young women around them allow them to. Be brave and demand what you deserve.

Incidentally, the one thing Ramon said to us in English was "Are you in love?" The answer to that, of course, although we didn't deign to answer, was "Yes, of course. As you see, we are sitting quietly, not drawing attention to each other."

Grace and peace,
Foreign Lady with Red Braids

Update: Today is the second anniversary of the day I met B.A. in Edinburgh and came down with a terrible cold. Appropriately, I have started a new cold. Amusingly, we have been married for 16 of the past 24 months.

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