piropos* [in progress]

. . . 2) When Kelli and I were in the Dominican Republic, there was this street (nee and kiini will remember this, i'm sure) it was calle del sol, near the university, where men would call women "Nina, quieres ir a la vega? Te compro flores manana . . ." The word for this in Spanish was 'piropos' which means 'compliments' and 'catcalls' at the same time. ANYWAY, Kelli and I often talked about our discomfort with the white girls' discomfort with this place. On the one hand, we read it as them feeling like black men were always out to get them. and i kind of felt like they are just playing with you, girl, get over yourself (but thinking about it now, doesn't that sound like "Bitch, he don't want you . . .") and for us, we thought little of these piropos "Girl, wanna go to La Vega? I'll buy you flowers tomorrow." or even, one day a man called out to me, in English (of sorts), "Oye, I making love to you you never forget!" After that one piropo, we--me, Kelli, *and* the man who said this to us--fell out laughing in the street. *hard*. he *had* to think that shit was funny. Kelli and I thought most of the piropos were funny, not to mention, we kept saying, a lot less violating than what we heard in Atlanta "Get out my way, hoe." "Bitch, why don't you comb your hair, etc, etc, etc . . ." And so, at some point, and I don't know whether I talked about this with Kelli, I became really depressed about my realization that perhaps we were so unaffected or not negatively affected by these admittedly presumptuous and unwelcomed catcalls because as black women we had ALREADY been subjected to so much WORSE that we couldn't even recognize this as violation. And *this* is what that passage from Black Notebooks makes me think about. Maybe what registers as violation is also different, depending on what we've been subjected to . . .

Mendi Lewis Obadike

*excerpted, unedited, from an email sent from Mendi Obadike to Femail entitled "Re: here is an excerpt from theblacknotebooks", dated October 15, 2001, 1:38pm EST.