Sex and the City - with an accent :)
“Relationships in New York are about detachment” says Carrie aka Sarah Jessica Parker, in… we all know what. “Self-protection and closing the deal are paramount. Cupid has flow the co-op” – writes Candace Buschnell in the first chapter of her best-seller turned into TV series turned into a (not so well received) movie.
New York. Which New York? There are three New York cities: one of those born here, one of tourists, and one of new immigrants. As a somewhat new New Yorker, who moved into the city ten years ago and still tries to make sense of what’s going on around her, I want to see if things are different in that other New York, the one with an accent. We all watched – well, maybe only the girls - “Sex and the City”, trying to understand better the relationship archetypes surrounding us, realizing that is oh-so-different from home, especially for those coming from patriarchal societies where women are still used to be the receiver of males’ sexual attention, not the instigator. A woman from those kinda places couldn’t help but wonder, buttoning up her pajama in front of a TV set spitting reruns at midnight: wow, there’s so much glamorous sex going on in this city, there’s so much dating in fancy places, there so much and yet so little, in terms of true romance. So the question that stuck into my mind, after discussing with many immigrant ladies, grew to be: Is the immigrant love life about detachment too? Is detachment the unwritten rule of all relationships in the new cyber-addicted business-obsessed media-hypnotized world?
This column aims to carry an immigrant eye in the streets, bars, theatres, restaurants, offices, cubicles, spa-s, lounges, subways, cafes and rooms of THE City. But don’t get me wrong – I plan to write about people not places. I want to show that there’s much more to the immigrant life than gritty asexual humorless routines: work-work-send-money-home-work-work. Of course, it’s not easy and everyday can bring just another grim fairy tale instead of the old hatching American Dream, but it’s neither bitter-and-angry nor goofy-and-silly as it’s been stereotypically presented so many times. You’ll see.
“You’re right, I prefer women who don’t have English as their mother tongue, says a guy called (here) Bob. Didn’t you notice: When you are forced to pay closer attention to people’s words, you actually communicate better. If you both speak perfect English and you both think you know what you’re talking about, there’s all this room for misinterpretation about what’s actually being said. But if you are not sure the other person is getting you, you check her out, you make sure she gets you. And if… if she’s not sure she’s getting you, she checks you out, you know, she pays attention, until she gets you… And even the silences begin to have some meaning, you know, because you’re used to pay attention to each other… “
These are (more or less) Bob’s words as I rewrite them from memory. Bob married twice with foreign women to help them get US permanent residence. He didn’t do it for money, “as some crooks”, but out of genuine concern, tenderness and care. Maybe all those words put together mean “love”, or maybe love is just overrated when we talk marriage.
Now, the question is of course: why are Bob’s marriages ending at some point. When and how does that happen. I truly hope that’s not when the woman starts to speak better English ☺. I asked him about the endings of his fairy-tales, what makes them not a “they lived happily ever after”. He shrugged and told me that I should ask his wives. Ex-wives, I mean. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to visit Tanya at her (now) legal working place: a Spa in West Village. A good occasion to get my manicure and pedicure done and to delve into a new immigrant love story. Eastern European, Korean, Chinese, the women working in the Beauty&*** salon share a particular charm of –hmmm - detachment, self-confidence, business smiles and poorly hidden boredom. They know you will surrender parts of your body to their power soon. It’s hard to see these women frightened, in a room, answering questions rapid-fired by Immigration officers. Have you ever been convicted of a felony in your country or in America? Have you ever plotted crimes against the United States of America? Have you ever taken part in terrorist activities in your country or in America? No, you can only surrender with a mixture of fear, relaxation, and a strange sense of familiarity, cuz you’re actually one of them, a global foreigner too. I ask to be “taken” by Tanya, Bob’s ex-wife, and I hope she’s one of those talkative pedicurists. Will she tell me her story between toe-one and toe-ten?