No machismo en mi casa: My man does the housework

Unlike most women, I am childless by choice at age 42 after a decade of traveling solo in Central America. I am an intensely independent woman who loves her freedom and gets off on an insatiable thirst for adventure. I don’t want to be tied down, which means I probably don’t want to get pregnant. After moving a year ago from tropical-wet Belize to the tropical-arid Oaxaca coast of Mexico, my sensual wetness dried up almost entirely when I looked around at the paucity of potential suitors. I told myself that I’d given up on having a Mexican boyfriend, as much as I’d given up on the Belizean men: all they wanted were babies and a dutiful housewife. No, thanks. I’ve got other plans.

Like one in four women, I have been the target of physical and verbal abuse by former male partners, ranging from near-death by strangulation to invectives and subtle manipulation, leaving me with many dramatic stories to tell. After two decades of downright failures and otherwise mere approximations at shacking up with a good guy, I am now partnered with a peaceful Mexican man who is not abusive. He is far beyond the “machismo” male typically associated with his culture, as depicted in the recent drama film “Roma”, which illustrates the plight of two Mexican women partnered with machismo Mexican men. Things don’t go swimmingly for either of them, as they are relegated to single motherhood and shouldering the heavy load of daily housework, not excluding the task of shoveling up dog poop from the driveway, and, to top that off, being abused and disrespected on a daily basis. On the contrary, my Mexican man is not at all like these “pendejos” (jerks), although there seem to be plenty of them to go around.

With my preference for long hours of voluntary solitude, meditation, yoga and constant travel to new places, I simply don’t fit the profile that most Latino men seem to prefer—kitchen-bound and pregnant. A year after making the bold move to live and work full time in Mexico, I am delighted that these cultural norms don’t apply to my current partnership with a strapping, middle-aged Mexican man, a fisherman and lover of the sea, born and raised on the Oaxaca coast. He owns and operates a coconut palm tree-shaded hotel and restaurant that he built himself on the beach. He has an impressively full range of useful, practical skills: lifeguard, construction worker, landscaper, plumber, electrician, cook, housekeeper…. This dude defies the stereotypes about Mexican men: He’s not into soccer, and he seems happy doing the housework—cooking, cleaning, shopping, and more. Don’t get me wrong; he is a straight male with a healthy, intact libido. Again, don’t get me wrong; this guy is by no means an opportunist, using me for a green card to the US, a place he says he’d be crazy to go, unless he were to be overcome by his own death wish. Neither living nor visiting the US interests him in the least bit, and I join him whole-heartedly in our shared preference to live and work south of Trump’s hostile border wall.

I’m a white Caucasian American transplant to this rural part of Mexico, where smiling, brown people in sombreros abound in a land of delicious tacos and Corona beer. Needless to say, my whiteness stands out in our small community, especially when I’m arm-in-arm with my handsome, dark partner. We capture the attention of our neighbors, mostly divorced Mexican women who stare as we stroll by, silently stewing in jealousy and wishing they too could find a “good man”, as I hope someday they do. Maybe then, we would get fewer envy-laden glares from the local women. We are the “chisme” (talk of the town) in our newfound cohabiting happiness.

Evidently, our relationship is fascinating to these women, because they can’t imagine a man voluntarily doing the chores. My guy knows he’s under the watchful eye of our catty neighbors, but he doesn’t care. At sunrise he takes out the trash and sweeps the front walkway, while I don jogging gear and enjoy a half hour jaunt up and down the length of the beach with our dog before heading to work all day. As soon as I return home, he (and the dog) are there to greet me at the door with a resplendent smile, dinner already cooking on the stove and the laundry done. He has folded my clothes in a neat pile by my bedside. I have gotten into the habit of showing up with a cold bottle of beer at the end of the day to “reward” him for his domestic triumph and show my appreciation for his readiness to rebel against his own culture’s norms.

We live (and sleep) together in biracial bliss, but our daily paid work obliges us to fill very different roles. Every day, while he stays home, tends to his hotel guests and handles the housework, maintenance and repairs, among other odd jobs; I earn a steady paycheck in pesos. He does the heavy lifting and sweats profusely in the intense tropical heat, while I take on a more “intellectual” role in our dynamic duo. I enjoy the privilege of a Mexican version of the ivory tower of academia, comfortably ensconced most of the day writing and reading in my cozy office whenever I’m not teaching Mexican university students how to read, speak and write as fluently as possible in English or teaching yoga classes.

We have achieved a collaborative effort to earn a respectable, decent living in a part of the world where the average household income is around $500 US dollars. (Yes, you read that correctly: five-hundred US dollars. Per month. And we live comfortably on that amount). Even if I were not here, my man would be financially stable without me, and vice versa. I have a Master’s degree and a diverse, marketable skill set; he has his own thriving business in a popular tourist destination. And he definitely wouldn’t miss my help around the house. I tell him half-jokingly, “you cook the food; I’ll buy the groceries.” Mostly, I’m serious about that. I don’t take to the kitchen very readily, and if I do, it’s mostly to clean the dishes. Occasionally, there are exceptions and we reverse these roles, depending on our needs and those of the people around us; but for the most part, we stick to a mutually agreed upon division of labor with the goal of staying in love—and keeping separate bank accounts.

To make our partnership all the more countercultural, he doesn’t even get jealous when I put my hands all over other men’s bodies, which I enjoy doing several times a week. (Seriously!) As a licensed, certified massage therapist, I have butt-naked men in close quarters regularly, and I deliver up what I know to be a wallop of professionally delivered relief from stress and tension, with absolutely no sex involved or solicited by neither me nor my clients. Most working class people in Mexico—myself included—rely on more than one skill set and find ways to live resourcefully. In addition to my daily work at the university, I enjoy my side gig as a massage therapist in this small community, where rumors spread quickly. If I were not entirely professional in my therapeutic services, everyone here would know within an hour or two. My partner actually encourages me to keep rubbing on his friends, because he knows it helps them, and he knows how much I love to help people with my unique style of therapeutic massage. Eventually, he says, I will be able to open my own business here. I can help you, he tells me. While I am grateful for his help, I know I can do that myself. I’m fluent in Spanish, highly skilled and not afraid to go out and get what I want.

I moved to Mexico as a single woman on a mission to find my man (among other personal goals), and within a month or so, I knew that I didn’t want a typical Mexican male as a partner. That’s why I chose this guy. He has already fulfilled his biological imperative to procreate: He has two grown sons and a five-year-old granddaughter, in addition to three thriving businesses. So far, he seems to need nothing from me other than my companionship. As a career-oriented, ambitious woman who spends over an hour every day in advanced yoga postures and eschews the ephemeral, I need a man who isn’t afraid to sweep or do the laundry. When I clock out of my full-time university gig, I want to come home to a happy partner, a clean house and a cooked dinner. (I sound like such a misogynist…. Wait. I’m a woman!) Achieving such an atypical domestic arrangement is my own dream come true, and it stretches the limits of what I thought were possible with any man, let alone a Mexican.

Last night when I got home late from work, he had an enormous plate of oysters on display with sliced limes that he picked from the backyard, and the oysters?—well, they are plentiful here in the Pacific Ocean along the Oaxaca coastline, and he is happy to do the precarious work of maneuvering the rocks and dangerous current to select the best ones, pry them open and clean them out. Oysters can only be eaten by sucking and slurping, and yes, they definitely get you in the mood. Loaded with milky white juices rich in vitamins and minerals, oysters are a natural aphrodisiac.

Today he’s going fishing, and for dinner, he says, we’ll have fresh fish with steamed vegetables. After dinner, I’ll give him a massage on the veranda under the coconut palm trees. I’d say I’ve got it made in a tropical paradise with the man of my dreams, and I know he’d say the same about me—in Spanish. After all, we live on Playa del Amor (Beach of Love), and there is plenty of love to be made every day.

https://youtu.be/rs6Y4kZ8qtw

Advertisements

Moringa marries a banana in Belize

beach blissMy friends and family know I’ve always been a finicky eater. My mom told me that when I was little, I annoyed her because I used to play with my food… a lot.

What’s wrong with playing with your food?

Isn’t food meant to be fun?

Well, nothing’s changed. I still play with my food… a lot. I like to experiment. I like to invent my own meals. It still annoys people. (“What are you making?”)

I’ve been house sitting at my friends’ beachside bungalow in Belize, a tiny country just south of Mexico with white sand beaches, tropical jungles, waterfalls, caves, monkeys, … and … more beaches. I normally prefer to howl with the monkeys in the jungle while painting my face with streaks of mud, but for the next few months it looks like I’m beach-bound, here beside the Caribbean Sea. (I know, I’m so bummed out, right?)

So, this morning, a little bird flew into the window of my bungalow with a tweet (a message, folks) and told me to write about what I’m having for breakfast.

First, I had to finish my daily morning yoga routine.

hanumanasana cropped copy

Get your bliss on, baby.

Then, I made my way into the kitchen to inspect the cupboards and see what I could whip up. I found ….

SONY DSC

Well, … I’ve tried over a hundred times to eat all these tantalizing, commercialized cakes, pies, and doughnuts from the grocery store, but my body rebels, no matter how much I want it to cooperate with my taste buds’ flights of fancy. One bite of anything that contains wheat will send my digestive system into disarray. It gets ugly.

I engorged myself on wheat products my entire childhood, growing up in an Italian family where my Nonna and Papi (Italian grandparents) always made delicious home cooked meals (Grazie!) with plenty of pasta, fresh-baked bread, cookies, and more … pasta. (“Don’t you want more pasta? … Here, have some more!”) So, like most Americans, I acquiesced to the family’s mealtime traditions… until I discovered in my adult years that I was, like most Americans, allergic to gluten.

Yes, that most dastardly, nefarious ingredient. Gluten – it’s in all wheat products. It’s evil, I tell you, … evil.

I’ve joined the growing ranks of the health-conscious “gluten free” army, and we’re rising up, folks … Look out, we’re adamant and unyielding, and we’re proud of it.

So, … Lucky Charms? Not for breakfast. Maybe in my dreams. Well, maybe … in another life … if, say, i’m really super stressed out and don’t have any time to make anything because that person keeps instant messaging and i have to answer and i just want to numb out because of that stupid thing that stupid person said and i just can’t relax so i’m going to sit and have some cereal…..

I eat to live; I don’t live to eat. (Well, … okay, the one exception would be chocolate: If there’s chocolate anywhere near me, I have to eat it. It’s an obsession.) I exercise my body every day, so I exercise my right to healthy, conscious (shall we say, intuitive?) eating.

I found a ripe banana.

The gates of heaven opened up, beams of radiant, white light poured out into the room, and I was renewed in the spirit! (Well, sort of) .… My point is, I did not succumb to the temptation of filling my gut with things that would make me feel yucky for the rest of the day. I waited until I had found something nourishing — something that I could have picked off a tree with my own hands, which I can actually do down here in tropical Belize.

Banana trees grow everywhere in Belize! I even have one in my own backyard, and I can eat from it year-round. (Now that’s what you call “food security”….)

bananas hanging copy

With a banana in hand, I was ready to start inventing! Let the experiment begin!

I wondered, What other fresh, healthy foods could be happily married to a banana? Then, I thought about all the moringa leaves drying on that tray downstairs in my bungalow.

IMG_9125 copy

These are the actual seeds I extracted from the pod (heart-shaped seeds, awww!) and the twigs that came from a moringa tree in our neighbor’s front yard here in Belize.

420px-Moringa-at-house-full-shoto-July-2009

Then, I heard the banana crying out for a companion to join him in a blissful bowl of raw food deliciousness. Poor, lonely fella. So I hurried downstairs to retrieve some moringa for him.

Yes, our neighbor “Junior” – quite a dude. A tall, strapping, native Belizean dude. Years ago he planted some moringa seeds in the dirt with his own hands and left it to grow into a tall tree, which he can shimmy up for anyone who asks him to get some fresh moringa. (Isn’t that great? It’s local; it’s organic!)

Moringa, known as the Miracle Plant, has become quite a fad in America’s health food movement. If you live in the US, you won’t be lucky enough to find it in your backyard, like me (hee, hee). You mostly find it in health food stores, all violently ground up into a powder and sold as capsules, but I prefer the real thing, because I can get the real thing!

Moringa trees are tropical, so I can grow them in my very own backyard (lucky me!)…. All I needed was to ask Junior to give me some of the seeds from his tree!

You can either plant the moringa seed (well, if you’re lucky enough to live in the tropics, like me – hee, hee) or you can eat one or two seeds fresh out of the pod. But be forewarned – the seeds are bitter, and they have a powerful detoxifying effect, which I had the privilege to experience first-hand.

I typically like to fast from food once a week. Recently, I decided to fast all day and then pop two fresh moringa seeds. Within a few hours I was … well, in the cathartic throes of detox. All the toxins came out, and I’ll just leave it at that. Spare ya the details.

The take-home for you, dear reader (Hey, thanks for reading!) is that after my detoxification, I felt like a superhero, because moringa, after all, is considered a super food and will go down in the foodie halls of fame as one of the most powerful, health-enhancing plants.

moringa-oleifera-powder2Native to India, the moringa tree has been planted in other tropical countries all over the world, including my home sweet home, Belize! While many things found in nature can have one or two health benefits, moringa has many. India’s ancient tradition of Ayurvedic medicine cites over 300 diseases that can be treated with the leaves of the moringa tree. Recent scientific research has proven that moringa is a powerhouse of nutritional value (You might even start feeling like the goddess in this picture if you eat lots of moringa).

Moringa leaf is an excellent source of nutrition and a natural energy booster. Moringa is also soothing, as it helps lower blood pressure and acts as a sleep aid. Moringa’s detoxifying effect may come from its ability to purify water: Moringa is a coagulant, attaching itself to harmful material and bacteria.

The other day, I was biting the fresh moringa leaves straight off a twig that Junior had plucked from his moringa tree. My friend noticed me and asked, bewildered, “Why are you eating sticks?”

I whinnied in reply.

Back to my lonely banana. He’s such a demanding chap. I have left him waiting for waaaay too long (sorry, dear, but first I had to come to Belize to find you).

Now that I had my moringa super food, all I had to do was add the filler ingredients – the glue to hold it all together. A newly married couple needs to celebrate with entertainment and gaiety! Let’s party!

I brought down the organic oat flour and steel-cut oats. I broke out the fresh, locally sourced, organic coconut oil, and I popped open the bottle of honey (in my mouth – oooh, baby!) … and….

Hmmmm. 

Still missing something….

gato

A cat? (awww) …

A bird! A plane! …

No, …. Sea salt, of course! We’re at the beach, remember? The waves of the Caribbean Sea are crashing (hear them?) outside the kitchen window to shore, and the salty sea winds are blowing my hair all over my face. [I wrap my long, unruly hair under a green shawl – green to match the moringa.]

And, let’s face it, after waiting this long: No marriage can go unconsummated. Let’s be sure to add a dash of spice to our after party with a few generous sprinkles of … cinnamon!

First, I invited everyone at the wedding party to get to know each other with some ice breakers (the banana had previously been frozen, unable to express himself fully, reluctant to warm up), but after those icebreakers and some casual fun and games, everyone was really having fun! I introduced the ravishing bride and her groom (the moringa goddess and her banana), and they danced together beautifully. Then, everyone wanted to get in on the dance.

IMG_9116 copy

Drumbeat, please…. [Live drummers enliven the place with native rhythms].

By then, it was time to get real close together and start sweating (oooh, that can be so messy and embarrassing, but in the end it’s always worth it, to let loose)…. So, I used a fork to mash all the ingredients together.

IMG_9118 copy

Here is what all these naughty ingredients looked like when I had everyone partying together and relishing in newlywed merriment:

IMG_9120 copy

Rather have the Lucky Charms? (Believe me, I understand). Health food is … well, let’s say, an acquired taste. (You can add cacao powder, which I would have done in a heartbeat, but I was all out because I ravenously consume all cacao products in my midst).

Notice the white sand beach in the background (We just had to have the wedding in Belize; I mean, where else can a lonely banana find his moringa goddess? And this goddess, my dear readers, having suffered for so long, loved and respected the banana, and she had earned her white dress.)

I went for it, folks…. Banana moringa bliss on the beach.

IMG_9122 copy

IMG_9124 copy

And how did I feel after tasting the first bite of naturally wedded, tropical splendor?

IMG_9128 copy

Hmmmm, maybe I should let my hair down for this one….

IMG_9166 copy

Divine….

IMG_9167 copy

Like a goddess

Emerging from the sea

Holding a trident

IMG_9112 copy

Early in the morning, when the sea is calm, I like to swim in the Caribbean. Yesterday I came out holding this three-pronged stick—a trident. 

My spiritual teacher Geshe Michael said, “Always try your best to treat everyone kindly. No exceptions. It could be the most annoying person you’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has something to teach you. You never know when you’re talking to an angel.”

(Look, mom, I’m an angel! Sorry I annoyed you by always playing with my food.)

And finally, some inspiration for you to play, too!