Mas o Menos is back! This week, I work to get to know the local culture through the dating scene. If you at one point knew me in college and read my work as a sex columnist, take this as a natural progression in my writing.
The nice thing about having weeks to spend in a place instead of days, is being able to get a deeper understanding of the local culture. One way I sought to do that was by dating someone.
After my three weeks in Mexico City, I decided to go to Oaxaca. It's there where I got a fascinating look at how quickly things can accelerate when dating an Oaxacena woman.
Date 1, Gaby: I love mole, and Oaxaca is the home of it. So early in the conversation with Gaby, I said I'd like to go to the best mole spot in town. She said the best spot was actually in Tule, just outside of the city of Oaxaca.
The date went well. The vibes were high. I'm pleased that my Spanish is good enough for her to understand me (I should note that these relationships took place fully in my broken Spanish). The mole was on point.
The morning after, I start getting what I'd consider to be strange messages from Gaby. Without prompting, she gives me a tour of her office through poorly taken cell phone shots.
Date 2, Gaby: The oversharing continues. The night after Date 1, she's out for a cousin's birthday party and starts sending me drunk texts. Whoever you were sending those texts to before you met me, keep sending them there. The morning after while she's at work she calls me to tell me how hungover she is.
That afternoon we decide to meet up for an early dinner at a local market. It was a pretty unique dinner experience with the way they grilled and served the meats.
Two hours later I'm in bed stuffed. Gaby texts me that she's back downtown with her kid and seeing if I want to meet up.
I'm 100% in the "no, I don't want to meet your teenage kid after just meeting you two days ago" camp and decline the offer.
Date 1, Perla: The morning after Date 2 with Gaby, I meet Perla. I said I wanted to try some of the great Oaxaca food and Perla suggested we go to a restaurant in Tule that has the best mole.
I let her know I've actually been there, so instead we go to a food market for breakfast. This is a first for me: breakfast on a first date.
As I'm on my way to the market, something feels off with my body. When the food comes out, I find it extraordinarily difficult to put down. I touch my head, and damn, I'm just realizing I have a bad fever.
I start putting a few things together and realize I've got food poisoning from the meal with Gaby last night. I wrap up the meal with Perla as quick as possible and insist I have to go back to my place immediately to start the work day.
The food poisoning ends up blowing up any chances for Date 3 with Gaby. Gaby reaches out to see how my day is going, and I let her know about the food poisoning and that I would appreciate it if she didn't reach out while I was sick. (My fever was so bad that it just hurt my head to mentally try to think in Spanish.) She doesn't heed my advice and decides to hit me with a deluge of calls and texts that go unanswered, which makes me more nauseous as I recall the meal we had.
Between my churning stomach and Gaby's smothering ways, I decided to slowly retreat from her.
Date 2, Perla: On Saturday afternoon Perla wants to know if I'd like to go out that night. I fill her in on my stomach situation and she says, "Ahh that makes a lot of sense. I thought you didn't like Mexican food."
I tell her I may come out, I may not. I end up going out with some other friends and decide to eventually break off and meet Perla.
Something got lost in translation as when I got to the bar La Otra it wasn't just one or two friends, all of her best friends were there. I will say it was pretty epic to watch a group of women bust out singing along to a Selena track.
After an hour at La Otra, we switch bars. I hop in Perla's car and Perla gives me a thermos that is filled with a hot tea made from local herbs that she specifically made for me because of my stomach issues. I'm a little stunned by the gesture as we didn't even know if we were going to see each other, and yet she went out of her way to help out my sensitive belly.
Date 3, Perla: This was the most "normal" of dates. Perla let me know I needed to try garnachas, which is a type of food from a different area of Oaxaca. The garnachas were solid.
Date 4, Perla: As if Date 2 wasn't a bit forward, Perla asks me if I want to spend a night with her out at Capululpam. Capululpam is one of Mexico's "pueblo magicos." Essentially select towns that have a unique cultural quality to them were branded pueblo magicos as a government initiative to drive tourism to them.
Can you imagine knowing someone for a week and saying, "Would you want to share a cabin in Tahoe on Friday night?"
But hey, I wanted to see one of these pueblo magicos, and this was basically an invitation to have sex, so when in Oaxaca.
Let's just say Capululpam was indeed magical.
Date 5, Perla: I go to a club for one of her best friend's birthdays, which on the scale of things, isn't even that bizarre at this point.
Date 6, Perla: Let's ratchet up the weirdness another notch. Perla says that on Friday she needs to go to a misa that's 90 minutes from town. She wants to know if I'd like to go with her because on the way back from the misa there are several small towns she wants to show me.
I look up misa, and I'm like, "Wait, what? You want me to go to a funeral with you? She assures me that this is not a funeral funeral. The misa is 40 days after the person's death and we'd only be there for two hours at most.
Heck, I enjoyed Capululpam, why not check out these other towns? Plus the misa will be an experience.
The funeral itself turned out to be eight hours, not two hours (and will be covered in 1200+ words next week). It's starting to dawn on me that Perla is a little crazy and has essentially made me her boyfriend without consent.
Date That Wasn't, Perla: She invites me to go on this food tour the weekend after the misa. I look it up and am surprised that people are getting on a bus to travel over five hours to try cuisine in another area of Oaxaca.
Can you imagine driving down from San Francisco to LA for a weekend food tour? Like nah, I'm fine with the Korean BBQ up here.
But it gets weirder. When I was hanging with Perla the night before we headed out for the funeral, I learn that her dad is also going on this 15-person food tour. I'm like hol' up, you were about to have me spend two plus days with your dad, and I'm going to be like, "Hey man, I'm banging your daughter for a couple of weeks, and then I'm off to Colombia."
She insisted it wouldn't be weird at all. She would just say that we're friends. She even went as far as to say that maybe she would pretend that she didn't even know me.
As we're about to go to bed I learn that her mother is also going on this food tour.
Date 7, Perla: I don't know if you'd quite call this a date, but basically a few days after the funeral, I was set to leave Oaxaca. Perla's apartment is on the way to the airport, so hey, why not release some energy before this 12-hour, 3-flight trip to Medellin?
As we're set to leave her place to go to the airport, she says, "Well, I guess we're not going to be sending messages to each other anymore."
I wanted to respond, "Obviously. I'm excited that I don't get to see what's next after going to a misa with you," but instead I say, "No, I mean, we can still send messages to each other."
Mistake. Absolute mistake. I should have gone with my initial instinct. Now I'm getting pictures and updates of not just her, but of her family too.
On the whole, I found the experience to be pretty fascinating compared to dating life in America. Obviously a small sample size, but the woman of Oaxaca were willing to bring me right into their lives after the first date. I'd say a little too much for my liking, but the flip side is that they're willing to openly say how much they like you.
With American dating life, you're playing coy. You wait a couple of days to text. You guard hints that you may be enjoying the other person's company.
In Oaxaca, you just straight up take them to meet the family before the first kiss.
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Next week on Mas o Menos ... well already gave it away here. We're going to a funeral.
This essay was edited by Mustafa Shaikh. Blame all grammatical errors on him.
You can catch up on past writings here.