Before arriving in Spain, I knew there would be differences between the women in Spain and me. I’d read countless articles about behaving well and not perpetuating the crazy, drunk American girl stereotype. I figured that shouldn’t be too hard; I just wouldn’t get drunk and crazy. But I didn’t realize that so many factors other than my imperfect Spanish and potential to have “Girls Gone Wild” moments would separate me from Spanish women, albeit mainly in the looks department.
Spanish women dress impeccably and for the most part have fantastic bodies and gorgeous hair. I was prepared for the fashion differences (this is Europe after all), but I’m still confused as to how they maintain their bodies and their perfect hair.
Since I’ve arrived in Spain I have not seen a single Spanish woman run. I’ve seen a substantial number of men running, either in spandex bodysuits or down coats. I enjoy the spandex because most men in the US wouldn’t be caught dead in skintight attire (except triathletes, who do their own thing) and the down coats make me laugh: although it’s February, it’s about 50 degrees every day. So I know that people run here, but either the women have found running paths that have eluded me, or they rely on walking to keep their figures. I wish I could do this, since running in Nervión, my neighborhood, involves a lot of stoplights and inhaling an abundance of cigarette smoke and car fumes. But even with my second-hand smoke filled runs, I still have trouble putting on my jeans in the morning after late-night churros con chocolate and our frequent meals consisting of French fries, fried eggs and croquetas (deep fried balls of dough filled with meat). The food is wonderful, but how are Spanish women so thin without constant exercise?
When I do run, I definitely am an anomaly, which is highlighted by the excess of ogling and catcalls I receive as I jog to the Parque María Luisa. I definitely am nothing to stare at during my runs, with my tomato-red face, flying sweat and embarrassingly slow pace, but men are riveted by the fact that I’m moving at a pace above a brisk walk. Neither women nor men feel the need to move aside at all to give me room on the sidewalk, which makes my pace even slower. I receive countless hostile looks as well as air kisses as I make my way through the throngs on the street, which perhaps accounts for the fact that Spanish women prefer not to run: female runners are either objectified or resented.
After the seventh catcall on my hour run by a 60-something man, I almost decided to embrace my fried food weight. But the warm weather and orange trees in February make up for dodging immobile locals and enduring sketchy leers. That, and I don’t want to have to buy all new jeans when I get home.
Spanish women’s perfect hair also blows my mind. Because of the economic crisis in Spain right now, water and electricity are exorbitantly expensive; therefore hot water for showering costs a lot, meaning showers must be extremely short. My showers consist of washing my hair in a frenzy, slapping on some body wash and perhaps shaving half of a leg every other day, resulting in hair that I pray doesn’t have too much conditioner residue in it and legs that shouldn’t be permitted to see the light of day.
I know short showers aren’t unique to my host family’s home here, so I’m still amazed at how women manage to make their hair so sleek and in awe of how great their legs look in mini skirts. (The women definitely sacrifice discomfort in the “cold” for fashion; they’re much tougher than the male runners in down coats). They must know what hair products to use and must have perfected shaving in the sink. I still fall over backwards every time I try to raise my leg to sink level, which is quite dangerous with a marble floor underfoot and a razor in hand.
Blending in with Spanish women is a near-impossible task, since I will never be able to perfectly emulate their language or their style. But my affinity for running and my inability to shower properly irrevocably separates me from passing as a true Spanish woman. What I find completely hilarious is the fact that to date, four tourists have asked me directions in stilted Spanish while I’ve been running. They’re either comforted by the familiarity of a runner, or haven’t realized that real Spanish women miraculously don’t need to run.