There's this story that I go back and forth about telling you. Should I? Shouldn't I?
How much do you REALLY need to know about your mother? Will telling this story embarrass me or shame my family in front of the WHOLE World Wide Web?
Then again, it's humorous and there is, indeed, a lesson to be learned. And it's really not THAT dramatic, it was just one night I made a bad choice. And you know how I am about the whole "make good choices" thing.
Also, this site, at it's core, is about vulnerability. About saying the things other people don't or won't say. About not hiding things from you. Most importantly, about being honest with myself.
If you're my parent-in-law or future employer, my apologies. Pretend you didn't read this. Or all those things I write about poop and vomit.
I spent the night on a park bench. In a foreign country. THERE! I said it.
It was February in Rio de Janeiro, which is in the Southern hemisphere, so it was a nice night. I wasn't cold at all! And it was in Urca, a really nice, secluded neighborhood of Rio. And it was right outside of the building that I was locked out of, so I was TOTALLY safe.
(original image source)
Nevertheless, not the smartest idea.
That is why you won't be studying abroad. Or at least not in tropical climates. Let's focus on Northern Europe or maybe, Mongolia, perhaps the really cold parts of Chile. And no big cities. You'll live remotely and I won't hear from you often, but I'll know you're safe and will have nothing to do but weave baskets or milk goats.
Not that I can blame all my bad choices on men, but Lola (who has been married thrice) is wont to say: men make you grow stupid cells. If you are a lesbian, I suppose women could make you grow stupid cells, but we'll have to ask a lesbian. I wouldn't know the particulars.
I'm a generally reserved person, with a "don't talk to me" demeanor. I don't take risks, physical, emotional or otherwise. Once I find one friend I like, that's enough for me, thank you very much. Also, I have a problem with living a balanced life. I wrote about that once here. So, for some reason "studying abroad" translated in my life to "loose all inhibitions."
REALLY STUPID. Considering, when you visit a new place, let alone a foreign country, where you know little to none of the language, you really ought to be operating on heightened alert status code orange or whatever.
But, there's something about being in another country that is sort of numbing. Maybe my senses are overwhelmed. Maybe it's a coping mechanism. Even when I travel today, while I do hold my purse a little more tightly because I know I look like a ripe juicy tourist target, I still feel like a space cadet. In order to focus, I have to numb four of my five senses in order to take in ANYTHING at all.
So, before I even took to the streets of Rio, things were a little fuzzy. Then, there's the dancing and cahpirinha street vendors. And, back to the subject at hand: the men.
Don't let me mislead you, I'm not man crazy. It wasn't THE men. It was one, in particular.
(And look what I found in my files.)
So, when you study abroad, you go to classes. Sometimes.
I was in an Urban Studies themed travel-study-abroad program. Rio was our third of five stops. We did a lot of "field work" which amounted to a lot of lectures and presentations by organizations, government offices, or local professors. When those individuals did not speak English, we had translators. Oh, how romantic! I fell in love with a translator.
I fell in love with the guy who set up the microphone and headsets that facilitated the translator.
Oh, but he had beautiful brown eyes. And a smile.
And I mean, really? How many people do you know that have brown eyes and a smile? There can't be THAT many.
I'm pretty sure he was checking out all of us "easy" Americans, but when our eyes locked, I knew it was the real thing. (This is me, Mommy talking now: I just threw up in my mouth a little.)
Sure, we didn't speak the same language. Sure, I'd be gone in three weeks. But, he was beautiful. And I went to a women's college, so basically a man hadn't looked my way in three years. (Mommy again: THIS IS ACTUALLY A REALLY GOOD THING.) So, you know me. Extremes. I threw caution to the wind and, believe it or not, I actually PURSUED this guy. Say WHAT?!
I know. Crazy. Stupid cells, FTW!
Batted eyelashes, unapologetic staring when I should have been taking notes, a plethora of come-hither tactics which I will refrain from discussing here as this is not to be taken as instructional advice. Imagine! Of all the girls, he gave ME his number. I mean, I think it was just me? Of course it was! ... Doh.
Okay, back to the Park Bench night. A group of us students were out. Dancing and drinking in these tiny, nameless clubs that are basically just rooms that open out onto the street. We were watching Rio the other day and I was like: hey, that's where I lived, below Pao de Azucar and hey, that looks like the street where I... never mind.
I'll stop being tangential and avoiding the inevitable admission:
I wanted to go home with this guy. And when you're older you'll know what I really mean by "I wanted to go home with this guy."
And my brain justified it as "a sign" when "Microphone Man" showed up in the ONE of DOZENS of clubs my "friends" and I were dancing in. We danced the night away and learned snippets about each other based on my very loose understanding of Portuguese and his better understanding of my Spanish/English. What he failed to communicate was that there was NO WAY on God's green earth I was coming home with him to his Mom's house.
I didn't learn this information until my fellow students were long gone, my home-stay roommate had the one key we shared in her hands, tucked beneath her covers, in the fifth story flat, buffered by a courtyard, locked behind a large fence.
Well, at least "Microphone Man" had the decency to throw my drunk ass in a cab. And I had the wherewithal to remember where I lived.
It was nearly 4am.
I didn't even try to climb the fence or to knock on the door of another student's home-stay family.
I just sat down on that bench and knocked out.
Talk about Walk of Shame! And I didn't even get laid. THAT'S how many stupid cells I had.
Oh, you may be thinking to yourself, Mommy, you must have WAY worse stories than that! Hideous and shameful exploits. At least a one night stand or two. And I do.
But, THIS is the story that haunts me. Not because of my silly desperation or because I fell in lust with a Brazilian. Not even because I was drinking heavily or made out in a dark alley. Certainly, NOT good choices.
The reason I tell you this story is because there was ONE moment, where I made the WORST choice and decided to choose staying out with a stranger over going home safely with my roommate.
There are many bad choices we make, daily, weekly, yearly. Sometimes our choices are cumulative and things get worse. But, we can recover from most bad choices.
You drink too much at a party. Bad choice. You call someone to come pick you up so you don't drive drunk. Good choice.
You skip a class at school. Bad choice. Your friend pulls out some weed and you leave, to home, back to school, anywhere but there. Good choice.
You have a boyfriend. Bad choice. (Just kidding. Sort of.) You realize he's a douchebag, even if this realization is after several wasted months of your life. You break up with him. Good choice.
You hit your sister. Bad choice. You tell her sorry and give her a kiss. Good choice.
But bad choice, upon bad choice, upon bad choice, upon WORST choice and you end up sleeping on a (not so safe) park bench with NO CHOICE. When you make a lot of bad choices, at some point you run out of choices.
Your dad and others think that I shouldn't tell you stories like this. That you ought to believe your parents are infallible and have never made bad choices, which is easy when you're beadle and haven't made a single bad choice in your life.
I'm not here to give you ideas. Or to even give you the "don't make the mistakes I made" speech.
All I can tell you, as your mother, as a woman, as a human being, as a child of God, is to tell you that just ONCE in my lifetime EVER I made a bad choice. (Ha!) And in that same lifetime, I have had the option and the power and the will and the joy to make MANY good choices.
So, don't make bad choices. Don't make the worst choices. And, as always. I encourage you to make GOOD choices. There are so many of them out there for you.