Last week a friend of mine (we will call her Carla) came to a holiday fundraiser in my adopted home town in Costa Rica and later spent the night at my place. Before she left the next morning, we enjoyed some Costa Rican coffee on the terrace and recapped the prior evening.
Carla had moved to Costa Rica from the USA with her husband approximately a decade ago. They were divorced fairly recently. I do not know the gory details, nor do I necessarily care. Sometimes plans do not work out and it is time to make a life change.
At the event, I introduced her to a gringo friend of mine and they appeared to easily glide into a flirtatious conversation. There are several explanations of where the word “gringo” originated. Some research says it started in Spain simply to describe non-Spanish speaking Europeans of white skin. It was introduced to the Castilian dictionary in the latter 1700’s. Another theory I have read is the word was created during the Mexican-American War. The soldiers from the USA wore green uniforms and the Mexicans would yell at them “green-go” using the English version to let them know they were not welcome in Mexico. I have visited Spanish-speaking countries where the term is used derogatorily or as a racial slur. But in Costa Rica, is it typically used as a neutral label to describe a light-skinned expats (and tourists) from places like Canada, the USA, non-Spanish Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africans of Dutch/British decent, etc. And a native Costa Rican is a called a Tico or Tica. A cute nickname used exclusively for Costa Ricans, but not for other Latinos.
As we sipped our coffee the next morning, I learned that Carla and my gringo friend had already accepted a Facebook friendship and exchanged a bit of chatter that morning. She asked me about his dating habits….Is he involved with anyone? Is he a bit of whore? The sort of things you question (regardless of age or experience) when you experience a potentially budding crush. I told her I really did not know him that well, but he seemed extremely cool and authentic. And age appropriate, I added. We talked about how men can wear their wrinkles as a badge of honor. It means their years in the sun made them appear “outdoorsy and adventurous”. For some it also translates into wealth or wisdom. But for a woman? Her wrinkles are often viewed as an uncomplimentary reminder of ageing.
The coffee conversation naturally steered itself towards the odd dating situation for an over-40-year-old expat woman in small town Costa Rica. Carla is not the first to lament this issue. I have had several strong, independent and attractive single girlfriends permanently depart this lovely region to find more depth in the dating pool. We live in a touristy beach area with great surf and several Spanish schools. So it is not unusual to find surfing/Spanish students and bachelor party revelers flowing though the region. They are easy targets for one-night stands; away from home and ready to play. There are also plenty of young Tico guys looking for a wealthy female “sponsor” and lover. But if a gringa is looking for a permanent or semi-permanent resident, self sufficient and age-appropriate man (I am giving it is +/- 8-10 year window), it is challenging to find one here. I am not saying it can’t happen, but…..
Many gringo men immigrate here with a wife/significant other. So that takes them out of the dating pool. The ones who come alone are sometimes running from something in their home country…for example: a crazy ex-wife, tax evasion, depression, etc. Which can make ones definition of “normal” a random shade of gray. But in all fairness, some guys just want a new adventure and retired with a whole bunch of cash. Carla and I hypothesized these men who are alone are not necessarily looking for that age-appropriate strong or independently thinking gringa woman. In fact, many of them loved a woman like that in their previous life back home. They are often looking for a young, hot woman. One who confirms their sexuality and makes them feel completely loved regardless of their shortcomings. Of course this is an age-old trend everywhere in the world. Wife number one dies or divorces; wife number two (or three) is a much younger trophy.
However, when I observe these cases happening in Costa Rica (and probably many places in Latin America) it seems to have a slightly different twist. The younger Tica woman is almost always from a lower socioeconomic status than the gringo. And although she may not be extremely attractive (but most are), she is sexually exciting and happy to please her man. Many of these women have not had role models to teach them worldly lessons, and they may not have had access to higher education. Some also have children from a previous lover or husband. So they have a way of latching on (or “falling in love” as it were) in a mothering kind of way. Washing his clothes, cooking amazing meals, cleaning his home, taking care of day-to-day dealings in Spanish and of course, having uninhibited sex with him as often as he desires (or when the little blue pill kicks in).
And yes, sometimes part of the equation is attempting to get pregnant so she will be on his eternal payroll. For a lot of women, this is the ticket out of poverty, or at least a difficult life barely living paycheck to paycheck. I cannot blame them for that opportunity. And why wouldn’t many men want a tiger in bed and a live-in “assistant” in the home? Plus it is a great way to learn Spanish, if he has any interest in cultural immersion. That being said, I know a lot of Latina women who do NOT AT ALL fit this mold. However, there are many who do. I understand the mutual benefits, but it leaves a gaping hole in the dating pool.
Carla and I shared stories of plenty of people we knew here in these types of relationships. And she blamed it on being so close to the equator. I sat there nodding my head and then stopped. Whoa, what? The equator?? What did that have to do with this conversation? Obviously the earth is wider and warmer at the equator. but is there more to it? The equatorial bulge is created by the Earth’s rotation. As lines of latitude increase in size, a point has to travel faster to complete a revolution in the same amount of time. The rotational speed, or spin, at the Arctic Circle is slower than the spin at the Tropic of Cancer, because the circumference of the Arctic Circle is much smaller and a point doesn’t have to travel as far to complete a revolution. The spin at the Tropic of Cancer is much slower than the spin at the Equator. Near the poles, the Earth’s rotational speed, or spin, is near zero. At the Equator, the spin is about 1,670 kilometers per hour (1,038 miles per hour)!
That means we are spinning much faster here in Costa Rica than our gringo friends way up in North America or Europe or down under in Australia. We are closer to the sun and our gravitational pull is less. Meaning you weigh less at the equator than the poles. And it affects our tides and sea levels. Scientists and celestial students have hypothesized all these factors have an effect on animal behavior. But does it? Or are we simply spinning out of control?
Monday musings. Have a fantastic holiday week ahead.
Photo credits: MasculineProfiles.com, SpanishatHome.com, Facebook, RioDia, Tico Times, Clarita’s Jaco, Thunderboltkids.co.za