Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Recently I was talking with a friend about being protective. The friend and I were discussing a post in Amber's blog where Amber's male date at the time physically confronted some obnoxious guy who was being rude to a female bartender. The part that interested us about this is the thin line between defending a woman's honor and being considered overprotective. Amber got all steamy hot about the fact that her date physically stood up to the asshole in the bar. I, on the other hand, always seem to get something like, "Oh, grow up! You're just being overprotective. I can take care of myself just fine without you getting all macho and shit." Sigh.

In the conversation with my friend I made the claim that I am less protective of women these days than I was in (figurative) past lives, mostly because I became weary of hearing remarks like the one I quote above. Let the bitch kick him in the teeth herself then, is pretty much where I'm at these days. But since having this conversation I've been reflecting upon over-protectiveness and when I've displayed it, and I immediately remembered La Encina.

To give you a little background, Carmen, my now ex-wife, and her kids and I first started living together when the kids were in (I believe) 8th Grade and 9th Grade. To say the least, it was a pretty drastic transition for me to go from being a single, devil-may-care roué to being a husband-equivalent and father-equivalent to two daughters. I recall more than once wishing I had an instruction booklet. But we all loved each other and I, at least, would not trade that time for anything in the world.

When Isabel, my oldest kid, graduated from high school and Cristina was about to become a senior, the kids and their mom and I took a month-long trip to Spain. Carmen and I had earlier decided that the kids were mature enough to be treated like adults on the trip, and we tried hard to live up to this morally difficult choice. And they were, by the way, and it was a great trip. Most of it.

However, there was one occasion on this holiday I still have nightmares about. Toward the end of our stay in Spain we ended up in Alicante, a city on the Mediterranean, prepared to spend a week in a condo we had rented. To make a long story shorter, Alicante sucked and we decided that life was too short to spend another second in that place even though we'd already paid for the condo so we took the first train we could get to go back to Marbella, another city on the Med that we all loved. And we did.

But the train route to Marbella was circuitous so we had to transfer trains at approximately 1:00 AM in a place called La Encina. On the map it looked like a small town, and we expected it to be a quaint Spanish village like so many others we had seen. Hah.

La Encina, which means "The Oak" in Spanish, was pretty much just a tiny train station in the middle of nowhere. I never did see the oak, but there was a hell of a lot of nothing else all around the station. What it did have at one o'clock in the morning was a crazy woman who walked around and around the station (which was closed) with a poodle following her, talking and singing and laughing at nothing we could see. She had on some ratty top and nothing else. Her nether regions were more or less concealed by a large towel, and with each circuit of the station the towel was arranged differently. I have no idea where she changed it nor do I ever want to know. But my own favorite configuration was when she wore the towel like a breech cloth, except that it revealed way too much of her doughy thighs.

So there sat Carmen, the kids and I on the train platform, watching Breech Cloth Woman and her poodle walk endlessly around the tiny train station cackling away in Spanish. Oh, did I mention there were 3000 18-year-old boys present as well?

It seems that Spain, like many countries, has (or at least had) mandatory military service for males when they reach 18 or so. It was our great luck that their induction was due to take place the next day, so every pubescent male for miles and miles around was standing outside the La Encina train station, half of them drunk. And the only women in site were my wife, my two daughters, and Breech Cloth Woman. "Hmmm," I said to myself.

I should probably also mention that my wife and two daughters were (and still are) extremely hot. So it was immediately clear to me that the prey of choice for the 3000 slavering young males was not going to be Breech Cloth Woman, avant garde fashion statements notwithstanding. I swear, every basic male instinct that man comes equipped with surged through my body: protect your children from predation, protect your wife from lewd and lascivious behavior that isn't yours, and avoid doughy thighs at all costs.

Have you ever seen hyenas attacking a lion? The pack works together, so when the lion turns to slash at one hyena, two that are behind him bite his nuts. Well, I felt much like that lion. I would turn to curse at a few boys that were looking at my wife indecorously and while I was doing this, several more would creep up and start flirting with Isabel and Cristina. ¡Coño! I got dizzy from spinning around to meet the attacks from my flanks. Even Carmen, whose own teeth-kicking abilities are not inconsiderable I am here to tell you, was somewhat disconcerted by the sheer number of boys. But it was scary. You could almost hear the testosterone fizzing in their bodies when the Breech Cloth Woman wasn't around singing and laughing at the top of her lungs.

See, if you're a woman you should know if you don't already that a man's reaction to any male sniffing around his daughter is this: "I know what I was like when I was 18, I would have had sex with a tree if it had a knothole and drill my own if it didn't, so there's no doubt in my mind whatsoever what this young turk is all about." It is a primal reaction that makes the father snarl and claw the drywall and scent-mark the couch. So you get the picture -- I was protective, conceivably even over-protective, at times. And this was one of those times.

Finally, after an eternity of whirling and growling and cursing, our train arrived at about 3 AM and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It turned out to be premature. The doors to the train opened, and masses of young men surged into the train, carrying my daughters off with them. Carmen and I just looked at each other with disbelief then with resignation, certain we would never see our kids again. I decided right there that we would have to get busy making replacements for them because all we would ever find of Isabel and Cristina would be a small white sock with scalloped edges and a semen stain.

But then we talked it over and decided, in a very poignant and heart-wrenching moment, that the kids were mature young women and wise to the ways of the world and they could probably handle themselves quite nicely without me being over-protective and Carmen being nonplussed. In other words, we had to let go and trust them to be the women we knew they could be.

It only took moments after that to start feeling sorry for the 3000 18-year-old boys.

-- Hulles


SuperBee said...

Awww. That was a sweet story.

And Alicante is crappy. I remember being extremely bored there.

Kristen Painter said...

Interesting story. How many of those boys sing soprano now?

I have fond memories of Marbella.

Heather Harper said...

I like men's macho shit.

This reminds me of when my cousin and I drove down to Galveston, TX when I was, oh, I think I was 16. Barely. And I looked the way I would kill to look now. We were chaperoned by an older woman from church and her two small kids. So she was a little lax in the supervision department.

When we got to our beachfront hotel, there were hundreds of sailors from the USS something-or-other walking the boardwalk, looking for women and a bar.

Fun week.

I could have used you back then. ;)

Hulles said...

Superbee, I could have written a whole entry just on how much Alicante sucked but restrained myself -- barely.

Kristen, only five of them were able to leave under their own power when we reached our destination. And two were hobbling pretty badly.

And yeah, I have fond memories of Marbella as well. And stories....

Heather, if you like men's macho shit then back then I would have been your guy, particularly in my father-figure role. I'm not sure what I am now. And I'm glad it was a fun week; memories are a priceless treasure. I'm enjoying mine until next week when I don't remember any of them. XO.

Eva Gale said...

Whew. I thought you were going to say the Weird Towel Woman was arranging her towel every trip because...well..*cough*. Okay then.

Macho shit rocks. As long as you can kick well.

Jen said...

I love male macho shit. Nothing hotter than a man walking around ensuring that everyone knows I'm his.

Cristina Cordova said...

Beautiful! Yes! But you did so well, Mark. So well. And here we are -- years later -- no worse for the wear (of that one trip, at least). It was a great time. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Until I read this post I'd forgotten the name of the city I least enjoyed in my travels. Alicante! I missed the tiny train station in La Encina. I may have enjoyed that at the time....


Casti said...

Hulles, um começo de história curioso, depois preocupante e que finaliza belamente doce. Bom isso!!!!


Lo said...

Very very very excellent post. You managed to simultaneously appeal to my secret love of chivalry AND my ever-less-secret feminazism. Applause!

Spam word: SDKJPL or: Shit, darling kindly just provided laughs! (I'm sorry, it's the best I could do.)

Hulles said...

Eva, yeah, I kick okay (used to study karate) but it throws my back out and I'm laid up for a week. It's hell getting old.

Hulles said...

Jen, any guy that hangs with you for long better be packing heat, is all I can say.

Cristina, it was great, wasn't it? And you never did tell me exactly what went down on the train.... Probably just as well, I know Isabel. Love you lots.

pj, yeah, it was craggy rocks and pieds noirs or however you say that and one nice guy who ran a pizza joint. You probably missed La Encina because the mail train ran from Alicante to Madrid back down to Marbella, like spokes on a wheel.

Casti, valeu, meu gata. Bjs do me.

Lo, thank you lots! I remain YMAIM, Hulles.

Merlin said...

Pretty well all of Spain sucks unless you are either :

i) In Barcelona or north-west of it.

ii)In Bilbao or west of it.

I share your confusion about "protective instincts". Of course you have to have someone to protect in the first place or the problem simply never arises (along with so many other things).


Hulles said...

Merlin, I disagree completely with your "pretty well all of Spain sucks" comment. The only two places that I thought sucked per se were Murcia and Alicante. I loved all the rest of it. Maybe it was the company; traveling with three beautiful women enhances any trip, even if two of them are jailbait.

Merlin said...


Indeed I guess that many of our perceptions about a place are purely subjective and coloured by our experiences of the place and the company we were in.

Much of Spain is not a "happy" place for me as opposed to France and Italy which are.