The Time I Nearly Vandalized My Neighborhood

It was a beautiful day: a cool breeze tickled playfully at the back of my neck, alleviating me of the beads of sweat that had accumulated during the day; children played on the side of the street, filling the air with innocent laughter; and the clouds, well, the clouds were fluffy.

Maní and I were out for our afternoon walk.

As we approached the normal group of chavalos playing soccer in the road, I thought to myself, “Wow, how pleasant! How ingenious!” Earlier that day, they had taken the time to paint out the lines of the soccer field on the road, illustrating clear boundaries and goals. Generally chavalos just use rocks as goal posts.

Just as I was admiring their handiwork and obvious teamwork for having pitched in for paint and for having created, out of nowhere, a full-fledged campo de fútbol, I saw the atrocity that they had painted on the side of the road:

This woman haunted me as I stepped over her that day, as well as the days that followed. I thought of how these boys, these chavolos, made this woman so excessively big-busted and curvy, but seemed to forget other small details, like arms, feet, and you know, a face. This drawing epitomized how some men (and boys…stupid boys) view women, and it made me nauseous to step over it day in and day out.

But then I thought of something: a plan so maniacal and so devious that I’d show them not to objectify women.  Oh, I’d show them…

Remember that time I had a small cave-like bedroom so I painted a wall school bus yellow to brighten things up? If not, here is a reminder:

I happened to have some leftover school bus yellow paint, and I intended to put it to good use. I spent a couple days thinking of the perfect line–the perfect combination of words that would shame those chavalos. I even bought a paint brush. After much deliberation, I decided to wait until the dead of night, dress in clandestine black, venture out to the street, and do the following:

I wanted to cover that poor woman up with a bright school bus yellow dress, and write the words “Soy mujer; no soy objeto” (“I’m a woman; not an object”) next to her. That would teach them a thing or two about messing with women.

Yet when the time came, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I couldn’t vandalize the sidewalk. It may have been partially due to the fact that I can’t seem to stay up later than  9pm, or that I have since moved from that neighborhood, but I’d like to think that it was due to a profound realization on my part: that change is gradual and it doesn’t come from some indignant gringa trying to prove her point with extra paint.

It comes from talking with people, repeatedly, over a long period of time until something sticks, maybe. It comes from being a positive example. It comes from a myriad of places, and it must be the decision of the person to want to change. So, I realized, I’m doing my part without becoming a notorious vandal–I’m talking to people about these issues, and hopefully, one day, something I say will resonate with someone that says something that resonates with someone else, and so forth, until change happens.

Or not. Because as hard as it is to admit, sometimes chavalos are just chavalos. Boys are just boys. And sometimes boys do stupid things.

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