Real Talk: Why I Don’t (Usually) Hook Up

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Not until the age of 22 did I hook up with someone, in any capacity, at a Basque festival.  This was not for lack of options or desire in my younger years.  I’ve had a few awkward Basque romances in my day, but I never took them anywhere near a Basque festival out of fear of judgment.  I didn’t want to be labeled a slut for having a good time.  Also, my mom and dad would have killed me.  (Hi, Mom!  I know you’re reading this.  Don’t judge me.)

We’ve all heard stories of girls with reputations, the “sluts.”  Maybe we have spread these stories ourselves as the latest hot gossip, passing judgment to pass the time at long summer picnics.  I myself am guilty of this crime against sisterhood, so I’m not here to preach about what an awful person you are if you gossip too.

But I feel it needs to be said that our Basque communities are one of the few spaces left in our very American lives where young women are criticized harshly for expressing their sexuality, whether in public or behind closed (motel room) doors.  It’s just a known rule for us: Don’t do anything unless you want everyone you know–and, perhaps more importantly, everyone your parents know–to find out.

But finally at age 22, a curious blend of boredom and not caring anymore led me to a dark storage closet with a cute drunk.  (Don’t ask who.  I won’t tell.)  I cringe at how high school the entire thing was, but it was fun.

And the thing is, I thought I didn’t care about judgments any more.  But the guilt and embarrassment I felt afterwards told me a different story.  I was so ashamed about the hook up that I didn’t even want to tell my friends, which goes completely against girl code.  You have to tell your friends who you’re hooking up with.  It’s practically law.

For days after “the incident,” as I started calling it, a weird mix of girlish giddiness and Catholic guilt plagued me.  If it hadn’t been with a Basque guy at a Basque event, I’m positive I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

Go fly a kite

Haters, go fly a kite.

Did my friend for the night feel racked with the same tumultuous emotions?  I can’t say for sure, but all signs point to: No, not in the slightest.  He told one of my friends about the tryst very soon afterward (Cat’s out of the bag!  Thanks, bro!) and spent the rest of the summer hooking up with girls at Basque festivals near and far.  His friends applauded him for being such a stud, for having such a way with women.

Am I bitter?  Not in the sense that you might think.  I’m not bitter that he’s moved on to other people, but I am bitter about how easily he is able to do so.  I envy his freedom.  I envy the male privilege that allows him to do as he likes with very few social repercussions.  This privilege that is not afforded to me or my Basque sisters.

While hooking up is the ultimate sin, sometimes all we have to do to earn the slut label is dress nicely (“She’s trying too hard.”) or dance with one person for most of the night (“Did you see how she was all over him?”).  Do a combination of these things often enough and your reputation follows you for years, maybe even decades.

I’ve heard of awesome women in their thirties still being talked about negatively for their behavior as young adults.  I know women who have distanced themselves from their Basque communities, showing up less and less frequently to club events because of judgmental gossip.

Petty gossip shouldn’t matter, but it does.  I hate that it happens, and I hate that it leads women to feel alienated from their communities.  But gossip truly has an affect on our actions, because these are communities many of us plan on being involved in for the rest of our lives.  And we don’t want something we did in our teens and twenties to dictate people’s opinions of us now or later on.

So I open it up to you, dear readers, as I’m sure many of you have had experience in this area.

How do we fight these double standards in our communities?

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15 comments on “Real Talk: Why I Don’t (Usually) Hook Up

  1. Josie says:

    We’ve ALL been there. Nobody can deny it. Black sheep or perfect angels. You’ve just got to offset it by doing good in the community. I had two famous man sluts up there say they hit this and even though it was clearly false it remained an issue for a bit. I’m glad you had the courage to write about it because its been an issue since the 80’s

  2. Gaby says:

    I couldn’t agree more. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m 23 and still haven’t “hooked up” or had my fun with a basque boy. Even when it comes to other things, like getting drunk, it’s really looked down on when women do it, but hilarious when men do it. It’s a little sad to me that in 2013 we still have double standards

  3. Rebellious One says:

    Oh Lord!!! So happy you wrote about this. So true in so many ways. I have been the talk and let’s just say still the talk with some elders about my overly adventurous past ;-). I like how they still remember me of the incident that occured back in the day. Now married with kids and they still like to bring it up. I on the otherhand, put them in there place in a very nice way. Then the conversation stops. I am my father’s daughter afterall 🙂 I only wish those who like to dwell on the past should look into the future. Thank you for writing this article.

    • hellabasque says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rebellious One!
      I love your line: “I only wish those who like to dwell on the past should look into the future.” That’s such a good way of putting things. Let’s focus on the great things to come instead of a few incidents in the past!

      • Rebellious One says:

        No doubt. Heading to the Basque Country now. Hopefully my stay isn’t memorable that way. LOL!

  4. Amaya says:

    This is something that needs to be addressed and warrants more discussion. I personally have been gossiped about and have gossiped about others! I’m no saint! Its how we’ve been taught to interact within our culture. But how do we change this? This blog post is for getting real, so lets get real. I have found myself finding excuses not to go to Basque events because I don’t have the energy to face the petty gossip or cold stares of judgement…and I’ve never even hooked up (let alone held hands) with anyone at a Basque festival! I’m too afraid of the labels and the judgement. Even as a woman in 2013, my reputation is really all I have. This is incredibly sad because I have such a passion and a love for my heritage..but that same love is not extended to me easily as a Basque woman. I’ve been called a ‘skank’ for having a loose button in my dance costume. I’ve recently been heartbroken by a Basque man who is already dating another woman… no one seems to talk about that. No big deal, “boys will be boys”. but if I were to show up with a date at a Basque festival so soon after splitting, I would be deemed slutty and promiscuous. How is that fair? I’m not glorifying promiscuity by any means. But a woman shouldn’t have to suppress her femininity or sexuality for fear of her reputation being tarnished. And ladies, we are the worst about this!!! Whether its a deep seeded jealousy that another woman has enough confidence to rise above what people think of her and (God forbid) have a little flirt or whether we are just biologically hard wired to be competitive when it comes to the opposite sex…we aren’t helping ourselves. As women we have to stop using words like “slut”, “skank”, “hoe”, etc. because we are not only putting down our fellow sisters…but we are also putting down ourselves when we perpetuate that kind of rhetoric ( even if its just jokingly, the true nature of these words isn’t kind and it isn’t loving.) Woman have been incredibly instrumental in keeping our culture alive here in the states. Who kept those scrapbooks full of photos? Who passed down those delicious hand written recipe cards? Who even told you you need to find a nice Basque boy and have lots of Basque babies? (Do you see the irony here?) We’ve helped retain our history…but we can also shape our future. This is about equality. At the the end of the day its not about men vs woman…its about people treating people with kindness and respect and I think its particularly important to remember that this Basque community is the product of one thing: A collective love and adoration of our culture. Why can’t we make that love equal?

    Thanks for reading. I hope this spoke to at least one person…don’t be afraid to share your voice.

    • hellabasque says:

      Well put, Amaya!! I agree that we have to be careful about how we speak of other women, because really it all just comes back to us. Calling another woman a slut for certain behaviors can just come back to bite us when we find ourselves in a similar position.

  5. Eric says:

    Great post, Anne-Marie.
    Having dealt with similar issues in our community (gossip and criticism without thought) myself, growing up, here is what I’ve learned: live your life, be the great person you are. Love your family, love your real friends, and try not to (easier said than done, I know) care about what is said about you. No one talking smack about you is worth your time. As long as you live your life accepting your choices and have the support of loved ones, you’re golden! The gossip mentality won’t change in our community – at least that is my perspective. I think the best way to handle it is to do what you want to do, know you’re a good person, and keep your loved ones (friends and family) close.

    • hellabasque says:

      Thanks for the advice, Eric. I’m at the point now where I’m starting to realize the truth in Dr. Seuss’s words: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” It’s just unfortunate there’s so much criticism that gets thrown around.

  6. Julianne says:

    Brilliant post, girl. Even though I’m not Basque (you know my Filipino roots), a lot of what you say definitely resonates with me. There’s always something about gendered prescriptive norms that makes me wonder whether my behavior is socially acceptable or whether the social expectations are simply restrictive (because I know I’ve internalized some of these standards, it’s how we were raised). Anyway, while these standards work in other contexts and times, I feel that growing up in America (whether we’re Basque-American, Filipino-American, etc), hybridity, new generations and what we identify with definitely sets up a chance for deliberation and reconsideration for these standards, for sure. Word.

    • hellabasque says:

      Thanks for chiming in, Julianne! Internalized social expectations are not merely a Basque American thing, they’re part of being human. And I’m all for reconsidering those standards!

  7. […] bother us.  You know the ones–they criticize, judge, put us down.  A lot of the comments on Monday’s post had to do with ignoring the haters, so it seems like a good many of you already know this […]

  8. […] you read my last post on this topic, Real Talk: Why I Don’t Usually Hook Up, you know I never actually hooked up with anyone. But every year, the speculation would be there. […]

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