When passive-aggressiveness was invented, there is no doubt in my mind that its perfect execution would be in the hands of Islanders.
The Island is the last frontier of third world complexes, remnants of colonial life when the European master pinned criollos, mestizos, and negros against each other. This unfortunately resulted in many Islanders being quite insecure, as evidenced by the use of flowery discourse (See April 9, 2010) as a way to overcompensate their pseudo-intellectuality.
But the more generalized mechanism of defense that conceals the insecurity that surfaces as jealousy and perhaps even envy, is the crack-a-joke comment. This serves as a way to mask the fact that We will unavoidably acquire and accomplish more than Them. Thus it is no surprise that while on occasion you will get the genuine Qué lindos están tus zapatos or ¿Te vas para Irlanda? Me alegro por ti, it is more common to hear Aaaajo…¿y esos zapaticos? (note the emphasis on the diminutive) and ¡¿A IRLANDA?! Y a bu’car qué?
Dominican passive-aggressive jokes serve two purposes. The first one being to ridicule, so that in turn (and as discussed in previous entries) They appear superior to Us. It makes sense. The most effective way to shroud the resentment of not being able to attain what we have is by engaging in gentle mockery (what I call simpatiquismo) that compensates for the ultimate question of self-reflection: Why haven’t I accomplished the same?
The second purpose is to avoid giving you a compliment at all costs, because again in doing so, Islanders are put in the vulnerable position of admitting that you possess something they lack. However, while a joke at least acknowledges that you have done something worth noticing, the most obvious proof of Islander jealousy is the complete absence of a any remark whatsoever. This kind of envy corrodes Islanders so, they’ll remain completely silent even when a crowd of people is raving about your latest achievement.
The place of choice where Islanders are most likely to utter such unsolicited remarks is not coincidental. It happens strategically at a rather large congregation of people that is small enough to capture the attention of all participants and large enough for the group to be considered an audience. In other words, in a gathering of four to six people, consider yourself somewhat safe. Eight to sixteen people means you’re screwed. Be prepared to face an unwelcome “funny” comment about the way you dress, your travels, your career choices, your sex life. Nothing is off limits. My advice to you is to polish your comebacks and carefully formulate one-liners that reminds them that if they keep it up, they better know not to ask of you ese favorcito de encargar una cosa de allá. I must warn you though, if you elicit an “Ay pero era relajando que yo ‘taba no te pongas así, tú sí que te lo coges a pecho,” I am sorry to say you have failed, for you came across too aggressively and now They’re playing the victim. Your goal is leave Them puzzled, unsettled, and a tad bristled about your sense of humor. This should result in your opponent’s release of an uncomfortable chortle.
Here are my two favorite examples. During an angelito, a Dominican-York participant revealed herself as her husband’s secret santa. As she lovingly said that the surprise was also his Christmas gift, someone from the back shouted: “¡Diiiiiiiiiablo lo mató con un sólo regalo!” Smiling, she replied: “Lo maté pero chequea la bala.” As everyone poured their oooohhhhs and ahhhhhs at the ever so recognizable robin’s egg colored box delicately tied in a satin white bow, the culprit insisted “Mierda pero ella no ta fácil” as she elbowed me in search of a sidekick comment. “Sí…ella de seguro lo trajo de allá porque aquí no aparece eso,” I punctuated as I savored my digestif.
My favorite anecdote though, is the time when a close friend of mine (also a Yorkie) decided to cut her hair Demi Moore-circa-1990 short. During one of her visits to the Island, she was invited to a soirée. As the group of eight was enjoying the night’s tropical breeze, like clockwork, someone uttered: “Yo no sé por qué a las mujeres les coge con pelarse a lo macho. ¿Y Pablo no pensará que está con un hombre cuando te abraza, Eliana? To what she responded: “Él solo tiene que poner las manos más para abajo para darse cuenta que no es con un hombre que está”
Oh snap! I thought as I quickly downed my ceniza.
“Mentira Eliana. Te queda muy bien tu pelada,” he retraced with an uncomfortable chortle.