Being Served A Dose Of ‘Woke’ In Urban Mexico

A mile in their high heels, as it were

Time To Read: 10 mins | August 7, 2017

Here’s an anatomical fact for you: I, Malcolm Freberg, have a penis.

It’s a condition that comes with all sorts of benefits. I don’t need between forty-five minutes and three weeks to get ready for a night out. I’m not required to wear form-fitting pants that’d reveal my toothpick legs. My crabbiness doesn’t get exponentially worse once a month, and I’m never required to cook a fetus in my belly.

There’s lots of benefits to being a man. Unless you’re goal is winning RuPaul’s Drag Race, makeup is a non-issue. Grown a bit of a gut? A looser fitting shirt is just as appropriate as a fitted something ruther for a night out. Shaving one’s face is occasionally necessary, but these days my gender has even made the unkempt look fashionable.

Point is, for all the reasons, men have it easier than women. So when the opposite sex is taking a decade to prepare themselves for the outside world, you really can’t get all that upset about it.

My date in Cabo San Lucas was a perfect example. I had dressed for sushi night in the same amount of time it took the Falcons to fall apart in the Super Bowl; she, on the other hand, was taking as long as the entire regular season. But I’d learned how to deal with these situations long ago:


find a game on TV, have plenty of beer on hand, and make your dinner reservation 15 minutes later than you told her.

As it was her first trip to Mexico’s second biggest tourist town — Cancun being the first — the plan was to get out of the hotel for a night and explore the town. We (read: she) had looked up a sushi restaurant just a mile or so from our resort. So for the first time in 3 days we’d get rid of the t-shirts and bathing suits, and instead dress presentably. Or at least half of us would.

For me, ‘presentable’ meant a collared shirt more wrinkled than Gandalf’s scrotum. For her it meant a tight dress, done-up hair and a make-up routine that, by my count, included no less than seventeen thousand products and procedures requiring multiple mirrors and lighting conditions.

The result was that she looked fantastic, as though we were headed for a night out on Broadway, while I was dressed for a cockfighting match in Tijuana. How any female has the patience to date me remains a mystery.

After throwing out the beer cans, we took the elevator to the lobby and asked the concierge for a taxi. Fun fact: when the girl on your arm is dressed to the nines in a hotel lobby populated mostly by festively plump middle aged vacationers in tank tops, you attract a lot of staring.

Unfortunately, that’s also true in the Mexican suburbs.

Google Maps had placed the pin for our restaurant in the middle of a small, tightly packed neighborhood north of the city’s hotel zone. The cab dropped us off half a block away – there was a one way street – and took off. It took another twenty seconds after that, once the cab was well out of earshot, to realize there was no restaurant, sushi or otherwise, anywhere on this extremely rundown street.

I’ve been traveling for nearly a year now, and shit likes this happens more often than I care to admit. Not enough research leads to being dropped in Call of Duty maps. The children stare, the dogs growl, and the adults think, “Why the shit is that gringo here, and why is he glaring at everyone?”

Resting bitch face is commonly attributed to girls, but I’ve developed the habit in less-than-savory situations to discourage the riff raff. Not that I get picked on all that often – a 6’2” guy who still has some residual muscle mass from college football isn’t an easy mark.


But a tall, beautiful white girl in eveningwear on the wrong side of the tracks gets all the unwanted attention.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Every car slowed down noticeably. People were looking out of house windows. Wolf-whistling everywhere, and this despite the fact that the guy next to her was twice the size of most Mexican men.

A term has been thrown around for the past year or so: ‘woke’. To be ‘woke’ ostensibly means that someone who’s not black understands the perspective and struggle of being an African American. Used in a sentence, “Chad and I smoked a bowl while watching Fear Factor and he agreed with me about police brutality — Chad is woke.”

I’ve always hated the word. How can anyone completely understand the perspective of a minority from which they don’t belong? That’s not the intention of course; it’s simply meant to imply that someone ‘gets it’ more than average, but it does set an arbitrary bar that people who can’t possibly relate feel a need to strive towards. I’d idyllically just prefer that everyone genuinely tries, without having to fight for a designation that, given the definition, should be unattainable.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard ‘woke’ applied to women and men before, but that night in Cabo, watching an absurdly confident girl wither on account of the unwanted attention, I got a taste of perspective. Am I ‘woke’? No, because I saw thirty minutes of drama that half the species deals with every day of their life. But I got a glimpse of it.

Were I alone, I’d have checked my phone’s map and walked to the nearest busiest street to hail a cab. With a panicking date in a tight dress, we found the first crowded modern convenience store and took a few minutes to settle her breathing. A bit of Googling revealed that the restaurant she’d found was actually two miles the other direction (thanks Apple Maps) but if we were to head just a few hundred yards west to the main highway, we’d find a different chain sushi spot that – and this was now required on account of the stress – served alcohol.

The walk to this new restaurant was just as aggressive as the first — a pick-up truck with a bed full of construction workers all shouted over each other for attention.


Sometimes you don’t have to understand the language to know what’s being said deserves a punch in the face.

By the time we reached our destination, any hope for a normal evening was spoiled. We ordered too many rolls, drank too much tequila (they were out of sake but honestly, try this some time — really wasn’t terrible), and slowly tried to recover a mood of frivolity.

The check was half the size we’d have paid at home but likely triple what this small restaurant was used to. Which would have boosted the mood, except that we realized there was one last obstacle to getting home: no ride. We were less than a mile from the hotel, but walking was now utterly out of the question. Even the thought of being out in the town stole whatever lightheartedness my date had regained.

I went to the hostess and, in broken Spanish, asked if it was possible for them to dial a taxi. Immediately she called over a few of the waitstaff and they chatted amongst themselves, looking through their phones and trying to help. Completely unnecessary on their part – the restaurant was busy, they had no obligation to help two depressed gringos trying to get home.

Which makes the next gesture all the more endearing: one of the male servers gave me a thumbs up, then jogged out the back of the store. The hostess explained that he, who was currently holding down multiple tables in the back of the store, would give us a ride home. No pay, no fee, no tip. Just a quick trip home as a courtesy.

Afterwards, walking to the hotel bar for a nightcap, the smiles still weren’t as large as they might have been. Completely unable to grasp what it’d been like for her – must regularly be like for her – I took it as my job to simply match her mood and be supportive. But I couldn’t help but appreciate that the mood wasn’t quite so dire as it had been. Still stressed, yes, but now mixed with an optimism about people that’d only temporarily been forgotten.


photo: docked boat in aswan, egypt. there’s water, so it’s kinda like cabo

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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