Here we are at the end of the road: The Breakup. I am sorry to hear things are over. Keep telling yourself it wasn’t right, wasn’t meant to be, insert-platitude-of-your-choice-here. As Paula Schargorodsky describes in her New York Times Op-Doc 35 and Single that made the rounds in the porteño circles and beyond, it probably was an “intense and impossible” relationship after all.
Are things really over, though? Is it really the end of the road? As with just about everything in Argentina, from the exchange rate to the average relationship, things likely are a bit more convoluted than they seem. And that’s what makes you feel alive and renders it all maddeningly thrilling and thrillingly maddening all at the same time, right? If you agree with that statement, then you probably fall under the medical condition—yet to be published in the DSM-IV in its Argentine form—of being histérico/a.
Just kidding! Or am I?
About this ambivalence and uncertainty motif: there’s something important we need to talk about.
1. There’s the condition of being histérico/a.
There is an underlying current running through all of this, “this” being anything and everything that has to do with romantic relationships in Argentina. It is the condition of being histérico/a, and it is inextricably built into the framework of the Argentine dating scene.
It’s funny, this being histérico thing—that is, funny in a way that the only reason you’re laughing is because you’re not really sure how else to react. Though one would think that in recognizing a problem one also would attempt to remedy it, Argentines will be the first to warn you about the histérico/a business. The literal translation of the word is “hysterical,” but in Argentina it describes a specific pattern of behavior, which is essentially seducing for seduction’s sake.
One Argentine friend described being “histérico/a” can be as saying or doing the opposite of what you really want, feel or mean. Another friend gives people a bit more benefit of the doubt and said she thinks it means just not being able to make one’s mind up. Whatever it is, it involves constant mind-changing and disposition-flipping that leaves the person on the receiving end so confused and turned around they don’t know which direction the Río de la Plata is in.
Generally speaking, someone who is histérico/a treats relationships as zero-sum game. There is a tireless chase to woo someone, and once that person comes around, the initial interest has somehow dissipated. Once the pursued individual fades out, assuming interest from the pursuer is gone, then it’s back to the chase. It might sound like a basic courtship back-and-forth, but don’t forget to mix in the characteristic Argentine passion and drama. Friends’ wild experiences with it have gone from receiving declarations of true love to enduring radio silence to propositions of “I want to marry you.”
The bad news is: Many Argentines are openly histérico/a. Whether it’s something that is cultivated—my guess—or really cannot be controlled, as some Argentines will rationalize their behavior by saying, stands to be tested. The good news is that, generally speaking, you can pick up on whether someone has histérico/a tendencies. In fact, they might even warn you of it, an admonition tinged with pride. Choose your own amorous Argentine adventure!
Perhaps Neil finds humor in the histérico/as.
2. It’s not over until it’s over—and it’s never over.
As one of my friends likes to say here, “It’s never goodbye in Buenos Aires.” This holds at all levels of courtship and relationships, as you will find if you are here for an relatively substantial amount of time. That guy you met at a party your first week here thinks nothing is odd about reaching out once every six months, you know, a beau geste reminder that, hey, he still considers you an option and you better not have forgotten about him.
At the (apparent) close of a relationship? Well, what goes around comes around and no one really fades into the fabric of another’s dating past. Tales of exes calling at any and all hours, for example, and nonstop pleas for second/third/fourth chances with the assumption they will be granted are common. Even when you think you’ve said your last goodbye, said your last bit, there he or she is again (or there you are again somehow) employing the WhatsApp forces (remember: The Hunt) that be to deliver that one final word—again.
Now, you really, really think it’s over? Here’s what to ready yourself for.
3. It always ends in drama.
Is there really such thing as a clean breakup, anywhere or ever? Here, definitely not. We discussed in Field Guide to Dating in Argentina: The Hunt how Argentines are deftly skilled in the art of the chamuyo, and that tongue is double-edged sword. Those same professions and acts of love that won you over at the start come boomeranging back, but time antagonistic. Argentines, those passionate people they are, often are capable of bringing out depths of fervor and related emotionally charged reactions that result in heaving screaming and sobbing fests even the most composed and sangfroid person did not even know they were physically capable of having. And don’t be surprised if multiple generations of the family get involved, as well as cousins twice removed. Stay strong and resist taking a leading role in the telenovela your life has somehow become.
4. You break up with it all.
You and his sibling might have been boliche besties well before you and your ex even met, but blood is thicker than Campari. When a breakup happens, people take sides like it’s the next coming of the Superclásico. You better bet that the places and people that were his or hers before you came along fall right back on that divide. This isn’t about who was right or wrong, even if parties clearly fall in one camp or the other. All ties are cut and things get territorial. Don’t worry, though. CrossFit is so trendy here right now, you can find another gym right around the corner.
Feeling ready to get back out there?
Let’s get a refresher on what got us here in the first place: