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Yolanda tells the story, in the first person, of how for
a few years she was the wildest one of her sisters. In high school
she was vivacious, and had a lot of callers, though no serious relationships.
In college, however, she could not keep the callers interested for
long, since she refused to sleep with any of them. She went to college
during the late sixties and the sexual revolution. She insists that
she was Americanized enough not to be concerned with her Dominican
Catholicism, so she did not have a good excuse for her prudishness.
In her first English class, she met Rudy Brodermann Elmenhurst, the
third. Yolanda felt out of place and foreign, and appreciated Rudy's
odd name, his lateness, and his acne scars. He had "bedroom eyes,"
was able to laugh at himself, and did not bring a pen to class. She
felt a shiver of sexual chemistry as he asked her if she had an extra
one. Yolanda did not have an extra pen, and felt awkward while explaining
this in a whisper. But she handed him a small red pencil inscribed
with the Americanized version of her name, Jolinda. The pencil had
been sharpened down to the J, and Yolanda was embarrassed that she
had saved the pencil for such a long time.
That night, Rudy stopped by her room as Yolanda was reciting
a love sonnet she had written for class. He claimed he only wanted
to return her tiny pencil, but then asked her out to lunch. Yolanda
was confused but agreed to have lunch anyway. They had lunch and
then also had dinner, because they became so absorbed in each other. They
wrote a pornographic poem together, and Rudy explained all the sexual
double meanings found within images of nature. Yolanda was a very
innocent virgin and did not understand Rudy's strategies of flirtation.
He would linger in her room late at night before kissing her goodbye
behind her ear.
Yolanda felt that her innocence regarding sex and drugs
was related to her situation as an immigrant. The boys' dorm rooms hosted
parties with drugs and alcohol, and Yolanda was afraid that Rudy
would take advantage of her if she drank or smoked marijuana. She
told him she was afraid he might rape her, and his explicit language
shocked her when he denied it. They would kiss and cuddle, but she
refused to let him touch her. He would get frustrated with her "hangups,"
and Yolanda would get disgusted by the language he used to describe
sex. Yolanda feared pregnancy and also the possibility of being
She felt ashamed of her uptight and formal Old World parents and
envied his parents' relaxed attitude toward sex. Rudy thought sex
should be fun and she thought it should be meaningful and serious.
She stormed out of his room one night and put a crucifix under her
pillow for comfort. After they broke up, Yolanda missed Rudy and
noticed his poems were more explicitly affectionate. Yolanda fantasized
about Rudy coming back to her during the spring dance. But Rudy
brought another girl to the dance and Yolanda could tell by looking
at the way they interacted that they were sexually intimate.
Five years later, while Yolanda was in grad school and
finally sexually experienced, Rudy stopped by unexpectedly. He asked
if she wanted "to fuck" and she got offended and threw him out.
She messily uncorked his expensive bottle of wine and drank it from
the bottle like "some decadent wild woman who had just dismissed
an unsatisfactory lover."
The roots of Yolanda's problems with American men, from
Rudy all the way through to John, relate to the cultural differences
between Dominican and American attitudes toward sex and relationships. Her
fears of intimacy and sexual experimentation relate to her desires
to be appreciated and cherished as a pure and chaste virgin. Though
tempted by the mystery and pleasure of sex that Rudy seems to offer,
she is also terrified by the disrespect communicated through his
Yolanda places such importance on the hidden and subtle
meanings of words and language that she is easily offended by what
she feels is an inappropriate and crass way of talking about sex.
If Rudy had framed sex in terms of poetic romance, she might have
given in more easily to his advances. Because he talked about sex
using a distinctively American vocabulary, such as "laid," "balled,"
or "fucked," and used American slang like "69,"
Yolanda could not relate to his perspective on sex. She cannot think
of sex in the same ways that Americans did in the late sixties,
as a fun and harmless experience. She continues to see it in many
ways as her parents did, as a symbol of a long term and spiritual
commitment to another person. Yet the casual attitude that she finds
so offensive is what originally attracted her to Rudy in the first
place. She feels caught between the Dominican culture she finds
too oppressive and the American culture she finds too casual.
The conclusion confirms that Rudy is a selfish and insensitive person,
especially after having had some time to possibly mature. Though
Yolanda experiments with sex during the years following her relationship
with Rudy, she retains her insistence that a lover respect her attitudes
toward sex and frame desire within a vocabulary that she finds attractive
and respectful. She seems to have overcome some of her insecurities
regarding her frigidity, since she sees herself as a wild woman,
drinking alcohol and defining the boundaries and characteristics
of her sexual relationships.
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