Wherever you go in Spain, you will hear a steady stream of compliments. ‘Guapo!’ old ladies coo adoringly at passing children – ‘gorgeous!’. ‘Hasta luego, guapa!’ girls call out to their friends as they say goodbye. So many Spanish people have this trait that it makes me think it must be genetic. I shall christen it the ‘Guapo Gene’.
What is so wonderful about the Guapo Gene is that it doesn’t matter if you are obese, bald, have a patch over one eye or spinach between your teeth; someone, somewhere, will call you guapo.
The more cynical among the ex-pats here would have you believe that it is down to a fundamental duplicity in the Spanish character, sown during the religous persecution of the Second Republic when tens of thousands of Catholic monks and nuns were massacred and their chapels looted by communist-minded Republicans, and watered throughout the highly conservative Franco years, when Republicans were in turn forced to take their beliefs underground for fear of being taken into the woods and shot.
It might well be true that people’s opinions here are hard to decode. On an average market day in Órgiva it is not uncommon to see German sadhus in full orange regalia, French monks in Tibetan Buddhist gear, Algerian Sufis in white robes and wildly coloured turbans, and even, on occasion, an elderly gentleman in a fine suit wearing a green moustache. Not once have I seen a Huevero* bat an eyelid.
However, I prefer the theory of the Guapo gene. In the same way that smiling actually increased the levels of seratonin in the brain, thus making you feel happy, and that laughing falsely as is practised in Laughter Yoga leads almost immediately to riotous real laughter, I have come to believe that telling the world it is beautiful actually makes it seem more beautiful.
Furthermore, being told you are gorgeous on a regular basis – as anyone who reads those hallowed institutions of scientific knowledge, women’s magazines, already knows – makes you feel gorgeous. The belief is implanted, watered, and in time it takes root. Real flowers blossom out of plastic ones.
It might sound fake, but on that everyday level of waking up in the morning without a terminal sense of dread about the impending awfulness of the day and the utter pointlessness of life, I will choose to think of the glass as half-awesome. And the glints of light in the water will be made brilliant through its half-awesome lens.
* Hueveros/as are people from Órgiva, from the word huevo, or egg. A huevera, incidentally, is an egg-carton. The name supposedly dates back to a time when the church’s twin steeples were painted egg-yellow.