The Two Colleagues and the Pregnant María del Pilar — Talavera de la Reina, 1980USEFOR EBOOK

1980, Talavera de la Reina

I was teaching English privately in my apartment on the Calle del Prado. One little group was made up of two colleagues who were advanced students of English and who worked together at the Colgate company, just outside Talavera de la Reina. They were always punctual, and always very well dressed, complete with suit, tie and shiny shoes.  They were always very formal and respectful, even using 'usted' with me, despite the fact that we were  around the same age, in our early thirties. They had studied English extensively and were coming to me for conversation. Many times I'd use National Geographic as a way to get them to converse in English.  They thought the articles and photographs fascinating and the quality of the paper outstanding. Sometimes we just chatted about this and that. I always liked the challenge of guiding the conversation and then later of coming up with a spur of the moment dictation based on what we had just been talking about. It was a good way to review new vocabulary words and pertinent grammatical points.
Alejandro, the slightly chubby one with dark curly hair always moved his chair a little bit apart from the other student, Roberto. I sometimes wondered if he were higher up at the company, or if he had more money. Or, maybe he sat apart because he was single and the other one, Roberto, was married with children. In fact, by dint of his being single meant Alejandro did indeed have more discretionary money to spend on himself.
One day, I learned something quite surprising about the two colleagues, something that I've never forgotten and which reveals how they regarded women in 1980 in Talavera de la Reina.
Alejandro announced, "Guess what I'm going to purchase?"
Roberto and I  sat in silence, waiting for some important revelation. What could Alejandro be going to purchase?
"A video cassette recorder." Alejandro beamed, his face literally lighting up as he awaited our reaction.  
"That must cost a fortune!  A video cassette recorder?!" Roberto, who was tall and skinny and who always wore a white shirt was stunned. 
"Yes, it is VERY expensive. It's the latest craze." Alejandro couldn't stop grinning from ear to ear. 
"What are you going to do with this video cassette recorder? What's it for?" Roberto frowned so much his bushy eyebrows came together forming a long fuzzy line of sheer perplexity. "Must be fine for some. My kids need shoes. My wife needs new clothes. I don't have the luxury of buying junk."
Alejandro shifted in his seat and folded his arms. "It's not junk. It's the future. Everybody will have a video cassette recorder one day."
"But what's it for, and how does it work?" Roberto hunched over looking down on Alejandro.
"I don't really know. I think you can look at films." Alejandro laughed and patted Roberto on his arm.
They both looked at me with blank stares as if to ask me, "Do you know how a video cassette recorder works?"
Now, I was and still am technically inept, and I hadn't a clue how to work a V.C.R. I think I had only ever seen one in a magazines. "I think you connect it to your television?"
We sat in silence until Alejandro piped up, "Well, I'm going to buy one anyway. I'll figure it out."
Roberto glared at Alejandro, probably miffed that he could use his pay check to buy something that he  too would like. 
"How are your families?"  I changed the subject, hoping to keep the conversation going in a non-confrontational manner, for normally all my students were happy to talk about their families. 
"My wife is SO jealous. She really is jealous." Roberto bemoaned.
"Why is she jealous?" Alejandro, the V.C.R. Man could hardly get the words out, before he added smugly, "I'm still single. And if I ever get married, well I'm the one who'll be in charge. I wouldn't allow her to be jealous." He slapped his hand on his leg.
"She won't let me go to London! And I should go. Shouldn't I? I mean, how am I to perfect my English?"
V.C.R. Man grinned salaciously. "You want to go to London without your wife? To learn English? Is that all you want to do?" He laughed and added, "I hear Soho is an interesting place!"
"It would just be for a week or two, that's all."
"Even if you were to get up to something in London, your wife still shouldn't complain. She's busy with housework and bringing up the kids, after all."
"I agree! How am I to improve my English? I wouldn't get up to anything, you understand." 
They shrugged their shoulders in unison. Agreement had been met. The wife was indeed jealous, and should let her husband go to London.
"Couldn't you take your wife with you?" What a leading question I asked!
The two men frowned at me.
"She's happier taking care of the house and our children. Anyway, London isn't a place to take your wife!"
"Why not?" I inquired, surprised at his comment about London.
"There's Soho. Places like that. Definitely not somewhere I'd want my wife to be. Absolutely not." Roberto slapped his hand on the table.
I added, "There are lots of places in London. You don't actually have to visit Soho."
My words fell on deaf ears. The conversation wasn't going anywhere at that point. Time to change the topic once more.
"How is work?"  That should keep them speaking English for a while.
"Do you know Maite? " V.C.R. Man addressed his colleague.
"Of course. She's pregnant. Everyone knows about her."
I looked enquiringly at both of them. There must have been some other part to this story about Maite. Why did everyone know her? 
"She's not married!" They both spluttered at the same time. They gesticulated with their hands as if wiping the floor with Maite the pregnant girl. 
"You disapprove?" I asked them.
"Absolutely!" V.C.R. Man had no doubts at all about his disapproval. "She's not married!"  He loosened his tie.
Roberto sat on the edge of his seat and nodded his head in agreement with V.C.R. Man.
"Then, do you disapprove of the man who got her pregnant?" I was genuinely puzzled at their attitude towards the pregnant Maite. 
"What?!  Why would we disapprove of him? " Alejandro's mouth gaped open.
They looked at one another in total shock that someone would even consider that they would disapprove of the man who got Maite pregnant.
"He's a man." Roberto leaned back in his chair. "He's a man."
It was interesting to reflect on how women were treated under Franco's rule in Cadiz,  back in the early seventies. There we were, in 1980, in Talavera de la Reina, and the double standard still existed. Women were supposed to cook, clean, take care of children, and most definitely NOT get pregnant if they were not married. Now, men, of course, without a doubt had their own set of rules.

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