By this point, it should be common knowledge that I harbor a slight admiration of Shakira. I can't really explain why; she just captivates me in a way that only 17,000 cerebrum-sizzling viewings of the "Wherever, Whenever" music video can do. I don't try and hide this endearment; rather, I express my love in just about every possible medium, all on the outside chance that she reads / sees / hears / feels (huh?) my enchanting love mumblings and hip-wiggles her way over into the East Village and, unless irony is really a bitch, into my apartment.
And so, it should come as no surprise that I own a Shakira t-shirt. Or rather, the faded remnants of a t-shirt that has seen some wear, albeit briefly, every single day of my life. That being the case, it was without thought that I wore the shirt to work one afternoon at my Greenwich Village bar. To me, this was natural. To others it might be pathetic, but to me, that is frequently also natural.
Upon arriving, I wandered into the kitchen to find our three Spanish bar-backs going about their work. I greeted them, and they all turned, greeted me and then paused. This caused me to pause, as I'm sure the abrupt stoppage of three foreigners would do for many people. I stood there and silently watched the three men, who in turn looked at one another and then back at me. Finally, one pointed at me, laughed and yelled "Shakira!" There was another brief, silent pause before I nodded and laughed back, and then the other two men took up the chant, yelling "Shakira!" as well. Caught up in the moment and hoping that three illegal aliens and one uber-obsessor chanting in the back of a bar would summon the woman I too began yelling "Shakira!" with the fellas, not at all understanding what was taking place.
A few days later, a peculiar thing happened. The next time I went into work, it was (reluctantly) without the Shakira shirt. I was going about my business in typical fashion, preparing the bar and setting up the dining room, when the bar-backs wandered out of the kitchen to back the bar and such. I turned to greet them, but before I could, it happened again: one of them pointed at me, laughed and yelled "Shakira!" Then the three of them erupted into a massively incoherent orgy of Spanish. This puzzled me. The bar backs, as far as I could tell, were addressing me as Shakira. That, you may remember, is not my name.
Now, I don't know Spanish. I do know that when someone is pointing at you, they're probably referring to you. Likewise, when someone is pointing at you and saying "Shakira" while you're wearing a Shakira t-shirt, they're probably referring to your t-shirt. When a group of people point at you and laugh and chant "Shakira" when you're not wearing a Shakira t-shirt, they're probably referring to the fact that you're a big, big pansy. To this allegation, I'm left with no defense.
The chants of Shakira continued throughout the day, to the point where I couldn't walk into the kitchen without a festive chorus of "Shakira!" echoing throughout the restaurant. Any notion of authority that I held over these men was gone, as is usually the case when your employees begin referring to you as a blonde Latin songstress. I've got nothing against Shakira (unfortunately), and hey, I'm a fun guy, but something about this whole episode just nagged me. Perhaps it was the slight difference between being "infatuated with Shakira" and being "called Shakira."
The shirt took something of a sabbatical at that point. Not altogether, for that's impossible. Rather, it was reserved exclusively for appearances in the FHM office, wherein the strange reactions and doctor, there are strange reactions all right are at least understandable. Back at the bar, meanwhile, the "Shakira" references slowly subsided as my tearful, quasi-communicative convulsions became more extravagant, and eventually the bar backs returned to calling me by some unintelligible foreign phrase. Some of them even got into the habit of calling me "Neil," which would then of course be followed by another unintelligible foreign phrase. But at least it was progress.
Cynics involved in this whole episode are quick to point out two things: firstly, that Shakira's natural language is Spanish, and if our love is to blossom, I should probably put some effort into learning her native tongue. Secondly, the indignity of being called "Shakira" should come as nothing new to someone who considers a worn t-shirt of that same woman to be formal-wear. To the latter of these attacks, I say: yes. To the former, however, I contend that Shakira and I can communicate with another language: the language of love. It is a language that we will create together as our romance blossoms into a rapturous and breathtaking flower of bliss.
Which is convenient, "'cause I'm sure as hell not going to learn Spanish.