How a Bullfighter Scarred Me for Life at 14

Hand autographed postcard from “El Cesar” I got back in 1989 in Madrid, Spain.

First of all I should tell you I lived in Spain as a child from 1977 – 1979. My dad was studying Spanish classical guitar. Both my parents speak Spanish, and my brother and I grew up speaking it while we lived there. (but a 2 and 3-year-old’s vocabulary didn’t get me far.)

I’ve told you this so you know I have a deep abiding love for most things Spanish. This postcard was hard to come by. When this postcard came into my possession, I was 14-years-old and very shy. I spoke very little Spanish, and was awkward. I was never the self-confident teen. I was the one tripping over my own arms and legs. I was a mess.

My family had returned to Spain for a 5 week vacation to visit family friends in July 1989, and we were staying in a hotel in Madrid. One evening as we were leaving to go to dinner, the hotel owner’s wife motioned for me to come to the desk. There was lots of winking, smiling, and cajoling. I didn’t understand half of what she was saying. Thankfully my parents were there to translate for me. This kind old lady pressed this postcard in my hand, and shoved me into an enormous crown of people. I had no idea what was going on. My mom told me that the old lady wanted me to have a “real” toreador’s autograph. It wouldn’t be a complete visit to Spain for me as an American without meeting one.

The lobby was crowded with locals and tourists waiting to talk to El Cesar and get his autograph. In Spain, toreadors are a bit like rock stars. They’re famous, usually good-looking, and always play to the adoring crowd. The group surrounding him was mostly women, but there were also a good number of grown men wanting to talk strategy, or get a photo taken with him. The old lady who handed me the post card kept shooing me with her hand and saying “go on, go on.”

Somehow, as the crowd pressed in around this good-looking man, I was also shoved in from behind. I don’t know if it was by the hotel owner’s wife, my mom, or the locals, but somehow I ended up right in front of El Cesar with the postcard and a simpleton’s smile.

I’m not sure what charmed him the most. My blush, my stammer in broken Spanish, or the look of complete horror in my eyes. He chucked me under the chin and said I was lovely. Ever the charming Spaniard.

When I got home, I couldn’t keep the postcard. It reminded me of how embarrassed I was asking for his autograph, so I sent it as a souvenir to my best friend. Early last month (and 23 years later) she emailed me this picture for a laugh. It dredged up lots of memories. I was embarrassed again, I also laughed and remember how good-looking Spanish men can be in tight pants, pink silk socks, and sequins.

P.S. I did see a bull-fight when I was 21-years-old and studying in Spain while in University, but it made me sick. I guess all I can say is I was young and dumb. The only thing I still enjoy about that part of Spanish culture are the costumes, and the way the men look in them.

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2 thoughts on “How a Bullfighter Scarred Me for Life at 14

  1. But we are all awkward during the teenage years, yes? What a charming compliment he paid you! 🙂

    • Yes, but Spanish men are charming like that instead of stating the obvious. “I’m sorry you’re embarrassed.”

      I’m still likely to blush if I think about it too much. I’m glad you have the original. At least it’s in good hands.

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