I’ll come out with it already: I’m off-the-charts affectionate. Touchy-feely, besucona, cursi, you name it. No, I can’t and won’t keep my hands to myself, not if I’m in a relationship with you, anyway. I definitely come from a family of huggers and kissers and everything else, and I thought I was living in a country of affectionate, warm-blooded, demonstrative, passionate people. Emphasis on thought, there. Hitherto but not henceforth. That is, I was under the impression I was finally living amongst people who, in theory, get me! And who would reciprocate and celebrate my tactile nature.
But take a look at today’s two illuminating phrases:
No coman pan delante de los pobres.
No cuenten dinero delante de los pobres.
No coman pan delante de los pobres means don’t eat bread in front of the poor, and No cuenten dinero delante de los pobres means don’t count your money in front of the poor. That is, don’t flaunt the fact that you have a partner for the whole world to see. Don’t rub it in peoples’ faces, don’t run around smothering everyone with your lovey-doveyness. ‘Cause a lot of people (partnered or not) don’t have that, and you might make them pine for what they don’t have. I heard the first phrase a few months ago; I was tsk-tsked with the second phrase this weekend. Sorry! (Not sorry.) I like the first phrase a lot more; it makes me think of Marie Antoinette. Well, let them eat cake!
The only English equivalent I can think of is: Get a room! Or maybe something about PDA (public displays of affection). Though I feel like the intensity of the PDA has to be greater for someone to yell at them to get a room, whereas a mere crumb of third-party affection like a quick peck on the lips could feel like insensitive crowing for a “poor” person who wants bread. And, of course, the English phrase makes no reference to the person’s own condition: you can be happily coupled and still yell at someone to get a room. The same thing happens with these Spanish phrases, though–you don’t have to be single to say them. It’s interesting, though, that you have someone calling themselves poor. Do we ever do that in English?
Counting your money in front of a poor person (in front of anyone, really) is outright bragging and of really poor taste, but I find it intriguing that in Spanish simply eating bread is also considered to be a show of ostentation. If you were stuffing your face with bread, OK. But you’d think the phrase would be with caviar or filet mignon. I guess, though, that only a middle-class striver who was always looking over their shoulder to see what the Joneses were eating would be rankled by luxury items such as these: when you’re truly hungry, food is food, and bread is probably one of the most filling, satisfying, and easily acquired items. So, self-absorbedly eating bread in front of a poor person without even breaking off a piece for them would be downright cruel and selfish. But, how do you share your physical affection with a starving person? And like someone’s really going to go discreetly eat bread in a windowless room.
Whatever, the phrase is mainly used to tease and give happy couples a hard time. Still, I always want to be sensitive and considerate–heavens knows I’ve spent enough time being “poor” myself. And poverty could be just around the corner for me again. So, all the more reason to eat up now, right? And to rejoicingly count my (potentially dwindling) money over and over, regardless of the onlookers around me. I’m conflicted . . . so I suppose I’ll just keep being my overly and openly affectionate self in the meantime! I know at least one person is breathing a sigh of relief right now.
The phrases are also said with enfrente de and frente a: no coman pan enfrente de los pobres/no coman pan frente a los pobres, and no cuenten dinero enfrente de los pobres/no cuenten dinero frente a los pobres.