Havana Vice: Titimanía

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I’m what’s known in these parts as a ‘temba.’ The term generally applies to anyone, male or female, over 40. It’s not a hard and fast rule – a younger person who looks older may be called a temba – nor does it infer, like other terms such as ‘tía’ and ‘pura,’ that the person is over the hill sexually, physically or otherwise. Temba is not derogatory; it’s simply a category of Cuban, used here to describe a state of being, similar to our use of descriptive terms like negro, chino, flaca, santero or maricón (see note 1).

One thing I love about Cuba is its integrated, inter-generational nature. This facilitates friendships with Cubans aged 12 to 84 – something I cherish and which is harder to achieve in the United States. Naturally, however, many of my colleagues and consortes are other tembas. Over years of observation and recently a more in-depth investigation into Cuban sexual practices and mores for a larger piece I’m writing, a couple of tendencies keep cropping up: flexible fidelity is one, titimanía is the other.

Simply put, titimanía is the compulsion temba men have to date impractically young women. This is not limited to Cuba, of course, but by parsing how universal behaviors play out here, I hope to provide insight into the particularities and peculiarities of the Cuban character – for all our sakes (see note 2).

Before proceeding, I should disclose that I’m no stranger to the attractions of older men: at 16, my first serious boyfriend was 26, an arrangement for which he could have been prosecuted in our hometown of New York. While I think statutory rape laws are ridiculous in cases where everyone consents to getting it on, I admit there is something creepier when the ages are more advanced and the age differences greater.

Take my friend Carlos. When I met him a decade ago, he was 40 and his live-in girlfriend was 18. Jenny was gorgeous, of course, but a child – intellectually, developmentally, and practically. Just out of high school, she’d never had to pay a bill, work, or worry about a leaking faucet or roof. After four years together, the relationship ended disastrously, with Jenny hightailing it to Miami taking Carlos’ expensive gifts – jewelry, clothes, electronics – with her. Pre-ordained, perhaps, but that didn’t faze Carlos.

He quickly “recovered” (I’ve noticed men, Cuban and otherwise, tend to rebound fast – but incompletely – from ravaged relationships) and before long had Tania living with him. Prettier than Jenny, smarter, and worldlier, Tania was 22. After a few years, that relationship also ended badly, worse even than the one previous. Tania and Carlos barely speak today, which is uncommon in Cuba where circumstances and reasons too complex to elaborate here fairly obligate exes to remain on good terms. Uncommon and sad: their kids from previous relationships had become siblings and when they split it signaled an end to their blended family to the detriment of everyone involved, even if they don’t realize it.

Today, Carlos is 50 and has recently taken a 20-year old wife. I haven’t yet met her but have heard through radio bemba (our grapevine) that she’s hot and terribly boring, limiting dinner conversations to her new shoes, so-so manicure, and how the sushi she tried last week ‘totally grossed her out’ (see note 3).

Not all 20-somethings are that vapid and clearly, I better understand what’s in it for the women. Older men tend to be better than their younger counterparts in bed (if less athletic and enduring); have more status and economic possibilities; and generally have a clearer idea of what they want in life and are already well on their way to getting it (or should be).

However, once men hit that temba threshold, what they want are girls young enough to be their daughters. My 48-year old friend Elena is finding this out the hard way: after 15 years of marriage, she’s divorced and dating. Elena’s not looking for a new husband or live-in (the two are synonymous here); far from it. She just wants a healthy, available guy for a good time. You’d think this would be easy in libidinous, gregarious Cuba. Not so for Elena. ‘No niños for me,’ she tells me. ‘I don’t want to teach them the art of the orgasm or have to finance our affair. I’ve got my own kids, I don’t need another.’

Elena is looking for someone age appropriate and therein lies the rub: every man her friends try and fix her up with is interested in women her daughter’s age. They are, in short, suffering from acute titimanía. She has actually been told to her face: ‘you’re too old.’ And although they always put it in the nicest way possible, it’s getting her down. Once you rule out the married, infantile (of which there are many), gay, and titimaniacal tembas, Elena’s roster of eligible men is as short as Fidel’s speeches were long. And she’s discouraged, pobrecita.

The titimanía phenomenon came up the other day while I was talking to our mutual friend Alejandro. Clever and fit, with a comely face that belies his 50 years, Alejandro is one of the guys posited – and rejected – as a possible hook up for Elena; he likes them younger. Cubans are very frank about such things, which is efficient at least: while men here might date fat, unemployed, gold-digging, or gap-toothed women, age is not negotiable and they don’t waste time saying flat out ‘you’re too old’ (in the nicest way possible).

Alejandro could tell I was irked by his titimanía and its inequitability. “What chance is there for Elena and her ilk, when you guys are chasing skirts just out of high school?”

Mira, mi amiga,” he said smiling, his eyes crinkling around the corners they way they do with happy people, “from the age of 15, girls try to look older and do all kinds of things to enhance their beauty and heighten their self-worth – fake nails, fake boobs, dyed hair, high heels, the works. Old guys like me don’t do any of that. Instead, we pump up our egos by dating young women.”

“So tembas like you have the mentality of a teenage girl?” I wanted to say, but didn’t.

Laying my indignation aside, I could see his point. It’s about the self-esteem boost for everyone involved. But where does this leave Elena? Alejandro couldn’t provide an answer beyond: “I don’t know, but she’s too temba for my taste.”

Notes

1. This last term, meaning ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ is used in Cuba to denote male homosexuals. And while it’s inherently homophobic – which is why I don’t use it – many highly-educated and cultured people use maricón to classify gay men (or derisively with their straight friends). I employ it here by way of illustration only.

2. Equally as interesting are behaviors which don’t manifest here. For example, the reverse – a young Cuban buck getting jiggy with a cougar or MILF hasn’t caught on here like in the United States (the 13-year old who couldn’t peel his eyes from my temba friend Lucia’s cleavage, declaring her ‘hot and chesty,’ notwithstanding). But I’ll leave this for another post.                                                                                                                                                             

3. While I predict this marriage will be short-lived, I have friends who have been in one of these May-December relationships for ten years. They’re healthy and happy and while it remains to be seen what that relationship will look like when she’s 35 and he’s 63, so far so good. More power to them.

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41 Comments

Filed under Americans in cuba, Cuban customs, Cuban idiosyncracies, Cuban phrases, cuban words without translation, Expat life, Fidel Castro, Living Abroad, Relationships

41 responses to “Havana Vice: Titimanía

  1. Hi Conner,
    Very interesting article. What about the 50 something Canadian women who have older Cuban boyfriends?

  2. Luna

    Hi Conner.

    Titimania is certainly not just a Cuban thing. I’m in my 40’s (married) and my single friends who are also in their 40’s cannot find men in their age group who will date them. Men in their 40’s and 50’s here in New York date women in their 20s and 30s. I see a lot of women in their 40’s who date men in their 60’s. It seems women need to go 20 years older in terms of men by the time they hit their 40’s.

    I feel terrible for my single female temba friends.

    Life isn’t fair to women.

  3. Arturo

    Excellent. This article is pretty much dead on for 99% of Cuban guys, it’s just the way it is. And also in Dominican Republic, which is a no brainer for those that have also spent time there and the rest of Latin America.

    The only time I have seen the “Titimanía” rule be pushed aside for guys there is when the following occurs: Genuine, Cuban Couple Love with kids and wife’s family is well off and would also kill him, Financial gain involving mostly 40-55 year old Female Canadian Tourists looking for “ejercicio cubano” and for the unfortunate Cuban guys that were not good looking in the first place and can no longer get it up.
    Lets face it, for men walking or driving in the streets of almost any city in Cuba there are incredibly beautiful girls willing to oblige an older man her body in exchange for financial security. Every day presents new challenges and the monotony of the day can be alleviated with a new younger novia or at the very least, new material for the “Spank Bank” that occupies every mans mind.
    As a recovering Titimanía 40 year old man myself, I also learned my lesson after similar disasters and I am very happy with my 38 year old Santiaguerra Novia that every man in my family said was “too old, useless, why you want that, it’s not tight, etc”. But I now have a hard and fast rule on the subject; If the relationship won’t work in your own country then it’s probably a novelty item in the Poontang Paradise your hunting in. So take it for what it is and have fun while its still perky if your brain and your tool are still wired together. If you want a real relationship for marriage then be realistic and get a good woman your age. Every single Cuban woman I have ever met over the age of 40 treated a good man like a King and worshipped him and there’s something to be said about true love over eye candy. Another great article would be on Stupid American men that marry a girl 20 years younger and what happens after a year and a day……priceless.

    • This comment is pretty much about 99% dead on, succinctly resuming so much of the “cubanilla” Im always writing about. To wit: besides, the “in-laws would kill him.”

      What you write next is where I’m interested in exploring, however: “in the streets of almost any city in Cuba there are incredibly beautiful girls willing to oblige an older man” – ie, it’s easy to hook a young, luscious cubana. The ease of the thing (eg older guys, younger women) keeps coming up in the comments from the XY crowd here (see comment by Maudiaz above or below, not sure). So are temba women just too difficult? Something to ponder – I thought it was just me!

      Then, of course, there’s the financial security piece you mention which we all recognize as a reality.

      And spot on with this: “Every day presents new challenges and the monotony of the day can be alleviated with a new younger novia” – I often tell folks to look at Cuban realities through lenses like boredom (ie it motivates a lot here).

      Greatest of luck w you and your Santiaguera – sounds like you got the right thing going on!

      PS – Its not only guys keeping accounts current in the Spank Bank. There was this botero the other day….

      • Arturo

        Yes, you are picante Maifren and the thought of a woman having a spank bank is both funny and interesting at the same time as guys really don’t think of their junk as memorable……I can only say for myself that yes, it is quite easy to hook up and besides what else is there to do anyway as it can be painfully boring from day to day? What could be more exciting for a guy living there than having a girlfriend half his age with no BC and not a rubber in sight? Cuban Love? -As easy as a caveman throwing a rock for dinner!

        I think it is really quite impossible to describe Cuba to people that have never actually been there themselves. “Try to describe the ocean if you’ve never seen it” comes to mind but thats another song. Growing up in the States in a Cuban family does not really prepare your senses for the moment that you actually plant your foot on Cuban Terra Firma. -And nothing will save you when Cuba wraps her arms around you and never really lets go of your heart like a lost love that reappears.

        As a man, I will say that there are no other women on the planet that will look at a man harder than a Cubana. -Dead eye contact that can result in enough of a stare down where someone has to eventually look away to signal non-interest. If both parties want to play the game and take it downtown for a 2-hour room, it is just like that and the guys are also staring at anything blipping on the culo-radar. It goes without saying that if you don’t look Cuban, are handsome, and are driving a car with red plates, then you pretty much better get used to that happening. Those that have been, no need to explain. For the uninitiated, you will never forget the first look.

        And that, in itself, is part of the phenomenon of Titimaniå because Cuban women (and men) are very forward when they see some eye candy and are unashamed to be sensual. Its something tourists don’t quite know what to think of at first because it does not occur back home unless you happen to be Justin Bieber. Titimaniå will survive for as long as things stay the same as they are now……good stuff.

    • Arturo

      At least Cuban women know when to cut back and not let the muffin top get out of control and go back to the chicharones and cigarettes diet.

      But if you are a guy that likes some junk in the trunk wrapped in spandex then why look anyplace else than Cuba……..?!

      Skill trumps muffin tops any day of the week but it all depends if it is a true muffin top or just a flat out busted can of biscuits…….

    • I’ve been giving this some thought since Arturo posted his comment and what it comes down to I think, is baggage – lightening it. And I can totally see the appeal. We tembas have serious baggage – that’s life. When you’ve passed 45 Aprils, it gets heavy, all that life you’ve lived, all that baggage you’re/we’re carrying around.

      Thanks for making me reflect on this further and to Elena I say: go hunt yourself a young ‘un girlfriend!

      • day

        After I wrote my other response, I was thinking quite a bit about the older women that I know that are with younger men. It seems to me, that they are able to live less affected by their baggage than other women I know. They are secure, self-confident women who make no apologies for who they are– They are extremely giving, however, seem to know when to stop giving and just relax and have fun. They don’t bleed themselves for anybody. I like being around them – no wonder the young guys do, too.

        If Elena goes hunting, she may be surprised! Of course there are (dare I say many) immature cubanos of all ages, but there are some good guys in their 20’s and 30’s that blow my mind. They were raised in a matriarchal society (think abuela ruling the house) and by single mothers. They cook, clean and shop. They are professionals – or not. They scramble like anybody else to make a few bucks. They’ve been having sex for more than half of their lives so have it figured out, but really like to learn and please. They like to hang out at home just as much as, or more than, hit a party. One interesting thing, though, that I’ve noticed is that the young guys looking for/with tembitas are blancos and triguenos. So that may slow down Elena’s party.

      • Thanks for the continued insight. I’ll let Elena know: blancos and triguenos are here preferred flavor (very interesting observation, by the way)

  4. day

    Thanks for bringing me up-to-date on what the rest of Havana is up to. I must admit that the folk where I live tend to be the butt of other Habaneros jokes, are not particularly fashionable and really do walk to their own beat. They have the reputation of being a little backward – but it really ain’t so!

    I’d sworn to myself that I wouldn’t write in anymore at the risk of being long-winded once again, but the topic is too irresistible and I have a solution for Elena. She needs to hop on the 195 and head out to my neck of the woods! There the rage is definitely tembas with 20-somethings and 30-somethings, but in this case the tembas are the women (me included). The quality (no need to teach and pay for!) is there and commitment to long-term relationships as well. Yup, in Cuba! Go figure! I’ve lost count of how many of these relationships that I know of in my circle of close family and friends alone. They look so comfy together that the difference in age is usually not even that noticeable. When I met one couple, she was 52 and he was 26 – and a real sweetheart! I had no idea there was such an age difference until I was told. I know another couple where she is in her 80’s and there is also a 26 year difference. They have been together for decades. One of my best friends is almost 20 years older than her husband of 10 years and they have a beautiful daughter. I could go on, but even if only by a few years, the women are in general older and their young men worship them.

    Socially, I hang out with a lot of guys in their 20’s and believe me when they say they call a woman a hot tembita, it is the best compliment. My 20-something female friends are trying to figure out why their dating lives have taken dives and like to ply me with questions, trying to figure out what the big attraction is for the young guys that they are trying to catch. The guys tell me with teary eyes that they are tired of young, gold-digging Cubanas breaking their hearts and want women who appreciate them for what they have to offer. They also find the bodies of older women (including muffin tops and stretch marks) sexy!. They really do seem to have a different idea of sexy than their Canadian/American counterparts. My hubby recently told me that it is good to try to make a muffin top by wearing tight-waisted jeans because it makes my actual waste look even smaller!

    In my barrio, the older man with young woman (I’m thinking of my father-in-law in particular) tends to get laughed at. A couple of months ago, I even overheard a couple of older vecinos talking about how the new trend was older woman-younger man and the older man with young girl was a quickly dying breed…

    Do you think that Elena would be tempted to pay a visit to my rockin’ little corner of Havana?

    • This is all very nice and refreshing to hear – I’ll let Elena know (though she’s not much of a “repartera”). But muffin tops, attractive? Able to be overlooked I can believe, but attractive? Hard to wrap my head around….

  5. Conner,
    IYI – (David Foster Wallace’s if your interested)
    I loved the way you wrote about this phenomenon. Actually asking the guys, “What’s up?”
    Thx for the new insights.
    Patricia

    • Oh my god. Are you actually saying I may somehow be writing something that reminds you of David Foster Wallace? Beyond quirky subject matter peppered with footnotes? If so, you’ve made my Friday (and this one is promising to be memorable indeed). Gracias for writing in and I’ll check out IYI.

  6. maudiaz

    Hi, Conner

    Another great piece.

    I’m very much in the ‘temba’ category and I’m suffering from acute ‘titimania’ after my ‘age appropriate’ wife dumped me 2 years ago after a 25 year marriage.

    Believe it or not, age-inappropriate women are WAY easier to please (in every way). That’s a big part of the appeal. Nothing wrong with the new-car smell either.

    I think that most female tembas need also to revisit their attitudes. Young women are not all about their looks.

    Nonetheless, I THINK I’m realistic enough to be aware that the odds for a dec-march relation working out long term are VERY slim, unfortunately.

    Nothing is perfect. 😦

    All the best to my favorite blogger. Cheers

    • Thanks for writing in (I think; you could be telling me I need an attitude adjustment and I smell moldy/lived in?! Don’t they have a spray for that?).

      But the real heart of the matter is this comment: “Believe it or not, age-inappropriate women are WAY easier to please (in every way).”

      Now you’ve got my Irish up. Granted, Ive never been one to choose the path of least resistance (to my own detriment at times, it’s true) and Im famously hard to please but this sounds like post-break up bitterness talking and not a little bit lazy. I would be singing the same song after a ¼ century of marriage and then being dumped (I am genuinely sorry; I hope you’re able to process your grief comprehensively and well; no es fácil) so Im not judging, it’s just, I guess your comment really smarts, sitting here reading this on my 43 year old ass (which thanks to a million miles on my trusty bike and weekly bike polo matches is in damn good shape)….but I ain’t getting any younger.

      Enjoy your single-dom; it can be very exhilerating, as well as liberating.

      Now I’ll leave you to revisit my attitude. Happy Friday!

  7. Robin Thom

    As a 64 year old man I get more looks walking around Cuba with my 58 year old wife than I do with a woman 40 years younger than me. In the latter I guess they assume I am a sex-tourist.
    Happy Friday to you too.

  8. Jake

    How the female side of this deal. “Uno para gustos y otro para gastos”

  9. Chantal

    Very interesting post. I have noticed the phenomenon in Cuba (which always made me wonder why the older female tourists would not question why the young hot cubano fell for them?).

    Anyway, I am a temba like yourself, a whole one year older than you, in fact. Never fell for a cubano in Cuba, and actually was hoping that at my great age my (slightly) flabby butt and few wrinkles would stop dead in his track any cubano looking to hook up with a tourist. Boy, I was wrong. It’s worst then ever (I guess as an older woman, I look richer or more vulnerable?).

    Anyway, I have a cubano friend, here in Canada, who has been living here for 16 years. He is financially independant,, and found himself recently single and decided that we would made a good couple. As he is only s few years older than me, now I will have to ask him why he is not living the titimania and he is trying to hook up with a temba like myself 🙂

  10. Your blogs are wonderful! i wrote you tonight at another column. Titimania, had not heard the term before. Was born in Cuba, returned recently after 53 years. Land of the absurd, loved it, embraced it like i embrace suspension of desbelief in a good novel. Have lived in Alaska most of my life, back here now. May we correspond via private mail? genealaska@gmail.com
    best to you.
    gene

    • Thanks Gene. Always makes my day to “meet” a new satisfied reader.

      The best way to contact me is to use the form on the menu on the right hand side of the blog (where it says get in touch).

      Cheers!

  11. William

    Im a 50s canadian man and Ill take a woman close to my age any day over a 20 year old . Just sayin….

  12. @ William. I don’t know about “any day” or any woman…
    but I do hear what you are saying.

    Besides the fact that I have little interest in fingernails except to shoot them,
    screwing your granddaughter aged woman and having her
    (even in the unlikely possibility that she does)
    truly love you,
    leaves her as a temba
    when you kick the bucket.

    It gives a lot more creds (as my wife says, spoken like a true temba)
    to engage and move through life with a woman closer to your own age, education, financial Independence,
    than to turn up with a little ‘honey’ in your wallet.

    My Cuban friends in Oriente joke about the foreigners who put their ‘loves’ in fancy houses. They all have lovers closer to their own ages who step out of the shadows the minute that they are gone.

    Kind of a sad situation for everyone involved…
    whether they realize it or not.

    • Hola Robin!

      Im sure this is a wonderful photo, but I can’t open it and until I can see “de que se trata” (what it is), I won’t repost here for reasons Im sure you can understand.

      Thanks for reading/your comments!

    • Arturo

      “Super Moist”…….oh my that is hysterical. I think that is perfect marketing for Cuba! Lots of like minded people here, and i dont want cuban women to cut back. They are beautiful with dangerous curves. Thank you Conner, great post!

  13. Hasta ahora nuestro blog ha sido leído por miles de personas en 88 países, pero hasta este momento – ninguno de Cuba! Y con más de 1500 imágenes de gran tamaño – podemos presentarle a Noruega?

    • So I guess you want a hit/visit/view from Cuba as some kind of virtual notch on your geographic blog belt? I conclude this because as far as I can tell, your site has nothing to do with Cuba, nor would photos of Norwegian towns hold much interest for readers from Cuba (unless Interactivo is playing in said town….). Also, it’s in English and Norwegian – rendering your message in Spanish a bit disingenuous.

      Still, you succeeded in getting me to click so now you have 89 countries which have visited your blog. Is that important? I guess it is, to you, so congratulations.

      • Arturo

        This response is pretty feisty and very well directed as it is a mindless objective by the Blogger. You can take the girl out of NY……..but then put her in Havana? For sure suffering no fools as you are “virtually” Cubana now Socia. -Good one.

      • Thanks Arturo. And this was the “tamed/edited/down girl” version of the response!!

  14. Cort Greene

    This might be a little off subject but I respect your thoughts and ideas.
    What is your take on FEMEN? They seem to be pretty rad and against the sex industry, repression, religious dogma’s and such.They take a lot of heat…

    Being from the hippie period, nudism does not bother me.

    • Hi there. I have no idea what you’re talking about and the internet connection here lately (combined with multiple, hairy deadlines) mean I can’t poke around to learn about it. Care to elaborate? Cheers

      PS – viva nudity! (also, a regulated sex industry is a good thing in my opinion)

  15. Antonio

    A late comment from me. I am a frequent reader, I rarely comment though. I have to say I am shocked that the whole cougar/ MILF thing has never caught on in Cuba. I do have an older Cuban “novia” of 5 years. We met 5 years ago and are still going. I am 38 and she recently became a grandmother for the first time at age 43. I do enjoy the time I spend with her, her son and siblings. I have always known I was in the minority as far as my fellow foreign male travelers to Cuba, I did not know the same thing applied to Cuban men. Conner, more on this if you can please.

    • Hey Antonio. Thanks for reading (and commenting!). Five years difference does not put your honey into the cougar category – regardless of grandkids. As I mention, Elena would love to get her groove on with a young ‘un, but hasn’t seen much of the MILF/cougar phenomenon. Nevertheless, see the comments by “day” where she opines extensively above about this….

      Another thought is: when the relationship is w a foreigner, many factors trump age including financial status and migratory possibilities. I bet your novia’s husband is closer to her age!

  16. Antonio

    Conner, She has been divorced a long time and her ex- husband was older than her. According to my understanding of the pop culture definition of cougar, the woman has to be at least 35 and the male at least 5 years younger. I am yet to meet a male foreigner with a Cuban novia/ wife that is OLDER than him, though I am sure they exist. Whenever I mention my relationship people think she is 18-20 years old. I have to say, I do enjoy the look on their faces when I mention her age. I have been mocked some by a Cubano friend over my love for an abuelita.

    • A 30 year old man with a 35 year old woman? I don’t think that nearly qualifies as cougar status; certainly not MILF territory. Nice to hear se mantiene bien tu heva. Suerte.

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