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After an early morning power walk through the old neighborhood in Mexico City where I live, my exercise partner and I sat down to a cup of coffee in Joselo, a small cozy coffee shop across from Parque Lincoln. Mornings in the Polanco neighborhood, before cars begin to crowd the narrow streets, when it's only locals, their dogs, and elderly men reading paper and drinking strong coffee, is by far the most peaceful time of day. On one hand, Polanco feels very much like a village; easily walkable, charming old buildings, outdoor markets, and unassuming dog friendly cafes; on the other hand, there is a large concentration of trendy hotspots, drawing crowds from the suburbs nights and weekends, a bevy of high end luxury stores, and new, modern construction going up everywhere. The contrast of old and new, however, gives it a special flavor that not many areas can boast.
But back to those cherished, peaceful morning hours, it's not only a time to take in Parque Lincoln before cars begin honking, to sip on a green juice and take pictures of the fresh flowers from the mercados for your Instagram feed. It's also a time that, if you are lucky, you'll strike up a conversation with someone older and wiser who will share an amusing story, a slice of their past, and some rare nuggets of wisdom.
On this day in particular, after our morning exercise, my friend and I sat down with one of my favorite locals; we can call him Senor F. Around seventy years old, Senor F has lived his whole life in Polanquito and remembers "better times" when the beautiful old iconic homes were not dwarfed by taller buildings, there were no traffic jams on Avenida Masaryck, and the vibrant nightlife that it is now well known for, didn't exist. He was introduced to me by my exercise companion a few weeks prior, publishes a local periodical of which I am now an avid reader, and has given her career and personal advice in the past.
After ordering our coffees and exchanging a few pleasantries, my friend began telling Senor F that she wasn't sure she would ever have children, given she hadn't met a man she felt had the maturity to make a good father. He said it was a grave mistake to give up on motherhood and proceeded to ask she and I both the question and topic of this article—if we knew the difference between a Casanova and a Don Juan? I had previously lumped them both into the same category—a guy who is good at seducing women—but according to Senor F, they were two totally different things. Speaking slowly for me, so I could understand his Spanish, he explained that it was really important to know the difference and to know which type you tend to be more attracted to so you can break toxic cycles.
We listened intently as Senor F continued. A Casanova is a guy who is only out for the excitement of the conquest, but never makes any promises to anyone. He seduces through the mind and/or the ego, making his targets laugh, have fun, and feel attractive. He never promises love, never talks about the future, or tries to access the heart. If all goes well, his targets will have as much fun as him and there will never be any hurt feelings (emphasis on, if all goes well). He leaves a blazing trail of spontaneous, fun, but meaningless memories behind him. Should his target end up feeling confused, it is unfortunately her own fault because the Casanova's intention albeit highly selfish, is not to deceive.
A Don Juan, however, is much darker in nature. He seduces through the heart. He is adept at making his targets believe they really mean something special to him, he convinces them of his profound feelings and talks about a life together. A Don Juan can take total control of his victims, lives, and emotions. When he is done with the relationship, he can and will abruptly break it off, disappearing to conquer his next victim, and ultimately leaving a trail of shattered, resentful, and according to Senor F, sometimes suicidal women.
Senor F believes that most women have a tendency to be attracted to one type or the other and that it's important for single women to know which one she finds more appealing so she can avoid it completely. As for himself, Senor F was a practicing Casanova for twenty years and he admits this with utmost humility. "I am not proud of this. I wasted a lot of time," he says. It took "a lot of work" to change his way of thinking and break the cycle of meaningless encounters. He said he would never be with any one woman more than a couple of weeks and that even though deep down he was lonely and troubled, he couldn't seem to break his habits. He never explained how exactly he made the transition, but the look in his eye was sincere and remorseful. He said that he cherishes being in a committed relationship, experiencing fatherhood, and wishes he had changed his life sooner. My friend and I sat in mutual silence for a while. I suppose that up until now, I had assumed that the Casanova or Don Juan lifestyle was far more thrilling than being in a committed relationship, but according to an actual veteran, it apparently has it's downside.
Historically, Casanova is a real man who wrote a book about his life: Memoirs of Jacques Casanova Seingalt. Sadly, he failed in life being that he wanted to be taken seriously as a philosopher, but due to his reputation, his legacy to this day is in being known as a promiscuous lover. Don Juan or Don Giovanni (the Italian version) however, is a fictional character known for seducing many partners and causing heartache and trouble.
A week earlier at the hair salon, I met a woman who was devastated after having dated a Don Juan. It had been more than a year since he had abruptly left her for frivolous reasons he could never fully explain after having promised his deepest devotion to her. She was still traumatized and didn't feel safe meeting anyone new. The next time I see her, I will tell her to make an early morning visit to Joselo for a coffee...