I nearly became a Cuban's sugar-mumma
That's what the bartender firmly answered with, as I tried to probe him for insight in regards to what the two overweight European woman sitting in the corner were up to.
They were accompanied by two handsome, and much younger looking, Cuban men.
After spending a few days in Havana I was pretty much expecting him to respond with this exact answer. "It's complicated" seems to be the uniformed answer that a Cuban gives you if you ask them a tricky questions, for example, their hopes for the upcoming presidential election. Or their feelings about being disconnected from the outside world.
When you picture tourists who take advantage of much younger locals while on holidays, the stereotypical older (and usually white) male offender usually comes to mind.
But my experience of Havana, Cuba was very different, and after speaking to other travellers and people I know who have visited, it's much more common to see the exact opposite.
It seemed like everywhere I would go, I would notice much older Western females hand-in-hand with young, handsome Cuban men. You see them doing ordinary things that you would expect a couple to do together, such eating out at restaurants, drinking at bars, and going shopping for new men's clothing … and since the average Cuban wage is approximately A$31 a month, you can safely assume who would be picking up the bill.
So what exactly does that mean? Finding a local male companion is sought by women of all ages. Or sometimes it happens accidentally, by young naive girls who think these guys have a genuine interest in them. Such as the 25-year-old American traveller I met over breakfast one morning.
We were casually chatting about what we had been up to in Havana, and she told me that she had been hanging out with a Cuban guy for a few days. Now, for those who haven't been to Cuba, believe me when I say that the men there are simply beautiful. Going through border security, I could not stop checking out the men working at the desks and all the security checks. And like most females, whether they admit it or not, I'm an absolute sucker for the Latino charm.
I was asking my new friend about the guy, if she felt there could potentially be a future between them and if she intended to keep in contact with him through his one-hour Wi-Fi allowance.
She danced around the questions, before telling me that staying in contact with him was unlikely.
The night she met him, a European girl living in Havana had firmly warned her "just so you know", he would expect her to pay for his drinks, taxis and club entry because "that was his job".
Whether or not she knew exactly what she was getting herself into, I'm not really sure.
And accidentally, I almost found myself in a similar arrangement. I had been in the country for roughly half an hour, and was walking around my Casa Particular (guesthouse) to find a local restaurant. An extremely good looking man called out "Lady!" - something I would hear almost every five minutes during my trip - and approached me to ask where I had come from and where I was going.
He asked if I needed some help finding a place, which I instinctively knew would most likely have strings attached, but decided to follow him anyway. The man led me to a busy bar in the middle of Hamel Street, the heart of Afro-Cuban culture in Havana.
He was being extremely affectionate towards me; trying to hold my hand, caressing my lower back, asking me lots of questions about who I was. I was waiting for the inevitable catch, which turned out to be him mentioning the two-for-one cocktail special and the fact that he liked mojitos.
But if I'm completely honest, if I wasn't so hungry from my long morning of travel, I probably would have bought him one. I was travelling alone, and the cost of a cocktail would have been worth some company and first hand recommendations from a local. Instead I excused myself, and enjoyed a meal of rice and beans alone.
In the days following that event and after I heard the young American's story, I felt uncomfortable every time I saw young local male holding hands with a tourist. But if I had bought that man a few drinks, would I have been taking advantage of him? What would have been different about that situation?
In the end I managed to find someone to give comment on what all these women were up to. He was a lovely 90-year-old man who wanted to take me salsa dancing, and even showed me his cash-filled wallet to prove that I wouldn't have to pay for his entry.
He simply replied "yes, prostitutes".