Love, Marriage, Family

“My son decided to get married.”

“That’s great! With a girl?”

A little over a week ago, let’s face it, this simple (real) dialog would be almost unthinkable. Marriage, for the most conventional among us, was that ancient institution designed to guarantee the survival of the human race — an institution that until very recently, to tell the truth, was not based on the love between two people, being in fact a business arrangement between the parents to ensure the endurance and perpetuity of political and cultural interests. Go figure. As for the avant-garde, marriage used to be an undesired formalization of romantic love that we flatly rejected, except in emergencies — for example, to allow a foreign bride or groom to stay in their partner’s country, or to make an “unwanted” pregnancy more palatable.

“Why do you want to get married?” asked my mother, when I, then 28 years old and practically a spinster, happily told her I was finally about to “break the deadlock,” a typical hick concept from my hometown. “Why don’t you two simply move in together?” she insisted, probably afraid that I would suffer, or, as Alan once said, to “save the reception money.” We were already living together — that is to say, my first husband and I, Alan being my third — but we wanted to get married in order to create a “joint income” and apply for a mortgage. The wedding experience did not fail to be a humiliation: my father-in-law demanded a “complete separation of assets,” in other words, a prenup, something unheard of at the time. I could never forgive, nor forget, especially considering that it was I, with my hard-working persona, who supported the couple while the couple lasted. The entire time we were together my husband’s parents denied us any kind of help, including my husband’s dental treatment, considering that we were young, struggling to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, in the United States, to elope was the current fad, and the wedding an extreme measure to protect an unborn child, so to speak; I have no idea if without the inclusive convenience of a “marriage license” such a child would be labeled a “bastard” — another devious idea erased long ago from the Parenting Manual. Fortunately.

Yes, human morality does evolve, but often leaving behind some moral values we might miss in the future, oops, let me clarify before you label me as a retrograde, prejudiced, horrible person who is not euphoric with the latest novelty, with no rainbow face to celebrate. I think it’s great that, from now on, relationship “rights” — and also “duties,” of course — will be equally available to everyone, as a menu from the restaurant of the Law. And I deeply regret the terrible humiliations to which homosexuals were subjected in the past, facing arrest, being sentenced to a terribly harmful hormone treatment (!) and an even more humiliating public display of their sexual choice (!), in flagrant violation of the right to privacy (!).

In the quiet and regressive Belo Horizonte of my childhood, for example, male homosexuals were called “bachelors” (girls in similar circumstances were never even considered), with no intention of getting married or building a family by their own choosing (!). Their intimacies were never discussed. Don’t get me wrong; my provincial background always bothered me. Therefore, after moving to fabulous Rio de Janeiro, I made a point of making myself available to the widest possible range of emotional experiences, and this included some homosexual colors, as a 10-year romantic relationship with a gay man and a brief affair with a lesbian lady (hopefully using the LGBT correct parlance, which will maybe, only maybe, protect me against being accused of prejudice) — I mean, I didn’t purposely pursue any of that, it just happened that way, and it does no harm to emphasize they were both interesting people, even to the point of brilliance.

However, this is not the subject of this chronicle, though it seems to be, following the Supreme Court ruling. The fact is, it was only a matter of time until I succumbed to my imposing and forceful heterosexuality and had two further marriages. Both to males. One was motivated by immigration requirements, as previously mentioned, and the other limited to the religious sphere (in Brazil a religious wedding has no civil validity), in order to “protect the groom’s vast assets from my greedy hands,” now, this is true love, sheer trust.

Imagine. The wonderful legal wedding many people are now so proud of, celebrating it as a primary civil right, was something we considered a “death sentence” for a passionate relationship. Even today, there is still a certain impression that, once you marry, you screw it up. Who amongst us does not have a story to tell about a couple who was deeply in love, and after the wedding started to hate each other immediately, ardently anticipating a divorce?

Divorce also suffered a long-lasting condemnation in Catholic countries, and what tremendous progress it was. On the other hand, it has stimulated most couples to give up easily, why fight, right? Love is a matter of immediate pleasure, and when it weakens, life must move forward, even if you don’t like it. Nobody cares about “building a relationship” anymore, it’s so passé, if you know what I mean.

Now, regarding the family, formerly a tedious institution consisting of a father, a mother and some children (of the same parents) living under the same roof while growing up and positioning themselves in life, now fortunately enriched with a plethora of newly acquired possibilities: A good family today must have two fathers, or two mothers, four or more parents coming from the full range of human variety, with half a dozen children of different combinations, in a geometric progression of human love, not to mention the exciting possibility of being a “single mom,” something highly unlikely in my generation.

Time to move on to the chronicle per se, which, as the term suggests, only registers the evolution of customs during my own lifetime, which may eventually seem too long, although less than a blink in the history of the human race, and therefore, irrelevant. So now, at my mature age, I’ve become attached to this young man whom I met for the first time when he was seventeen, struggling to deal with two fathers a mother stepsisters diverse cultural backgrounds and “himself in the midst of it all”. How did he feel? I don’t know. And it’s not polite to ask.

Being strong, he survived. Humans have this trait; I have seen a handful of children raised in adverse conditions who have become balanced adults, although, of course, they are the exception. And because of my (so-called) son, I recently began to feel I was creating a family, well beyond what would dictate my clock in case it was just biological, something my mother would never expect to happen — and here comes another element to complicate even more a social equation already too complex to deal with. As I’m well aware of all these non-mathematical factors involving human emotion, I keep alert to avoid surrendering entirely, if you know what I mean, voluntarily tagging my (mother)self as a “fake mom.”

Anyway, my boy, so close and a complete stranger at the same time, decided to get married, just imagine, on the same date my parents married, 64 years ago. And that’s not all. The bride (a girl!), whom I only met this week through a Skype conference call, because she lives in another country, reminded me of my young self: The daughter of one father and one mother living at home, smart, erudite, well-traveled, raised with tender-loving-care, with naturally soft, curly, non-straightened hair (the opposite of a chemical process shockingly named “Brazilian blowout” in the United States) and a nice big nose, a lover of classical music and Hebrew traditions, although very different from me for not being massacred by shyness in “real life.” Good for her! Albeit knowing that most human emotions are based on imagination and free association of memories, I had to make a huge effort to avoid being carried away by the notion that a son is always likely to marry his mother, which in our case is obviously ridiculous, because neither the groom is my son nor am I his mother, but I’m happy just the same.

Therefore, in my own way — and by pure coincidence, serendipity, perhaps —, I’m also celebrating the joys of marriage, more often than not a troublesome, rejected, execrated human institution. And, pardon me the reformers, happy beyond any reasoning due to the fact that we’d probably have a traditional Jewish wedding, including a chuppah — the blessed tent that makes marriage such a sacred ceremony — no, I do not practice religion, but is it beautiful or is it not? All according to the cultural “separatism” in which I was raised, an achievement and a huge delight, mazal tov to us all, there, I said it.

Hopefully, our grandchildren will be raised in an environment similar to our own, and with similar values; we will form a family the old way, and if you believe this to be a pure, old-fashioned prejudice, I’m sorry to hear that.

Shalom![1]

 

[1] A note to the dear readers: This week I started a new and risky journey that will be the subject of a future chronicle. Meanwhile, in a “globalizing” movement, I replaced my usual final greeting “Have a nice Sunday” for the Hebrew “Shalom,” a universal concept meaning “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “How are you,” and also… “Peace”, a reminder of what truly matters in these times of growing anti-Semitism.

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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