Tough Love

It’s been four years this week that my mother died, after a long struggle against alzheimer’s disease (no capitals, please).

I still hurt. I still remember, as if it were today, her harsh comments, probably reflecting her deepest fears that I and my brother “hated” her. A baseless fear, since, despite our sometimes very rough relationship with her, both he and I took good care of her up to the last moments. Which is not always the case, as we well know. A person I know went to New York for a vacation, hours after her mother had a life-threatening stroke and was admitted to the hospital. Others believe they have no obligation to take care of their elderly parents, also advising others in this direction, as I’ve seen recently on a blog.

My mother was tough. Yet, there is no doubt about her motherly love. Although she loved my brother more, of course, as is a rule in Jewish families. Just kidding.

The brain has this property of playing (bad) tricks on us. Therefore, due to some kind of disease or under the influence of a few drugs, we may mistreat the people we love the most and that deeply love us back. No harm intended. Yet harm is done.

It happened to me again this week, and it’s happening still. My husband, who regularly takes a sleeping pill, has fallen victim of a bad drug interaction due to a dental implant procedure. He was anticipating the surgery and highly anxious about it, which is understandable. Not only his looks, but also his ability to bite were under serious risk, not because of old age or anything like that, but due to the fracturing of an old root, which released an outdated crown. The tooth had been lost in a bike accident when he was a child; but at our age, these kinds of events are always disturbing — a threat, a fearful announcement that life is about to end at some point. Therefore, when he added to his usual “drug recipe” a strong sedative and an equally strong painkiller, both prescribed by the surgeon, the result was disastrous. He fell victim of a psychotic episode and has been awake for three nights, talking to himself, almost delirious, with very brief intervals of consciousness. I’ve seen a few damaged brains in this life and have dealt with them. But I couldn’t find my strength, when, before figuring out what the situation was, I suspected my husband to have alzheimer’s, just like my mother before him.

Relief came partially and subtly when I discovered the unintended mixing of the drugs, so now I’m hoping for a fast recovery, as signaled by yesterday’s brief episode of consciousness, before he indulged in a larger-than-usual dosage of his regular sleeping aid, et voilà, psychosis took him over once again. Of course, the target of his rage was, as I said before, the person he loves the most (my utmost hope) and who loves him back.

I’ve had a lot on my plate lately. In addition to my daily worries, my country, Brazil, is undergoing a serious crisis, the culprit of which, albeit an alleged “victim,” is under the influence of heavy medication and has been acting erratically. The old brain playing its tricks! It’s not a surprise that, as President Dilma reacts, she not only reflects her complete oblivion to her obligations as “mother of the nation,” but also a hateful contempt of her people’s well-being. Maybe the improper target of her rage is… etc., etc.

I’m very aware that, to a certain extent, outside issues can be embraced as a reflection of our own personal pain. Which would explain, for example, why I have been so invested in writing about Brazilian politics — or American politics, by the way — due to my own internal workings or eventual trauma. I should know better and “get a life”! But could that be true of more than 100 million people (56% of Brazilian population) at the same time? Unlikely!

Back to “motherly love.” Only recently, as you all know, I started to consider myself a mother and put to work my motherly loving resources. So I was deeply in doubt if I was supposed to congratulate my son, who was recently accepted as a lawyer to the Marine Corps. His friends were delighted. His fiancée was proud. But, honestly, as a mother, although I could also be proud of him if I tried harder, I was afraid, concerned about his safety. What could I do? Lie to him? I decided to simply tell the truth, as is my regular style. My own truth, at least.

Tough love: the kind of love that just tells the truth, which can be painful, and usually is. Tough love has been lacking in our networked civilization, where everybody is seeking approval and it is common sense that we should grant it.

I believe the imposition of a “liberal” agenda to be part of this picture. Take, for instance, this widely expressed (and overrated) support for “transgender bathroom rights,” something that disturbs me so deeply I already wrote about it a couple of weeks ago. In all honesty, how many transgender people — a recognized rare condition — can exist in this world? In this country? In our town?

I was very impressed by a movie I watched last week, before my personal and national hell broke loose. The Danish Girl depicts the first case of a transgender woman (or man?) to subject herself, himself, to “sex reassignment surgery,” or something like that. Einar Wegener (a superb Eddie Redmayne) was a (apparently) happy young painter, a married man who loved his young wife dearly, or so it seemed. Things started to get a little crazy when this young woman, who was also a painter, asked him to pose for a painting dressed as a girl.

The situation rapidly evolved from an isolated cross-dressing funny episode to Wegener starting to believe he was “internally” a woman and acting on it. There’s an impressive scene when he skillfully hides his beautiful penis (sorry, I couldn’t resist) between his legs, while trying to act “feminine” in front of a mirror located in a theater dressing room. What struck a nerve in me was the fact that instead of trying to stop him — tough love — his loving wife and a few other friends ostensibly encouraged him.

Lili, the “new woman” — it is a true story, and Lili Elbe is considered today a “pioneer” and a kind of heroic figure for the transgender movement — decided to undergo a series of increasingly dangerous (and untested) “corrective” surgeries. Not only the beautiful penis was dead and gone. Moreover, according to Lili’s and her doctor’s ambitions, she wanted to “have children,” so besides attempting to create a fake vagina, the doctor also tried to transplant a uterus — a true mentor to Dr. Mengele.

The patient died.

I don’t care, as the movie’s critics were eager to point out, if the story lacks many details and ultimately fails to be faithful to the facts. What was painful to watch was the new woman trying to kill the man (now) inside her, as well as his art. Since being a successful painter was part of “him” but not of “her,” she decides to work as a shopgirl, while waiting on his/ her long-planned painful suicide. And that I could not forgive.

I remember my mother’s desperation when I got involved with a gay man, a long time ago. She yelled at me, doubted my judgement, and I was so angry at her! How could she be so insensitive, so disrespectful toward my feelings? Tough love. She was right. I suffered a lot.

Now imagine how many loving, respectful parents are currently encouraging their children’s “gender discomfort,” giving them drugs, and ultimately providing mutilating surgery?

I confess: As a teenager, I had a few sexual doubts myself. Treacherous brain. It took me a long time to menstruate. My breasts were nonexistent at an “advanced” age. Later, at the beginning of my professional life as an architect and furniture designer, I was considered too bold, too daring, to be a “woman.” I failed repeatedly to recognize some femininity in me, to the point of making myself incapable of a true orgasm. Imagine what a recipe for disaster this would be, with today’s permissiveness.

I needed a lot of patience, resilience and persistence until, after a number of failed relationships, I found my husband Alan on the Internet and could finally orgasm, at 53 years old. After that, not only did my vagina prove very active and effective, but even my breasts grew big, impressively big.

Friends, I apologize for my “masculine” bluntness in this chronicle, but I’m sure you’ll understand. Today, after all, people feel free to expose their own sexual idiosyncrasies to the utmost detail, correct?

Please remember: Tough love is a lot better than no love at all. Or than a crooked love, which responds to liberal propaganda and fails to do what is truly right. It can certainly save lives.

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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