Sunday, December 28, 2008

Βut please don't burn Victoria's Secret bras, they're too cute!

This is an entry about feminism.
I don't have the English version for it, yet. But, if you're feeling bold, you can read the Spanish one in the meantime!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oh the holy lies of Christmas

Have I always been a cynic? I guess. I don't know if you actually become a cynic or if you're born one, but by the time I was, say, seven, I was already a little bit cynical and learning "the truth about Santa" didn't help.
Before I start my story about Santa I'm going to make a brief summary of what a typical Christmas was like in my household: we're in Argentina, so it's summer in December here. Unlike what some people think, we don't change the date of Christmas so it'll fit the right weather, we just have a hot Christmas. It's not really that big of a deal, it can be quite fun if you make it work. Because it is so hot at that time of the year, we celebrate Christmas Eve more than the actual Christmas day. We have a late dinner (that is around 10 pm) and we wait up until midnight, which is when we open presents, then we have a toast and stay up pretty much all night and on the 25th we just get together to eat leftovers and have a pool day. It's definitely different, but it's not bad, it's certainly traditional for us and as shocking as it may seem to some of you. No, we don't miss a white Christmas, since we've never had one around here.
My family consists of my mom, dad, and two older sisters. When we went to my grandma's house on Christmas Eve, though, we'd share the holiday with my grandma, who was a widow, my single aunt who lived with her, my married aunt, her husband, and her two kids. The youngest one of the two is five years older than me, so I was left far behind when it comes to adult stuff.
We would usually go there early and help out with the last dinner details. On Christmas Eve (unlike every other celebration) we would have dinner in the kitchen. That was odd to me because the dining room was where the fancy eating took place, and my grandma made sure that every celebration was a good one, but the Christmas tree was in the dining room, so we would eat in the kitchen because we didn't want to scare Santa away.
Dinner went by with a lot of heated political arguments, some boring anecdotes from before I was born and the usual "airing the dirty laundry" my aunts did when they had a drink too many. I got bored. I was a kid, the only kid around, and there really wasn't much going on that would entertain me... 
Around midnight (normally 15 minutes prior) my (married) aunt would pretend like she was sick to her stomach (let's just say she would not have won an Oscar with her performance) and go "lay down" in the bedroom next to the dining room (the layout of the house is really strange because it's an old Italian house and, well, it's odd, let's leave it at that). A little bit after my aunt went to bed, my oldest cousin would go check up on her, only to come back with the shocking news that he had seen Santa fly away. He would then hold my hand and slowly walk me to the dining room (quite a long walk), while we talked about whether we thought he'd brought presents, because he (my cousin) hadn't seen any. There were always presents. I was lucky that way, I know, and I shouldn't be complaining about their lies, I should be thanking them for giving me beautiful Christmases, but if there's anything that hurts me it's being lied to, I can take anything but a lie, so I'm particularly sensitive about this topic.
After we opened the presents, every one of my relatives would ask me which present I liked more, "do you like this new doll?" my single aunt would ask "is it the one you wanted?", it always was, my single aunt always got me exactly what I wanted. "What do you think about this awesome book?" my married aunt wanted to know, she always got me educational presents, and I always thought that education should only happen in schools, and that Santa should worry about entertaining me, not so much about educating me, since, to the best of my knowledge, he was no teacher.
The Christmas when I was seven, or maybe I was six, I don't remember exactly but it's irrelevant, I got a red-bottomed doll who peed when fed, it was exactly what I wanted, I had been asking for that doll pretty much since May, and my single aunt, who always knew exactly what I wanted, had gotten it for me. (I should also point out that I am antisocial from birth, so when we had big celebrations, I would spend a few minutes on my own, just to calm down, because crowds make me uncomfortable.) I was playing alone with my doll, trying to make her pee that is, in a bedroom away from everything, with the doors closed (that bedroom had three doors, weird house I tell you), and it all came to me, it was revealed to me as if I had had some sort of divine epiphany: "there is no Santa". Mine was a particularly easy puzzle to solve, and I felt stupid for having taken seven whole years to figure it out. I felt cheated, underestimated, I felt lied to, used, I felt people had been playing with me for their benefit, as if all this time I had been the family clown that everybody mocked for giggles.
I didn't share my newfound secret with anybody, I kept it to myself and pretended like I was still that innocent (or, as I viewed it, stupid) little girl who believed in the magic of a fat man from the North who brought presents to kids who behaved. As time went by I told my parents and sisters, but for some reason (they probably forgot, since it's not really a big deal for adults) they failed to tell the rest of the family, much to my benefit.
Two more Christmases went by and I had the chance to turn the tables, I had the chance to be the one laughing at them for a change. They knew Santa wasn't real, they knew they were faking the whole thing, but they didn't know I knew, and I seized my opportunity to be the one deceiving them this time.
With a little bit of cynicism (back before I even knew the word) and a lot of pain inside, I pretended like I still believed, and watched them play their little games. I sat through the political discussions, through the boring anecdotes that never involved me (because the person who told them didn't particularly care to include me in her life, I was too young to matter), through the same dirty laundry as every other Christmas, through the stomachache and through the long walk to the tree, only this time I knew, this time the joke was on them, this time it was I who laughed at their expense. 
Only, of course, I didn't laugh, because it's like peroxide in a wound, it's cool to watch the blood foam, but it hurts like hell. Well I watched it foam time and time again, I watched that slug twist and turn with the salt on its belly, I watched it die slowly and painfully, and I rejoiced in seeing them trick themselves trying to trick me. It was sadistic and mean and I don't know why I did it, but I did, I guess I just wanted a little bit more pain, because knowing I was surrounded by liars wasn't enough, I guess.
I must say though, this doesn't include my dad, mom or any of my two sisters, they never really bought into the whole Christmas fiction, and they usually complained about this, so, even though I was hurt by the fact that not one of them told me the truth before I made a fool of myself in front of the entire family, I didn't intend to trick them into making me believe when I already didn't, I told them well in advance and I don't think they were a part of it.
For two Christmases I kept that up. In 1993 my niece had already been born, and since she was too young to understand, and since my mom had told them a million times that "Ceci hasn't believed in Santa for a long time", someone came up with the idea of mixing it up a bit and doing a scavenger hunt instead of the usual "Santa's here!" crap. It worked, it helped me change my view on Christmas, and it became a strong tradition in the family, so I have my niece to thank for that. If that condom hadn't broken, I would probably hate Christmas and think of it as the time people lie to each other, instead of what I think now, that Christmas is the time people share their love despite it all, the time when people forget about their turbulent past to experience beautiful traditions and celebrate that one more year has gone by and we're still friends...

Well it's safe to say I won't be telling my kids about Santa... (Will I even have kids? Who knows... Some days I want to have two of my own and adopt two more, some days I want to never have any, because the world is crowded enough as it is and I'd make a horrible mother anyway). Truth is, if I ever do have children (whether I decide to or it just happens), they will know there's a traditional character named Santa who brings presents to kids, but they will also know that he doesn't exist, because I now know parents don't lie to their kids so they can make fun of their innocence, they do it because they want their kids to believe in something, they want to see the glow in their eyes when they see the presents under the tree, but I just don't think all the glow in the world can make up for the disappointment in their eyes when they find out the truth. Well, that and I'm a horrible liar.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"And through this having and giving and sharing and receiving, we too can share and love and have... and receive."

If I had been asked ten years ago what I thought about marriage, the answer would have probably been a bit pessimistic. Actually I never thought that I would be one of those people who get married, even less so one of those who marry young, but life throws curveballs, and the things that happen to us sometimes can be surprising.
Almost twenty years ago, at my friend's house, I played this sort of role playing game which we called "The Town". In "The Town" every one of us had a specific role, a family, a job and a group of friends. I was the single mom whose daughter's Kindergarten teacher always needed to call because she would forget to pick her up. I was an actress, or a businesswoman, or I had a beauty salon or an exclusive fashion store with my own designs. I was the self-sufficient woman who didn't need anything or anyone, and who cared more about herself than her daughter. It is ironic that I still believe, in some strange way, that I am that person, that person who is dettached from her emotions, who doesn't need more than her own company, who does not know loneliness and who does not know love (although it is very evident that I do need people's affection).
The difference between adulthood and childish games is that adults don't choose who they are, what life they have, whether they're going to fall in love or with whom. That is how I ended up not being the actress or fashion designer who is single and independent, with an apartment in downtown Buenos Aires and a mini cooper, or the cold lawyer or businesswoman who does not need friends because she has employees.
I was so convinced that I would never be able to have a long lasting romantic relationship that even today I feel the need to explain, or justify why Mike deals with me, or why I got married at such young age, or why my marriage isn't like any other, or even why my marriage hasn't failed yet.
My marriage isn't like any other mainly because it is a happy marriage even after five years. Because Mike and I are friends more than anything, because we both know that without speaking, without telling each other everything that goes on, our relationship couldn't survive.
Five years ago we married at the County Clerk's office, without guests and almost without photos (I'd actually prefer to say without photos so I wouldn't have to show them), without rings, a white dress, a bouquet or a veil, without something borrowed or something blue, and, above all, we married without really wanting to. Well, I can't speak for him, I don't know how much he wanted to marry, but I married not wanting to. I do not need a paper to accredit my relationship, I don't need society to validate our love, I don't need to promise anyone that I will love him until death do us part (a promise which, by the way, I don't even know if I will be able to keep), or that I am going to take care of him if gets sick, those things are mine and Mike's, they don't belong to a judge or a priest or a person who judges me without knowing me.
But not believing in marriage does not make my marriage a failure, it does not make my relationship fake, nor the love between us nonexistent, and, above all, it does not make me an unhappy or frustrated woman because I couldn't (or didn't want to) be that cold and self-sufficient businesswoman. Not believing in marriage, or in fairy tale love, only makes me work day by day for my happiness, and for the success of my relationship, it makes me see that love isn't something that, once you find it, lasts forever under the magic of having made a sacred promise, but as the result of mutual effort, of a constant struggle to outdo ourselves to always give the best of us, of giving and taking in a shared life, and of knowing that not everything is like one wants, dreams, or imagines it will be, and that it is easier to change that with which you dream than changing the world so it'll adapt to those dreams.
My relationship isn't successful because it's a legal marriage, or because I found my knight in shining armor who gives me everything I've always wanted. My relationship is successful because my partner and I want it to be, and because we both know that for that to happen we have to constantly work and go through moments that can be more or less painful, more or less gratifying, more or less tedious, and more or less memorable. But after all, that is what marriage is all about. Not like maybe I thought ten or fifteen years ago, about swearing eternal love and dealing with the consecuences, but about sharing life, about sharing all those things that life has that make us go "holy shit!"
In the end, the only thing I can certainly say after five years of marriage is that I don't know what opinion I will have of marriage five, ten or fifteen years from now, when today is as far back in my memory as the days I played "The Town" or like that cold Saturday in December when Mike asked me to interrupt the unpleasant cleaning of the oven with ammonia to kneel down in front of me and invite me to (legally) join him in the daily struggle to make life more pleasant and worth living, to which I laughed and responded "you were supposed to propose before I made an appointment at the city hall"... Well, after all it is possible that the independent, cold and rational woman is still living in me somewhere.