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Archive for October 2012
I recently posted a review of Aarathi Prasad’s book, “Like a virgin.” Here are the first two paragraphs. I hope you’ll choose to take the time to read the rest of what I said about it.
“For everyone who believes that “one man, one woman” is a simple statement, I wish there were a requirement to read the first sections of this book. For everyone who thinks that pregnancy is nothing but a woman carrying a fetus around in her abdomen for nine months, I wish there were a requirement to read this book.
I confess I would not pass a test on its contents. Maybe the very fact that it is laden with complicated, detailed, though fascinating information has something to do with the fact that I am the first to write a review. Nonetheless, I think reading, or at least scanning, it would profit anyone who has an opinion about sex, whether it applies to choices on the abortion issue or attitudes about homosexuality, or even just why we do it. If nothing else, it would force one to be aware of the complexities of fetal development, pregnancy, childbirth, and gender determination. Knowledge has taken us way beyond dichotomous thinking.”
He called me Auntie, I called him Uncle Joe. There was no logical reason for it, given that he was my former husband’s brother-in-law. But Uncle Joe he was.
Being in the process of reading “Atlas Shrugged” was the stimulus for my remembering Joe. You don’t need to have read Ayn Rand’s works, though, for this to make sense. I just want to point out how creative and essential Joe was, and how unlikely it would be that anyone would recognize him, either financially or through reputation, for what he did.
Joe earned his living as a school custodian. I’ll admit, before I understood his job, I thought it was pretty insignificant. Not the heralded creativity of those who obtain patents and money for their inventions of new things or ideas. He would certainly not be recognized by those who think the contributions of the mind outrank physical labor.
No, janitors don’t just wash floors and clean up messes after careless students. Daily Joe was met with the challenge of something not functioning properly. Heating and air conditioning breakdowns, electrical failures, plumbing problems, structural damage, animal invasions – I can’t name all the problems. And that’s just the point. Whatever the event, it was his job to diagnose and repair, to apply his creative skills to arrive at the most efficient solution. He kept the school running.
In the meantime, he served, as so many custodians do, as unofficial counselor to troubled students.
I confess, I have joyfully engaged in an occupation where the mind was paramount. That’s why I so fear falling on my head which contains my most important working parts. But I am unwilling to join those who belittle folks like Uncle Joe. We are all of potential value. We are all served if we appreciate and encourage what others have to offer. That includes the young man of limited ability who greets us as we enter the concert hall. Maybe that’s why, in the 60s, I identified with those who opposed elitism.
So, here’s to the memory of Uncle Joe.
I’m in the middle of reading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” I wish I had someone — or many — right here with me to discuss it. In that light, I couldn’t help appreciating this article in my e-mail this morning. Long, but oh so thoughtful, and thought provoking. See what Congressman John Lewis has to say.
Opposed to gay marriage? A good way to familiarize yourself with the arguments you’ll face.
Supportive of gay marriage? A good way to develop your arguments.
With humor, reason, knowledge, and clarity, John Corvino presents the case for same-sex marriage. There are several segments. I recommend you hang in there to watch all of them
I have offered you the story of my marriage in a previous blog. Now let me tell you about my divorce from Lou Affinito after 20 years of marriage and two children. Lou eventually married a lovely lady – a devout Roman Catholic – who was the perfect wife for him. Their marriage lasted some 35 years, terminated only by Lou’s death. And I went on being happily single, supported by my own income, the result of a career which gave me (still gives me) great joy.
It was 1976. I was free – I mean literally free – because the traditional – even Biblical – marriage defining wives as chattel had not been written into our constitution, though remnants of the attitude remained. The same brave women who survived ridicule and torture to gain the right to vote also worked to earn for women the right to their children. As long as wives were chattel, so were their children. Yes, chattel, property.
My mother was a young married woman with her first child when she was granted her voting rights. Not because the constitution was amended to limit her freedom, but because it was amended to guarantee her freedom.
Don’t misunderstand; the church did its best to enforce its limitations on women through the rule of law. There were remnants of the attitude in 1976. In some places, for example, married women could still not receive a library card in their own name.
The idea of women owning their own homes was seen by some as a bit ludicrous, if not disgusting. The first Real Estate agent I worked with showed me a series of very sorry examples of houses. When I told him I was looking for something nicer, he told me this was the best I could expect as a woman looking to purchase on my own. Fortunately he was a bit of a dinosaur. Women were just discovering Real Estate as an occupation that fit their needs and at which they excelled. With the help of a very patient lady I eventually found the right place for me.
Most of the stores to which I applied were willing to give me credit accounts in my own name. The one exception I remember was J.C. Penney which insisted I had to remain under my husband’s name. In all the years since, I have bought only one item at J.C. Penney. By the way, as far as I recall, there were no general credit cards like Visa and American Express.
Knowing the importance of the church to Lou, I offered to cooperate with him in the process of getting an annulment. After a few years he did request my help. The archdiocese, recognizing that I was not a Catholic, sent me a very courteous letter asking whether I’d be wiling to cooperate. They assured me that an annulment would in no way affect the legitimacy of our children. Even the church understood the difference between church law and civil law. Someday I may share the story publicly. Anyway, Lou was granted the annulment.
Have I made my point? The same Biblical references that define what some people are calling traditional marriage also defined women as chattel. I even made it part of the fictional story of Mrs. Job. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if that definition had been written into our constitution.
There is one story you might find interesting. It makes no point except to amuse. In 1982 when I was buying a different home (with the help of the same lovely Real Estate Lady) the potential lender required a copy of my divorce decree. With perfect confidence I headed to my locked, fireproof file. I couldn’t find it. Searching under “D” for divorce, and “D” for decree, then under “M” for marriage, I came up empty handed. So, in somewhat of a panic, I called City Hall for a copy. They reported there was no such decree on file. Was I sure about where I’d been living when I got divorced? Yes, I was. Then on the other end of the phone I heard, “Oh, I think I just saw it. Let me look.” Back she came to report that it was in a drawer of materials about to be discarded. It was never filed. “Oh, I giggled, does that mean Lou is a bigamist?” No, it didn’t mean that, but Lou and I each had to contact our lawyers to get them to finish their job.
Well, maybe there is a point in that last story. Might it be called “Much ado about nothing?” Well, not really. My mortgage loan depended on that piece of paper.
On this date in 1955 Lou Affinito (Roman Catholic) and I (Lutheran) were married on a beautiful, warm, color-filled Fall day in Winooski, Vermont. To arrive at that point, we had to jump through three hoops. (1) Civil permission to marry; (2) Religious obstructions; (3 Emotional/attitudinal barriers.
The first of these was the easiest. It required a 9-hour drive from my home in Connecticut to Vermont. There we had to swear neither of us had been married before and prove, as I recall, that neither of us had a venereal disease. I guess they wanted to be sure we didn’t infect each other on our wedding night when we would have intercourse for the first time. (How quaint.) We were both unencumbered and pure and received the license (i.e. civil permission) to marry. In retrospect, I guess the purpose was to guarantee certain rights, like the right to inheritance. With license in hand, we could have been married anywhere. It had nothing to do with religion.
But then there was the second hoop to jump through – religious requirements. It was related to the third hoop, but I’ll separate them out and talk here only about the religious stuff. I completed six weeks, as I recall, of indoctrination into the Catholic faith. (They had a nicer word for it, but I can’t remember right now what it was.) I was fortunate to do the training with a bright and pleasant young chaplain at the Bishop deGoesbriand hospital in Burlington, Vermont, where I was teaching at the University. (I tried googling it to be sure of the spelling, but apparently it is no longer there – probably swallowed up by another institution.) I think the instructor’s title was Father Michael, but I wouldn’t swear to it in a court of law. Anyway, he told me that the sacraments of the Greek Orthodox church were recognized by the Catholic Church, so it was a place for us to have our marriage sealed in a way acceptable to the church if all else failed. Something about the schism having been incomplete.
Having passed that hurdle, we had the next impediment to overcome. The Catholic Church required we should be married in a parish where one of us had at least two years residence. For reasons to be elucidated in the description of hurdle #3, we could not comfortably choose to be married either in Lou’s hometown or mine. But we had signed a two-year lease in Boston where I would be attending a PhD program at Boston University.
So we visited a priest in the parish where our apartment was located, asking him to count that lease as a two-year residence. “How long have you been sleeping together?” he asked, and I flounced out of his office, saying, “OK. We’re getting married in the Greek Orthodox Church.” Lou didn’t much like that idea, so he suggested we try the Burlington, Vermont area where we had both been living (separately) for two years. So, another trip to Vermont. Thank goodness – or maybe even God – for father Boucher, an Instructor at St. Michaels’ college, Lou’s Alma Mater, who agreed to perform the ceremony in the Winooski Church.
But wait, it had not all been accomplished. We still needed priestly permission — a kind of church license, I guess — before we could exchange vows. In the office of a priest in New Haven (Lou’s hometown) we made our promises while Father what’s-his-name focused on the ball game he was watching. Yes, we would raise the children Catholic. Yes, Lou agreed enthusiastically, he would try to convert me. Yes, we both agreed — my fingers crossed behind my back — we would use no artificial birth control.
Now we were prepared to move on to obstacle #3 – emotion/attitude. My future in-laws were delighted with Lou’s choice, but, not surprisingly, my parents weren’t at all happy, and I was fading away with stress-based weight loss. They were very practical, forgiving folks, however, so they joined in the plans – already made except for purchasing a gown, with the date set for three weeks away. I’ll summarize the whole thing with a photo of my wedding hat.
My future mother-in-law refused to attend the wedding if I didn’t wear a veil, and my mother refused to come if I did. We were all being very cooperative, including me, so I asked the milliner (Yup, a person who made a living making hats) to make me a hat with something that would look like a veil to my mother-in-law and not like a veil to my mother. She came up with a lovely creation with a veil in the back, almost to my waist. “Oh, I said, I think my mother will call that a veil.” Disgusted, the milliner took scissors to it, and what resulted was a short thing that stuck out as if it were, oh, I don’t know what. I hope I manage to upload the photo so you can see for yourself. .
And so we were married on a beautiful autumn day at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Winooski, Vermont. There are 23 people in the photo of our entire wedding party and guests. Seven of us are still living.
No, I’m not taking you on our honeymoon with us.
So, what’s the point of the story? Change! Ours was a scene-making mixed marriage. I challenge you to play a kind of “Finding Waldo” game searching for what’s old-fashioned and outdated in this story.
So, why my question? Why would you vote “yes” for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. One thing that remains the same is the fact that a civil license to marry conveys nothing but civil rights. It has nothing to do with religion. Or does it? Is that one of the goals, to modify the separation of church and state? Or is it the first step in a prohibition-like era where there will be a squad designated to search out people illegally living as if they are married?
My question is serious. Why vote “yes? The commercials I see all focus on religious definitions of marriage. But what does banning specific civil rights have to do with it?
Of one thing I’m sure, no law or constitutional amendment will prevent people from falling in love. I remember how it felt falling in love with Lou. People tried to stop us, but it overwhelmed us.
I am equally sure that, if the amendment passes, the day is not far off when it seems as inappropriate and old-fashioned as some of what we went through on the route to our wedding. Or maybe even the prohibition amendment.
Thanks for listening, and responding ..