Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

What happened to AOL?

Back in the days when AOL was paid, it could be considered a decent place to get your news online. Not anymore. AOL has turned into a tabloid deceiving website. I still use AOL email because I have had it for 11 years (I remember AOL 3.0), and I still think that as an email it is easy to use and has a good spam fighter. However, the news, ah the news, has become a joke. Links that are meant to lure viewers to click on them under false pretenses, old news, links that take you to a website where the promised story does not exist..recently a headline read: “Why women are going nude”.  I clicked on it curious as to this new trend I was not aware of, only to end up in a beauty and make up page talking about the nude lipstick, and of course selling them too.

AOL has become part of the dumbing down of America. Constant headlines about unimportant starlets (who cares about Miley Cyrus, fabricated by her former-glory father?) and people that should not be newsworthy. Sales ads packaged as news.

AOL has some columnists that are to die for: of rage. They are weak and uninformed or prejudiced. With so many good bloggers out there, why can’t AOL find better ones for free?

I miss the old AOL. I guess when it becomes all about money than we all lose.


July 25, 2008 Posted by | Society | 4 Comments

Empty Nest Syndrome

As human life gets more and more complex, new terms come up to define what before existed but was unamed. Restless Legs Syndrome, Narcisistic Personality Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (lack of sunlight in winter) and Empty Nest Syndrome comes to mind. Kids with ADHD in the past were just “disorderly, full of energy or hyper”. Girls with ADD were just “distracted, dreamers, umotivated”. Depressed people were called lazy or sad or unmotivated. Men with NPD were just vain, self centered, selfish or egomaniacs. People with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder just had a bad habit (nail biting, hair pulling, etc). Empty nest syndrome is a relatively new phenomena in modern human life ever since kids started to leave their parents’ home at the age of 17 to go live in College dorms. It is an uniquely American phenomena since in most other countries kids continue living at home while attending College and many times only leave their parents house to get married. And if they don’t get married, they stay home indefinitely. In many countries, young people do not make enough to pay for rent or buy their own place until much later in life. The 30 year mortgage is unheard of in many of those countries with less stable economies. Therefore, people need to save money all through their 20’s in order to be able to buy a house, sometimes with a 5 year payment plan. Additionally, the sense of family and extended family is weaker in America. Many kids cannot wait to have their freedom and many parents cannot wait for the kids to leave so they can travel and dedicate themselves to their hobbies. Still, there are many parents who suffer when they see their children leaving home at such an early age. As a mother, it is especially difficult for me. It is sexist to say it is more difficult for mothers but we see more cases of mothers crying after dropping off their kids in a College campus than fathers. Obviously, men have a harder time showing their feelings. For those who had their kids in their 20’s, being childless while still in your 40’s is a strange situation. Suddenly, you have no more family! If you happen to be married, you go back to being a couple and sometimes do not know what to do with each other. For divorced mothers, it can be very lonely. She goes from being a mother and taking care and responsability for her children to being suddenly single and childless. As if she had never gotten married and had kids! To make matters worse, some kids are so busy with their college lives they barely contact their parents-unless they need cash ) Many of these parents are still young themselves and find themseves with a lot more time in their hands. If it sounds attractive to have all that freedom and extra time, it is also a loss of the life you planned in your early 20’s: to get married one day and to have a family. Sure your kids come back, but they come back for short periods, and they never feel the same at their parents home anymore. As for the parents, they get used to the silence and order and have a hard time getting used to their kids stuff strewn everywhere. As more and more Baby Boomers and Generation X parents go through a delayed adolescence, or a second adolescence (as well as a second marriage), the more they relish their newfound freedom. Now they can party until wee hours! Now they can go on tropical island trips in September when the fares are cheaper! After all, 50 is the new 40, right? Or is it the new 30? I tend to be somewhere in the middle, pending more to the feeling of loss. For me, seeing my last child going away to College is a mixed blessing. I am happy that she is starting a new chapter of her life, but I do feel that she will change into an adult and not be so close to me. I cried when my firstborn was left in a strange dorm in a strange city, and I feel I will cry this time again.

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Being a mother | Leave a comment

The dumbing down of America

A lot of people have written about this. This one is especially funny although I can think of many more situations, stories and facts that illustrate this phenomenon. Check it out:

The dumbing down of an entire country is the result of different factors. The education problem is the most serious. Although free primary and secondary education are so great for our middle class pockets, in order for cities to attend to every student there has to be a standardization of curriculum and a leveling of demand. Which means teachers cannot reach too high for fear some students won’t follow the rest. This means very bright students waste time. Second, the need for teachers (not many people willing to work for those salaries) makes the requirements loser than they should be; therefore you have teachers who have very little understanding of the world outside their county….yes, I really meant to write county, not country )

The media is also a major problem. In order to attract viewers to compete against the Internet, television has gone above and beyond to create shows that cater to human emotions instead of human intelligence.

Unhealthy lifestyles and food not only makes children fatter but also dumber. Children are the future of a country, so there you go, thanks Kraft, Pepsi, Cheetos and fast food joints.

If you turn on the TV nowadays and your IQ is a just a little above average, it is hard not to feel disgusted. What happened to smart and well read teens and young adults? Why does America equate a book smart young person with a dork, geek and other unflattering names? Why is that every teenage girl depicted on reality shows is as shallow as a saucer and dumber than a doorknob? Who on earth cares about seeing the daily lives of people who have no business being famous, like Dina Lohan and the Kardashians? What are these people’s contributions to the world? The worse of them all: Paris Hilton. For years she has taught every girl in this country to be vain, shallow, stupid, a party girl, obsessed with her looks, to hit on every man, drink like a fish, to drink and drive, pose nude and be useless to society.  At least Britney Spears, another horrible example for young people, has some talent, however electronically fabricated it is.

I wonder when did intelligence cease to be a desirable trait in men and women…now it seems that only looks and money/fame count.

We have to witness celebrities making bad judgments in their personal lives, veritable train wrecks, and from a distance we have to watch and cannot do anything. I would love to say to these so-called “models”: “Honey, when you marry a rock singer with tons of tattoos all over his body don’t expect him to be a faithful family man”. Yes, he will soon be found in a club surrounded by other bimbos at two in the morning, but what did you expect? And Denise Richards, a pretty face does not happiness guarantee: do you really think your sex-addict husband would have changed his orientation for you? Do you think you are “different” from other woman? And why on Earth did you have a romance with your friend’s husband, even if it started after they split? Don’t you know your friends’ husbands are off limits?

And the new woman who Charlie Sheen married: do you think you will succeed in changing him with your love? Tough luck. And the woman who already is dating Peter Cook: honey, do you want such baggage?

It is amazing how many bimbo-like women out there desperate to hang out with any B List to D List celebrity no matter how twisted their lives are.

The number of celebrities getting DUI’s, in rehab, cheating on their spouses and irresponsibly getting married just for fun while at the same time being glorified, getting away with it and even becoming more famous must have some impact on the dumbing down of this country (and probably on the rest of the world which copies anything that comes from Hollywood).

Tabloids and gossip websites seem to be all people are reading nowadays.  It is known that in times of economic stress people turn to mindless forms of entertainment to distract from reality. The Hogan family distress and their troubles provide entertainment to millions instead of the concern and indignity it should provoke.  There is no question that young people whose minds and morals are being formed, and in the absence of parental guidance (parents are less involved with their children’s lives due to working long hours, divorce and wanting a “fun” life themselves-middle aged people living like teenagers) are more vulnerable to these bad examples of how to conduct your life.

The internet has helped expose another shocking fact: the number of quasi-illiterate people in this country. Few people can write the English language correctly. Hey, English is not my first language and I write it better than most Americans; what gives? I rarely even use spell check.  Bad spelling means someone does not read. What happened with young people reading books?

Just go to any message board (especially AOL, are all the low IQ people on AOL??) and see how many dumb, angry and misinformed people there are out there. I feel like crying when I read those posts. I sigh in relief when I can find someone who can put 3 well spelled and coherent sentences together.

We have a lot more information at out fingertips with the advent of the internet, but somehow we all managed to get dumb and dumber.

July 17, 2008 Posted by | Society | 2 Comments

Advice for American men dating Brazilian women

One cannot generalize and say that all Brazilians or Brazilian women for that mattter are the same. Brazilians differ in terms of socio-economic status, class, educational levels and ethnicity.
On the other hand, there are some cultural similarities in the way people are raised. Don’t be surprised if both of you have communication problems due to upbringing differences, as well as food preferences and other habits that can cause trouble.

Here are some general pointers (which I repeat may not apply to all Brazilian women):

1) There is a strong sense of family in Brazil. The extended family is also important. People tend to live close to Mom and Dad, aunts and uncles. It is also a matriarchal society (although men had the power for generations, when it comes to raising kids, mothers are considered more important than fathers). There are not many people living alone in Brazil. Almost everyone has a partner. Divorce rates unfortunately are growing, so this may change. Still, it is not a very individualistic society. Children live with their parents until they get married. That of course makes kids closer to their parents, and affects how they see their future family as well.

2)There are also different rules of conduct for couples. Married people or people in committed relationships do not go out on “Boys Night Out” or “Girls Night Out” where they can flirt with other people. Men might play soccer with their buddies in the afternoon, women might have a coffee and go shoppping with their female friends but they do not go out at night and leave their partner alone at home. No strip clubs for men in committed relationships either. If your GF finds out you go to these places you can expect a very strong reaction.

3) When it comes to engagement and weddings, Brazilian women are used to do things differently. We do not require you to spend thousands on a diamond ring. We do not have that tradition (see my post about engagement rings). We are happy with a simpler ring or just the wedding band. Some of us though, after living in America and seeing so many De Beers ads, may want a diamond ring after all. We also do not have to wait for a man to propose. These things are decided jointly by the couple. The old fashioned on your knees proposal is not heard off in real life. Americans love the whole creative proposal thing; Brazilians don’t. They decide to get married and communicate it to their families, period.

4) Do not even think of having a dalliance with hookers and strippers just because it is your bachelor’s party. We consider that cheating and don’t be surprised if your fiancé cancels the wedding if she finds out. We do not even have the bachelor party tradition. Very few men celebrate that, while the bride’s friends do get together to get her presents for her new home. Sometimes men participate as well (a tradition that is also starting here).

5) Latin people in general are more emotional and more possessive, keep that in mind when you fight with her. Tears, jealous fits, strong reactions to something you did wrong are all typical of our emotional nature.

6) Women are raised to be feminine, to do girly things (they may have piano and ballet lessons, not play baseball or rough sports, for example). Many are still raised to get married and have children as their first focus and have a career as a secondary pursuit-a necessary evil. However, that pattern is changing with the younger generations, who are now investing more in their careers.

7) Women are encouraged to spend a lot of their time on their looks-body, clothes and hair. Staying attractive is sine qua non in a culture that judges people by how they look.

8) Even though racism is not as pervasive and divisionary as in the U.S.A., lighter skinned Brazilians look down on darker skinned Brazilians. They see darker Brazilians as belonging to the lower social classes. That is typical of countries that were afflicted by the horrible thing that slavery was. Brazil had slavery just like the American South, and one of the consequences of slavery is that it can take several generations for their descendants to reach the same level of success in life that their former owners have. Therefore, Brazilians from African descent became part of the struggling poor in Brazil-they have had a harder time getting education and good jobs. Fortunately, this situation has improved, and Brazilians aren realizing how nefarious racism is.

9) BBrazil still has a subtle-or not so subtle-class system. There isn’t much social interaction between classes (unless the “lower classes” are working for the “higher” ones). Sad but still true. Fortunately, Brazil has made some steps in improving wealth distribution in the last decades.

10) Many middle class Brazilian girls from the middle to upper classes were often raised with maids. Therefore, they are not used to doing housework, which is seen as something beneath them. Working with your hands in Brazil is also associated with the lower economic classes.

11) Brazilian men and women oftentimes do not know how to fix things or are impractical due to cheap labor and being catered to all their lives. Many Brazilians when coming to the US for the first time do not even know how to pump gas-having had gas station servers all their lives. Women particularly, are sometimes not very practical when it comes to daily life and expect you to do all the dirty work for her 🙂

12) Brazilian women expect the man to be a gentleman. They like a man who opens doors, drives them places, changes their oil, etc. They are not very good when it comes to practical things (they eventually learn after a few years living here), but when it comes to decision making, Brazilian women are opinionated and not shrinking violets. They expect you to respect them and share your decisions with them if part of a couple.

13) Never, under any circumstances, call your GF or wife the B word. Name calling in Brazil is considered extremely offensive, and a man should never call his wife names no matter how terrible the argument is. A wife, like a mother or a daughter, is sacred. American movies show a lot of cursing (the F word seems to be the most popular). Brazilians associate cursing with gangsters and lowlifes.

14) The mother in law thing. Many older women in Brazil are in dire economical situation due to widowhood, divorce, lack of opportunities or low paid jobs. The older generation of women did not usually work outside the home. Therefore, they expect their children to take care of them. Many of these mothers interfere in their childrens’ relationships and try to control their daughters or sons. They are also often lonely and live vicariously through their offspring. They use guilt tactics to keep the children catering to their needs and see the children-in-law as the devil themselves. They take their kids’ side if they have arguments with their spouses and sometimes destroy marriages with their interference.

Not every mother in law is like that: the ones with careers, the ones in happy relationships and the ones with a life of their own. So beware of the dependant MIL! Anyhow, don’t be surprised if your GF/wife tells you that her mother is coming to spend one month with her-and you. Some Brazilian women never grow up and are very dependant on their mothers. Conversely, Brazilian relatives from the upper middle class will stay in hotels-they want privacy and comfort.

15) You and her (or him, in case of an American woman with a Brazilian man) might have differences when it comes to how to use your time. Brazilians consider Sunday sacred. It is not a day to work, but a day to lounge around, go to the beach, have a barbecue by the pool, go to church (for those still brainwashed by religion or just traditional), watch soccer or Formula One races, visit with friends, go sightseeing, nap or watch movies and other leisure actitivities. Saturday is a day to run errands, but not Sundays! It is not only the Catholic influence but also the fact that in their minds, the work week is for work, while the weekend is for pleasure and rest. So if you like to tinker with your car, wash it, rebuild the roof of your house, clean the garage or mow the lawn on a Sunday you will find resistance. She will feel abandoned. In her mind, you should be with her and not ignoring her with “chores”. Not only that, she was raised seeing her Dad pay someone to do those things. The help works, the middle class and the upper middle class rests and plays.

16) Once you marry and have children with a Brazilian, you have to understand some cultural differences when it comes to being a couple. In Brazil, the focus is on the COUPLE. The children come second. You and your wife are the main unit, not you and your kids. Many American men and women turn their focus to the children after they are born, spending little alone time with their spouse. Not spending enough alone time with your spouse, not romancing them and spending too much time on the kids can create resentment. Brazil does not have the “Daddy and Daughter” culture. Children spend time with their parents together, not with only one parent. Telling your kids how much you love them, hugging and kissing them all the time and not doing the same with your spouse can create resentment. Brazilians want the romance to continue, no matter how long you have been married. They want to walk hand in hand, they want some PDA and they want to know they come first.

17) If you have a more logical and scientific mind and do not tolerate religious myths or fundamentalism, be aware that most Brazilian women are still brainwashed by a Catholic upbringing, Spiritism (a new fad that believes in reincarnation) and the new Evangelical churches that have taken hold of the less educated and fortunate. She will want to attend Church on Sundays, pray to god to make things happen and invoke the Daddy in the sky all the time. She may think your disdain for religion makes you a “bad” person. Either you get into the religion bandwagon with her, ignore her delusional religiosity or try to make her see the light. It’s your call 🙂

18) Hitting a woman in Brazil is seen with even more disgust than in America. There is a famous saying in Brazil: “You don’t hit a woman even with a flower”. Men who hit their wives are seen as total cowards, since normally men are stronger than women. Hitting someone who’s physically weaker than you is cowardice.

19) In the Brazilian culture, saying you love someone is mostly reserved for romantic love. Men and women in relationships say that to each other. Understand that if your Brazilian girlfriend or wife hears you say “I love you” to random friends it will sound strange. Just the other day I heard a married “Dancing with the stars” contestant telling her dance partner “I love you”. Love in America is basically anyone you like. Parents tell their kids “I love you” automatically, just like saying “bye bye”. In Brazil, one can say “I love my mother”, or “I love soccer”, but “I love you” is reserved for romantic love, straight or gay.

20) Because of the strong sense of family in Brazil, Brazilian women do not like marriages with separate finances. She expects both of you to pull your resources together and save, invest and build for the future. Brazilians are big believers in saving money every month. They do not like to have huge debts and bank owned assets. They have the “casa propria” dream, that is, they like want to own the house they live in. Brazilian women do have the bag lady syndrome, and want to feel financally secure for the future. Your American prenup mentality is not going to go down well with her. She considers marriage a partnership, and as such, whether she works or not, she will contribute by taking care of the household and the children. She likes to make financial decisions as a couple. Again, Brazilian women really see marriage is a team effort and partnership. If that’s not your idea of marriage, she will resent it forever.

21) Finally the good stuff: because of the strong sense of family and their natural warmth, Brazilian women are very loyal, family oriented, feminine looking and affectionate companions!

I know many intercultural/international couples, specially Brazilian women with American spouses. From my experience, the ones that have the best chances of surviving are the ones where the American spouse is very much aware of the Brazilian culture. That is, someone who understands and probably has lived, in Brazil. Someone who learned the language and likes foreign cultures. The very typical American with little curiosity about other cultures has a harder time adapting to the Brazilian personality. It also helps if the American side of the couple is open minded about different issues. Liberal Americans do better than Conservative Americans. Americans who have travelled extensively or lived in other countries also do better, as well as very educated Americans.

The same principle applies to the Brazilian side of the couple: if they live in America, it helps when the Brazilian spouse learns to speak English well, is not too emotionally dependant on their mothers/relatives and has some international experience BEFORE marrying an American. A more cosmopolitan Brazilian who doesn’t need to be surrounded by Brazilians all the time, who is not missing their typical Brazilian foods every day and who is able to make friends from different nationalities.

Still, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes love does conquer all!

July 15, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Relationships | 537 Comments

Civil Divorce

I feel bad when I see couples fighting in court and dragging all the dirty laundry. I also feel that it should be unnecessary to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in lawyers.  if at one time you two were a team, why can’t you together decide how to divide your assets? Where did the trust and love go? Maybe it wasn’t there to begin with? A civil divorce is so much better for all involved.

Couples who just split everything in the middle are better off and they should be able to decide who gets what when it comes to the nitty gritty without big disputes.  Conversely, child support and visitation should also be decided together.  Child support should be the amount the parent who has the child more often needs for his or her support.  Joint custody is the best, unless one parent is a toxic presence for a child.

Intelligent people who once loved each other should be able to use reason, compassion and friendship to split assets and objects in a fair way where both are happy. Negotiation and compromise are skills intelligent people have. Even though they say people get revengeful upon divorce, it is usually people who had a bad marriage to begin with who end up in bitter fights.  Acrimonious divorces make divorce lawyers rub their hands with pleasure…

Many divorced couples nowadays manage to have a civilized relationship with their exes. When there are children involved, it is best for everyone that the exes, with our without their new spouses/GFs/BFs get along. Divorce is hard enough on the children, and to see their parents hating each other is a huge burden for them. Somehow they feel that they too are a failure, a product of a relationship that became sour.

Although I recognize that in certain circumstances the cause of divorce provoked intense pain in one of the partners (such as infidelity and betrayal, think Christie Brinkley/Cook case), it is better to allow time, the very best medicine, to ruffle the feathers so parents can co-parent with understanding and politeness. Some rare divorced couples have a much lighter relationship separated than when they were married; somehow they just do better as friends than as a romantic relationship. That happens often when the cause of divorce was lack of passion and sexual interest.

For the children, seeing that their parent respects their other parent, it creates more stability in the midst of a normally chaotic situation where their lives have been desmantled.

Some families even manage to socialize with their exes and their new partners during holidays and important events in their childrens’ lives such as weddings and graduations.  I would say that that is the least negative way to be divorced when you have children. For families who achieve that, bravo. Your children will feel the impact of divorce less.

My observation has been that Americans deal with divorce better than Brazilians. Maybe because this country has dealt with divorce longer as well as having a higher divorce rates, or because our Brazilian culture is more emotional and family oriented and unfair to women (men have greater chance of rebuilding their lives after a certain age in Brazil). I have witnessed former couples who never speak to each other, hate each other and absolutely ignore their exes new partners.  I can’t imagine being 12 and having your mom hate your father or vice versa. It is so stressful for a child, teenager and even an adult.

Getting over whatever hurt you, moving on with your life, forgiving your ex, finding joy in other activities or people, giving yourself a chance to fall in love again, all these attitudes will make your life and your children’s life a lot better.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Relationships | Leave a comment

American xenofobia in music?

For some reason, Britopop, with the exception of a few groups like the Beatles (duh) and U2, is more popular in Brazil than the U.S.  Since I am an 80’s girl through and through, I grew up listening to all these Britpop bands that hardly any typical American knows off. New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, The Cult, The Communards, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, Monaco, Brian Ferry, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran….etc. That surprises me since the language is the same! Most likely it is American protectionism at play. The radio stations do not want to advertise foreign bands. So they cram Journey into your head. How often has anyone heard a French or Italian song in an American radio station? I will say never! I remember how in Brazil in the late 60’s and 70’s you could hear romantic Italian songs by Gigliola Cinquetti, Franki Valli, anyone heard it in America?

Satellite Radio has changed that with its diverse stations, but for some reason it is not that popular (I think people have a hard time paying for music in a monthly basis, it seems so superfluous especially in a declining economy).

When I go to Europe or Brazil I love turning on the radio stations. Ah, finally some good music! I confess I am also a fan of cheesy Europop. And here in the US I STRUGGLE to find one station I like.  How come there are no dance radio stations in the whole DC area?

July 9, 2008 Posted by | Music | 1 Comment