Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

To Prenup or not to prenup

Prenups are very controversial subject mattter.  They provoke a lot of anxiety, resentments and disputes. They make lawyers happy though. The more documents the better. What should be a decision between two people becomes a profitable tool.

I dislike prenups and what they mean. They mean you really don’t trust the person you are getting married to and that you need to protect yourself against him or her. Couples who have joint finances have less conflict about money. They have a sense of partnership. They have a sense of “we are in this together”. To those couples who keep everything separate I ask: why bother getting married?

Prenups are acceptable when one person has considerable wealth before the marriage. Nowadays though, States preserve that as individual property in case of divorce. Judges rarely allow one spouse to take assets accumulated before the marriage in case of divorce. Prenups that keep finances separate DURING marriage are essentially against the very spirit of marriage: partnership. The sense of growing together, sharing and having common goals can only be obtained when couples save and invest their money together. Marriage is about helping each other in good times or bad times.

When one has a lot more money than the other, there is a gap between the couple. The richer one tries to control the relationship. Some women don’t work when the kids are young but they are working for the family; her contribution is raising these kids and keeping the domestic engine running.

Some women don’t work to help their husband’s career (especially true in political careers). They should feel they are protected in those cases. Nonetheless, most women do have jobs and contribute to the household. Many earn more than their husbands. Many men who resent so much dividing their marital property forget that. Women work too! And still take care of the house!

Some couples have a deal: he will work so she can get a better degree than she will work so he can get a better degree. Many immigrants in America do that. That gives them a sense of family, something which is lacking in more selfish marriage arrangements.

Some young couples are jumping on the prenup bandwagon. What are they protecting, their stamp collection from when they were 12? From experience, I have been in a marriage where everything was shared and money went to one pot, and a marriage where everything is separated.  My experience is that the first type of marriage is a lot more harmonious when it comes to money, which transpires into other areas as well.

I recently heard a story that got me peeved: a woman in her 30’s had just had her first baby. Her husband, brainwashed by the “ME ME ME” generation, wanted finances to be completely separate. She pays some of the bills while he pays some of the others (he makes a lot more). She came home from the hospital and was shivering. Her mother than raised the temperature in the house. When the husband came home, he complained it was too warm. The mother explained why, and the husband said: “it’s easy for her, she’s not the one paying the bill”! It turns out he was the one who paid the power bill. For chrissakes, she just had his baby! I feel the mentality has changed from  my generation about what marriage is and should be.

This mine and yours thing may be ok for many people, but it is just not part of how I was brought up. In the past, I have supported a husband for periods where he was unemployed, and I never, ever complained. It was my duty to help him. Additionally, when an aunt died and left me 9 thousand dollars, at no moment I thought: “This is my money and I will keep it apart or spend it on myself”. Instead, I used the money towards our apartment. In my mind, it belonged to both of us. Similarly, when my then husband got a 8k bonus from his company, the first thing he said was: “What do you want?”. I told him what I wanted, and he also bought himself something nice and with the rest of the money we took the kids to Disneyworld!

Have you looked at your neighborhood bar? You see dozens of 50+ men hanging out night after night. Most are divorced and bitter. I call them the grumpy old men. They all feel they were slighted by their wives financially (when one way or the other, they knew they had to share with her his and her accumulated assets during marriage), and are unable to trust a woman again. Thus, few women want to date them (besides them being old and sometimes ugly :)). And the women who do eventually leave when they see his fear of commitment.  So year after year, these men are hanging out in bars, hanging on to their bitterness about marriage.

No wonder they say widows are the best men to date for older women, because they did not go through the nastiness of divorce.  They liked being married, and they want that again.

When couples have joint finances during their marriage (which means they will split what they made together during that period in case of divorce), they have more common goals and aspirations and a bigger desire to help each other. I once read that couples that have prenups divorce more. I need to find that statistic.

Finally, if a prenup is necessary, it should be a document that BOTH want. If one person wants it but the other does not, it will always be a dagger standing between them. Prenups that keep previous assets separate are ok on my view, but prenups that separate earnings DURING a marriage destroy the very essence of marriage. To these people I say: Why bother getting married?

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Relationships, Society | 2 Comments

This is not the only country that has freedom

It irks me to hear right wingers speaking ad nauseum about American “freedom” as if nowhere else in the world people had any freedom. Of course there are many nations where personal freedom is limited. There are still some dictatorships around and countries that are not democratic.

However, most of the Western societies and many others around the world have a considerable amount of freedom, which is actually an abstract word. Freedom can vary from being able to vote to being able to walk around naked in public. Total freedom is impossible.  We all know that societal norms are necessary for keeping communities peaceful.

The folks who think this is the only free country need to get a passport and see the world.
Take Brazil, for example: In the early 90’s, the population went to the streets and impeached a president who was accused of corruption. Brazil went through 20 years of Military regime (they actually brought a lot of progress to the country, which developed a big industrial park during that era) but when it got rid of “copcracy” it became a democratic and free country, where everyone between the ages of 18 and 65 votes.
Some small personal freedoms are also different from the US: you can drink everywhere; you can buy beer at the beach, there are just less restrictions, young people can go to bars and clubs after turning 18 (this 21 age limit is exaggerated and  American kids from 18-21 are limited in how they can enjoy nights out).  Interestingly enough, there is not much  alcohol abuse because it is not so forbidden like here. Young people in America, once in College, drink like fish because they can’t go to a regular bar and ask for a beer. There is a drinking culture in college that is pervasive and dangerous to kids’ health. They can go to war and endanger their lives, kill people, get PSTD but they can’t drink a beer in a bar! 
Other excessive restrictions: homeowners association that don’t let you change anything in your house ; city planners imposing a lot of restrictions for those who own businesses (too much local government interference).    
Anyhow, when you travel abroad, you have a chance to observe other cultures and see that the world is ONE, that we have these artificial geo-political frontiers but we are all very much the same. National habits and customs are disappearing and internet and television spread news and trends all over .  The youth in most countries want exactly the same things, you hear the same artists and music in a radio station in Rio or in Auckland NZ, women wear the same fashions; and we all are connected by the internet.
Nationalism and Xenophobia, besides being dangerous, are also an old fashioned way to see the world. So there, I am a citizen of the world 🙂 I believe in cooperation between countries, scientific and economic, complementary and not confrontational. Maybe it is an illusion, but who knows one day we will have less dissent. And in order for that to happen, I hope religion comes to play a smaller role in society.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Society | 2 Comments

Lonely in America

Many Americans are very lonely. I know a lot of lonely folks. The urban sprawl has made the suburbs places into  where people do not congregate. You ride cars, enter your house, turn on the TV. You see big houses with one or two people living in them. I can only imagine all those empty rooms. You see a lot of divorced men and women who are unable to remarry or find a new partner living alone.

In Brazil, even if you live alone, you don’t feel lonely. You come downstairs to from your apartment to the streets and you see people everywhere. How can you get depressed with that? Cities are full of life. Warm weather most of the time. People laughing, talking animatedly.  The older I get, the less I enjoy cold weather.

One solution to the American “suburbanitis” is the new trend of opening town centers, restoring the feeling of old downtown, where people can walk and interact. The MD/VA area has several, like Reston Town Center, The Kentlands and the Rio in Gaithersburg. We need more of those. We also need to bring workplaces out to the suburbs to alleviate the heavy commute many people in these big urban areas have.

So…I decided that when I retire, if my husband wants to join me, I want to go to a warm place. And if I become a widow first, I will also move to a tropical place with lots of humans around 🙂

 Can anyone give me some ideas? Costa Rica? Rio? Miami? Cote d’Azure? Ibiza? It all depends on how much money I will have to survive then…

I know someone who moved to Florida but did not like it.  This person claimed there were too many rednecks and old people (no offense to each of these groups :)).  So give me some ideas of places to retire for old women..I am open to suggestions.


Waikiki, Hawaii

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 2 Comments

The Atheist bus sign

Needless to say, I loved this. Wish we had more license plates and signs like these over in America.  My signature phrase is: “In Reason we Trust”.  I have the sticker on my car, and not many people get it…

Atheist Bus

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Atheism | 4 Comments

The Third British Invasion


I was too young to really follow the first British Invasion (The Beatles), but I reveled with the second British Invasion (New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, The Cure, Duran Duran..and the list goes on and on).

Adele is one in the string of very talented British singers that sing like Black women from the 40’s. Amy Winehouse with “Back to Black” is the most famous one. London has an Arts school that has been attracting these talented singers. Interesting how British songs shows more sadness and despair while American music is more upbeat, silly or materialistic (hip hop).

I am happy to witness the third “British Invasion”. Young artists with soulful voices. Raspy voices. Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”, Keane’s “Crystal Ball” and Adele’s “Chasing Pavements”, my latest obsession, are my favorites. It’s actually hard to keep up with all the new artists: Duffy, Natasha Bedingfeld, James Blunt, etc.  What does that little island have in its water that it produces so many good musicians?

Check it out: Adele – Chasing Pavements:

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Music | 1 Comment

Public Displays of Affection

An interesting difference between Americans and Brazilians has to do with PDA-Public Display of Affection. In Brazil, it is habitual to see couples kissing in public, and I am talking French kissing, not little pecks. Since many people still don’t own a car, young people sometimes sit in public squares, parks, standing against walls and kiss, hug, kiss and hug. You don’t see much PDA going on in America, not even of the more discreet kind.  Sometimes I go out with my adult daughter (who will always be a baby to me :)) and I put my arms around her or kiss her and I can see that people look, obviously pleased to see a mother who shows affection towards her child. And I sometimes see middle aged couples who hold hands and lightly kiss each other, which is nice of anyone who has been together for so long 🙂

I am a bit of a pyschic when it comes to foretelling which couples will be together only by watching their body language. I usually notice who loves whom more, who is not interested, who is the neediest, etc. I can tell by the way a man puts his arms around a woman protectively that this is a good husband. I can see by the way a woman looks at a man admiringly that she values him and this is a relationship that will last. Men need women to look up to them. Many marriages start dissolving when a woman only criticizes the man, nothing he does is good, etc. I feel Barack and Michelle’s marriage is a good one, and that Cindy’s and McCain’s is full of tension and not much love left. But that’s subject for another post… I can also differentiate between an honest and sincere PDA and a fake and agressive PDA which some couples engage in to show off or to mark their territory.

Public display of affection in Brazil is a cultural thing. It is a country where romance and family comes before work or hobbies. Physical affection is good and not a reason for embarrassment.

That brings me to the reality faced by Brazilians dating an American man of Anglo descent, or a Brazilian man dating an anglo woman. White anglo Americans feel unconfortable with too much proximity, too much touching and kissing. What comes naturally to us is seen by some of them as an invasion of privacy. Hey, this is the nation where breastfeeding (thanks Angelina Jolie for the magazine cover!), nipples and camel toe are seen as indecent exposure!

Brazilian (or should I say Latin and European folks) dating an American also need to understand that the words “I love you” have a different meaning to each culture. In Brazil, those 3 words are very special and only said between a man and a woman (I guess between homossexual couples too). “I love you” is reserved for romance. You rarely say “I love you” to your children or siblings or friends. In the US,  I have heard a guy say to another guy friend: “I love you man”. Those words in Brazil would be a scandal! He loves him..uh oh..they must be gay!  Many American children are also brought up saying “I love you” every time they talk to their parents. It is as automatic as saying “Goobye” or “How are you doing”. It becomes a habit.

I have told my children I love them, but only in very special occasions. They know I love them, I don’t need to tell them that every time I talk to them. Otherwise the words lose their power.   I still see “I love you” as romantic words to be said ocasionally between a man and a woman who DO love each other.

So, no matter how long I live in the US, some cultural aspects of my Brazilian upbringing will still hang on. I  will hug and kiss my husband and children in public, would breastfeed (discreetly, but still would if I could LOL), will only say “I love you” in special occasions to my kids and will say it to my husband more often than not.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Being a mother, Difference between cultures, Relationships | 4 Comments

Health Insurance in the US vs. Brazil

I am not an expert on how governments can provide universal healthcare to its citizens.  I agree with Barack Obama that health is a right, not a privilege. But if I agreed with those extremist libertarians, healthcare would be an “individual choice”. Health would be a privilege of those who have money; for those who are dumb enough not to have money, just rot and die. 

However, it is very very expensive. It is almost impossible for a country to provide quality free healthcare coming from only taxpayers’ money.

The US already provides good free public schools for elementary and secondary education. In Brazil for example, public schools are not reliable, so most parents pay for private schools from kindergarten to high school.

I think the best way is to have clinics for those who cannot have private health insurance. These clinics would charge very little, but would not be free. The doctors who would work there would be younger doctors or retired doctors or doctors who do not mind making less than they would in private practice for a guaranteed 40 hour week and a feeling of satisfaction that comes from helping people (I have a pediatrician aunt who donates one or two days of her working week to work in a free city clinic which caters to the very poor population. My grandfather, also a pediatrician, would always see patients who could not pay).

Lines would be longer, waiting periods for non essential surgeries longer, but everyone would have access to it. For all others who require a better insurance, they could continue paying more through their employers or privately. This is a bit how it works in Brazil, although there are many complaints about long lines and deficient infra-structure in the Brazilian public health care system.

In the years I lived in Brazil, I always had private health insurance. I also do not remember ever receiving bills at home. I would pay my premium, my monthly payments and when I went to the doctor I would be covered. Any exam or test woud be covered by my monthly payments. It annoys the hell out of me to receive bill after bill sometimes months later after any doctor’s appointment here in the US. The communication between health providers and health insurance companies is dismal, and many claims are refused for misinformation. So the patient ends up with the bill.

I am tired of fighting insurance companies and trying to rectify bills that are wrong. I do not remember ever having to do that in Brazil.

So, besides teaching Americans how to deal with electronic voting and alternative fuels, should Brazilians also teach Americans how to have both public and private healthcare for its citizens? Or is the British/Canadian/French model better?

This is a very complex matter with no easy solution. Comments?

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Health, Politics | 7 Comments

Why Brazilian women have such nice “derrieres”

So let me let out a secret which Brazilian women know well: why do Brazilian women have such perfect perky and round butts? One of the reasons is the right mixture of African, Indian and European bloods. That gave women the roundness and plumpness factor. Not too many flat pancakes walking around 🙂

The second reason is that Brazilian women work out, walk a lot and eat healthier than their American counterparts. Therefore, even if they have bigger hips and more meat in that region of their bodies, it is never too big. It is often toned and hard.

Brazilian culture as I have pointed out in this blog is a lot more appearance oriented.  The mostly warm weather makes women show their bodies more. The butt is the favorite part of every Brazilian man. The butt is glorified in Brazil. It is all about the butt (just like in America it is all about large breasts).  So attention is given to this important part of the body!

Now here is the third reason why almost every butt in the street seems nice: the Brazilian underwear! Brazilian women in general wear panties that “lift” the buttocks. They never wear granny pants which I so often see in America (all those horrible panty lines). And they are not big fans of g-string underwear (have you ever worn anything more uncomfortable, I hate them!). 

 Instead, the V-cut panty is very popular there. It leaves panty lines if worn with very tight pants, but it also lifts saggy buttocks and makes them perkier. So there, I let the cat out of the bag!

The same applies to bikinis. Contrary to what many Americans think, Brazilian women do not go topless at the beach or swimming pools.  It is considered nudity and offensive. If a woman tries to take her top off in a Brazilian beach, people may call the cops, especially if there are children and families around. But the bikinis are very small. Somehow, none of that seems offensive.

You do not see women with big bikini bottoms. We call the American cut which covers both cheeks “diapers”. And you do not see too many g-strings in Brazilian beaches anymore,  they had some popularity in the early 90’s but I guess Brazilians thought they showed too much and were somewhat vulgar, unclassy. So again, the V-cut wins for bikinis as well, lifting the butt cheeks and creating the so called Brazilian butt.

Maybe this post will make American lingerie makers pay more attention to the V cut.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Fashion | 19 Comments

The lack of foreign music in American radio stations

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in both countries, Brazil and the USA. I remember being  a young teen in the 70’s and listening to Italian and French music, mostly romantic. Gigliola Cinquetti, Rita Pavoni, Domenico Modugno (“Volare”), the San Remo festival all comes to mind. Brazilian stations played and still play music from other countries.

In the 80’s, I listened to a lot of Britpop, which I still listen to. New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Cure and more. Ok, but these songs are in English and they sometimes play in American radio stations, specially U2.

Now, try to find one Italian or French or German song in the Amercican stations! You will certainly find a lot of Spanish stations directed to the hispanic population, but they are a world apart. I am talking about mainstream radio stations, especially the oldies ones. Why do they ignore music from other countries? Is it all commercialism, protectionism or Americans’ aversion to languages “they cannot understand”? The latter may be true because my husband, like a typical monolinguist, cannot listen to 5 minutes of Brazilian music or any other language for that matter without going nuts. He says he does not like to hear music he cannot understand, even if the melody and arrangements are beautiful. Hello!

I remember my parents went to Russia for an agricultual economics conference (in the communist days) back in 1970. They brought back an album with the most popular Russian singers. It was pop music from the 70’s. The songs were beautiful, the voices cristaline, and I listened to those songs over and over without understanding a word!

So besides not liking the songs in most radio stations nowadays (too much hip hop), I miss listening to European music. I do not care too much for satellite radio (too many channels!) and not free…

Maybe if I find a way to hook up my iPhone to my car radio and play AOL radio or Pandora…

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Society | Leave a comment

Hugh Hefner’s sad demise

I wrote about the “dumbing down of America” not too long ago. I mentioned the lack of good examples that comes out of pop culture and celebrity lifestyles. Even serious character flaws seen trivial.  Drinking until you fall, taking drugs, DUI’s and infidelity are every day occurrences that we simply don’t judge anymore.

One that comes to my mind is Hugh Hefner. Hefner enjoyed the culture of freedom of expression and experimentation that started in the 60’s. He made sexuality be less of a taboo. But the sexual freedom that emerged was not for all: it was just for men. Old farts could enjoy canoodling with young (and clueless) women. Women were objectified to the max and had to fit in Hefner’s standards of beauty: big breasts and a very slender frame with big hair.

We know that young women with a healthy self esteem and a sense of dignity (which good family values can give you) don’t follow these routes. Women with goals for themselves (studying, working on your profession, being responsible) also don’t take the “easy” way out of selling their bodies.  There are actors like Natalie Portman and Anne Hathaway who manage to work in the business and exude class and style. I cannot imagine the kind of psychological stress it is to know that everyone you know looked at your naked picture: your neighbor, your father, your uncle, your grandfather, your teacher, etc.

In those days he was younger and those women did not mind exposing themselves in exchange for a sum of money (with the risk of ruining their reputatation) or for future opportunities in modeling and acting. He used many women, but these women let themselves be used (ah, the naivete of youth…).  Now at 82, Hefner is a pathetic figure. Perez Hilton, the blogger, showed a picture of him “dating” two young 19 year old sisters. I guess Playboy corporation had to find even younger women and a racier situation (sisters sharing a man!) to bring out the “mythical lifestyle” Helfner has sold to the Joe Six-packs all over America.

I suspect the truth is much sadder. It looks like Hefner has deep issues. Emotional issues, mommy issues, latent homossexuality (according to one of his ex-“girlfriends”, Hefner is a dead fish in bed-go figure). But now he is a pitiful joke, trying to hang on to the end of an era, where internet porn makes him obsolete and old fashioned even.  At 82, there is no way he can endure the constant chatter of empty headed, frivolous and unintelligent women all day. He must crave talking to someone closer to his age, intellect, culture and energy levels. Viagra or no viagra, he walks like an old man and seems spaced out at times. it is time for him to retire from the public, maybe go back to his family or let someone else take over the failing empire.

Here is a poster from who said it all:

“Why does US pop culture and media accept this joker as “normal” with his crazy polygamous lifestyle?!? What’s so different from him and all the extreme religions (e.g. the Mormons or Muslims) who advocate multiple sex partners for men (but never for women)? He sends the wrong message to both men and women: women should aspire to look like bimbos, and men should aspire to treat them objects. I am far from being a conservative, but influential people like this make me wish that we strove for more morals and values for the benefit of everyone.”

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Society | Leave a comment