I have talked about love in a previous post, and how difficult it is to explain and define it. We can almost say romantic love is a mix of lust and like, a physical attraction and a desire to be with a certain person. However, as people mature, compatibility becomes a lot more important than love. It’s compatibility that makes couples stay together after the physical attraction has waned (because familiarity does breed contempt and living together does kill the mystery and excitement that new sex has).
After many years of marriage, common interests, common goals, a shared worldview, hobbies and routine are the glues that holds couples together. The other glues are a sense of family, having children and grandchildren together, having a extended family, social and religious obligations.
But life offers no guarantees. Even if you choose someone who has a lot in common with you to marry, this person or yourself can change. Some changes are external, like chronic disease or suddenly making a lot of money; and some changes are internal (one of my friend’s ex-wife wanted to “find herself”, “Eat Pray & Love” style). However, you increase your chances of staying together if you are compatible.
Here are some questions about this subject:
Do you think all couples in the beginning of a relationship are compatible (or pretend to be in order to seduce their partner) and then change as life goes on?
Is it worth leaving a long relationship where there is compatibility just because you are not in love anymore (usually when someone tells their spouse they are not in love with them anymore it really means they are not sexually attracted to them anymore)?
This post has something to do with the former post, “Educated Immigrants”. That posts talks about educated immigrants from several different countries that live in the USA. This post is about the the upper classes in a country like Brazil.
If you born in an upper middle or upper class family in Brazil, you might have some or all of these characteristics:
1) You think poor people need to look up to you and respect you;
2) Poor people exist to serve you; at home, at work and everywhere else;
3) You barely talk to or acknowledge the waiter serving coffee or cleaning the floors anywhere you go;
4) Your child should not mingle with children of the help, or children who live in bad neighborhoods;
5) Anyone who has an undergraduate degree is called “doctor”, even though he or she is not a medical doctor nor has a PhD;
6) The law does not apply to you. You feel sorry for the rich kid who “accidently” hit someone with Daddy’s imported car. There is no way on earth this kid can be in prison with the lower classes, especially if he/she is white and good looking;
7) You use your contacts to find cushy jobs for yourself, your children or your close relatives;
8) If you are a woman, you have to be dressed from head to toe in the latest fashion. You simply cannot repeat a dress and you cannot wear something from last summer;
9) If you are a woman, you don’t dare go to the gym or the grocery store without make up or in sweats because people can think you are poor;
10) You don’t mind that your live-in maid sleeps in a windowless 2 x 2m room; she’s lucky she has a place to sleep!
11) You feel magnanimous when you give your maid a 30 Real salary increase, or when you give her leftover food she can take home to her family;
12) If you are a woman, you don’t do our own hair, manicure or pedicure. Why, when it’s so cheap to do it in a salon?
13) If you are a man, you wouldn’t be caught dead mowing your own lawn, gardening or washing your own car. Imagine if someone thinks you are the gardener? Besides, labor is so cheap.
14) You loooooove France. You loooove Paris, and you bash the US, but you like to come to the US for shopping.
15) You are racist, but you pretend you are not.
Examples? The David Goldman story. Wealthy and well connected family thinks they could keep American abducted child in Brazil without any consequences. Now, to be fair, many of these “attributes” can also belong to wealthy Americans too, don’t you think? Those upper crusty Boston types with 3 names and a Roman numeral at the end?
There is a very big difference between working class immigrants and immigrants who arrived with a College Education in the United States. I happen to know many immigrants who had a middle to upper middle class upbringing in their country of origin and who decided to move to the United States because of better opportunities, higher salaries or less crime. Some of them came with their parents who were diplomats, military personnel or post-graduate students.
The interesting thing is that these people have a harder time living in the USA than those who were really struggling in their countries. The reasons are listed below, and it does not apply to everybody as usual. Just some food for thought:
1) The USA is a “do it yourself” country. Many immigrants with privileged backgrounds were raised with maids who did everything from making their beds to pressing their clothes. They have difficulty with sometimes simple tasks as putting together an IKEA piece of furniture (ok, it’s not that easy…).
2) These foreigners still have the class system frame of mind. They still see themselves as “superior” to the working class folks. Therefore, when they are treated the same as everybody else, they resent it. They are used to being “respected” and getting their way.
3) At work, they feel they are “above” certain menial tasks and expect others to do the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively.
4) They don’t really belong to any groups. They are shunned by the working class immigrants from their countries who see them as too “snobby and classy”, they are shunned by white Americans who see them as too foreign (even if they happen to be Caucasian) and they are shunned by other ethnic communities that are more closed off. They end up having a few European friends or other few upper class immigrants from their own countries.
5) They have a more hedonistic nature that does not bode well in former Puritan America. Working hard is not something they are very used to, and they miss the long vacations and perks they used to know in their countries. They don’t understand why Americans only seem to work. Their favorite theme when with their friends is bashing America and Americans.
However, they don’t go back. And if they do, they come back once more. Why? Because deep down they know their country’s big class gap also means that there is more poverty. And they can’t stand seeing poverty and economic injustice anymore. When they go back to visit, they are appalled by inefficiency, lack of urban planning, dirty streets. Furthermore, they might have lost the connections they had when living in their country, and they fear not being able to have the same quality of life as in the USA. One of the ways for immigrants who came from a privileged background to feel good in America may be to either stay within their own cultural and class group or to become as Americanized as possible, shunning their accents & customs.
What is the most important tool for the empowerment of women? Education. Education is the path to better paid jobs which can make women become independent, not victims. Education can also be training or access to information, which in turn may facilitate professional success.
It is sad to see women all over the world depending on somebody else for their survival. Is it sad to see how women accept things they would normally not accept if they had enough money to support themselves. It is sad to see women in abusive marriages afraid of leaving because they don’t know how they are going to feel themselves and their children. We’ve come a long way, but there are still stories of dependence in every part of the world, especially in the Middle East.
Stories of dependence exist here In the United States, as well as in other so-called Western civilized countries. The very traditional values imposed by men and for men through Evangelical congregations particularly in the American Red States make women stay home and make babies (Quiverfull movement). The more babies they have, the more dependant they are. Decades ago Catholic Ireland followed the Pope’s commandments against birth control, so Irish Catholic families had at least 3 or 4 children. These women would have to put up with philandering husbands, out of wedlock children, alcoholic and abusive husbands. There was no way out.
Women who make their own money look, feel and live differently. They have a much higher self esteem, they act more confident, and they do whatever they want with their lives, including deciding to live it at its fullest.
In that respect, why do many young women still choose “female professions”, or “find-a -husband degrees”? Are they afraid of the hard work that comes with more challenging degrees such as engineering and medicine? Do they have more problems with math which makes them avoid more scientific professions? Do they think they will go to College but then settle down with a man who will take care of them? The truth is that women still choose careers that pay less. Society has to encourage girls to take on the harder subjects and to enroll in more scientific and lucrative fields at school.
In Brazil, raising girls to be mothers and wives has always always been more pronounced than in the USA and Western Europe. Girls are encouraged to take ballet lesson and have more feminine actitivities. Not many girls get into competitive sports as in the USA.
With each generation that has passed though, things have gotten better. My mom’s generation was marriage first and maybe a job to complement the household income. I remember growing up and hearing “her salary is for her cosmetics”. The woman was not expected to be a major bread winner. My generation mixed both career and motherhood a lot better, but we still took a sidestep to our husband’s careers. We grew up thinking we would have a man’s protection, and that marriage would provide us with stability.
Not anymore. I suspect the new generations coming out of high school know they will have to fend for themselves. They’ve witnessed their parents’ divorce, and they’ve been through recession periods when the breadwinner sometimes has to be the woman. Furthermore, the role of men has changed. They are much more involved with childcare, and they split in half housework, carpooling, care giving. The truth is, only women can bear children, and women are no doubt more involved in a child’s early infancy. To expect them to suddenly become as successful as men is to disregard the biological and gender differences. However, there are three things parents should teach their daughters:
1) Only have as many children as you can afford;
2) Choose more competitive careers; don’t be afraid of trying male territory;
3) Never assume a man will take care of you for the rest of your life. There is death, divorce, unemployment and disease.
- Being a mother
- Being a woman
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