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Archive for December, 2012

“What do you want for Christmas this year, honey?” my mother asks me in her sweet ‘I have no clue what you like or what to get you’ way.

“I don’t need anything, mom.  Really,” is my reply.  Not because it takes too long to explain to her what I enjoy, or because I’m trying to force her to prove she knows something about her daughter (It’s not like she hasn’t know me for 35 years or anything.)

It’s because… I don’t need anything.  Really.

I’m already busy trying to clear clutter *out* of my life.  I don’t *NEED* anything.

But Christmas isn’t about what you need!

It’s also not about pointless, mindless commercialism and shopping and spending money.

Christmas rolls around and I’ll be sitting with my family by the tree watching my nephew rip into his presents with child-like glee, and I’ll have a glass of wine or maybe a hot toddy, and we’ll be snacking on stuff that my mom and sister and I have made – and probably snacking on stuff my other sister gives us because she gives us food every year.

And I’ll be happy and warm and with people I love.

I don’t NEED anything for Christmas that I don’t already get.

As for what I’m giving, it’ll be all hand-made this year.  Because I’m broke, and because they don’t *need* anything either, and mostly because they love the stuff I make and I love giving them stuff I’ve made.

This time of year makes me especially glad I don’t have TV, so I’m not bombarded with a thousand businesses all telling me why I haven’t bought enough.  I don’t need to buy anything.

Okay, except for the community giving tree.  I’m buying a local 14 yr old boy stuff.  But I’ll probably pop in a few hand-made items, too.

I think it’s important these days to teach our children not just the importance of being grateful for what they have and what they receive, but also teaching them they don’t have to go into debt in a frenzy of socially-encouraged shopping for items we don’t need and half the time don’t even use.  Or like.  Singing fish!?

How about we give a few small gifts that really matter, and be content with that?

I seem to recall the spirit of the holiday being peace on earth, good will toward men.  Hope, Joy, Love.  You can’t buy these at the store or wrap them in a box.  But you can certainly give them as gifts to one and all.

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Throughout history, across cultures, there have been marriages for love.  Marriages that threw off tradition and social acceptability and proved that bonds forged between two people can triumph over all adversity.

These were the exception, the rare events.

More often, marriages were arranged, and love may or may not have followed the wedding, but it didn’t always matter.

Husbands were meant to support their families.  Wives were meant to raise their children and make their husbands look good.  This was all understood as the proper way to do things.  Love was nice but hardly expected or required.  Divorce because you didn’t love someone was silly, it was usually because of abuse, abandonment, affairs or inability to support the family, and even then it wasn’t terribly common or expected.

Husbands pretty much treated their wives like children, punishing them for ‘wrongs’ and expected to guide them from falling into bad ways.  So yes, children.  I don’t know how a society can expect children to be raised by a person they see as no more than a child herself, but society is often a funny, illogical and downright maddening thing.

As Jane Austen put it, “Happiness in marriage is a matter of chance.”  and “It’s better to know as little as possible of the defects of a person with whom  you are to spend your life.” (Ah Charlotte, I love you.)

The idea was that marriage was not the fulfillment of a bond with another person, a deep, spiritual bond that made you feel complete, your “other half” as it were.  Marriage was a social contract of you do your part, and I’ll do mine.  Let’s not focus too hard on the details, hm?

Women didn’t need men for our self esteem, support, guidance, approval, or even love.  That’s why we had our girlfriends.

The bond between women was the bond that mattered most.  Women had one another to understand, to lean on, to learn from.  Like Anne of Green Gables and her bosom companion, women sought out the closeness and intimacy of other women for things that today we expect men to provide for us.

The idea of gender roles in society and marriage has undergone extreme changes in recent decades, and it saddens me that one of the casualties of this change has been the bonds between women.  I’m not saying no woman today has her deepest, closest friends.

While all people are individuals, there is a trend that can be observed.  Since women became liberated, men aren’t necessary for being bread winners and home providers.  Women have careers and their own places, and the necessity of friendship between women has shifted.  The dynamic of being fulfilled has shifted from girlfriend to man.

Now our friends are everything from casual to convenient, with only one or two deeply close friendships, if we’re lucky.  Instead of sewing circles and knitting groups or other social community gatherings for women, it became girl’s night with the gals from work.  The group got smaller but the intimacy and closeness got less.  You didn’t necessarily *like* the women in either case, but your ability to find support from them became less certain.  The ladies at work were as likely to talk about you behind your back as to help you through a difficult time.

Gossip is age old, of course.  The sewing circles spread rumors (both true and lies) in their day, but there was more certainty of finding support in the sisterhood of your community.

Now it seems that women exist as competition for other women: for men, for jobs, for advancement.  We already promoted one token women, let’s not go crazy here!  Women don’t go to new mothers with a week’s worth of casseroles because the men are expected to pull their weight as the fathers and make dinner while the wife is recovering from child birth.

Is that wrong?  No, of course not.  But it does weaken the bonds between women.  And that is a loss.

Men are great.  I like men.  I don’t have one, but it’s not quite like running down to the Humane Society and adopting one, is it?

But I have my women friends and I have a job and I have a house and maybe that’s why I don’t have that burning sense of needing a man to complete me or justify my life.  My life is pretty good.

This isn’t just one way, either.  I think men desperately need to be with other men for their own support.  (insert anecdotal story of a boyfriend who didn’t think either of them should ever need another person, they should be able to be the only ones required for love, support and comfort worked out very badly for both of them…)

Women need other women.  Men need other men.  Women shouldn’t expect men to replace the close, intimate friendship of another woman, and men shouldn’t expect women to replace the close, intimate friendship of other men.  Neither one of them should expect the other to act as their therapist to just dump all their bad feelings and experiences onto and expect the other to ‘fix’ them or be perfect and unwavering in their support.

So this has been a very rambling opinion of why love in marriage is nice, but the closeness of friendship is essential for personal well-being and I feel a deep sense of sorrow and loss over the decline of women banding with other women for mutual support.  It may still happen, but as a society, we’ve lost that.

(without discounting for one second that some women marry women and some men marry men, I still think women need female *friends* even if they have a wife, and men need male *friends* even if they have a husband.)

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… do you suppose other countries smirk and roll their eyes when Americans talk about ‘antiques’?

We generally think of antiques as anything that was used by our grandparents, whereas many other places, even 500 yrs old can be seen as relatively modern.

The ‘historic district’ of some of our cities don’t even date back 200 years, whereas some cities on earth have been continuously occupied for upwards of 3 – 5,000, and these are just ones we know about.

I think of my house as old because it was built in 1932.  Nineteen-thirty-two.  CE.  It hasn’t even hit 100 yet.  It’s barely out of its proverbial diapers as far as old buildings are concerned.

It is due partly to this that I think Americans tend to have a rather skewed sense of history.

(This does not, of course, factor in Native American cities, which date back far earlier, or any of their artifacts, all of which are labeled “ancient”, as if the people who used them existed ooohhh so long ago instead of, you know, today.  But that’s another rant entirely.)

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