Mary Beth Writes

2/14/2022 

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I understand that Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is a classic. I even understand what he is saying in his picture book – love is about giving. However, I never read it to my kids because the message is weirdly dangerous, especially for women. Love should not turn us into old stumps.

I’ve been looking again at what I thought love was when I was a young person looking for it. I’ve been looking again at how I offered and received love through my adult life. I’ve come to this realization. A whole lot of what we were fed in the movies, novels, and church were a bunch of lies that made life easier and richer for others.

If looking for love means being pretty or handsome there are multibillion dollar industries to attend to that. Stop wearing baggy clothes, which are comfortable, amirite? Now Danny sees Sandy for the first time and they will be hopelessly devoted to each other forever. We know this plot, right?

These stories are props for powerful economic systems. As long as half the society is ready to pick up all the pieces of life, the rich can walk away with the wealth.

I mean, why else is agribusiness supported but childcare is ‘go it alone’? Why is the military more than 50% of our budget but education less than 10%?  Do we understand that women in the military surrounded by all those “valiant heroes” are more likely to be raped than women not in the military?

By inundating us with images of romantic love we have learned to expect love to make us happy, content, and okay with being smiled at and then set to the side. We breathe in a zillion stories and images that are all some iteration of catch and release of love partners. Throw in a lot of contextless rules about how wives and husbands should protect the sanctity of the marriage and the family, blame them if situations and kids go south. If people feel stress they can buy a product or service for relaxing – and then let the systems of power roll on.

Nothing I’m saying is new. But look back over your own life. What story, TV show, movie, or character urged you to discover your internal gifts, skills, and passions?  How many shows have you seen about lab techs? How many about cops? How many about sustainable farmers (there are a few)? How many about classical musicians? How many about criminal defense lawyers vs how many about social workers who help people build new lives after incarceration? 

I don’t mean to be wishing you a cranky Valentines Day. I do want to remind us to be wary of messages that come at us.

Where is media asking better questions? Here’s a place to start. Let’s stop criticizing ourselves for “falling down rabbit holes” on the internet.  Often better artists, better questions, better sources of real knowledge about life now - are in the rabbit holes.

This is a Vimeo video that has won some awards. The film maker, Heidi Saman, is also the producer of Terry Gross’s Fresh Air, which is the rabbit hole that led me here.

This story revolves around the perceptions and knowledge of a maid in a modern, middle-class Egyptian family in Cairo. It reminds me of Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” – in case you watched that movie a few years ago. (Nominated for an Oscar Best Picture and did win Best Foreign Language Film, 2018.)

Servants know a family in ways the family itself doesn’t see or want to see. Servants become our eyes on a culture.

 In The Maid, Rasha serves and interacts with the women in the family with affection. She also sees where the lies are. I’ve watched this video several times and am still intrigued by how Rasha sees, protects, and calls out both the love and the dishonesty around her.  At the same time, she, too, is seeking love. Good questions.

The ending of the video is an old woman hanging clean clothes as she sings to herself, “Love is like this.” 

Best Greek chorus ever.

https://vimeo.com/136439908  And hey, it’s only twenty minutes long.

Happy Valentines Day. I wish you a good meal, good chocolate, and good questions.

 

 

Comments

TY

Regarding the hype that gets generated around Valentines Day by card companies, florists, candy manufacturers, fancy restaurants, and Victoria’s Secret, here’s a meme from St Valentine: ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE… I WAS BEATEN WITH CLUBS, BEHEADED, BURIED UNDER THE COVER OF DARKNESS DISINTERRED BY MY FOLLOWERS, AND YOU COMMEMORATE MY MARTYRDOM BY SENDING EACH OTHER CHOCOLATES
Mary Beth's picture

There were several priests and holy men named Valentine in the early church, 200-300 - and I think they all met ends like this. The political powers of the day did not want anyone preaching benevolence to the poor, reaching out towards women as fellow followers of The Way. Yup.
Leonard's picture

You get enough germs to catch pneumonia After that, he'll never phone ya' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzQBOBoPg04

Is'd all in the marketing, isn't it? You are always thought provoking.Thank you. Patricia

The impact of social pressure and upbringing on women is obvious, in that women get treated (and believe in themselves) as the lesser. Intelligence, impact potential, and value of work is still demeaned and diminished. I see my nieces and other young women today having to deal with it less because progress is slowly being made. Changing consciousness is so incremental, and so frustrating, and the effort to restrain women in their social lives, sexual lives, and work lives is still going on - with renewed effort these days. Rebellion and vigilance is always needed. This PBS Nova episode really impacted me: https://www.pbs.org/video/picture-a-scientist-rlnmdy/

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