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Friday, August 3

My reflections as I scrub the toilet

Published for the first time in Spanish on July, 2006.

Everybody tells you so: moving isn’t easy. My old man told me once that it’s the highest cause of stress, together with the death of a beloved (I wonder if it’s really that terrible, though, dad overreacts sometimes). The truth is that changing apartments means a lot of work! These days, when my moving is only a few days away, I’m on the lookout for boxes, coming and going into all the supermarkets of my neighborhood. Some employees already know me and keep the boxes apart especially for me. Others aren’t so cool, they won’t give you anything. I mean, they’re just boxes, you can’t expect me toy pay for them, can you?

Another chore I’m into is the one that gives a title to this post: a big cleaning of the whole apartment, which has been empty for several years. The bathroom was full of stains, not to mention the disgusting kitchen –replete of dead cockroaches, long time dried-. I discovered the use of different cleaning products, those ones which so far I’ve only known through silly and sexist TV spots. I fought the toughest dirt and I scrubbed the washtub until it was sparkling shiny, mint-smelled, I-can-see-my-reflection-on-its-surface clean.

Some way I’ve got all this new sympathy for all those (particularly women, I don’t know why) who are obsessed about the cleaning of their house: a time came when I would tell myself “can’t stop now, everything’s shinier, got to keep on until it’s perrrrfect…”. Maybe the only difference between me and these poor ladies is that, after a few minutes, stinking, my hands smelling of lye and with painful elbows, I did say “what the hell, it’ll get dirty again”, I got changed and called it a day.

The (not) only one family of today

Another version of the following article was published on "Temas de hombre / temas de mujer" an e-magazine no longer on line, on January 2005.

Mom, dad, two kids (better if boy and girl). Sometimes, granddad on a side, smoking a tobacco pipe, or grandma knitting one of her famous Christmas sweaters we all pretend to like. Typical postcard of the family such as it showed on Elementary School textbooks in Argentina a couple decades ago. Mom cooks, dad works, the children play. The Ingall’s model of family, for some the only true guarantee of a happy life.
Today things have changed. Mom and dad got divorced, later remarried new people and had more children. Today the postcard includes stepbrothers, stepsisters, half brothers, mom, mom’s new husband, dad, dad’s girlfriend, her kids… Either that or else the every day more popular single parent’s homes. Even the “traditional” families are getting smaller, each time people choose to have fewer children for economic causes, among other reasons. The late 2001 economic crisis took aunt and uncle out of the country. Grandparents no longer live at home with us, but many times people in their 30’s still linger at their parents’. Also, the children talk about a classmate of them who has two daddies, or two mommies… living together.

Despite what many people say, it didn’t happen between sunset and sunrise. Changes were introduced gradually in our society, being the most obvious the massive incorporation of women to labor market. From this point, we have our children later in life, and only in case we decide to have them. Other transformations are due to more specific facts, like the approval of laws concerning divorce: in Argentina this happened in 1987, being at that time a major argument between progressive and traditional sectors, such as Catholic Church, which claims for a return to the family model of yore.
But what these sectors are forgetting is, precisely, that such a model was never unique: there have always been broken marriages, separations; there were always some men who kept a double life (meaning that their children had stepbrothers or half brothers, even though they used to be called “love children”, “illegitimate”, “bastards”). There has always been homosexuality, the difference being that it was something to hide and to be ashamed of. Never before had two men or two women been able to even dream about raising their own family. Maybe, many of these changes that shock some actually mean the end of hypocrisies. If mom and dad no longer love each other, there’s no need to pretend. Today is better a mutual agreement of divorce than living unhappily together.

Does divorce affect the children in a negative way? Sure. But I wonder: does the fact that mom and dad hate each other, the fact that they can’t stand looking into each other’s face, and -besides that- are forced on living under the same roof, doesn’t this all affect the children as well? Of course the little ones can live divorce as a major lost, but it can be a more or less traumatic event. It’s up to how their parents explain it to them. If boys and girls understand that they’re still loved, if they keep on seeing both of their parents, and if mom and dad both make decisions together concerning their children’s education, health and life, they can still remain a family.

The proliferation of children born of the second marriage of the third husband of daddy’s fourth wife who are my siblings but aren’t related to my stepbrother’s half sister… Why keeping the score? Children will be children: raised together, they all will be brothers and sisters, no matter how much DNA they happen to share. And if not, we should increase their affection and lessen the competition. They ought to know that they’re all loved: adding love instead of dividing it.
The arduous debate is probably if gay men or women should have children of their own. French anthropologist Anne Cadoret says that today society is heading to a way of plural filiations: this means, that children would not be only their biological parent’s, instead they would be raised surrounded by several maternal and paternal figures. In that way, it wouldn’t be surprising if they lived with two women or two men. The mother/father kind of family -such as we know it- is only a social construction, one possibility among many others. Many noticed that it’s “unnatural” that gay people have children without heterosexual intercourse: well, what’s not natural is the IVF-ET medical procedure; however, it has allowed many heterosexual couples enjoy parenthood, and fewer have complained about that.
And when gay couples decide to adopt, they find all kind of obstacles on the way. It is not allowed in every country. But in the meantime, what about all the children who aren’t given in adoption? They’re doomed, forced to spend their sad childhood in orphanages, or –even worse- their own families that can’t (or won’t) take proper care of them. Meanwhile, two people (no matter what’s their gender) are willing to give these children all the love they need and deserve. Should law stop them from doing so?
It is said that children raised by homosexual couples are always missing a father figure (should there be raised by women) or a mother figure (if raised by men). But, on the other side, the same happens with children that come from a single-parent’s home. What’s important in these cases is that children find a mother or father figure in other relatives (grandparents, uncles, aunts, godparents). Nobody would wonder whether a single mom or dad is able to bring up their children. Then, why wouldn’t two moms, or two dads, that are together and love each other, success?

Family is the first stage for a proper socializing. Our first steps into society are achieved by living with a loving family. Nowadays we are immersed in a plural society, where there is divorce, where homosexuality is no longer taboo, where people remarries and reassembles their families… maybe what’s most important when the time comes for raising our children, is teaching them to live together in this world, no matter the differences they’ll find among people. Let’s turn them into tolerant persons, tolerant even with those who don’t share their tolerance.
And love them. That’s what family is for. Be that as it may.

Thursday, August 2

Why a blog?

A similar post published in Spanish on May 2006.

I wrote what I recall to be my first short story when I was 7. I can’t remember its title, but I know for sure it was about a lonely fish that lived in a fish bowl. He ended up meeting a beautiful little female fish (I think I literally wrote it that way). I miss how easily ideas pumped into my head in that time of my life. I didn’t care if they weren’t particularly original.

Now I’m sitting in front of this old screen in my little apartment and I’m wondering why on Earth I created this blog. Precisely me, the one who brakes into every possible conversation between strangers, on the elevator, queuing up in the bank or in the supermarket, even on the bus … have I just ran out of things to say?

We’ll see.