Jul 9, 2017

The one in power to act and the one waiting

I am thinking now, was my generation a temporary parenthesis in history?

First I didn’t see it. Then I unconsciously dodged it. Followed by kind of waving it away. To finally wake up realizing, this is what it looks like today. How the hell did that happen? Hadn’t mankind moved forward in this sense?!

I actually think I know how it happened. And maybe that parentheses only was in Sweden even.

I am looking at my children's generation. Alarmed and startled by young women expecting, looking forward to and waiting for their boyfriends to pop the question. To go down on their knees and propose to them. Preferably in the most romantic setting.

On top of that, Swedish women now want their fathers to walk them down the aisle. To foreign readers: this did not use to be a Swedish tradition, and more on that later. Now back to the issue of proposals.

So, let me explain why this subject makes me so upset. And why I think it is very important.

Through history women have been object and trade in the marriage business, in many cultures they still are. But to narrow it down I am here talking about the western world close to me.

In my grandparents generation in northern Sweden a marriage often was a matter of practical arrangement. A young farmer taking over his parents homestead needed a reliable woman at his side to take care of the barn, milk the cows and bring him children to help out on the farm. And a son to one day take it over. Most often the man asked the woman’s father for her hand, and the woman was expected to bring the dowry to the home. In my case my grandmother brought the bedroom furniture. I still have many of them, as my grandparents home now is mine. I know this picture (except for the last sentence) was and (in a lot of cases) still is common in many cultures.

When my parents met in the early fifties I am thinking my father - as the gentleman he was - asked my grandmother (as my grandfather was dead) if not for permission but approval to marry her daughter. I can actually not remember any stories about a proposal, but my guess is there was one, as that was the tradition at that time.

So what about the seventies-early eighties when it was my turn? Well that was a different ball game altogether as my aunt Helen in Seattle used to say.

There was a girlfriend and a boyfriend. And at some point (I think we had been a couple for four years) we thought it was a good idea to get engaged. We picked out the rings in white gold. Cocked ourselves a nice dinner and exchanged rings over the desert at the kitchen table in our first home a January Friday evening. Or it might have been a Saturday. The soundtrack was jazz from the thirties playing on our stereo equipment in our living room.

A couple of years later we wanted to marry. It happened in the cute little chapel where we used to sing together when we first met as 12-year olds. All our friends and family as guests at the wedding. It was all so sweet and fun and very romantic in the sense of our story.

But the point here is: EVERYTHING HAPPENED AS A MUTUAL AGREEMENT. Perhaps we should be fiancés? Yes, let’s do that! Isn’t it time to marry now? It definitely is! No names on the question and the answer here because it wasn’t even a question and an answer. It was a friendly discussion between two EQUALS making the decision TOGETHER.

 I have always perceived my generation’s way of choosing each other and the way we did that, as progress for mankind. This is how far we have come. Like when the Cold War ended and we didn’t have to fear The Russian anymore. I was wrong on both.

A young couple in my surroundings married some time ago. So excited she told me how he had been down on his knees proposing to her. It was so romantic! I was a bit chocked. And in my naivety I asked why. Why did they do it that way? They didn’t understand my question. And a bit annoyed he argued what difference does it make who asks who? Well, that’s the whole point here! 

Young women today have reverted to a waiting position. Allowing men regaining the power to act. This is taking a step as huge as 60 years back in time. To me this is chocking. And I find it even worse that it is the women themselves causing this giant back lash.

Because who are watching the reality shows origin from the U.S? Who are watching the rom coms? Girls are. And I am convinced this is why young women today act - in my book - stupid in this sense.

A young Swedish woman close to me is picturing her dream wedding, describing her dad walking her down the aisle. I again am chocked. Hold your horses, why would you want that?! Because that’s all she knows!

The Swedish tradition is that bride and groom walk together down the aisle, as two equals. Not only in the early eighties when I married, but also my parents in the fifties. To give away the bride is an American custom symbolizing the father handing over the daughter as a property to another man taking her in possession. 

My young friend has grown up with American entertainment as picture for reality. That’s what she knows. And it sure doesn’t help that the two Swedish princesses and one prince went all in on that custom as well. Although the Swedish Church strongly advised against, arguing the equality. 

So, I tell my young friend about the symbols in giving away and being given away and she says ah, realizing something new. I feel quite content at my education when she says, okay, I will walk down the aisle myself. My goodness! I haven’t been clear enough on the the strong symbol of walking side by side into the promise. So I start all over again. And she gets it. But the fact is, she has never watched a Swedish traditional style wedding, so she can’t picture it!

The bottom line here is, watching the women in my children’s generation reverting to being the one waiting makes me nauseous. Seeing them let go of their father’s hand and take their husband’s makes me want to puke. Strong words? Yes. On a crucial subject.

How about my young friend, soon planning her wedding? Well, in spite of all the insight she now has, I think it will be hard letting go of the dream image from American entertainment she has grown up with. And neither could the Royal family.

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