Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Man and Wife: Demonstrating the Ideal

Since marriage seems to be such a riveting topic, I thought I would excerpt this passage from a book I'm reading, Teta, Mother and Me by Jean Said Makdisa. It is a book about 3 generations of women in a prominent Lebanese family.

In the chapter entitled, Men, Women, Girls and Boys I read:

From the beginning of my life my father was held up to me as the ideal man, and it became clear to me that it was my duty to honour and uphold this manhood. Indeed, what it meant to be 'a man' was a leitmovitv of our moral education. When Daddy died, decades after the time I am writing about, Mother wanted Mark Antony's eulogy of Brutus from Julius Caesar read at his funeral. She often quoted the lines and applied them to him:

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world "This was a man!'

At the same time, a generous reciprocity caused him to represent my mother to me, and to my sisters, as the ideal woman, on whose example we would do well to model our lives. If this sort of gender idealism sounds quaintly old-fashioned today and even faintly amusing, if not downright reprehensible, I am not sure that it was such a totally bad thing. The manhood that my father represented had nothing whatever to do with the emptily macho or the physically brutal or repressive; quite the contrary. The word as it came down to me suggests gentleness, goodness, consideration, thoughtfulness, tenderness, kindness, loyalty, determination, and above all the physical and moral courage that allows a man to stand up to powerful and wrong-doing oppressors.

In how many marriages is this type of respect demonstrated for the children, the inlaws and the outside world? How different would homes be that had parents like this? I grew up in a family where my father was always held in respect. I absolutely cringe when I see husbands or wives who treat one another or address one another disrespectfully. I would happily go back to the time when husbands and wives addressed one another as Mr. and Mrs.

The picture above is from the movie Emma and besides being a perfect movie to demonstrate proper, respectful courtship this scene is memorable because after Mr. Knightley has professed his intentions Emma responds by saying that, "Now I no longer need call you Mr. Knightley, I may call you my Mr. Knightley."


anna said...

"Emma and besides being a perfect movie to demonstrate proper, respectful courtship"

Loved the book (and the movie, too).
What made it so interesting is that it contains an example of a proper courtship (emma-mr knightly's) and an improper courthship (emma's sister). The contrast is much more enlightening than if the book only contained emma's courtship.

M. Alexander said...

I think you are thinking of Sense and Sensibility?

Anna said...

Sorry, I meant "friend" not "sister"

Madeline said...

Mary, I'm glad you caught that, because I was wracking my brain trying to remember what was improper about Isabella's and John's courtship. I couln't even recall that it was ever mentioned.

Thomas Shawn said...

The yearly conference of the St Benedict Center (in NH) is rightly focusing on the family, marriage and friendships in a Roman Catholic context.

These things come up constantly at work .... how much time we spend with the family, how do we spend our free time, do the kids go to daycare, does the family go to church, etc. etc. etc.

We're in blank slate mode right now, there are no good examples. Some choose good, others choose bad, it is a free-for-all.

surgiteetcoffeamolfacite said...

There was inpropriety in Isabella's marriage. Emma would always cringe because Mr Knightly, the younger would speak disrespectfully to Isabella because she was not as smart as he was. Even though this went over isabella's head Emma was keenly aware of it.

Lee said...

O Tempora! O Mores!

He was a man, Horatio;
take him for all in all:
I shall not look upon his like again. -Hamlet