Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Did It Change?

I was listening to an episode of Secret Princes today - it's another "reality show" about 4 real life princes who came to America to find the women of their dreams.  In one segment of the show, Sal - the prince from India, was on a date with a young divorcee.  As they were getting to know each other, the woman remarked on Sal's seemingly uptight nature when it came to public affection.  The repartee that followed really made me think about how much things have changed over the past 50 years or so when it comes to things like that.  Sal went on to tell his date that in his culture, public affection simply doesn't happen.  Couples evidently do not kiss or embrace in public in India. Divorce evidently doesn't happen either - he was pretty firm in his opinion that if and when a divorce would occur, the woman would most likely be ostracized and spend the rest of her days alone.  Needless to say, Sal's date with the divorcee wasn't going to go anywhere.

I can't exactly say I was shocked to hear what Sal had to say about relationships and marriage in India.  I've had the opportunity to get to know several people from there, and everything the prince says has borne out in conversations I've had with people I've talked to.  Truth be told - kinda reminds me of the late 50's and early 60's here in the states - you know, before the era of free love, sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Even though I was just a young'un back then, I can still remember hushed whispers about the one single mom in our neighborhood, and even in the case of my own family, since both of my parents had been divorced prior to their marriage, I knew we were somehow "different."

Being raised through this period of cultural and societal tumult was tough.  I remember outward appearances being very important - and looking back on it, I think I was raised in an inappropriately prim and proper environment (there's a back story there for another day). My parents were definitely not affectionate towards each other, but then, none of my friends' parents were either.  I don't remember seeing much affection displayed anywhere except by "those hippie freaks" who seemed to be all over each other (of course such behavior was due to all of the drugs they were on - at least that's what the nuns and priests and our parents told us.) Sex was a very hush-hush subject, but then again, I think that depended on many factors. 

I don't know exactly when things changed, but they sure did change. I remember going to see my first R-rated movie, Ryan's Daughter, in 1970 (which was rated R, by the way, partly because it showed a brief glimpse of a bare female breast), and I'll admit I giggled even though the subject matter of the movie was pretty serious. By that point in time though, TV had already hopped on the "risque sells" bandwagon with shows like Laugh-In, Dean Martin's Golddiggers, and the soap opera world of Peyton Place. Of course, that wasn't real, it was TV! With the advent of women's lib and the birth control pill, it seemed that women's roles changed forever, and while I truly understand the driving force behind the former, and the good aspects of the latter, I think those two events probably played the most important role in our society becoming what it is today. 

Like a pendulum swinging in space, it seemed like the floodgates of freedom opened up and all of a sudden there were "options".  Women divorced because they didn't need a man to support them, they had control over their bodies and their futures in a way that society had never seen before.  A good thing?  In many ways.  A bad thing? I'd rather think of it as a good thing taken to a negative extreme.  Kinda like eating a gourmet meal every single time you ate...after awhile, there's going to be negative effects. The fact is, it opened the door to a much wider range of behavior that became more and more acceptable as it became more and more commonplace.

I don't think I'd be happy in a culture as uptight as Prince Sal described, but I don't think it's a bad thing to be a little discreet, a little proper while out in public (I still believe that it's a respect thing, I guess), and to maybe put the "specialness" back into our displays of affection.  I know there will be people that disagree with me, but I think there is a time and place for everything - and maybe I've seen more than my share of tongues being thrust down throats in public, or couples fondling and groping with no regard for who might be around them... and nudity and trash talk that's not time and place appropriate?  It's become so commonplace, that it's lost its effect.  Yeah, call me that old-fashioned.... I just don't like the thought of people  becoming desensitized to the point where nothing is special anymore - or nothing shocks them anymore! What do you think?  How far is too far?

I do think Sal is going to have some trouble finding his princess with such strict expectations.  Poor guy...

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