Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Would Have Written a Funny Baby Post Too, but Spain Hates Families

Soon, I will have to post some sort of catch-up post in which I describe meandering through the countryside, seeing a drag queen in blackface pretend to be American, getting yelled at daily by an angry anthropologist of Cuban descent, and chatting it up with some retired intermediaries who like to hang out on the stock market trading floor for old time's sake.

In the meantime, David's post reminded me about something I've been wanting to talk about: Spanish society signals the destruction of the family. Seriously. I think Spanish people hate the family. This place is is exactly what conservatives fear.

My first indication was the day I arrived at Pilar's house. We went to the bar for a pre-lunch snack, where we ran into her neighbor and his middle-aged son.She told me the son has three kids. Everyone there agreed that you had to be crazy to have three kids in Madrid. I thought it was a funny exaggeration, until last week when Pilar and I were watching the news over dinner. Spanish news dwells on the unimportant, and today was no exception. Taking a break from discussing, for the third day that week, how it was below freezing outside, they ran a report about how expensive it is to have a kid. I made some joke about it, to which Pilar responded that they were right; no one here would want to have kids. I mentioned the neighbor from before, but she dismissed him as actually crazy in multiple ways. What do the Spanish do instead of having kids? They go out. They get drinks or go on vacations. Think of how many drinks and vacations you would have to give up if you had a kid? All the time it takes?

In fact, sometimes it seems like the entire family structure is falling apart. Thanks to really poor economic policies, there aren't really any jobs, so kids stay home until their mid-thirties. When the do, especially the sons, their mothers make food, do laundry, and clean the house. Maybe the kids get married eventually, but I haven't heard anyone mention weddings. A professor even told me that the reason gay marriage was approved here was becuase no one really cares about marriage anymore (also, the socialists are like an über-progressive bulldozer of social legislation). Are the Spanish concerned? No. The birthrate has fallen way below the replacement level, but that doesn't mean that wants to allow immigrants to replace those leaving the workforce.

It's well-known that Spain went crazy after Franco in a period called the destape, but I find some of this is a bit over the line. For instance, I was walking around Gran Via, the main drag, around 2:30 AM on Saturday (ok, technically Sunday). I had known their were prostitutes there, but I guess I had never been out that late before. The street was littered them. They were all over the place. At first they were just calling at me if I looked at them, but as I got further down the street, they started to just call to whoever walked by. As I got to Plaza del Carmen, they actually started coming up to me and grabbing my shoulders. I mentioned this to Pilar, who said the same thing happens to her.

Usually in the U.S., the phrase "destruction of the family" is used in the context of homosexuality. Here, too, the Spanish are on a totally different level. Unlike the U.S., where gay men (people rarely talk about lesbians here) are admired in pop culture as the best friends of women, in Spain, gay men are valued in culture for the fact that they have formerly controversial sexual relations. Actually, sex in general is just glorified. Graphic pornography is sold at newsstands alongside everything else. Honestly, people just seem to love taboo things. It doesn't even matter what it is.

I've never felt so conservative in my life, to be honest. Yesterday, my host brother confided in me that, though he realizes it's not politically correct, he doesn't believe sex reassignment surgery should take place on waiting lists ahead of dental surgery. This was, based on the context of the conversation, the most controversial conservative thing he could think of.

The moral of the story: Fascist dictatorships do not end in conservative societies. Quite the opposite...

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