Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Across the Atlantic

Many years ago – possibly in the last century – a poet-translator sent me a poem about Merlin that he had translated from Breton into English.  It was perfect for the Loch Ness Monster website I was building at the time, and he was happy to give it to me so long as his name was on it.

Since then we have been corresponding about a wide range of topics.  He has translated his brother’s fascinating poetry into English.  He is currently translating more Breton historical poetry into English. As usual, I go over his English to make it fit with colloquial and common usage. Sometimes I challenge his word choices because they seem illogical. And he often admits that he was taking liberties with the original for the sake of a rhyme.

We also discuss culture and politics.

We have both become grandparents via our daughters. We send each other books intended to corrupt our respective grand children with our own cultures. In particular I send science activity books, and he sends Tintin. He even sent a recording of his grandson saying “Tintin” so we could pronounce it correctly.

We both have sons-in-laws who disapprove of us. My politics are more liberal than my correspondent’s, but that never before led to any major disagreements.  I do not expect that my friends will agree with me about anything. It’s just nice when they do – especially if we are working on something together.

Today, for the first time, I find myself in a major disagreement with my French correspondent.  His son-in-law quit his job, and is now a stay-at-home dad.  Apparently this is unheard of in France.  My correspondent is concerned that his grandchildren will be teased because their father has no job, other than cooking, cleaning, and transporting the children.  His daughter makes enough money to support the family.  Women had that role in the US until the economy became so bad that both parents had to work to support a family.

If they can pay their bills on one salary, I see no problems. But my correspondent is shocked, outraged, angry, that his son-in-law is not normal. In his world view, men have jobs.  It’s as if his son-in-law is no longer a man because he quit his job.

Yet, my correspondent is retired.  That seems to be okay. Retired isn’t the same thing as quit, apparently.  But the fact remains that neither of them go to work. And they are both men.  He has agreed, at my request, to keep his opinion to himself and not harangue his daughter or his son-in-law.  But he is upset in a way that blasphemy used to upset people. His repulsion to job quitting is similar to that against an act of treason during a war.  

There is nothing in his correspondence to indicate that his son-in-law never intends to work again. He simply hated his job, and he quit.  I’ve done that. Many Americans of both genders have done that. But apparently it is rare in France, and for a man to do it is unheard of.  

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