USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘fight’
Customs
general
Gestures
Homeopathic
Kinesthetic
Magic

Splitting Poles and Friendship

Transcription

Collector: So yeah, I remember when we were hanging out that you, like, had us walk around the poles if we both went on opposite sides of it. Is that something you do with everyone or, like, how did you learn that?

Informant: Yeah! So, when I was in sixth or seventh grade, my best friend did it because she was superstitious. And she was superstitious because her mom was, so like it kind of passed on to me. But now it’s basically conditioned in me so I always do it.

Collector: so what does it even mean to split the poles?

Informant: So if you’re walking with someone or a group of people and you pass by a pole or trash can or anything that’s an obstacle, you all need to walk on the same side of the obstacle or you will split with the person who walked on the other side. And by split, I mean no longer be friends. Like there will be a big fight in the future or the people will just stop talking with each other. So you have to walk on the same side because then you’ll lose each other.

Context

Collector lives with the informant and is best friends with her. The practice was viewed many times as they were together and the collector wanted context for it. This explanation was prompted by the collector’s question about the origins of the custom. At this point, the custom is a habit for both the informant and the collector, who both make conscious efforts to walk on the same side of the pole. If one of them is on the wrong side by accident and realizes after the fact, they will go back and walk around on the correct side of the pole to undo the mistake. 

Analysis 

In this case, I feel that the act of “splitting the pole” is seen as homeopathic magic, as the physical, bodily splitting represents the metaphorical and emotional split as well. However, in this case, it isn’t a representation of the person that is being performed upon, but instead the people themselves representing a future version of themselves. The tangible, current action of walking on either side of the road is a representation of the future emotional split that could happen as a result of the gesture.

general

A Rose to Remember

The informant (A) has been married to her husband (D) for 24 years. They got married in a non-religious outdoor ceremony when A was 24 and D was 29. Though I do not recollect them being overly romantic while their children were at home, this changed slightly after their youngest son left for college. I asked A if she remembered anything she wanted to share with me about her wedding and told me of a practice that the reverend suggested on their wedding day and they continued to do for a couple years after their wedding. The reverend was of no special importance to them other than that he could legally marry them. When the reverend was talking to them before the ceremony, he said that they should give each other a single red rose whenever they needed to remember that they loved each other enough to get married. This could be in response to an argument, a special day like an anniversary, or just because. A continued to say that she gave D a red rose on their anniversary, and they maybe did this a couple of other times in the first couple years of marriage, but as life went on they forgot about the practice when other things became more important. A did not seem upset that she and her husband had stopped the practice. It was just something to do.

The romantic nature of a red rose itself has little to do with this gesture other than being a pretty story. The red rose could be replaced with anything: a favorite candy bar, a stuffed animal, a card. The meaning to this gesture seems to be in the kindness of remembering to give the red rose rather than the red rose itself. Effectively, giving the red rose simply says “I remember that I love you, and I want to show you that I remember.” A and her husband stopped doing this a couple of years after they got married, which coincides with when they had their first child. This is the point at which I think that they ceased to be a “couple” and started being a “family,” which does not need special gestures to show that there is love between them. A rose pales in comparison to looking at a child that you created with another person. Being romantic and stereotypically sappy does not seem to be a part of A and D’s relationship.

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