USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘relationships’
Folk speech
Proverbs

Love from a distance

Background

The informant is a first generation Mexican-American student. She said that she spends a decent amount of time in Mexico still (she usually visits a couple weekends during the school year and goes for slightly longer periods during the summer). She visits a lot of family in Mexico, including her grandma, a lot of cousins, and aunts and uncles. Outside of Mexico itself, she has a lot of Mexican friends from growing up in the Los Angeles area.

Context

The informant described to me the first time she remembered hearing this proverb. She was talking with one of her friends (who is also Mexican) about her some problems she was having in her long distance relationship and her friend responded with this phrase. The informant described her friend’s tone as somewhat joking, but with real sentiment behind it. She said that she heard that phrase countless more times during the 9 months she was still in that relationship from various other Mexican friends and relatives.

Text

Amor de lejos amor de pendejos

Love from a distance is love for idiots

Thoughts

This proverb was obviously more significant to the informant because she was actually in a long distance relationship and this is something people would say to her quite often. I also thought it was interesting how this proverb seemed to lose something in translation. The original spanish rhymes and has a good flow to it, where the english phrase is somewhat awkward. I asked the informant if she would say this phrase to me in English (I don’t speak spanish) and she said that she would probably just avoid using the proverb if she couldn’t say it in spanish because “it won’t sound the same.” In this way, the proverb is a way of connecting her to fellow spanish speaking people

Customs
Proverbs

The standard rule of a relationship

“Uh so  the standard rule of a relationship is to never go to bed mad, uh which is one my parents like, and on e I really like too: never go to bed mad, because you don’t have fun you are asleep and you’re mad so you should hash out things or if you can’t hash out things completely, then you should take a break and have some ice cream or something, and everything’s going to be fine. Uh, in ballroom dancing, as well, though it’s not as common, I’d like you to think that if you are, uh, mad at your partner, then you do not want to end a practice mad, because then you are probably never going to practice again. Uh, you want to, well same thing as going to bed, only it’s not the bed thing, so if you and your partner get mad at each other, 1) stop it! That’s dumb. 2) You want to fix that and apologize to your partner, and 3) if it happens consistently, then you want to find a new partner because that’s not an ideal way to dance.”

 

The informant is a PhD student at the University of Southern California, studying linguistics. He is also a member—and next year’s president—of the University of Southern California’s Ballroom and Latin Dance Team. He specializes in the American Smooth dances (Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Tango, and Foxtrot), though also knows the International Latin dances and many social dances, like Hustle and Salsa. He has been in the USC Ballroom and Latin Dance Team for 2 years, and did ballroom dance at the University of Michigan for 2 years. He competes in the Silver and Gold level Smooth dances, and has placed highly in numerous competitions.

 

The saying “never go to bed angry” is common advice for any relationship. The reasoning behind it is that if you do not sort out the argument before you go to sleep, then it will only fester, and will eventually grow into the destruction of that relationship. Things may look better in the light of day, but each person would be less likely to sort out their issues the next day, and will just keep the anger bottled up inside. The informant also suggests that the argument cannot be sorted out right away, then take a break from the conversation, and eat some ice cream or something, but still come back to it before you go to sleep. This allows both people to calm down and look at things logically. The disagreement is more likely to be sorted out, then.

This folklore was collected after asking the informant about advice for new dance relationships. The informant learned this proverb from his parents, who probably heard it from their parents or their friends. It is a proverb because it never changes much, but is passed from person to person, and offers advice in a short catchy phrase.

The informant goes on to apply this common relationship advice to his ballroom dance partner relationship. Instead of “never go to bed angry,” it becomes “never end a practice angry.” The anger will be all you can remember about your partner, not how well you dance together, and it is much less likely that those partners will ever practice again.

The informant offers three pieces of advice in relation to this proverb. His first point is that you should not get mad at your partner in the first place. There are few reasons to get mad at your partner, and none of them should include their skill level. Never get mad at your partner for being unable to get a move, because there will come a time when you have trouble with a different move. If you do get mad at your partner, then you should calm down, explain why you are upset, then apologize to your partner for getting mad. Both partners are just doing their best and there should not be a reason to stay mad. However, if you do keep getting angry with your partner and they do not fix whatever the problem is when you tell them, then maybe it is time to switch dance partners, because it is very hard to dance well when you are upset, and no one wants to be angry all the time you are dancing.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

People don’t change

The informant was born and raised in Colorado. She all her life has used proverbs that her grandmother taught her to develop relationships. Her grandmother helped in assisting her by giving her proverbs to live by that apply to any situation and any human.

“A tiger can’t change its stripes”

Informant…

“My grandma would always tell me that a tiger cant change its stripes. By this she meant that a tiger will always have stripes, you can cover them up, you can shave them off, you can try and hide them, but the stripes will always be there. This connects to humans because it translates as a person can’t change, he can hide who he is, pretend he is someone else but he won’t ever change. This is important to know because if you meet some and you get a bad feeling from them or if down the road they do something in your relationship that disappoints you and shows you who they really are you have to realize that they can’t change who they are. This also is good to apply to yourself. When I was young and insecure about myself trying to be like everyone else and fit in, my grandma would tell me a tiger can’t change its stripes meaning that you are who you are and no matter how hard you try and change yourself, you can’t and you will always have your stripes.”

Analysis…

This proverb summarizes humans pretty well. A tiger can’t change its stripes is really important in our society because it seems like everyone is always trying to change themselves to be something they aren’t and hide who they are to fit in. This proverb reminds us that we are who we are and we can’t change it so we should embrace our stripes and our characteristics rather than covering up who we are and what makes us us. I think this proverb is inferring that we are all unique and shouldn’t try to hide who we are and our differences are good and should be appreciated. This is helpful in a society where the look is the most important thing, where you have to look and be a certain way to be accepted.

This proverb also summarizes how we should treat other people. It is normal for people to love everyone and to think the best about people, which is something I do, but when a person proves to you over and over that they are a certain way that means that is who they are. Good or bad, their action could be positive of negative but it is a reflection of who they are and it is important to know that a person can’t change because then we won’t expect something from that person that they can’t give us, and we can decide if that is the kind of person we want to be around.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority and Fraternity Pinning

My informant shared with me how her sorority celebrates one of its members getting pinned by her senior boyfriend in a fraternity. First, the fraternity shares with the president of the sorority that a member of their fraternity is intended to pin a sister in the house. When a date for the pinning is set, the sorority informs the house that a sister is getting pinned, but the girls do not get to know who. Any girl in the sorority who has a senior boyfriend is asked to come to the ceremony wearing a red dress and to send the president the names of her two closest friends in the sorority. Then, on the day of the pinning, all members of the sorority are required to wear black dresses except for the girls who are eligible to be pinned. These girls will be in red. The girls in black gather in the sorority house with the lights dimmed and stand in a huge circle. A ritual song is sung while the girls in red join the circle and stand in-between their two closest friends. A candle is passed to the right, starting from the ritual chairwoman, around to every girl in the circle once. On its second time around, after it passes the girl wearing red who is getting pinned, her best friend standing to her right will make to pass it to the next girl, but then actually pass it back to the sister getting pinned. The two closest friends then blow the candle out together. That signifies that it’s that girl, and this is when she first finds out she is getting pinned. After the candle is passed around, all the sisters line up outside of the house where the fraternity and the sister’s boyfriend are waiting. The boyfriend and his best friend as well as the girlfriend and her two closest friends stay standing on the porch so everyone can see them. The sorority president introduces everyone and officially announces that the sister is getting pinned. All of the close friends give toasts to congratulate the couple and the boyfriend talks about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then the fraternity presents him with his pin and he pins it on his girlfriend.

 

These ceremonies are very fun and exciting for both the fraternity and the sorority as pinning is comparable to a pre-engagement promise. The fraternity brother is giving up his active pin and is essentially reduced to pledge status within the house. It’s a little bit old fashioned, but the girls appreciate this public acknowledgement of their relationship. My informant was just involved in a pinning ceremony at her sorority at the University of Southern California, as her best friend was recently pinned.

Proverbs

Amor de lejos es amor de pendejos

My friend first heard this from her father.  The translation is “To love from afar is love for idiots.”

My friend initially interpreted this proverb as a criticism on being unable to act on emotions for another person.  To “love from afar,” as in, to love without actually confessing it to the person, is love for idiots.”  She’s learned, however, that the proverb is more often used in context of long-distance relationships.  So being geographically far from your significant other and choosing to continue to love them is foolish.  My friend doesn’t have a particular significance attached to this proverb, but she did think that it was rather interesting.

I agree with my friend’s understanding of the proverb, though I wonder if other people beyond her do think of the proverb in the same sense that she originally thought of it (with “love from afar” being similar to “love within the mind”).  I find it interesting that  this proverb discourages love if it’s from a distance.  It suggests that there is a belief that a relationship is only wise or legitimate if it’s grounded in physical reality.  I’m not entirely sure why that would be the case, but perhaps love was often presumed to be associated with marriage.  So a real relationship should be properly consummated, either through sex, marriage, or person-to-person interaction.

This proverb has also seemed to regain some significance with the advent of the internet.  Maybe the idea of a “long-distance relationship” through webcamming is still considered unwise by most people in this community.  If that’s the case, then this Mexican proverb affirms that the idea of physicality is essential to romantic relationships (as a college student in the United States, I hear comments about the futility of long-distance relationships often, and a proverb like this seems particularly fitting for that situation), and that this way of thinking is important to multiple cultures.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“All good things end”

We were consoling a mutual friend when I first heard my informant use this phrase. The friend’s girlfriend had just broken up with him and she had been his first serious relationship. He was heartbroken and it was a few weeks later. All this friend had talked to us about in the past few weeks was the breakup. We were having a conversation in a larger group and talking about a TV show that had been cancelled even though everyone had loved it. My informant simply said, “All good things end.” Then he looked at our friend and the three of us chuckled a little bit; the rest of the group didn’t know why but we all knew my informant was also talking about our friend’s relationship. Even though he was still depressed about the failure of said relationship, the friend found the situation funny because of how my informant had clearly intended his comment to apply to the relationship as well as the TV show.

My informant can’t remember where he first heard the phrase or if he simply created it, though I have heard it elsewhere as well, but he likes it because by stating this property of the world as a fact, it makes something difficult easier to accept. I agree with that interpretation. People want to hold onto the past, but life keeps changing and everything is ephemeral. It’s one of the hardest aspects of reality to accept. Packaging it up into a succinct expression and serving it to someone makes it seem simpler, more understandable. It shows us that we must accept that the world works this way.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition

In the Greek system when a sorority and a fraternity member are in a serious romantic relationship the fraternity guy can “pin” his girlfriend. Every system has different variations of the same basic tradition. Basically, when the guy wants to pin his girl friend he tells the president of his house who tells the president of the sorority that the girlfriend is in. They keep it a secret from the girlfriend while planning the pinning. Then one night after the chapter meeting, when the entire house is present the president will announce to the sorority to head downstairs to the dining room for a special ceremony. Right away everyone knows that it’s a pinning. All the girls make a large circle in the dining room and turn the lights down low. The president lights a candle and it is passed around the room and passed past the girl getting pinned, once it passes her the candle switches direction and moves back towards the girl to be pinned. Once the girl has it in her hand her sisters to her left and right blow the candle out, the house claps.

Once this happens the president opens the door and members of the boyfriend’s fraternity come in one by one usually dressed in suits, each with a single rose in their hand. Each brother hands the rose to the girlfriend and gives her a smile and a hug. Lastly the boyfriend comes usually with a bouquet of roses and kisses his girlfriend. Next the two closest friends of the boyfriend and the girlfriend tell stories about the relationship between them, funny, serious, anecdotal etc. Lastly the boyfriend tells his girlfriend how much he loves her and gives her his fraternity pin as a symbol of his commitment to her and her official invitation into the fraternity’s family. This is the end of the ceremony, however each fraternity has a different variation of this basic ceremony.

I have witnessed 3 girls get pinned from my sorority in this past year. The particular pinning described above was the most formal and respectful. The other pinnings were less formal and frankly, more embarrassing for the girl. Because each house cultivates its own traditions each pinning will differ depending on the house. To pin your girlfriend was once synonymous with proposing; however with time it has lost a lot of that connotation.

Currently, when a girl is pinned it means that her boyfriend is putting her first in his life. He is putting her before the brotherhood, which is a very big step for any fraternity brother. When initiated brothers take a vow of allegiance to the fraternity and pinning is one of the ways to respectfully break the vow. Also, symbolized by the rose received by each brother, when a girl is pinned she is welcomed into the house, into the family of that particular fraternity. Usually only juniors or seniors are pinned. The couple has usually been dating for more than a year as well. Pinnings don’t happen unless the relationship is very serious and long term.

Pinning is a public display of affection and commitment accepted in the Greek community and an active tradition. For sororities pinning usually embodies the girlish fantasy of a wonderful boyfriend who isn’t afraid to show how he feels, and secretly, every girl wants to be pinned at some point.

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