Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cultural distances. Or not.

I have mentioned on here before that my husband has no hope of ever understanding me in terms of the background I grew up against. He is from a blue-collar Melbournian family, and I am from grey-collar Southern Tasmanian stock. If his family were lower middle class, mine were lower-middle lower class.

He spent his time with Greeks and Italians, a violent and abusive father, and a loving but helpless mother. Family heritage was not spoken of, and the only extended family he saw was when his grandmother would drag him and his sisters to see dying old people in hospitals. The family violence was ignored, and hidden - he grew up in an era where such things didn't happen, not in nice lower middle class families anyway.

I spent my time with my cousins. For the most part we were shunned by the local community, in the small town where we lived. Extended family was part of my day-to-day life. Our heritage, while not openly discussed (except by Nanna, who was To the Manor Born, and don't you forget it), was accepted as a fact of life.

Familial violence/abuse, while it never happened under our roof (gambling and alcoholism on the other hand, did) were, while not an accepted part of the culture, never far from the surface, and acknowledged as such. If a man beat or otherwise abused his wife/kids, stern words were had by his elders (often punctuated by other means) - so long as he was of a culture other than Anglo. Otherwise, it was swept under the carpet, just as it was in The Mister's world.

The movie Once Were Warriors opens up a lot of memories for us both. My family weren't like the Heke's, but we knew a lot who were, even some family members. We saw what happened, and could do nothing to change it - it was what it was. The violence and abuse of the wife and children echoes what The Mister lived through.

The similarities of our backgrounds actually drive us further apart, rather than draw us closer together. Because he experienced the physical side of the violence and abuse, he feels that he had it far worse than I did. And, in the regard of the things that were done to him, he is right. I am in no way attempting to diminish the horror of what his father did to him. The man was a sick, twisted monster, and deserves to rot in Hell for what he did.

On the other hand, The Mister has never known the feeling of coming home from school, wondering if you will be able to eat tonight, or has all the money for food gone on horses and grog? Or gone to school with holes in the soles of his shoes, because another pair is too expensive, and all the 2nd hand ones are too big/too small. Or if you will have a house next week, after the man from the bank has been around and yelled at your mother that if the mortgage isn't paid, you will be out on the street.

The same, yet different. It's all a matter of perception.


  1. Hugs Rosie Bear XOXOXOXO You write so well and I always folllow your blog, even when I am off getting married Lol! Love You xo

  2. Gem used to remind me: what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. We're who we are because of our past. Everyone has to struggle with one thing or another, like you said: the same, yet different... Thanks for sharing about your world.