Book 8, part 2. The Rites of Love (2006)
Back before I met Anastasia I took a two-week cruise on the Mediterranean Sea.
Each day in the ship’s dining room my mealtime companions were three young people — two women and a man — who worked in a design institute in Novosibirsk. Each day the girls appeared in new and stylish clothing, with intriguing hairdos. It was a delight to chat with them. Nadia and Valia,2 ~Nadia — an informal variant of the name Nadezhda (the Russian word for ‘hope’); Valia — an informal variant of Valentina.
as they were called, were always cheerful and outreaching. One time I found their male companion in his cabin, and I asked him:
“What pretty and pleasant girls we have at our table! Maybe we can make some time with them?”
To which he replied:
“I have no desire to make time with riff-raff like that.”
“’Cause I work with them in the same institute and I know what they’re really like.”
‘And what are they really like?”
“In the first place, they’re rowdies. Secondly, they’re lazy and slovenly It’s only here that they try to keep up appearances and make people think they’re nice and smart. It’s quite clear they’ve come here specially to find themselves husbands among the wealthier class. Ifou’ve noticed how they play up to the Armenian men on board.”
I had an opportunity to see for myself the discrepancy he mentioned when I paid a subsequent late-afternoon visit to the design institute to see my table companions from the cruise ship. To put it mildly, they weren’t nearly as impressive as they had been on board, and all their former cheerfulness and pleasantness had somehow vanished.
Which means that back on the ship they were putting on a false image.
Many men and women in the world today try to find their ‘other half’ with the aid of an external image which doesn’t correspond with their real nature. Perhaps such a sad phenomenon is due to an obliviousness to other possible methods? In that case both parties end up being deceived.
A man will give flowers and expensive gifts to an image which has taken his fancy He may go so far as to offer her his hand and his heart. Then, after marriage, all of a sudden he sees her real character, which doesn’t appeal to him at all. He feels a sense of irritation and a yearning for the earlier image which has now vanished.
A woman all of a sudden sees that the suitor who only recently was so kind and attentive to her doesn’t love or understand her at all. How did this happen? But he never did love her — he only loved the image.
The striking discrepancy between the artificial image and the real person is particularly evident in the case of entertainment celebrities, especially if you should happen to see them in their everyday lives.
A situation no less unfortunate arises from the fact that women often change their outward appearance after marriage.
When a man falls in love with a woman, especially at first sight, it is difficult to say what, specifically, has aroused the feeling of love in him. Perhaps it was the colour of her hair or the way she plaited her braid, or maybe her eyes. It is customary to think that the feeling of love is aroused by the whole gamut of external and internal traits. And when a woman changes her external appearance, she thereby takes away part of her appeal and weakens the love between them. Even if following a radical change of clothes, hairdo and make-up, everybody around tells her how beautiful and attractive she’s become, and even if these compliments ring true, and even if her husband gets excited over his wife’s new look, it may be only a matter of time before his love begins to fade or disappears altogether.
After all, he has glimpsed a great many beautiful women who are a lot more attractive than his wife at present. Still, he has fallen in love specifically with her, and with the appearance she had when they first met. And all of a sudden that previous image is no longer there. And you will, no doubt, agree that in falling in love with the new image, he thereby betrays the image she presented before.
Why were people in ancient times so cautious about changing their clothing? Perhaps they didn’t have much in the way of a selection of fabrics? But they did. They imported silks from far across the seas, and they themselves knew how to weave cloth, either coarse or fine. They could do all sorts of designs on the cloth with different colouring agents, or embroider them.
Perhaps they were lacking in imagination or finances? They had plenty of imagination — an abundance, in fact. Practically every other person was a fine artist or designer. You only have to look at houses from those times — how they are all decorated with wood-carvings.
And every woman was a master of embroidery. As for finances, both people of modest means and even those well-off were very conservative when it came to changes of clothing or hairdos. They were extremely cautious about altering their own appearance, being careful to preserve their image.
The current fashion world, especially women, is wont to change their image like a kaleidoscope.
Such extreme fashion swings are extraordinarily profitable to the clothing manufacturing industry, when people throw out things that are still perfectly serviceable and buy new fashions in the hopes that they will bring something new in the way of a semblance of happiness. But no, it never comes. In its place appears only a new artificial image someone has created — an image people put on under the influence of aggressive propaganda.
In all the round of modern life I never have discovered any efficient system of measures designed to help people find a life-long companion. Not only that, but I have been getting more and more the impression that our modern living — indeed, our whole way of life — is designed in such a way that we shall never meet our true soulmate. Maybe this situation even works to somebody’s advantage. A Man who is dissatisfied with life, who has no goals or meaning in his life, can be a profitable catch for many a man out to make money Not to mention profitable to the powers that be.
As to the question of whether or not we are actually seeking out our ‘other half’, I think the answer will be: no, we are not. We don’t knowhow to. And there are no favourable conditions to facilitate the search.
I attempted to discover sagacious hints on finding one’s soulmate in the rites of bygone centuries. I shall cite a few typical examples of wedding rites. Let us examine just how sagacious — or primitive — they are. I shall include my own commentaries as we go along, but if you don’t happen to agree with them, you can always cross them out, or white them out and write in your own, right here in the book.
I find myself tapping more and more into the feeling that Anastasia’s grandfather is right: if we don’t start thinking for ourselves, we’ll go on accepting any sort of crap as the wisdom of life.
I shan’t even name modern weddings. Apart from drunkenness, tripping around in cars and laying flowers at the so- called ‘eternal flame’, there’s precious little worth saying.
Let’s take a closer look, then, at some earlier wedding rites.