Saturday, January 31, 2009

The "secret" of mothers and daughters

The Hymn to Demeter has opened up a lot of discussion about the special secret relationship that exists between mothers and daughters. It is supposed to be a universal relationship that is closed off to men. Veiled if you will. Unfit for men’s eyes. But I have to wonder why exactly this is. And what makes the relationship between father and son so much more open?

Throughout history, men have dominated the world. Their strength and power have been never been kept a secret, and maybe that is why their relationships with one another are no secret either. There is a bond between father and son. That is not debated. But the nature of the relationship is possibly a bit different than we think. I wonder if it isn’t a father-son, superior-subordinate relationship so much as it is a brotherhood. A father’s purpose is to teach his son the ways of man, and during that process I’m sure many fathers seek a sort of buddy-buddy companionship. Sure there are the military parents that strictly adhere to a pecking order, with the father always the higher ranked. But there still persists that informal type of camaraderie that inevitably comes when discussing “guy stuff”. Everyone knows the general content of these teachings, and that’s why they aren’t considered any big secret. There is no mystery behind these men.

The lack of mystery is certainly due to some societal factors. Men, especially in ancient Greek society, were always in the public sphere. They were the central figures in the culture, while women resided in the background of not only public, but often private life as well. Their lives are hidden, out of the way, inconspicuous. In then makes sense that women are much closer to women, than men are to men, because women only have each other. They totally rely on other women to teach them what they need to know, because they have no other possible way of acquiring that knowledge.

Maybe it also has to do with women generally being more sympathetic and understanding than men. They are more thoughtful and emotional by nature, which makes their bonds stronger. Both men and women have important things to teach their children, but the lessons between mother and child seem to run deeper than that. They act as connections between the souls of two related people. Maybe the whole childbirth aspect is important to analyze as well. Fathers are blood related to their sons and all, but they were never as physically connected as mother and child.

Still, there is supposedly an underlying “secret” to the bond between mother and daughter. A mystical element of sorts. Is this “secret” still as relevant today as it was supposed to be in the ancient world, where mothers and daughters were more dependent upon each other? As the daughter of a mother, I am actively taking part in this special bond. But I’m trying to figure out exactly which part of it is so secret. Shouldn’t I be privy to what it is that is so sacred?

I mean, maybe I am, and am just not aware. What is the secret? As far as I’m concerned it could be anything from female emotion, to menstruation, to secret family recipes. Or maybe it is something that just cannot be put into words. Something that you’re not supposed to be aware of. Something that maybe you don’t notice is there until you lose the connection. In any case, it remains somewhat of a mystery to me. No wonder men can’t figure it out!