The Eternal Masculine (II)


Daguerreotype-Daguerre Atelier 1837

The Eternal Masculine[1]

Part Two: The Day After the Wedding Night

This, huh? So, this is it? This despicable action, this bruise, this stain, this crushing of the weak by force, of the will by violence, this torture, this profanation of the entire physical being while the brain is still working but the heart falters—this is marriage?

So that is why they taught us modesty and kept us chaste; why no rose was white enough, no lily pure enough for our eyes to look upon and no poem innocent enough to let them beat its wings, like a dove, in our immaculate room; why no collars were high enough, no skirts long enough, no eyes closed enough—it was for this, to come to this thing, for the “delivery” to be full and entire and for the soul to agonize in a wounded body!

And those people, all those people yesterday who surrounded me and hugged me and congratulated me. They knew, all of them knew! Women who saw me born were smiling tenderly as they watched me. Old friends of my father and uncle stared at me with funny faces, totally amused, and whispered jokes that I did not understand.

“Shush! Shush!” my father said. But his voice belied his attitude. Some gratification, some satisfaction showed through his scandalized mask. If he had not had an official role in the ceremony, I believe he would have dropped his usual discretion and willingly joined in with them. I hated him yesterday, all day long, him, my uncle, their chums… without knowing why. They, on the other hand, were very proud—especially of my ignorance and how calmly I listened to things that would probably make me cringe today.

Ah, I hold it against all of them! Really, what customs and traditions are these to gather around a virgin to celebrate her lawful disgrace—a poor child who makes a better laughing stock the more naïve she is and the less she knows!

Everyone laughed at me. Not one man or woman took pity or sensed my coming horror—and that my life might be spoiled forever because I was raised almost always in the house, without sisters, without friends, having heard nothing, read nothing, learned nothing… I was too pure coming into the marriage bed.

No, I do not remember any hug that resonated with mercy, not a single glimmer of pity in those eyes lit up with crude cheer. Completely the opposite. A burst of laughter when I answered mama, who wanted to go with me to my new home, offering my forehead like usual for a goodnight kiss, with my big, sleepy eyes, I answered, “Don’t you worry about it, you’re so exhausted! I’ll undress myself just fine.”

It is true: I was really an idiot… Thinking about it now, clasping my hands, the tears will not stop flowing…


But it is a crime, a true crime, in the name of I don’t know what custom, that they committed against me. Yes, marriage is an abuse of trust, an abject and despicable trap.

I did not give myself; I did not give my consent; it is not true! They stole me from myself; they deceived me; they lied to me. I promised obedience—I did not know to what! I swore to be faithful—I did not know why!

Everyday the courts annul commitments that were entered into more consciously than the one I am enslaved in. They declare them besmirched with immorality if it is proven that one of the parties was exploited in ignorance. The men declare this—the ones who make the law!

For me, my life is lost. The life of the “other”, too, undoubtedly. Because being so unfamiliar with the obligations that the wedding entails, I married without love. I would have taken the first comer, the first partner, the first friend who offered to share my life and help me in my honorable escape from a suffocating environment. I did not want to run after certificates and diplomas. I did not want to be a teacher—a hand reached out, I grabbed it without stopping to consider that my fifteen years knew nothing, were completely oblivious, I understand today about the fate of a marriage, but they made the decision.

If I had known, I would not have married, since I was not haunted by dark thoughts: I was as ignorant as on the day I was born about carnal acts. I was so romantic that that it was enough for me to revive ancient loves, dead lovers lying in the tomb.

Anyway, if I had known, I would have refused. I would have done what, in my opinion, an honest girl should have done: not “honesty” in the sense that my parents give—I know now what that “honesty” is worth!—but in the sense of uprightness, integrity and loyalty.

I would have waited to love someone before offering myself to him. At least this someone would be sure of my consent, it would be me myself who gave myself to him and not paternal authority or the law! And maybe I would not have wept all night long. And certainly my flesh would not be trembling in terror and disgust.

To love someone! That is gone forever. I am one of those whom destiny has robbed of their share of paradise. Even from afar I will not see the promised land. I am bound for life, my whole life, to this man I saw for the first time two months ago, who courted me for six weeks, sent a dozen bouquets, sang a dozen ballads—the number of his visits—who married me yesterday, took me tonight and has still not given me anything—not even a kiss!


My husband! At first he was rather nice, otherwise I would not have accepted his company—today I hate him!

In spite of myself, in this strange room where they did not even think of bringing my personal knickknacks or my favorite books, a little of that fatherland that is the maternal home, in this strange room, I see him again and I will always see him as he appeared to me out of the dark, with his beastly grin and his raised fists. Oh, the well-behaved fiancé was long gone. His blissful smile and smooth voice—finished! The image is frozen in the horror of my soul, like they say that you can see the image of the murderer reflected in the pupils of the victim.

When I knew from his heavy breathing of a sated animal that he was asleep, I jumped out of bed and opened the window. It is high. I bent over the railing ten times wanting to leap into the void, into the purifying darkness.

I am not sixteen years old. I am scared.

This morning he left. To leave me alone, I think. While I was getting ready, he came back and looking contented, happy with himself, almost a victor, he said, “My dear child, get your hat on quickly and let’s go see your parents. Today is the day your father is supposed to give me the dowry. Business is business.”

It is true—he had won!


[1] Signed Jacqueline in Gil Blas, August 30 1892.


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