Friday, June 3, 2011

Fairy Tale or Horror Story?

'Tis the season…….to get married.

Summer is here and the television is filled with fairy tale inspired scenes with women draped in layers of white silk and satin, wearing delicate shoes that Cinderella would be proud of, and adorned with endless jewels. It creates the feel good factor. Romance and life happily ever after. However, to my amazement and surprise, I happened to have the misfortune (thank you dear daughter!) to tune into last Sunday's premier, on TLC, of 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'.

As an ex-pat, anything to do with the UK is appealing -- well it was. If you happen to have watched this program, you may have thought you were witnessing the next generation of Monty Python. The accents, only just audible as British, rang out loud and very unclear, portraying an almost cult like group of 'modern day travelers' that reside all around the beautiful green English Isle.

I could not believe my eyes. Girls of 16 were getting married to boys only a few years older. Their dating ritual was, to say the least, very rudimentary. The girls are not allowed to be seen with boys alone and they have to travel around in groups, and sex before marriage is totally taboo (not that I am advocating sex before marriage – to be clear). However, their overtly sexual way of dressing and behavior does not match this depiction; it leaves one to ask questions about the representation in this program.

Marriage predominantly fills the girls every waking thought. Something called 'grabbing' is the process that indicates the start of a relationship. The boys literally grab the girl they like and enforce a kiss. If the girl lets him, and responds to the kiss, then they are considered to be in a relationship together.

The girls, quite often, are said to be taken out of school at an early age (11 in this one case) to assist their mothers, who are expected to stay at home, caretaking the every need and whim of the husband. With today's equality, I cannot comprehend how this type of seemingly discriminatory behavior is still acceptable. In fact, I do not even think it is legal to take a child out of school at that age in the UK, but I must be wrong, as the program quite specifically described this.

I am a stay-at-home mum, but it was my choice. It seems this 'choice' is obligatory to the gypsy women of the UK and will go on like this for generations. The young girls, to be fair, seem happy with this life, but they have no other to compare. They seem oblivious to the outside culture around them. Part of me cannot help wonder if they would make the same choices if given the exposure to a different type courtship or social interaction. Who knows, but as a mother of a 12-year-old girl, I want her to grow, mature, experience life, and make her own decisions. My choices are my own, as hers will be for her. Yes, I can help her with those choices but freedom to decide herself is a very precious thing and it is my gift to her.

I wondered as I watched, if we are living parallel lives, them and us in a different era. It was as if I was watching a Victorian melodrama, but with the horrors of modern day expletives and over exposed bodies. My English core was embarrassed to admit we have this type of citizen in our country. I grew up with knowledge of the gypsies that housed themselves on the side of roads, who did not pay taxes and had a bad reputation, but my opinion and I am sure that of others has now plummeted further. The question begs to be asked if this was the intention of the program. I don't know the answer to that, but I for one will not be watching it again to try and decide. I think I will stick to the fairy tale wedding programs; it makes my dreams sweeter.


  1. Oh my goodness! This just sounds like a nightmare come true to me. Marriage should be a partnership with flexibility and love. I just don't understand the need to televise such shows. To borrow a phrase, "shaking my head".

  2. Wow, that has to be one of the worse ones I have heard of and as far as I am concerned there is alot of bad programming out there. To be sure you can't drop out at 11 there, there must be some type of loophole in the laws :(

  3. Somewhere in the family tree we have a gypsy or three from Hungary. My Mama used to talk about how they were bethrothed at an early age, but the women were respected. The older they became the more the "tribe" looked to them for wisdom and guidance. Too bad TLC can't do a show on the history of the gypsy people, how they've changed in time etc. Instead, they'd rather go for shock value and reality TV and try to pass it off as "learning." Just what young women need to see.

  4. I completely agree that this whole thing can make you queasy. Like hearing about women being stoned for changing the tv channel or something equally innocent. But "grabbing?" That sounds frightfully close to the way H and I courted...:-)


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