Feb. 14, 2004 — The following are things to consider on Valentine's Day: 1) In China, the matchmaker better owe you a favor 2) Be careful when you introduce your girlfriend to your Botswana uncle–he may pop the question before you're ready 3) In a good old-fashioned Dominican Republic romance, it's not unusual to have three guys strumming guitars following you around singing love songs and finally 4) There's an art to a French kiss that you may not have mastered.
Valentine's Day was a celebration of "Love in any Language," at UVI's Little Theatre. Professor Violeta Donovan, Modern Language area coordinator, organized the event. She brought together representatives from several cultures to share traditions of dating and courtship, love and marriage. You can't learn this stuff hanging out at Duffy's Love Shack.
In traditional Chinese custom, the saying, "wedding first, love later" didn't come from the swinging single days near the lotus pond. It came from a time when Chinese marriages were arranged, sometimes before the bride or groom were even born. But that was then.
"Marriage has changed dramatically and has become much more Westernized," said presenter Moira Gargano, director of the China Teachers Program.
Still, it's fun to look back at what was. Beginning with the matchmaker, a third party whose job was to select the mate and negotiate between the families. Next, an astrologer would chart birthdays to determine if the betrothed were indeed a match made in the heavens. If the stars didn't line up neither did the couple, and the wedding was called off. Then a fortuneteller was brought in, and fruits, teas and money were presented to the bride's family.
When it came time to select the wedding day, the astrologer was consulted again. The date had to be good for both the couple, and the bride's menstrual cycle. You know the old saying, "if a red horse gets upon the bed, the family will be ruined and people will die."
Valentine's Day in Botswana might be a little more familiar to Western culture. "Most ladies expect roses, chocolates, and dinner," said Botswana native and UVI student Lydia Odirile. "And most men expect some kind of gift."
But things get a lot more serious once you take someone home to meet your family. No sooner have you tucked into your dinner, than uncles and aunts are deciding when the two families will meet and plan a wedding. The groom's uncles will often be the ones to ask for the lady's hand in marriage. And the golden rule in Botswana, whether the wedding is in two weeks or two years, there is no sex until marriage.
Courtship is coy in the Dominican Republic. When a man is interested in a woman, he will send her messages through friends. An interested woman will send a message back suggesting a meeting. If she's not interested, she will send a note saying so, or "she will even tell him because we are that bold," said Daniela Sanchez, UVI Student.
A woman in the Dominican Republic expects to be serenaded with guitar music that expresses extreme emotion. "I love you," the music says, "I would die for you." In the past, that might have included a trio of musicians strumming their six strings. Now, the music is more likely to come from a CD player.
As for the wedding, the bride's family will pay for everything, but the groom has to keep his end of the bargain as well–a nice honeymoon, and a nice home.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of love from the evening was found in the simple mechanics of a good kiss. Odile De Lyrot, Consul de France honorarie des Iles Vierges Americanes, gave a few tips on French kissing. "I'm asking for volunteers," she deadpanned. When she was greeted by chuckles and no takers, she continued. "Try to look nice, get into a comfortable position," she said. De Lyrot suggested sitting side by side on a comfortable seat.
"Hold your lover firmly but gently by the shoulders or neck," she continued. "Move a little closer–but don't bump noses–and kiss gently."
De Lyrot's ending could be used to finish the kiss, or to begin a great romance. "From there, use your imagination."
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