31. 3. 2021

English Version | Loved, lost and died loving


Those who shout from the rooftops that love is beautiful, then it is because they’ve never come across a forbidden love. Ah! But doesn’t prohibition light up the flame of passion? Absolutely. Thus, the forbidden love is not only hard but equally admirable, it is the object of desire and worthy of the envy of all the other so-so loves. It is prose and poetry, it is culture and the subject of cult, it is the most beautiful thing, and the most painful thing too. Only except, damn it, shouldn’t life be written by majestic feelings, all those which are everything but mild? We want to believe it should.

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The synonyms of the word prohibition are infinite: banned, censored, unauthorized, interdicted, denied, vetoed, restrained, and so on. It is a notion that, in its nature, has the audacity to awaken a certain level of curiosity: if it is forbidden, then it must be hiding something intriguing. If not, why make it so? The red symbol on a white bar, the red alert that blinks unhedged while screaming “that’s not the way”. And if on that road there is not much left to do other than following the road code, we wouldn’t want to tempt the devil into giving us a fine, in life – in our life – and even more so in love – in our love -, it’s a whole other story. After all, who could ever question the reasons that reason itself can’t grasp? The history of mankind has shown us that many people still think they should – with many laws and many behaviors and many prejudices and many if’s. Forbidden loves are so because: 1) families don’t accept it: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name. And I'll no longer be a Capulet. (…) ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy”, Juliet begged in the Shakespearean work that needs no introduction. 2) the social strata don’t allow it: the passion between UK’s Edward VII (1894-1972) and Wallis Simpson (1896-1986), an American socialite, created a constitutional crisis in the country, leading him to abdicate the throne bestowed upon him and keeping “just” the title of Duque of Windsor in order to marry her – until then, no other British monarch had ever espoused a woman with two living ex-husbands. 3) other entanglements stand in its way: the famous Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) might have seen Beatriz (1266-1290) all but twice (the first time they were only nine years old), but he loved her all his life though they were married to other people, in a time where getting a divorce was a great impediment in medieval Florence. After Beatriz’s premature death, Dante wrote a famous collection of poems in her memory, and it is Beatriz who takes the title of ultimate muse for the masterpiece Divine Comedy (published for the first time in 1472). 4) the age difference is colossal: the Brazilian music artists Mallu Magalhães (São Paulo, 1992) and Marcelo Camelo (Rio de Janeiro, 1978) began to date when she was 16 and he was 30. The relationship was the target of much criticism due to the age gap between them and the singer, during an interview with Glamour magazine, recalls not understanding why: “I thought of that as someone else’s trip, it had nothing to do with what we wanted or felt. But it’s very aggressive to go through something like that. It is so weird and displaced from us that I even have difficulty understanding [what happened]. I like to know what other people are thinking, but when someone is so judgmental that it becomes an offense, I can’t wrap my head around it. I find that unnecessary and destructive”, she concludes. 5) and, more often than not, because the personalities of those in love seem to say, loud and clear, ‘you two are not good for each other’. Or, at least, apparently so, since in the intimate of each lover’s being, things might be a little different. Speaking of which, the American singer Courtney Love shed light on the matter: “They [the press] only want to talk about the amount of drugs Kurt [Cobain] and I used. That was not all we did. We had a life. We had breakfast. We had lunch. We had dinner. We rented movies and ate ice-cream. We would read aloud to one another almost every night and we prayed every night. We had fucking dignity.”

One of the most eternal love stories in Portuguese literature is a cry for freedom of a love that was going against every social demand of the XIX century. The forbidden romance of Simão Botelho and Teresa de Albuquerque, with Mariana da Cruz forming a love triangle that ends tragically, is inspired by the life of the author himself, Camilo Castelo Branco (1825-1890), he who was also a subject of forbidden love. “I wrote the novel in 15 days, the most tormented days of my life.”, he confessed in the preface of the second edition of Amor de Perdição (1862). The book tells the story of Simão and Teresa’s romance, both coming from rival families, who would rather die than giving up the love that binds them together. Mariana, who nurtured an unrequited love for Simão, follows him in death. The Portuguese version of Romeo and Juliet is, in fact, a tumultuous confession of Camilo Castelo Branco himself, who was incarcerated for a year for being involved with a married woman. Through his work, it is said, Camilo intended to convince the 12 juries that he was madly in love – which did not call for punishment – and even less so for jailtime. And there’s also the legendary love story between D. Pedro and Dona Inês de Castro, the nurse of his wife, Dona Constança Manuel. Dona Inês arrived in Portugal in 1340, as the nurse of Dona Constança Manuel, newely-wed to D. Pedro, heir to the Portuguese throne. Pedro and Inês fell in love almost immediately, beginning an undercover relationship that would end most tragically. King D. Afonso IV, the father of D. Pedro, feared that the influence of D. Inês over the prince would put at risk the relations between Portugal and the kingdom of Castela thus, in 1344, he threw D. Inês out of court, into exile. In the following year, after the death of Dona Constança, and against his father’s will, D. Pedro demanded that D. Inês came back, with whom he would later have four children. Evermore fearful of the consequences of this relationship to the future of Portugal’s kingdom, D. Afonso IV ordered the death of D. Inês. After being executed in Coimbra, she was laid to rest in the Monastery of Santa Clara, known today as the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha. Luís de Camões narrated in Os Lusíadas (1572): “O thou pure love! who rulest o’er the hearts / Of mortal men, with thy resistless might / Which such delicious hopes and joys imparts, / Thou wast the cause, that cruel death did smite” Meaning, love – the forbidden kind – is related as the origin of tragedy. On the contrary, Camilo Castelo Branco manifested: “Death shouldn’t be the cost for those of steady heart.” The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho defended that, for the warrior, “there is no impossible love”. On the other hand, the Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz (1845-1900) claimed that the only eternal love is the impossible love, since all the other possible loves would begin to die “on the day they come to fruition”. All valid points of view, essentially, these are but sentences that authenticate the nature of an impossible love – even though, impossible is nothing. Let us say then, on forbidden loves: it is difficult, it seems nearly impossible, it is painful and challenging; but it is also beautiful and fierce and honest and real. Drastically real. The thing is, nothing makes our hearts beat faster than a good love story. And by good, I mean tragic – of course.

Prohibition seems to entice passion. It is not by chance that it is often said that the forbidden fruit is always the sweetest: “The emotion (the adrenaline) associated with what is ‘forbidden’ might work as a factor of extra attraction to some people. There are others, with a greater sense of rationality, to whom the ‘forbidden fruit’ is not even sweet at all. There is no rule, but more of a tendency. One of searching for curiosity, of wanting to step on less certain territories than those that offer security (there an association with more desirability when there is an absence of security/ stability), of feeling increased desire by what challenges limitations, of experimenting new things, of living more intensely. Obstacles, more or less explicit, to a forbidden love – or relationship -, might contribute to the strengthening of the desirability, in phenomena that Psychology knows and explains”, the psychologist and couple’s therapist Rita Fonseca de Castro explains. And she specifies: “Because time spent together is an impossibility or, in that case, is filled with secrecy and results from a considerable effort, it is more highly valued. In fact, generically speaking, the more effort we make to reach a certain goal, the more that goal is esteemed. When others try to influence our behaviors or opinions, we tend to respond with a certain ‘psychological reactance’. This concept is referring to the tendency to act and react, contrary to what would constitute a threat to our freedom. Thus, when love is forbidden, that same love will tend to be more invested in, and to grow; ultimately, sharing secrecy brings people together, increasing the feeling of intimacy and sharing of feelings, promoting the development of a sense of self. It should be noted that, more often than not, these forbidden relationships also tend to be idealized.” The specialist underlines that these “forbidden loves” of today take the risk of being less lyrical than the ones of the stories – or of History – and are frequently rooted in gaps such as in age, geography, life stage at the time, overlapping of roles (for example, when two people committed to others meet, grow closer and fall in love, in a professional context), marital status (someone single falls for someone who is not), or even within the stigma that still lingers surrounding homosexuality. She recalls a patient that fell in love with one of her college professors, around her parents’ age (our eyes immediately open wide before a possible impossible love story – such is the power of this kind of love), and of how much that love had to be lived in secrecy because the young woman’s parents wouldn’t allow it. And she finishes: “When it comes to couples counseling, there are many cases of ‘forbidden loves’, marked by infidelity”. 

We’re living in different times now. Today, Romeo and Juliet, Dante and Beatriz, D. Pedro and Dona Inês de Castro, or even the suffered Camilo Castelo Branco, would have had more and better chances of a happy ending to their love stories. Just like Rita Fonseca de Castro explains, in today’s day and age, the obstacles to a love story that ends up being forbidden are of another kind – and rarely end in death. In a world that serves us the easy way out on a silver platter, to live a love story, despite how difficult it might seem, is not that big of a deal. The impossibilities are not the same as before: Divorces come to fruition with nothing but a piece of paper and two signatures, flights that can be booked with a single click, apps that shorten lengthy distances, and families that can’t be bothered to “forbid a relationship”. In parallel to this reality, to the easy way out aforementioned, and before the minor existence of forbidden love affairs, there is the notion that “we are never satisfied”, that we always want more and more and more and better. Thus, “we connect happiness to the satisfaction of wishes, which is totally antonymous to the very functioning of our culture, rooted in dissatisfaction. No object can completely satisfy us”, Contardo Calligaris, an Italian psychoanalyst, explained, in an interview to the website Revista Prosa Verso e Arte. And he carried on his line of thought: “The fact that someone might desire deeply a man, a woman, a car, a watch, a piece of jewelry or a trip somewhere has no relevance. On the day that person gets that man, that woman, car, watch, jewelry or trip, they will realize it’s time to want something else. This mechanism sustains, simultaneously, an economic system, modern capitalism, and our desire, that never runs out.” Faced with this concept, the question we pose to the couple’s therapist is the following: so, in the case of a winning forbidden love case, what comes after passion is love? Or better yet: can forbidden loves survive only through passion? “If we consider that love is a state of evolution from passion to a more mature feeling, and that that evolution occurs within the context of a relationship, when a ‘forbidden love’ manages to succeed, love will follow, naturally, the more inebriate state of passion, just like it would in any other relationship with a different origin. When it comes to those that don’t succeed, most likely, there will only be passion and suffering, since those impossible loves tend to carry a great deal of pain with them. Disapproval tends to strengthen short-term relationships, however, for a relationship to survive and become solid, relevant people’s support and approval is a very important variable.” For those to whom love is not worthy of effort and practicality is a plus, there is always the option of not even taking the risk. Just like Machado de Assis (1839-1908) suggested, “will you dream some romance loves, nearly impossible? I’ll tell you that it is not good for you, that it is better to settle for reality; if she is not glistening as dreams do, she has at least the advantage of existing.” Since we’re not quite convinced by the Brazilian author’s point, we will insist on defending that when it comes to love, it should really be forbidden to forbid.