Friday, July 6, 2018

Breaking free

Looking south along Park Avenue. 9:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, July 6, 2018. Still hot as hell. The natural response is to tell yourself pretty soon it’s gonna rain and cool everything off. Pretty soon yourself.

Staying put. Our friend Paige Peterson was out in East Hampton for the Fourth where she attended the annual Fourth of July luncheon that Charlie Moss and Suzanne Calhoun Moss give. This was their 21st year with this. The first one was to honor Peter Brown becoming a US Citizen in 1997. Evidently the guestlist remains the same.

I’m assuming. I wasn’t there so I don’t have anything to report except this photo that Paige took on the Jitney back to Manhattan yesterday morning. For those of us who can’t see anything particularly interesting about a photo of a highway, the significance of this one is that NO ONE was going to New York after the actual holiday. Whoever was out there was staying put.
And why wouldn’t they? At least they can go jump in the pool or the ocean. Not that that will beat the heat for more than the few minutes in the H20.

Me, I’ve been in New York all this time, and I have not been uncomfortable since I now have an air conditioner. For the first time in my life: I mention that because it astounds people to hear of someone living without an air conditioner. I do appreciate the cooler air although frankly I turn it off the minute I think the temps dropping outside. Last night the temperature dropped a few degrees and I turned off the A/C and opened my terrace door. I felt like my life opened up.

This weather’s made me a bit of a hermit, although as I wrote yesterday, I’m reading Seymour Hersh’s memoir: “Reporter” which is riveting His childhood and youth are not particularly interesting in the telling but, it turns out, very important to his understanding his humanity that greatly enhances his talent as a reporter. He bears the values that my generation of Americans were brought up with – even if many of us grew up to forget about much of it. His work conveys the world we all live in, and the people who bear responsibility for our well-being as a country.

Which speaking of, this past Tuesday JH invited me to lunch with him and a young woman named Fraidy Reiss, who started an organization called UNCHAINED – At Last. Its bywords are: “UN-Arrange a Marriage ... RE-Arrange a Life.”

Fraidy, who was born in the late 1970s, grew up in Brooklyn in a family who are members of an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in which everything is arranged for women by “rules” and “laws”. Females have No Rights and no say in their own lives. She was 19 when she was made to marry a man who was three years older. She was prepared for this from the beginning of her life with rules which isolated her not only from males but from the world in which we all live.

I was not aware of “child marriage” and I’m sure many are not. They are prisoners who go along with it. To disobey is to be shunned. The emotional toll is devastating and the rules are therefore rarely disobeyed.
DPC, Fraidy Reiss, and JH at Michael's.
Fraidy, who bore two daughters three years apart, is one of the very few who left her marriage (with her daughters in tow) and an entire way of life, and went out into the world on her own for the first time. For that she was entirely shunned by everyone she knew all her life including her parents. “You’re dead,” was how she best explains it.

In her quest, she learned that there are many women, not necessarily from a religious sect, who were made to marry against their wishes because of their age. Changing the law to make that illegal was the first step. Just last week, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed the bill that Unchained wrote and relentlessly promoted for three years, to end all marriage before 18 in New Jersey, no exceptions. And in May, Delaware became the the first U.S. State to end all child marriage. This is all Fraidy's doing.
Fraidy Reiss with Gov. Phil Murphy signing the bill to end all marriage before 18 in New Jersey, with no exceptions.
The woman I met for lunch conveys a powerful image of self-reliance and humanity. Her story on how she was able to change her life despite a high emotional toll, and how she was able to improve the quality of her life and that of her daughters is a fable for a movie.

It is as if the discipline required to “go along” with the domination of an individual or a group, was the very discipline required to break the bonds and free herself and her daughters. Once independent, she has used her traumatic experience to help other women and girls to escaped forced marriages.

Fraidy's new tattoo commemorating the first U.S. State (Delaware) to end child marriage.
From a life of forced isolation, this dynamic young woman has emerged as a leader for women’s rights. The Washington Post published an op-ed article by her revealing that nearly a quarter-million girls as young as 12 were married in this country in the first decade of the 21st century – mostly to adult males.

I’d gone to this lunch with no idea of why or who. I came away with a sense of having been educated by an expert, a very special person of great intelligence but even more than that, courage and stunning resilience.

This is a story all women and men need to know about. This is a step in the right direction, out of the old direction of the rights of dictators.

Contact DPC here.