Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fanny on love and marriage

January 5, 2012
Since I discovered that cousin Fanny had written a book, I went to and found that I could purchase a used copy of Fanny’s Way of Life. Now that I have it in hand, I would like to include some excerpts and comments. The book is basically a selection of her columns that appeared in the Evanston Review and other small and medium-sized newspapers for at least two decades. It is divided into sections based on common themes: Of Love and Marriage, Of Morals and Manners, Of Arts and Letters, Of Life’s Labors and Of Courage, Faith, and Hope.

Fanny is described inside the jacket as “a serious reader of Italian as well as British and American authors . . . Fanny’s familiarity with the folk sayings of Italy also serves to season her writing with the salt of the soil from which her forebears sprung.”

The jacket also proclaims the book “reveals a deeply religious person, with an intense belief in the rewards of hard work, faith, virtue, and of service to others. Fanny Lazzar is no homespun philosopher. She is rather a student of world literature and music, and an enthusiastic collector of original paintings.”

In “Of Love and Marriage,” Fanny shows herself to be a strong advocate for the healing power of love, compassion, kindness and tolerance. She quotes an Italian saying, “Il meglio medico รจ se stessa” or “The best doctor is the self,” and then she writes: “Who knows where the body leaves off and the mind begins? They say that many hospital beds would be emptied if humans would drop negative emotions from their hearts, minds, and souls once and for all.”

In her columns, she shares secrets of couples among her acquaintance who share lasting bonds of love and happiness, and also mistakes made by those with less happy relationships. Sometimes she responds to those who write to her asking for advice on life and love. She warns against infidelity, jealousy and in-laws who meddle in the affairs of their children.

I think the influence of her heritage shows in her opinion on flirting, which I am told is an acceptable and even desirable Italian practice, if done within the proper boundaries. Fanny describes it this way: “Most beautiful women have an unconscious coquetry which is completely harmless as it is charming. In Europe, where coquetry is a practiced art, husbands accept it as a compliment if other men flirt with their wives. In fact, a French couple, very devoted to each other, were chagrined one evening, when, in a restaurant, no one flirted back with the wife. ‘Am I getting old?’ she asked him in almost childish fright. ‘No my dear, they are,’ he answered gently.”

However, flirting is even better, she says, when done within the matrimonial confines. In describing a couple who has been coming to her restaurant for 15 years, she writes: “This man and woman are so gentle, so modest, so appealing, so charged with tenderness, that in their presence my very soul feels the sacred fire of their love.” Nevertheless, Fanny teases the wife about having been a tremendous flirt in her college days, which was the time she met her husband. Fanny writes that her friend responded, with sparkling eyes, “Yes, I was, and that is why I have never stopped flirting with my husband—because to me he is the greatest charmer I have ever known.” 

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