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There is a poem by the late Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, entitled ‘Scaffolding’. In it, he explains how builders rely heavily on scaffolding to aid them in the early stages of construction. (OK, they may be able to build something without it, but it’s unlikely to be anything of note.)

Scaffolding, construction.

Who’s paying for all this scaffolding ..?

Then, once the edifice is built, down come the temporary assists, discarded more or less for good, save for the odd repair every now and again.

For Heaney, scaffolding is a metaphor for the early stages of a relationship. When you have a budding romance, the flowers, the chocolates, the dinners, the holidays, all that kind of stuff is similar to scaffolding. Vitally important at first, but once all necessary external works are completed and the ‘love nest’ is free-standing, what were once seen as romance essentials are then largely forgotten about.

Of course, before you go building any construct, prudent practice is to do a cost analysis. And when it’s a partnership, as any aspiring romance must be, the costs should be split — or at the very least there should be some give and take in both the initial investment and subsequent labour. If the burden involved is falling all on one side, well the project is pretty much doomed.

This is one of the biggest issues facing many Western men in Colombia. The ‘princess mentality’ is still strong in these parts. The thoughts of anything approaching 50-50 are non-existent.

In such an environment, it’s not too difficult to understand how a male-chauvinist culture exists. When you have a ‘partner’ who shows very little in the way of being equal, well it’s then difficult to treat her as such.

The attitude that some men may have when dating these types, in its mildest form, is that they’re with an escort girl rather than actually going out with somebody by mutual consent. In stronger forms, and as oft happens, the door to abuse is left open.

There’s a lot at play in all of this. As mentioned, Colombia and Latin America in general still have societies that are largely male-dominated, more so than many Western countries in any case. What’s more, from personal experience and anecdotal evidence — allowing for a few refreshing exceptions — many women seem content, in monetary terms, to be ‘submissive’. And when there are plenty of men willing to pay for their every need (it’s what we’re for, isn’t it?) you can’t blame them really.

You see, one of the principal rules of reproduction, as this is what it basically comes down to, hasn’t changed since our caveman days — the dominant male gets the lion’s share. What has changed in modern society is how that dominant male rises to the top. While physical strength and cunning can still play a role, what is more significant now is money and prestige, alongside, importantly in this context, a strong belief in monogamy, something that could be seen as a mitigating factor in a few powerful, rich males ‘sweeping the board’ so to put it.

Whatever the case, Heaney’s belief in the importance of ‘romance scaffolding’ is hard to argue with. However, both the cost and reliability of it seems to be a little different in certain parts of the world compared to others.
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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor irlandés, quien ha vivido en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y culturales, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://anchor.fm/brendan-corrigan.

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