Evelyn’s new memoir, “Love in Any Language” beautifully illustrates the trials and joys in the blending of two cultures. Love is tested when Evelyn falls in love with Antonio, a handsome university student. At the end of her two-year commitment in Peru, Evelyn finds herself pregnant and the 23-year-olds marry in Cusco and then move to Northern California. Evelyn expects her husband to support their family, and Antonio tries to take his place as head of the household. But he must first learn English, complete college, and find a job. Parenthood, financial stress, the pull of both countries, and long visits from Antonio’s mother threaten to destroy the bonds that brought them together. Readers will delight in witnessing Evelyn come into her own — as a woman, as a wife and as a mother — in this moving depiction of partnership and all the intricacies that encompass marriage and love. Drop in with us to discover the bonuses, the benefits and the challenges that she endured, and the lasting peace she has found.
Evelyn LaTorre joined the Peace Corps upon graduation from Holy Names and was assigned to Peru where she taught PE, English and organized 4-H clubs. She married her husband, a Peruvian university student in Cusco, Peru, in June 1966. Two sons were born, Tony, in 1967, and Tim, in 1971, during the years Evelyn worked for the Alameda County Welfare Dept. and completed a Masters degree in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. She worked for San Francisco Schools as a Bilingual School Social Worker until she obtained a Psychology Credential at Cal State, Hayward, in 1973. Walter worked as a Computer Program Analyst. Evelyn worked twenty years as a School Psychologist for the Fremont and San Jose Unified School Districts. In 1983 she completed a doctoral degree at the University of San Francisco. She taught part-time at various universities between 1984 and 1990, including classes in bilingual assessment for the National Hispanic University in Guadalajara, Mexico. She was named Director of Special Education for San Jose Unified in 1990. She concluded 32 years’ work in education in 2002 after eight years as a Special Education Administrator for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. Evelyn and her family visit Peru often. Two months in 1985 she journeyed with her sons to eight European countries. She and her husband continue to travel, often living abroad to learn a new language. To date, the couple has visited 80 countries. For exercise they take ballroom dance classes and…
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Love in Any Language
Evelyn’s new memoir, Love in Any Language, beautifully illustrates the trials and joys in the blending of two cultures. Love is tested when Evelyn falls in love with Antonio, a handsome university student. At the end of her two-year commitment in Peru, Evelyn finds herself pregnant and the 23-year-olds marry in Cusco and then move to Northern California. Evelyn expects her husband to support their family, and Antonio tries to take his place as head of the household. But he must first learn English, complete college, and find a job. Parenthood, financial stress, the pull of both countries, and long visits from Antonio’s mother threaten to destroy the bonds that brought them together. Readers will delight in witnessing Evelyn come into her own — as a woman, as a wife and as a mother — in this moving depiction of partnership and all the intricacies that encompass marriage and love. Drop in with us to discover the bonuses, the benefits, and the challenges that she endured, and the lasting peace she has found.
Evelyn LaTorre joined the Peace Corps upon graduation from Holy Names and was assigned to Peru where she taught PE, English and organized 4-H clubs. She married her husband, a Peruvian university student in Cusco, Peru, in June 1966. Two sons were born, Tony, in 1967, and Tim, in 1971, during the years Evelyn worked for the Alameda County Welfare Dept. and completed a Masters degree in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. She worked for San Francisco Schools as a Bilingual School Social Worker until she obtained a Psychology Credential at Cal State, Hayward, in 1973. Walter worked as a Computer Program Analyst. Evelyn worked twenty years as a School Psychologist for the Fremont and San Jose Unified School Districts. In 1983 she completed a doctoral degree at the University of San Francisco. She taught part-time at various universities between 1984 and 1990, including classes in bilingual assessment for the National Hispanic University in Guadalajara, Mexico. She was named Director of Special Education for San Jose Unified in 1990. She concluded 32 years’ work in education in 2002 after eight years as a Special Education Administrator for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. Evelyn and her family visit Peru often. Two months in 1985 she journeyed with her sons to eight European countries. She and her husband continue to travel, often living abroad to learn a new language. To date, the couple has visited 80 countries.
What’s the story behind the story? We’ll find out on Dropping In. Our guests are today’s original thinkers. Conversations that spark new ways of seeing what’s going on. We bring it all to the table. Diverse perspectives, controversy, loving and singular voices. Magically stories reveal the common threads that link us. Experience the joys, the fist pumps, the detours and the hard-won truths of those who blaze the trail so that we might do the same and now here’s your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In everyone. It’s Christmas week and no better time to start tolerating others well and to prize your significant other, partner or spouse. If you want to learn how to leave troubles behind and cultivate the positives in your relationship read the book Love in Any Language: A Memoir of a Cross-cultural Marriage by today’s guest Evelyn Kohl LaTorre. It’s out now from She Writes Press. Welcome Evelyn. Great to have you with us.
Evelyn: Thank you and happy holidays. I want to say you’re the Terry Gross of memoirs. Terry Gross on NPR.
Diane: So funny. It’s so funny and fresh air. I love the way she says fresh air. It always sounds just like so fresh. Okay she’s an idol of mine for sure. First off, I just want to commend you for your work as a teacher, a counselor, a school psychologist which I learned through reading Love in Any Language. You’ve worked with severely developed, challenged and handicapped kids. You found ways to have the system work for every group. I wondered kind of first off was your travel experience as a peace corps volunteer which you wrote about in Between Inca Walls, your first book. Was that experience as a Peace Corps volunteer instrumental in instilling a sensibility one of inclusion that maybe not everyone is living in a first world, able-bodied or affluent place. How did that experience come to inform you and your career?
Evelyn: Well, as you know when you write a memoir like you did also which is great. I just finished reading it. You really have to look inside yourself. As I analyze my life up to this point I could see where my childhood in Montana and my parents’ values inspired me to go into the Peace Corps. It’s hard to say where it started. I think the move from Montana to California piqued my curiosity about other cultures because in Montana there were no other cultures that I knew of. I mean there was a farm culture which I was grateful that I knew about and the ranch culture but then when I went to into the Peace Corps and Peru.
Well I’d gone to Mexico before that. It was like steps. It was like stair steps. One thing kind of led to the other. As opportunities came along I just welcomed them except as you can see in the beginning of this book it kind of, I thought I thought motherhood and marriage might stop all of that. It was interesting what’s happened since.
Diane: I thought that the book was very instructive in terms of what women went through in that time, the 70s when it wasn’t either or a proposition that seems so ludicrous now. In those decades, those short brief period of decades that’s passed it’s become so de rigueur and so acceptable to have both a career and children in marriage but then it was really thought of as something that you chose. I wondered how you sidestepped in your mind’s eye that dilemma or were you as you just said taking one step at a time?
Evelyn: Well I was taking one step at a time and I didn’t feel like I had actually chosen it. On one side I had chosen it because I got educated and that was my father’s idea to send his four daughters to college as well as his two sons. Because I had a BA at the time one of the professors of my major sociology just kind of expected all of us to go on to graduate school for some reason. So I did and so having more and more education meant that I needed, I wanted to use it. I think I did want a career but as you could read I was really, really torn between staying home and raising my boys which I felt I should do and I wanted to do on one level but on the other level having a career was very satisfying. I actually had no choice because like a lot of immigrants who come to this country it’s not easy learning the language and learning how to interview for jobs.
At the same time my husband from Peru was getting his education. I had not expected that it would take eight years for him to get the education that he got. It happened the university did not accept any of his credits I don’t think because it took him four years to get his BA and then another two years to get his masters. Then he felt he was employable and then he found out that nobody would employ him full-time. All that time I worked full-time. We also took a lot of risks too in looking back at my life.
I said to somebody the other day can you believe that we bought a house based on my income. At the time I was working part-time. Now I had to go full-time to qualify to buy the house but nobody would do that in this day and age partly because houses cost a lot more. I also had a lot of advantages that I really wished the legislature would look at like a sliding scale for child care when I was at the university. I mean we could afford all these things because we qualified for food stamps. I got a scholarship to college. We lived in student housing which was a hundred dollars a month. I don’t know that anybody could do that in this day and age. They didn’t last at all. They lasted for a few years and then we were on our own but still that helped get us a good start.
Diane: Well it just points out the need for a leg up. Your husband was emigrating from Peru. You were coming back. Necessity was the mother of invention. You were pregnant when you returned from Peru. You were married because you married in a chapel there without the attendance of your family but it sounded like a beautiful ceremony and very personal, very intimate. You and your husband decided to make a life in America. That necessitated being a mother and a wife and a breadwinner. In some ways you were on the frontier by necessity in some ways maybe by inspiration and motivation because I don’t think you have any lack of motivation. It seemed as though you were always very curious, inquisitive about other worlds, other cultures. That served you well.
Evelyn: I was going to say one other thing that just occurred to me was the process of my husband getting a green card was much simpler than it is today. Other Peace Corps volunteers have a harder time if they decide to bring, to marry here. First of all they wisely the intended spouse comes up to the United States to see if they want to live in the United States. My husband just took it on face value from what he had known in the movies and the Peace Corps people he knew and because he loved me which is a big thing which I have always appreciated is just how much, well I haven’t always appreciated. You can tell that in the book how much he gave up but I could tell whenever we went back how he loved his culture, still does.
Right now he is studying Quechua to become more fluent than he already was which is the indigenous language and partly he loves studying languages but I don’t know if we’ll go back and he’ll be able to use the language. It’s partly who I married and partly my drive and partly just solving one problem as they came up. I either solved it or we solved them together.
Diane: I think that you were as you say you’ve come to a point of appreciation I really feel as though if people out there want to try to figure out that thing, appreciation of others when they’re on your last nerve and your partner is making you crazy and it’s that time of year when everybody has to be cheerful anyway. I think it’s a great book to read for that reason. Your dedication is to your husband. It says for my husband who left all he knew to journey with me through this adventure called life. I think it is remarkable that you had a certain trust in one another to figure things out and a certain belief that things would work out which it’s hard to really downplay that when you make such a big life change.
In your book you say by living in other cultures you can learn a lot. This is also on your website that I noticed which is a beautiful site where you can meet Evelyn Kohl LaTorre. By living in other cultures you can learn a lot about your own is a statement from the website. To me it also paraphrases the thought in the book which you cite that anthropologists say that one must immerse oneself in another world to truly understand oneself. I wondered what understandings you felt as though you had come to through journeying to other realms.
Evelyn: I’d start with knowledge of myself and what I was capable of doing. One of the things my husband and I have done is we’ve lived a total of about a year in Italy. We’ve learned Italian. I think we’re starting to forget some of it because we haven’t been back with the pandemic. You learn that your mind is capable of more than you might have imagined. Then you learned that there are many other perfectly good ways of eating and having a house because you’ve been to Europe. There aren’t all single-family dwellings with bonds in front. I live in California. Just this today were taking out our front lawn. You can learn that there are other ways of living and better ways.
Then you see your own country from a different point of view. I am fairly critical of some of the policies that I see the US have. That comes about because you don’t have the filter of the US press in between or that you don’t have a filter of what you’re being told. You can see what how other people see you in your country. Almost always Americans are endured, not endured but looked up to and thought highly of whether we deserve it or not. We do deserve some of that but the big difference I think going back to my marriage is that I grew up with a real work ethic and that served me well but by marrying someone from another culture who didn’t believe that he had to be earning tons of money.
I mean I didn’t really either but somehow it was so easy to get into that wheel that goes around and around hamster wheel. Especially moving back to the United States from Peru. Whenever we go to other countries, we see most other countries have a pretty relaxed way of being at least the way we observe it that family is very important. They don’t always move all over the country alone and away from their extended families. I think that’s something that we’ve just taken in by osmosis maybe.
Diane: Well I think that you’ve made you’ve touched on a number of really important points. We’re broadcasting from Switzerland. I’m in Switzerland right now. When the Swiss, when our Swiss family, it sounds like Swiss Family Robinson. Many people are too young to really know about that but such a funny title. When our Swiss family comes to the United States and especially to Florida where we are in the winter months except for the holidays they often comment on the size of the houses. America and consumerism, it’s never big enough. The gigantic houses around us in Saint Petersburg, Florida most often the comment is that a multi-family home. No. That must be more than one family living in that huge house. Then you say well, not really.
It is very interesting to see the world through another lens. As you say just being able to see other ways of being. I wonder from your knowledge and perception of that how you think the pandemic and the restriction of travel and maybe even the restriction of travel for kids who are not able to do so or adults starting out not able to do so. How is this going to impact our world view if we really haven’t been able to get up and move around?
Evelyn: Well, I think the hope is that we will become more introspective. I don’t know that that’s happening. In the beginning I wrote an article I think it was a conscious connection that it was published where I said in the beginning of the pandemic that I was prepared for it from having lived in another country because when you live in another country you feel somewhat isolated until you learn the language, until you get to know people. Even then you’re different. It’s just different. I like actually not having obligations outside the house where I was going to one meeting after another. Now after two years of this I have to say I do appreciate it but I don’t want it to keep going on.
We just had to cancel a trip that my husband recommended. Now this I couldn’t believe because if you read the book he doesn’t travel with me all the time but rarely. We have to really convince them to like go to the state park, national parks. Then there’s a passage which I’m working on a third book and I don’t know how much of it I’m going to put in there but the two months that I took my two teenagers. One was fourteen and one was eighteen and we toured seven countries in Europe. My husband didn’t want to go.
Earlier in the year when he said well let’s go to Morocco at Christmas. Now I think part of that was because he doesn’t like all the hubbub and the hustle and bustle. I tend to get tensed or I used to because I used to have my extended family come and set a table for seventeen. Everything had to be perfect. Everything had to be perfect. That’s just my personality type and I couldn’t make it perfect. It’s that part, he remembered. This year he suggested that we go to morocco. Well with the Omicron variant Morocco closed their borders almost immediately and did we didn’t know when they would be reopened.
That trip was postponed. We still like to travel. I still like to travel but I kind of do like it’s a good atmosphere in which to write. Two years ago I was just publishing my first book and it really allowed me the downtime, it forced me to have the down time to finish my second book. I think I’ve mentioned several times maybe not to you but the first book took me many years to write, maybe fourteen years partly because I was traveling often then I’d have to come back and restart and reread and rewrite but and I had journals to write that. The second book came about because you and others said well what happened after you got married. I had just already written another couple chapters. I thought well, I’ll just keep going. Of course I those first two chapters got thrown out long ago. My editor and I worked on a different beginning. As you know you have to work on these things.
I only had a year and at the same time I didn’t know I was going to have to publicize my first book in order for people to buy it. I didn’t even know I wanted people to buy it but once I had published it and people were saying that they liked it. I thought okay well, I’ll do this. The good thing is I learned a whole lot about publishing. One thing I learned is not to write a second book and publish it a year after your first book because…
Diane: You really should time them a little bit, a little space in between. Well Between Inca Walls is great and Love in Any Language is just a great continuation. We will continue the conversation with Evelyn Kohl LaTorre when we come back from a commercial break. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Evelyn Kohl LaTorre who joined the Peace Corps upon graduation from Holy Names College and was assigned to Peru where she taught physical education, English and you organized 4-h clubs. She married her husband, a Peruvian university student in Cusco, Peru in June 1966. Two sons were born Tony in 1967 and Tim in 1971. During the years Evelyn worked for the Alameda County Welfare Department and completed a master’s degree in social welfare at UC Berkeley. She worked for San Francisco Schools as a bilingual school social worker until she obtained a psychology credential at Cal State Hayward in 1973.
Antonio, her husband worked as a computer program analyst. For 20 years you were a school psychologist in Fremont in San Jose. You completed a doctoral degree at the University of San Francisco in 1983. Taught part-time between various universities between 1984 and 1990 including classes in bilingual assessment for the National Hispanic University in Guadalajara, Mexico. You were named director of special education for San Jose unified in 1990. Concluded 32 years work in education after eight years as a special education administrator for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. Evelyn and her family visit Peru often. For two months during 1985 you journeyed with your sons to eight European countries fearlessly I might add. You and your husband continue to travel often living abroad to learn a new language as you mentioned Italian. To date the couple has visited 80 countries. For exercise they take ballroom dancing, classes, gardening and walk daily around Lake Elizabeth in Fremont where they’ve lived since 1973.
Okay, I’m exhausted but congratulations on that long and accomplished list. I do hand it to you. I think one of the things that came out in the book was this kind of fearlessness being able to say okay Antonio, you want to stay in Peru now. I’m headed back to the States. I’m going to start my job, take the kids for two months to Europe. I mean there’s a kind of fearlessness in you Evelyn that I think is indigenous, that I think was maybe there all along, maybe from your upbringing on the farm. You have to take risks every day. You’re saving calves. You see nature in all its cycles but I mean that initial impulse even to go into the Peace Corps upon graduation. There was something brave in that. Did you feel brave at the time?
Evelyn: No, not at all. I still don’t and now we’ve traveled to over 100 countries because we’ve traveled a lot since that little thing was written. I’d like to say that it came internally but at age 21 I had a crush on a guy named Tom because we would go down to work with him and others in Fresno and in the Fresno area. One day Tom wasn’t there and this is in my first book. I said to the priest who was in charge of our program. I said well where’s Tom. He said oh he went into the Peace Corps in Peru.
When my application came, now I did apply on my own because I had heard because I’d been to Mexico and I loved doing what I was doing working with the people there. I love the culture and so the Peace Corps was fairly new. Then I was a delegate to a catholic college conference in Minnesota and heard Sergeant Shriver speak. I thought well, I’ll apply to the Peace Corps but the reason I put Peru was because of hormones.
Diane: Tom was there.
Evelyn: Yes, right and I did meet up with Tom one of the first days I was there and decided nope, I don’t think this is it. I think I was more interested in learning new things that I was going to the Sierra where he kind of intimidated he wished he’d been sent. He was on the coast. There are a lot of volunteers that did a lot of good stuff on the coast but I was fortunate I was one of the seven of our group I think that was sent to the Cusco area. I have to tell you, I want to just mention the serendipity of life because I think the last time we talked that was a something that I’m always amazed by.
The other day I this Amigos Anonymous Group that I went to Mexico with we continue to support students who are studying in Mexico. We get together every month. Now we do it on Zoom but we did have an in person get together, barbecue in October. A couple was there and I had my books. They wanted my books. They said oh by any chance, oh you were in Peru but by any chance do you know a guy named Tom. Do you know? This Amigos Anonymous couple had met Tom and were good friends with him. This was the same Tom that that I had got my crush. I gave him a couple of bookmarks to give to him and tell him that he’s the reason my books exist and my marriage exists practically because I went to Peru.
Diane: That’s not always what happens when you meet an attractive boy and try to follow them to Peru but yes quite an unfolding. I love it. It comes full circle.
Evelyn: My husband teases me about Tom. Oh you really were in love with Tom. I was not. I was attracted to him. I did have a crush on him but like I said the adventure was more attractive to me than settling down. That was true even when I married. I still was quite adventurous. You had mentioned Swiss Family Robinson and you peaked a thing that I often credit my desire to learn about new places is the reading. I remember reading Swiss Family Robinson and loving how they lived on their own in a tree. I don’t know I just was attracted to that way of life where you take on adventures and obstacles and do things differently. I think it was the reading of books early in my life that really formed a lot of who I became. Who knows but I mean some of it is there innately but when I look at my siblings they didn’t do what I did so there must have been something different about me.
Diane: Well, I think you were open. You had this sense of adventure. I mean I agree with you. I remember Swiss Family Robinson as well. One of the things that I thought about in reading this you described books as other worlds. Truly, if you are a teenager stranded. That’s how I felt anyway stranded in a suburban community with your family and how am I ever going to get out. Well open the pages of a book and at least mentally you could escape to wonderful places. Then maybe enjoy your family even more when you didn’t have to become a castaway but the thing that I noticed about your husband in book Antonio and also the culture that I enjoyed through my husband which is Swiss. It also emerged that my biological father was Swiss which so I definitely do believe in serendipity but it’s the sense of time Evelyn. It’s such a different sense of time to be in Europe or to be in Peru. Maybe that’s why it takes eight years to get the degrees and meanwhile as an American you’re wondering when’s this going to happen, when’s he going to get a diploma.
I certainly have lots of relations here who’ve spent a decade in school. It’s something where it takes what it takes. It is what it is. Coffee can take three hours in the afternoon. I wondered about your feeling about some of the cultural differences whether you thought that a sense of time was one of them and how that played out with your sons as well. I was very curious about that?
Evelyn: Well, I think in some cultures it’s more important to be authentic and who you are and use your own internal clock as opposed to my feeling that I needed to be doing something all the time. I needed to be doing something worthwhile. I kind of think that’s our culture that you’re not somebody until you have a career or until you, I mean I think that’s why I think women are not esteemed enough in this society by making other choices. Then if their lives are made difficult by not having what they need if they want to pursue their career. Anyway but yes. With my sons, my oldest son’s wife thanked me at one time for having raised him to be the kind, gentle person that he is. Now I think some of that is hereditary. He’s very much like his father very caring. Both of them are very open. They’re more flexible. They are very open to other cultures.
The younger one kind of took after me and traveled for many, many years. Lived a year in Peru with his grandparents and still likes traveling. There something about you get the travel bug and you want to go. The older one does not but they’re both very flexible and I think appreciate other cultures. I’m very proud of the way they have grown. I mean the youngest one is fifteen. The oldest one is about to turn 55 so they’re not youngsters anymore. I have to keep remembering that because I have to depend on both of them for all the social media and helping me with computer stuff. I mean this Zoom stuff is got me going crazy but like for one my book launches I couldn’t get on the site. There was so much security. I could not get on the site for this bookstore for my own book launch. I mean I was so embarrassed.
My youngest son says mom, if I get panicky is what happens with it. They help me out with that. They do know some things. I often wish I don’t know if you do this but I think okay, how was I with my parents when I was 50. I was working. I was into my career. I saw my parents often because I lived near them which was good but I don’t know that I was curious about what they were doing or if they had written books because my family tends to be the least of my fans in terms of the book. They say they lived it with me. They don’t need to read the book so that’s fine. That’s fine.
Diane: It’s so funny.
Evelyn: My kids, one lives in New York on Shelter Island and the other one lives in Los Angeles. With the pandemic I see the younger one. He’s now single and he just was here for Thanksgiving which was nice. Very loving, caring young man or older men. I don’t know middle aged men now I guess you’d say.
Diane: We can always stay young and they’ll always be happy to be young at heart. Shelter Island is a beautiful place. Something I’m curious about because you mentioned otherness. As a way to investigate both yourself and the country in which we live in relation to other countries. I think all of that’s really important information. I wonder about in the previous presidency in particular the sense of otherness as a source of anxiety. There’s also I see you’re very open because I think there are some influences that are entering the cultural mainstream that are not open. That if anything are getting like closed down towards a sense of otherness and being fearful of it. I mean when you notice this kind of evolution how does that make you feel being who you are?
Evelyn: It seems like we’re going backwards sometimes with certain ways of thinking. I mean I can remember the sixties and I didn’t realize this until I started to write the second book at the things that had tried to stop me from being who I wanted to be. Then in the nineties I mean it kept opening me up. I’m speaking mostly for women. I went from the free speech movement at UC Berkeley to Women’s Liberation. I think my identity and my life has been forged by those movements. When I see people clamping down on what women can do with their bodies.
I did hear recently that some of the objection to the bill that isn’t passing Congress has to do with subsidizing child care because some of the men in Congress feel that women’s place is in the home. Can you believe that? They believe that and that’s a toxic masculinity that I think exemplifies a lot of our culture. Now there is what you could call toxic masculinity in other cultures that I know of but it seems like women still can speak and of course they don’t have as many advantages materially as we do but spiritually there’s something spiritual that we could learn from and not be so selfish that let people be who they need to be. It really doesn’t walk all over other people’s rights most of the time as far as I can figure out. I mean it’s like the gay movement. I mean that came upon us during this time and I didn’t speak to that but I have relatives who changed their identity that way. That’s fine. Let people be who they feel they need to be.
Diane: I truly agree with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home office but the rest of it is galling right?
Evelyn: It is a part of they think, some people think that they’ll be happier by curtailing other people’s happiness. That’s just not the case. I think we’re happier when we when we exalt other people’s advances and what makes them happy and fulfilled. I don’t think we always know what’s going to make us fulfilled. Again, the introspection has to come.
I have to say my youngest son got me back to meditating and it’s really great. Now I had done meditation. I think I mentioned it in my second book because I did a lot of self-development programs but I was getting anxious over something.
Diane: It was Covid.
Evelyn: I think you’re right. I think was part of it but I was called upon to do so much on Zoom that I just didn’t trust that I would be able to do. Again he helped me through it but I’m not a big. I like Zoom. I think we’re going to be Zoombies for a long time but I don’t do it really well. That’s why I’m kind of glad we’re not on Zoom.
Diane: We would be actually but it wasn’t working. We’re going to pause for a commercial break. The anxiety that that comes from technology it seems to be pretty limitless but when we come back from the commercial break we’re going to give people through our guest Evelyn Kohl LaTorre, the secret to a happy marriage. I promise because I gleaned a lot of it from this book Love in Any Language. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
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Diane: Hey everybody. We’re here with the amazing Evelyn Kohl LaTorre, author of Love in Any Language. In it you write “we were as different as our countries. Antonio reflected his Latin heritage generous, considerate, unassuming and family oriented with a strong love ethic. I mirrored my US culture extroverted, forceful, confident and goal-oriented with a strong work ethic. Marrying a man from a different culture resulted in a bigger challenge than I’d expected. We had the same desire for higher learning but not the same ability to support our family. In the late 1960s a period when middle class women with husbands and children seldom held down full-time demanding jobs I became a reluctant working mother. At first I resented having to work full-time and my husband’s seeming lack of ambition.”
You came to view Antonio differently through a different lens. You filtered I would say from what I would call a strength based appraisal. That is you started to look at your husband’s strengths as opposed to dwelling on the negatives which turn out to be a dead-end street. I wonder if you feel as though that kind of focus on what the person has to offer is really part of the secret of having that happy marriage.
Evelyn: Yes and respecting the differences. Not trying to change them. I think in the beginning of the book you maybe could see where I was unhappy because I wanted him to be ambitious. I wanted him to have a lot of ambition. He has some of that but not in the way what I would say the typical American man that I had dated before had. I was trying to turn him into that, trying desperately to make him be more American until I realized I had rejected those qualities in other American men. I mean I didn’t marry an American man. I married someone of a different culture. I think the trips back to Peru and loving the culture myself and feeling so cared about in that culture. There’s a point at which I’ve noticed that my husband because of all the rejections he was getting from places where he would apply for jobs and mostly because he couldn’t exaggerate his abilities which is kind of what we’re taught to do.
By going back and getting in touch with what I loved about that culture I got in touch with what I loved about him. He also got in touch with that part of himself. I don’t know if he realizes that because he’s not writing his memoirs but I really do appreciate the qualities that he has. Our sons appreciate that though one of them will say you know mom, I did your part for a long time. Now I’m changing being more like dad is. My husband eventually got a job as a computer program analyst, was a very loyal worker to his own detriment. There are chapters I didn’t put in where he almost died a couple times from the amount of pressure that you get working in Silicon Valley. He could do that but it took a toll on his body. He’s okay now but I found through two serious illnesses and I do think they were brought on from this work, work, work that the company is the most important thing in your life type of attitude.
I lost kind of the train of thought that I was going for but anyway I did begin to appreciate his different qualities. I have to tell you we’ve been retired now for twenty years. I’m especially appreciative of his qualities in retirement because we just enjoy, we’re together twenty four hours a day. We love it. I mean we don’t really get on each other’s nerves. I guess that’s because he has always let me do my thing. In fact I think he admires a lot of my qualities and I admire his qualities. We just allow each other to be who we are.
That’s another thing I was going to bring up. I think both of us because of our rural upbringing and maybe because we were in nature a lot. I don’t know where this comes from but I think early on, very early in both our lives we kind of knew who we were. I certainly think I learned that because my parents sent me away to high school to live on my own when I was thirteen. People these days are saying is that child abuse. Is that child neglect? Well no, I mean they wanted me to go to a catholic high school. The only one was 60 miles away. I had to live I had to live away. I lived in apartments usually with another girlfriend but we had to figure out things for ourselves. I had to do that very early on, figure out how to do things and get around things and get through things. It taught me who I was. As I progressed in life I just solidified more, I just knew what I wanted.
Diane: You had taken that step early on to separate from your family and maybe that was formative too Evelyn. I think that this ability to respect the distance and your family wanted you to have this education, a specific kind of education and put like the goals of that ahead of the need to be cloistered together. Oh she can’t leave us. Not like the hovering kind of parent but rather the open arms of a parent that says go be who you are even if it’s my description of where you should go to school.
I think that’s a different inclination and I love that you mentioned that you were both very in nature because I felt like there were some primal commonalities between you and your husband Antonio. One of them struck me as you’re both basically fundamentally not materialistic. As you say you assimilate certain things from American culture but basically you put your connections with others as people ahead of that value. You both valued your connections. I think it sounded as though you both reconnected both with one another and that sense of warmth and human connection when you went to Peru. If people don’t have that well to draw on, is it not harder to make a marriage work long term?
Evelyn: I think a lot of the dissatisfactions that people see in a marriage and this isn’t universally true but is really a dissatisfaction in themselves that they don’t know is there. If you know yourself and you’re allowed to be yourself in your marriage then then it works. In doing research because I had questions for each of my books. The first one was how could a catholic raised girl get pregnant before marriage. Then for the second book it was how could she stay married when it was a shotgun wedding. As it says on one of my Peace Corps girlfriends called it going from a shotgun wedding to a bulletproof marriage. I wanted to see how that was happening.
You could tell in the book that sometimes we were skating on thin ice. I mean it wasn’t always great but I looked up what makes a happy marriage and traits of a quality relationship is what it’s called. They’re like twenty different traits. As I went over each trait. For example number twelve willingness to choose influencing instead of controlling. Devotional equality. Now there’s one that we don’t adhere to devotion and equality, remembering birthdays and anniversaries. My husband doesn’t really remember. Our anniversary is on his birthday and birthdays were not important to him when he was growing up and they’re still not important. I mean he doesn’t even know when his birthday comes. He’s surprised when they give him a card.
There are differences but we don’t really change that much I mean I’ve gotten so that maybe my birthday isn’t that important since I have so many of them but anyway they’re like 20 different characteristics. I think I could see where we had on each one self-awareness, inner child recognition, realizing the childhood wounds. Things like similar values is another big one. Patience and tolerance, he’s been more patient than me but yes, I tolerate so all these things.
Diane: I think I think you’ve done a good job of helping our listeners understand what it takes. I think the fact that you talk about influence versus control and not trying to change someone. All of this is really spelled out in Love in Any Language. I think that you really have demonstrated it yourself. You become your own research example. I wondered, we have just a couple minutes left to close. You’re very candid and honest about now being able to really appreciate one another. I feel the same way. If you came through the pandemic still loving your husband or wife or significant other that’s really saying something as we have but when you, as you enter now your eighth decade Evelyn Kohl LaTorre, very, very interesting arc to your life. What would you say to a younger self? We have just a minute ago. Anything that you’ve learned that you would say wish you’d have known.
Evelyn: Well this will take longer than a minute but I’ll try. My husband has influenced me because we do not want to go into our later years ill. Since April I’ve lost 45 pounds. I tended to be pudgy and then the first book my mother put me on a diet when I was 13. I have been a yo-yo dieter ever since. Together, we watch how we eat and our lifestyle. We went walking our three miles today because I had to be on the interview so early but so we watch out for each other. I think that’s the most important. Both our physical and our mental health are more worth paying more attention to that. We didn’t do that in our earlier life for some reason. We just weren’t that aware of them and we support each other in that way because we know how.
The other thing is that we’re moving into co-housing which is a movement, a Mission Peak Co-housing in Fremont. We just have land and we’re going to be building in the next couple years where you live in communities with other people because that also prolongs your life and your quality.
Diane: Absolutely and your sensibilities. Well, thank you very much Evelyn Kohl LaTorre. It’s been such a pleasure to speak with you. It all ties into one of the quotes in the book, “when we love we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are everything around us becomes better too.” From Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist which sold 150 million copies worldwide. Thank you also Evelyn just for your sharing your wisdom. It’s a joy to have you with us.
Evelyn: Thank you. This is one of the best interviews that I’ve had and I thank you for the person you are. I hope you continue.
Diane: You’re very, very welcome. Thanks so much. Thanks to our engineers Matt Weidner and Aaron Keller, to our executive producer Robert Giolino and most of all to you our listeners. Remember to stay safe and love. Merry Christmas to those celebrating. Till next week. Thank you for dropping in.
Thank you so much for Dropping In. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time and 11 AM Eastern Time on the Voice America variety channel. We’ll see you the