Monday, May 23, 2016


Annamaria on Monday

This title requires explanation.  It is not to describe current candidates for President of the United States, although in one case the pejorative term does apply.  I am using this word not as a condemnation, but as a literal description.  This is about people whose fathers were not lawfully married to their mothers.  First to my inspiration for writing on this topic.  It came from watching a movie and being addicted to the original cast album of a Broadway musical you might have heard of called "Hamilton."

Me and Emma, one week after opening night! Nonna scores big points!

Yes, I have seen “Hamilton.”  And I have done so I might add without paying a price that required mortgaging Manhattan real estate.  (Aside:  Last August, Ben Brantley began his New York Times review, “Yes, it really is that good.”  And goes on to say, “I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show.  But ‘Hamilton,’ … might just about be worth it”).  The show begins, “How does a bastard, orphan, son of whore and a Scotsman…”  I have happily listened to the cast sing that phrase many times in the past months.



Then last evening, while watching “Lawrence of Arabia,” I was reminded that T.E. Lawrence was also a bastard.  Which set me to musing about how important bastard children might have been in history.  It took a good night’s sleep for me to remember that I wrote a book about the fame of a bastard daughter: Evita Peron (nee Eva Ibarguren).   That hooked me on this subject. 

So I looked them up.  Here is a partial list of famous people whose parents never married.

K'ung-Fu-tzy, whom we call Confucius


Thomas Paine
Edith Piaf
Need I say?
Sir Alec
Billie Holiday



Steve Jobs, who by the way was the son of Syrian refugee from Homs!

Justin Bieber
It is interesting that four of these people grew up not to need a last name donated by their fathers: Evita, Leonardo, Fidel, and Oprah.  And one needs only the honorific he earned all by himself to be identified.  "Sir Alec" can only be one person.  No one one would ask Sir Alec who?

I have to add that in most cases, the fathers of these children took little or no interest in them.   It was their mothers who were left to raise and support them and live under the stigma of having borne them.  “Single mother” is a common phrase these days and no longer always carries with it the shame that plagued the mothers of almost all of the people you see here.   In researching Blood Tango, I learned that the young Evita—in the desolate town where she was born—could not walk to school without having people cross the street, to avoid walking on the same sidewalk with a bastarda. Many biographers of these people have theorized that it was their illegitimate status that drove these children born out of wedlock to the heights of their achievement.

Whatever it was, I am grateful for the existence of all of them.  Well, maybe not Justin Bieber.  But then again Alec Guiness all by himself more than makes up for that.


  1. I find it interesting (I find MANY things interesting when other people just say, "Huh?" Cue Jeff...) that 'bastard' is almost always used to refer to a male, and that the word actually sounds weird when applied to females, as if there should be another word for them. In almost every other aspect of familial relationships, there are separate words for males and females.

    Ah, English, you have let us down.

    (Or, perhaps, this is one area of the English human experience where there truly is equality of the sexes???)

    1. EvKa, the word in the romance languages that I know has a male and female version. Except for family relationships, English is largely neuter--so I think, in the context that I am using the word (to describe children born out of wedlock), it stands for both sexes. When we use it as a pejorative for a person we find harsh and nasty, we use "bastard" for a man and "bitch" for a woman. It is also interesting, though, that we call a person we dislike " a son of a bitch," not "son of bastard." And we pillory women who have mothered children out of wedlock, but not men who have fathered bastards. They get a fair amount of grudging admiration.

    2. You're so wrong, Sis. If the English were neuter (large or small) there wouldn't be any bastards.

      Barumphump... to anticipate EvKa's "huh?"

    3. No "huh" here, just "Huhrumph!" Because everyone knows that no bastards ever result from rump-humping, Ba- or otherwise.

      (Really, AmA, did you seriously not expect a column on this subject to go completely off the rails?)

    4. EvKa, I feared. As Alexader Pope wrote, "Hope springs eternal!"

  2. It's all true. On a lighter note, I tried "bastette" for a while, but it never took off.

  3. I really enjoyed this. And I leave a lot. These were very talented people. Int sounds like Daddy liked making babies. Caring for them, not so much. by the the imbalance between the sexes. Cue a certain political candidate .

    1. Yes, Lil. Actually, if I could thrash him with a cue stick, I might feel better.

  4. Great blog, Annamaria, and you make a very interesting point about the disapproval of others towards a bastard driving them to greater success.

    On the subject of gender, I discovered a while ago that the female equivalent of a cuckold is a cuckquean.

    1. Even I have enough sense not to touch your last line, Zoë appreciative as I am at the fine cast (as in fly fishing).

    2. It's interesting that there is a term, and even more so that it is relatively unknown, given the fact that more wives than husbands are betrayed.

    3. I think there's a subtle difference between the two as well as gender. A cuckold will often be unsuspecting, but a cuckquean is often made to watch ...

    4. There are parts of the human psyche that I will never fathom. I am completely clueless about such an act from the point of view of the participants. Good I didn't decide to become a psychologist.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.