– “Doctor…It’s not how much he pisses me off—but rather how often he does it.”

Sheila X. is a jovial, good mannered and efficient nursing aide that has been suffering from chronic migraines for years; almost all the therapies we tried have failed and now she is participating in a clinical trial for a new medication. But her main trigger is located home.

She has a nice husband who nonetheless does not cooperate with any of the housekeeping and child rearing, preferring to slump in the sofa with a beer and the TV remote control after work. Their two teenage children scold him for his archaic behavior, but he ignores them altogether. Occasionally she bursts out in anger fits, which does not change his bad attitude but only exacerbate her headaches. Lately she has given up and tolerates his bad behavior in silence. However. we have watched how the summation of all those episodes is sapping her joie de vivre.

A French chef recently explained in a TV program the advantages of a slow burning fire to tenderize supposedly hard to cook meats like game and fowl; when I watched his explanation, I couldn’t help thinking about how Sheila’s husband is undermining her strength at home and also at work.  Often, I had to write a certificate, so she could skip work and lay down in her bed with lights out. I always asked her if he ever became physically abusive and she vehemently denied any incident.

A flutter of the hand that never lands on a woman’s face but still frightens her into submission. Or perhaps of a not-so-subtle-threat in the middle of a perfectly routine conversation of the couple. Or even worse still, a stony silence after the wife asks for some rational explanation to his deed. Women have been subjected to vast amounts of verbal and physical abuse all along their lives. Oftentimes it does not reach the threshold of intensity that will provoke a radical response. But these low-intensity encounters can slowly erode the self- esteem of the woman and even constitute a terrible example for the daughter. If Daddy frequently does that to Mom, is it then acceptable?

Without claiming the mantle of “political correctness’ in our relationship with women in general and our family members, we believe that we are doing better than our parents and grandparents did in other times when society tolerated little abuses in stride. And our children should be even better than us. There is no excuse for the mistreatment of women and children. None is acceptable. My father Mario always taught us: “the man that raises a hand against a woman is a coward.”

Occasionally we witnessed how such a silently suffering woman suddenly erupts in a fit of rage that breaks the status quo in a supposedly “happy marriage” to the dismay of all. But hardly ever they take the extra step. Nora’s move. Leave slamming the door behind.

In some traditional societies like Japan, more and more young women are refusing to get married or have children. They even suffer from the “Narita syndrome.” Named after the Tokyo airport for international flights, it refers to their reaction towards their inexpressive men once they come back from a trip and realized there is another way. They dump them right at the arrival gate. Hopefully they will put them on probation.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

2 thoughts on “L’abus au petit feu

  1. I can’t agree more. There’s no excuse for verbal and physical abuse. Cowards, indeed.
    “Doctor…It’s not how much he pisses me off—but rather how often he does it.”
    This sounds awfully familiar.
    Have a nice afternoon/evening, dottore.

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