The Hushed plague
A Novelized essay
« Suffering is good because it ennobles you”
Dedicated to all the great women in our lifetimes that have created, nurtured, taught, waited for, Forgiven and Loved Us
“Women are meant to be loved, not understood.” Oscar Wilde
We have a problem with a woman. A particular one. And getting much worse.
Ever since we started our medical practice almost thirty years ago, she has been coming every day, rain or shine, to share her multiple woes with us. She sits down on the opposite side of our desk, looks us straight in the eye and says the same words: “I am emotionally frustrated.” What’s her name? Bovary. Emma Bovary.
When we read “Madame Bovary” as a student in the “Alliance Francaise” of Montevideo, we were mesmerized by the story of a beautiful and ardent wife of a country medical practitioner that could not find any solace in her grey existence. At the time we could not fathom how she could be so ungrateful to her loving husband, to the point of being unfaithful. However, the ensuing studies and practice as a medical doctor gave me the necessary insight to understand, if still not agree with, the cause of her resilient, profound angst. More and more we could discover the multiple big and small, yet none the less painful, humiliations and scorn almost all women must endure with unequal stoicism during their lives. And they still go on.
We had left our copy of the novel in a box full of books in Montevideo but somehow, Emma sprung out of it to pursue us all the way to Miami to disturb us. Her complaints have not only persisted, but they have become more polymorphous.
Even in a hyper-connected age, she still cannot get her message through. The proliferation of mixed messages in the social media platforms has increased her confusion as her connections seem to be more tone-deaf to her complaints. As the tragic trifecta of memory, love and the passage of time relentlessly gnaws at her soul, she has been nagging me to sit down and transcribe what she has told us. The Spanish language differentiates between the role of “escritor”—someone that is inspired by a haughty mission—and the mundane one of “escribidor”—a shady agent that struggles with words and tends to sink in dark undercurrents. I am her escribidor—endlessly squabbling with avaricious muses and fending off the meanest of demons.
A strange phenomenon has occurred to me almost imperceptibly but firmly: the causes of her “emotional frustration” have started to percolate into my mind. Moreover, the daily exercise of listening attentively has developed in my manly brain one of the greatest wonders that women are endowed with: mirror neurons.
Slowly yet surely, we have learned to read almost any rictus of her face without any exchange of words. We can discern how her mood is by just looking at the way she steps in. Prodded by the cultural and socio-economic constraints of a still patriarchal society, they have been more focused on “association” rather than “action” like we men had. In order to find out quickly and prudently what their loved ones needed, women have developed this gift ever since our times in the caves. But men can start to close the gap by doing what they beg us to do. “Just listen to me.”
Sigmund Freud was perhaps the first man ever that really listened to women. In his Vienna medical cabinet, Freud sat down next to a lady that would start to “freely associate” to open her mind and heart to the scrutiny of a researcher. Thus, he had the courage to study what his master Charcot had dismissively considered as “la chose genitale” when they were examining hysterical patients in La Salpetriere. The extraordinarily rich emotional armamentarium of a woman exposes her to multiple instances of frustration when her goals, or those of people she cares about, are not reached for sexual, familiar, financial, professional and even social reasons. After his workday, Freud had the temerity to go back home to listen to this wife and, if some unconfirmed reports are true, his sister-in-law too— his secret lover. Brave.
We have noticed the rising importance of female bonding in Emma’s life. Women—historically oppressed by patriarchal institutions and biologically burdened by the travails of the family—usually find the needed emotional support and social connectedness within their circle of friends, both male and female. Moreover, as women live more of their adult lives without a steady partner or a traditional family, they share more purposes and experiences with their loyal friends.
Based on his clinical experience, Antón Chekov wrote about the paradoxical facets of our behavior. Human beings are biologically hardwired for contradiction—the essence of all the creative processes—because we all have two brains and two minds. The Left “propositional” Hemisphere is logical and analytical while the Right “appositional” hemisphere is perceptual and synthetic. As a result, all the sensory input to the Right Hemisphere (originating in the body’s left side) is stored without any hard analysis or judgement. Contradictions coexist in a certain harmony there. Women have more neural connections, through the Corpus Callosum, between the Right and Left hemispheres, thus better integrating the “emotional aspect” in deeds.
We have patiently designed and written in a medical and literary web page at https://drmolaplume.com ,which has been a resounding success with a select public. We have grouped our writings in series, one of which was “Emotional frustration.” It constituted the necessary scaffolding to slowly start constructing this sailing boat, besides gauging the reaction of our readers and pleading for their propitious hawa. We would like to thank our two children for their unfaltering support all these years besides helping me in concrete ways. Noel Marie designed the beautiful cover and Gian Luca helped me edit the text; both have commented many of the articles. As Life is a perpetual journey along the treacherous channels to Wisdom that our ancestors had navigated before us, I would like to thank my grandparents and parents for their endowment of indefatigable discoverers and a sure, reliable moral compass.
Dear readers, trying to discern what the major causes of emotional frustration in our modern women are might seem like an impossible task, especially for us men. However, we do believe that we can retrace my steps to the early, hardy days of the start of our medical studies where we had to sit down face to face with a woman—sometimes with the company of other female students—in the clinical ward of the university hospital of the Facultad de Medicina of the Universidad de La Plata. It was right there that we started to hone our intuition skills “to understand women.” From that point it has been a continuous learning process with its ups and downs.
This essay is meant not only for emotionally frustrated-women but men too. Whether we like it or not, we are now living in a totally on-demand environment. The time lapse between awareness, desire and reward has been reduced to an instant. If the streaming platforms release all the episodes of a series in a single day, we must realize that entertainment has taken a new dimension, especially for women. If you take a lady for a romantic dinner (including someone that you have known forever like your own wife) you should expect her to scrutinize closely you for any faux-pas and quietly expect the right moves—verbal and physical. Binge-watching-reacting. You must be able to “sell her” your brand every time both interact romantically. Reality takes a backseat to the magic of entertainment. It’s what she sees in you. To succeed in this mellifluous Houdini-type magic, you must combine the storytelling prowess of brand marketers with the action-driven stunts of performance marketers.
Someone trying “to market their brand”—please don’t get me the silly, cheap litany that we shouldn’t objectify human beings when we all know that in the social media that is precisely how we are considered for practical reasons—has to leverage this new paradigm to their advantage by taking recourse to many best practices advocated by some psychologists, social researchers, philosophers, writers, survey specialists and even a few “dirty tricks” by enthusiastic lovers of ladies—liked we used to be long, long time ago before we decided to become a Monk of Medicine.
In order to prod men to make a little effort in the learning process—and bring some much-needed relief to the devoted women in their lives—we took the liberty to put a sub-section labelled as “A nugget of Wisdom” to clarify some critical points. After thoroughly discussing each major cause of Emotional Frustration, we address men directly in order to discuss how we can try to help the suffering women in our lives. It looks like the college notes on literary but hard to read classics like “Ulysses.” [i] We can still remember the utter puzzlement and sense of loss we had when we raided the magnificent library of our dear father Mario[ii] and pulled out that book. “What is this? Why all this messy lay-out? Where do I start? Will I reach the end?”
Do not despair. Ignorant men can learn. Frustrated women can get relief.
Every memorable adventure, and its printed saga, begins with a single step.
Please give us your hand and let us make that most humble, powerful move.
As Mario Benedetti—a great chronicler of the “little details of life”—said:
“Lo Imposible. Solo cuesta un poco más.”[iii]
[ii] Mario Laplume Salguero was our great father and we prepared an article in his honor in our web page.
[iii] Can be translated as “The Impossible. It only costs a little bit more.” Mario Benedetti is one of the greatest modern Uruguayan writers who specialized in short stories and penned some of the most memorable romantic lines. Like James Joyce, he was interested in the vicissitudes of urban life and the multiple characters that inhabit—and suffer—them. “Montevideanos”, his first major book published in 1959, has reminiscences of “Dubliners.” https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mario-Benedetti