The Perennial Myth of the Evil Mother-in-Law

Let’s face it: writing confessional literature is a high-risk job, and as such should be properly compensated. Moreover, to avoid the potential destruction of marriages, families and long-standing friendships, the degree of truth and transparency should always be balanced with homeopathic doses of pseudonyms, pen names and similar pseudos, along with character displacement, notwithstanding the fact that in these particular cases the resulting literature wouldn’t be considered “confessional” anymore.

That said, the other day I ran into a colleague who found herself highly distraught, in a truly sorry state. I could not exactly “empathize” with her, since, as my shrink friend well remembered, not being a mother, I could never really be a mother-in-law, not in a million years. The closest I could get to this dire situation would be if I elected to develop a friendship with my husband’s children and their potential spouses, which, of course, I would enjoy. That is, if I had the slightest inclination to form and keep nice and smooth relationships with people I care for. So in this instance of making themselves intimate with my outstanding persona, it is practically up to them, and to how much they would value the approaching effort.

Now back to my friend: she had just had her first “inevitable” clash of opinions with her daughter-in-law (or at least that’s how a few Facebook friends qualify the mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law experience), with whom, by the way, up to that crucial point she was getting along pretty well, at least for a first-timer. The worst part was that the poor woman had never had a choice, since the youngest one was pretty overbearing, or so she told me. And even more painful was the fact that the younger woman seemed quite deluded, led by the overwhelming political propaganda exercised by the media in a typical American electoral year.

To this last part, let me tell you, I could relate really well, as you might possibly figure out. As a foreigner going through my first election cycle in this country ever, I confess that I feel puzzled and lost most of the time, as I already wrote in a previous chronicle. And, oh, boy, there’s no describing accurately enough how unique and distressing this cycle is, or has been so far, even for more experienced American citizens, who never tire to emphasize it on TV, social media, you name it. Now I find myself so exhausted with the whole shtick that I stopped twitting and reading tweets altogether. I still visit the New York Times website occasionally, but I’m very picky concerning my reads, since I’m not willing to go over the top and upset myself. So I try to limit myself to the cultural sections, a book, a play, the occasional movie review. Which, as you know, are pretty inexpressive at this moment… or is it just me?

I invited my friend for a cup of coffee, and as we were heading to the nearest Starbucks, she finally confessed her deepest fear: she would do anything in her reach to guarantee the love of her yet unborn (and unconceived) grandchildren, of which, of course, there’s no guarantee whatsoever, since love, as my mother taught me, has to be “conquered” and demands “an effort.” That’s right, I’m that traumatized. Because of my mother’s deeply ingrained beliefs, which she made a point of transferring into me, I ended up quite incapable of just surrendering, simply let myself love and be loved, and life take its course.

The problem was, the mother vs. daughter (both “in-law,” of course) dispute included the nobody-knows-when young mother-to-be negotiating, I mean, the young bride plainly forbidding my friend’s visiting with her grandchildren, much ahead of time. A rude awakening!

I could totally understand, and offer her my solidarity, poor thing. That is, of course I could not understand any of that… I could hardly imagine what a pregnant woman goes through, and how she manages to navigate her shaken body awash with hormones.

Don’t get me wrong: I always believed, like most of you, that pregnancies are periods of bliss and beauty, the supreme realization of a woman who is “born to breed,” so to speak. Not that I have ever experienced anything like it first-hand, so I’m bound to believe other people’s opinions. With the exception, of course, of what I can research and read. And edit, for that matter.

So it turned out that a couple of days before I met my friend I was editing a text that described motherhood, to my utmost surprise — and shock, I must admit — as pure violence and torture. According to the authors of the article, belonging to two different genders (among all those variables all of us have been extensively lectured about lately), the sensation of a human growing inside another human can only result in indescribable unpleasantness. The aforementioned waves of hormones often result in a state of mind akin only to clinical psychosis, not to mention the terrible nuisance of having somebody else’s foot located right under your ribs, your bladder capacity drastically diminished and the unacceptable inconvenience of being kicked from within all the time and witnessing the contour of body members appear under your belly skin — a nightmarish description that can only be compared to those despicable B horror movies from the 1980s, prior to the developing of 3D techniques and digital special effects.

I swear to God: I’m not exaggerating one b… well, maybe a little bit. But this was the true content of the said article, which ended justifying the “more than natural” filicide impulse, plus hatred and vicious sexual manipulation acts directed towards the newborn infant once he’s out of the womb.

It left me wondering. And I reached two conclusions. Firstly, I understood how lucky I am to have survived all these murder impulses and body-and-mind invasive parental tendencies, despite my innumerous issues resulting from education; and secondly, to my dismay, I could not fathom any alternative way of keeping humanity going that would spare poor potential mothers and fathers from such unavoidable suffering. Unless, of course, upcoming technological improvements to humankind — which, I learned earlier today, will include a much more effective way to obtain sexual pleasure through having intercourse with robots — will allow us, I don’t know, to generate a baby through an effective cell phone app.

In all honesty, I’m glad and grateful I’ll be probably dead and buried when all these frightening “diversity-praising” and “liberal” analyses and predictions concerning the most basic survival mechanisms of the human race come to fruition.

As for my friend, by means of a consolation, it does no harm to remind her that “the best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley.”

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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