Hatred. Raw hatred. Whom do we hate most? Those closest to us.
“I would gladly give up the inheritance if I could only break of all relations with ‘that woman.’”
“That woman” is the writer’s mother. No other mode of address – certainly not ‘mother,’ does the daughter’s feelings justice. But we must pause to orient the reader.
Shukan Gendai (May 10-17) stumbled on something interesting in the women’s magazine Fujin Koron – a regular feature titled “Dokusha taiken shuki” (“Notes on readers’ personal experiences”). At a different theme each month, readers get the chance to bare their souls – brutally, tenderly or neutrally as the case may be. A typical theme will draw 30-odd contributions. But the theme featured in March drew over 200. It was, “Breaking off relations with your family.” Evidently it struck a chord.
Is family a nest or a prison? There are no nest stories in Shukan Gendai’s account – it’s all prison.
Back now to “that woman.” You wonder, reading the story, what all the fuss is about. Much ado about nothing, an outsider would say. But what can an outsider know?
The writer is a 48-year-old housewife in Shizuoka – old enough, you’d think, to have put it all behind her. But to her – and this seems typical – it might have happened yesterday, or rather it never stopped happening, and far from fading with the years, her anger intensifies.
She recalls for Fujin Koron an episode involving a cousin who’d just graduated from a national university and was coming to town for a visit. The cousin’s mother, the writer’s aunt, asked the writer to show her around; the writer refused on the grounds she’d recently had a car accident and was not yet back on her feet. Here the writer’s mother, the aunt’s sister, intervened: “You’re just jealous because you only graduated from junior college!”
“All my hatred for ‘that woman’ just exploded in me,” the writer wrote in Fujin Koron. It came to blows; the writer left home and never looked back – theoretically. Does anyone ever really leave home? The reader can’t help wondering, given the vehemence of the recollection.
A 50-year-old housewife in Akita reserves her most vicious spite for her daughter’s mother-in-law. It all came out lately but had been building for years. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the mother-in-law’s tardy thanks for the traditional “chugen” summer gift. “Why didn’t she acknowledge it the same day?”
The writer realized herself that the true cause of her violent feelings lay elsewhere. It went back to her daughter’s wedding. There was her daughter – “I raised her so lovingly!” – surrounded by her new husband’s family, everyone laughing, while she, the bride’s mother, felt desolately left out: “Everyone ignored me. They took my daughter away from me.”
Husbands. Can husbands escape the vituperation? They cannot. Husbands are guilty of many sins toward their wives, and are hated for many reasons. With lack of space limiting us to one, which is choice-worthy? The mother complex? Why not?
This writer is from Aichi, a 51-year-old nurse. She married at 31 – an arranged marriage. She and her husband had two kids, but “marital sex ended 18 years ago. I should have known,” she adds ruefully. Yes, it should have been obvious when her husband remarked at the wedding, “Now I have two mothers.” His meaning sank in slowly. Her revenge, when she set about getting it, was a kind of ritual husband-murder. It took the form of multiple affairs – in love hotels, parking lots, on the roofs of unfamiliar apartment buildings, it hardly mattered where.
And so it goes. “This is what women are really thinking,” comments Shukan Gendai. “This is the feminine world that men don’t know about. It’s terrifying.