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Amber Paulen

Tribal Violence

This has been a shitty end to a shitty summer. Simon’s father died not two weeks ago and not one week later, Simon’s mother banned me from her house and therefore from the family. I’m sad with nothing else I can do but to write about it.

The backstory can be summed up by antagonism towards me in the beginning of Simon and my relationship that has smoothed out during the five years we have been living near his parents in Italy. Much of my mother-in-law’s feelings for me have never strayed far from this quotation by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex:

The mother feels that she has acquired inviolable rights through the mere fact of having given birth.

I am an outsider and unwelcome. Because I was not born a Griffee I can never become one.

Talking about my situation the other night at dinner with friends, one said, “Maybe it’s tribal violence.” And then she read a short story, ‘The Lottery’, that’s similar to The Hunger Games that allusions the Colosseum. Even though humans come from the same stock we can differentiate ourselves enough from each other to take pleasure in others’ sufferings. My other friend at dinner gives tours at the Colosseum. She said her clients’ eyes light up when she starts to relay its horrors as public spectacle, and that she has to restrain herself from embellishing the gory details. It’s amazingly depressing to think about humans inflicting that kind of pain.

The point of my friend’s original statement was we are animals. It’s our mind and emotions that set us apart and those only if we use them. A reaction occurs at the basest and darkest level of our being—advertising doesn’t target your thoughts but your reactions. Above the level of animal is the human where a certain amount of fallibility must be accounted for. To be human doesn’t mean to be divine. Between these levels we fluctuate.

I have tried and failed. My lack of interest in talking about shopping and cleaning are but the small details that Simon’s mom is using to imagine our incompatibility. Really? At such a time as her husband’s death she dislikes me because I don’t care about shopping? I’m excusing her now; I’m trying. And to keep me sane while Simon manages his mom, her guilt trips, and her accounts I am thinking about where we will be moving. Any suggestions?


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