The Martyrdom of Motherhood

There's a wonderful exchange in Flannery O'Connor's short story GREENLEAF between the mother and her son, the martyred mother and the shiftless son, that I never forgot.

'They don't want that bull,' she said, '--pass the butter-- so they simply turn him loose and let somebody else worry about getting rid of him for them. How do you like that? I'm the victim. I've always been the victim.'
'Pass the butter to the victim,' Wesley said."

I used to feel like Wesley and could never imagine being that terrible woman who gets her comeuppance, one that involves that bull, and now I'm her.

Let me digress. I saw a wonderful play at Steppenwolf Theater last night called CLYBORNE PARK by Bruce Norris. It examined race, class, gentrification, grief and, to some extent victimhood. There was a certain level of wrangling over who had it the worst and in the end there were few answers. I intended to write something deep and relevant about this play but I'm filled with petty rage and self-pity so I guess it's just me whining again. The acting was great,

The odd thing is, no one wants to claim victimhood because no one likes a victim. We want to feel nothing but compassion or sorrow but many times those emotions are mixed with a certain amount of disdain and relief that we are not them.

Well, tonight I felt like a victim and I wanted to leave. Leave my husband and son and find somewhere to exist where people weren't blaming me for things I had nothing to do with and leave myself and my sense of martyrdom over the incredible idiocy of my husband screaming at me because he can't remember his passwords and my son announcing he won't come to New Orleans for his cousin's wedding (already paid for) because he needs to take an early SAT because he feels overwhelmed. When I pointed out to my husband he couldn't blame me for his lack of memory he announced I was unsupportive in general. And when I told my son that I had made these arrangement months earlier and asked him keep this single weekend open he imitated me in a way that was really awful and went ahead and spent the money to take the test. I remember laughing at my mother when she had a fit over something stupid like my interrupting her when she was having a business meeting asking when dinner would be ready.

My mother used to get in the car and drive away and my father took us to the China Pearl and bowling. She would say she was never returning but she always did. Of course she did. She was the mom and who was going to make the food and be there to be jeered at.

I had meant to write about race and gentrification but I am too angry and wishing I was someplace else right now. Where? In New York City with my wonderful friend the radio producer. In California with several women I love dearly. In Ireland. In London. Anywhere but here. I am fed up and I never had any dinner because no one cares if I'm okay. Pass the butter.


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