I’m talking to an acquaintance about a middle-aged woman we both know. The acquaintance shares with me that the woman has finally divorced her abusive alcoholic of a husband.
“That’s good!” I say. “Now she can find a normal guy.”
“Oh no,” the acquaintance says. “She’s not that kind of a woman. He is the only man in her life. Even if he dies, she will not be looking for somebody else.”
“But why not?” I ask. “I have a feeling that she was never even marginally happy with him.”
“Of course not. She doesn’t even know what it means to be a woman,” the acquaintance explains. “But he is her husband, and that’s final. And I feel exactly the same way. This is an issue of personal psychology.”
“Or, rather, of psychiatry,” I respond.
“Maybe. But that is how we are.”
You are probably thinking that we are talking about religious, downtrodden women whose culture does not allow for remarriage. But that’s where you are mistaken. These people probably did not see the inside of a church (or any religious facility) once as they were growing up, and I can guarantee that they never read the Bible, the Koran, or any other religious text. They have more than one college diploma each and were always more than independent financially. Remarriage and divorce are completely acceptable in their culture.
We often assume that some people choose to castrate their existences (be it sexually, romantically, professionally, financially, or in any other way) because of their religion, their culture, their family conditioning – in short, the big, bad society. The truth, however, is that some people are simply terrified of life. Religion, family and society are excuses that they use to explain this terror. You strip all of that away, and the terror remains.
I have to confess that I’m pretty shaken up by this conversation. This is such an unapologetic, conscious self-immolation that it scares me. The encounter with the irrational in such a naked, unadorned form is terrifying. I can really understand why people protect themselves by repeating the “we are conditioned by society” mantra.