Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The other day when I found time to read the newspaper, I came across the information that wife abuse in the U.S. is on the increase. A few days later, I tuned in to a noon-day show on television that featured a special on the subject of wife abuse. The commentator of the program pointed out that millions of women in the U.S. suffer abuse from their husbands. The abuse, in some cases, can be attributed to psychosis and anger problems, but the greatest single cause is that of the spouse’s addiction to alcohol or drugs. Women, as in cases of rape, feel reluctant to tell about the beating incidents due to fear, pride, and the vain hope that their male partner will get better. Another more common cause is that those women fear that they won’t be able to take care of themselves if they desert the offending mate.

There’s nothing amusing about wife abuse, but I’ve heard several funny stories about how some women have figured out how to arrest a man’s tendencies toward wife beating. A friend in Labadieville, a small community near Thibodeaux, Louisiana, once told me the story about a man in Labadieville who hadn’t quite adjusted to married life and decided to have a night out on the town with the boys. When he came home, his furious wife began to berate him for being a rounder because he had been hanging out in a local bar. The husband retaliated by hitting her. Instead of cowering, his spunky wife stood up to him, saying, “You’re taller than I am and you’re much stronger than I am, but you had just better not go to sleep.” ‘Turns out that the man sat up all night, and the barflies lost a buddy.

A story in the same vein is my favorite one about a wife beater featured in a small book of short stories entitled Pericles on 31st Street, written by Harry Petrakis. Petrakis, a Greek, wrote about many experiences that occurred in the Old Country, and he related this tale, “Journal of a Wife Beater,” to a gathering of Louisiana librarians:

A burly Greek married late in life and lived in wedded bliss for several months. However, the Greek had heard that to keep his marriage blissful, he must beat his wife to assert his authority and to keep her from becoming less than a good wife. So he went home one night and gave her a horrific beating for no reason. The wife bore the beating with humility, but revenge lodged in her heart.

One night while the husband was sleeping, the little woman pulled out her frying pan and beat him while he slept. When the husband woke up, he complained of feeling bruised. The wife didn’t alter her humble manner, nor did she volunteer any reasons for her husband to feel so bruised. However, she took up her frying pan again, night after night. One night, in the middle of a beating, her husband suddenly woke up and caught her with frying pan in hand, poised over his burly body. The sight terrified him, and, the story goes, he gave up wife beating forever.

In both cases of wife beating, the tag line was that if a man takes a hand to his wife, he should remember that he has to sleep sometime. And if he should abuse her and awaken feeling bruised, he may not have had a bad dream.

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