Back in the 20th century it was called henpecked. A nagging wife would wear the pants and rule the roost, and treat her spouse with a lack of respect that sometimes developed into contempt. Taken to extremes, a woman’s sadistic delight in the humiliation of her husband could lead to murderous consequences. This is what happened to Tommy Taljaard, his fat wife and their effeminate son.
Tommy looked the part. There was little flesh on him and he suffered from a mild form of spinal curvature of the kyphotic kind. He wore spectacles and was balding, and when he laughed nervously his upper incisors protruded at an angle.
Mrs Taljaard was the same height as her husband but weighed twice as much as he did. When she raised her voice in order to berate and belittle him, it was always in the same high-pitched monotone. Tommy often complained about her to his colleagues at work, calling her a fat cow who was too lazy to defecate. He described his son as a bitchy little faggot. His wife and son had formed an alliance against him and did everything in their power to convince him that he was now in purgatory and would soon be on his way to hell.
When he was at home, Tommy spent most of his time in the garage sitting in his car looking through the windscreen at the paint that was flaking off the wall. This was preferable to the constant nagging and goading he was subjected to the moment he stepped inside the house.
This went on for many years until one day it occurred to him that hell couldn’t possibly be worse than purgatory, and he might as well get on over there. That night, when his wife and son began rolling on the floor and screaming in agony after eating the meal he had poisoned, he called an ambulance.
When his tormentors had been carted away he returned to his refuge, fitted a hosepipe to the exhaust, and then got behind the wheel for the last time. It was in the 1980s that this took place.
Nowadays it’s not quite the same. Instead of being henpecked, men are pussy whipped. There’s a difference, apart from the modern American term that has begun to supersede the older signifier. It has something to do with social changes that have taken place over the past 30 years. Numerous barriers that prevented women from assuming positions of responsibility an authority have been dismantled. There is far more equality between the sexes than there used to be, and as a consequence male and female roles have become less rigidly defined. This has been a largely beneficial development, but there have also been some negative implications.
Take what happened to Eddie Delikat. Born and raised in a small town, he joined the local municipality after high school and rose to the position of Supervisor in the Water and Sanitation Department. He socialised with several friends and a wide circle of acquaintances. He played rugby for a club until a knee injury cut short his career, but he remained a keen follower of the game. He enjoyed getting drunk in the local bars and was happy to participate in a good brawl. Then, in his late twenties, he met Myra.
Yes, Myra was pretty, but she was also a hard case. Eddie only discovered just how hard a case she was once they were married. Her pregnancy was a difficult one and he was required to take on most of the household chores. The birth was also a difficult one, as was everything else that followed.
Eddie wasn’t particularly suited to domestic service and he often tried to shirk his duties by coming home late after getting drunk with his buddies down at the pub. However, Myra soon put a stop to this.
“If that’s how you want to behave,’ she told him, “Then you can sleep on the couch and keep that thing well away from me.”
In order to get that thing anywhere near her, Eddie found it necessary to jump through a whole lot of hoops. Like coming home straight after work, regularly walking the dog, dandling the child on his knee, and putting the rubbish out on a Monday morning.
“We don’t see much of Eddie these days,” one of his pals commented after pouring more of this and that down his alcoholic throat. “I think that poor guy is now so pussy whipped he doesn’t know the difference between a pussy and a soiled diaper.”
Which was a succinct way of putting it, even if it was a bit nonsensical. It also highlighted sex as a major player in this conflict between man and wife. Myra used sex as a weapon to bludgeon Eddie into fulfilling his obligations as husband and father. She made no bones about it. Behave yourself, or else. Mrs Taljaard had probably been playing the same game with Tommy, but the sexual dimension at that time wasn’t out in the open like it is today. That’s the difference between henpecking and pussy whipping.
But back to Eddie. He began to see himself as Myra’s bitch. His masculine self-esteem took such a knock that he became impotent. He tried watching porn on his laptop, but instead of being aroused he merely felt disgusted. It struck him one day at work, like a flash of inspiration, that Myra no longer had any hold over him.
Instead of hurrying home after his day at the water and the sanitation, he drove directly to the nearest bar and started drinking. When his old buddies arrived he had already downed three double rotguts. At 7pm he fell off his stool. At 8 o’clock he threw a punch at a man who was only half drunk and easily able to smack Eddie in the mouth and kick him in the stomach. With split lips and loose teeth he staggered out to his car. The needle was touching 140 when he left the road and rolled five times. Now he’s in a wheelchair, speaks with a slur, drools from the side of his mouth, and thinks he’s Christopher Columbus.
Myra is casting about for another man to replace Eddie, but she looks only ten years younger than her mother, and she needs a handful of happy pills to get her through the day. Sometimes she thinks it would have been better for all of them if Eddie had poisoned her and the kid and then gone and gassed himself in his car.
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