Saturday, April 02, 2011

Further Understanding of Momzilla

I am reading the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and am just basking in new information. I am apparently ten years late to this party, but appreciate it just as much as if I were reading it just off the press. The information in it is timeless, the thesis interesting and the examples absolutely riveting to me. The more I read, the more I realize I am a person who thrives on learning about how people and communities work. I bet I would have really enjoyed taking a Sociology class!

Anyhow, that long introduction is distracting me from my real mission here today. Something I read in this book, on pages 148-149 to be exact, has given me insight into my mother-in-law. In the past, I have written, incredulously I might add, about the actions of Momzilla in my life and marriage. Previous blogs can be found here and here and here and here.

One of Momzilla's pervasive characteristics is that she always wants to get to the bottom of things. By bottom, I mean BOTTOM. She doesn't just dig a little and let it drop, she digs and wheedles and needles until she breaks you. She breaks the people she loves. She breaks strangers. She breaks acquaintences. She breaks sales clerks, accounts receivable and customer service reps. Anyone who has to run counter to her. She tries to bring down the world around her to convert them to her viewpoint, persuade them to see things her way, or to pinch a penny.

I have long been perplexed by this behavior. First of all, it's so self-important. That YOUR opinion or YOUR belief or YOUR concept of what is right to be paid, eaten, worn, driven, etc. is the only way, shows such a narrow-minded viewpoint. But also, it cannot make Momzilla happy. It seems, in fact, to make her miserable. The complaining, the ire and the railing that are the outpourings of her incessant challenging of the world must be exhausting. But why? For a long time, I figured it was because she needed to make others unhappy because she was so fitfully unhappy. So uncomfortable in her own skin, she couldn't bear to see anyone else at rest. She needed attention, needed to mobilize the world to her end.

A concept I am going to transcribe from The Tipping Point below, pretty much agrees with my theory, but takes it a bit further. It's a quote about the Bernie Goetz, the man who, in the early 90's in NYC, shot four black youths on the subway fairly unprovoked, or at least his reaction of shooting them was a bit more extreme than the situation warranted. This is about where in NYC Bernie chose to live, in one of the seemliest neighborhoods in Manhattan. See if you can see what this passage revealed to me:

Bernie Goetz chose to live in a neighborhood that was falling apart...seductive to him because of its deficits and discomforts it "provided him with a comprehensible target for the rage that lives inside him. By focusing on the external world, he need not deal with his internal one."

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