Women, men and the frying pan

It’s incredible how old stories keep creeping back into our memories.

Today we were having New Year’s lunch with my boyfriend Nuno and his family, and his sister in law Cristina remembered that, as a young wife, she had very strong views about men who were abusive and hit their wives.

She was laughing as she told us that, back then, when she imagined what she would do if one day her husband hit her, she had decided she would have to be very careful and not react immediately, as he is so much taller and stronger than she is- she would not stand a chance against him. So, she said, “I thought I would let him fall asleep and then, I would go silently to the kitchen, grab a frying pan and hit him with it while he was sleeping!”.

We were all laughing our hearts out, imagining the scene – most of all because that never materialised of course, her husband being a gentle, loving person incapable of that.

Then Nuno looked at me and he said “Haven’t I heard a similar story from you?! Something about hitting a husband with a frying pan?” and it was my turn to laugh and say yes.

They wanted to listen to the story, so I told them.

Back in Mozambique, Granny and Mom had a friend who was some years younger than Granny and also a housewife. She was unhappy in her marriage and often visited and complained that her husband used to hit her. She cried and clearly did not know what to do.

Despite being a housewife, Granny was not in the least a submissive woman and would never have tolerated such abuse from Granddad. Not that he would even try, he was the most respectful and loving husband one could imagine, but still Granny had very strong views about men who hit their wives. As for Mom, she was a career, independent woman, who would no more tolerate that from Dad – who, for the sake of clarity, never tried anything of the sort as well.

So one day, coming to the conclusion that all their previous advice (trying to reason with her husband, etc) had not worked, they decided on more drastic action and as their friend again complained that her husband had given her a black eye, Granny and Mom advised on a course of action that, in their opinion, would bring an end to the abuse:

“ Amélia, next time your husband tries to hit you, you must hit him back with whatever you have on your hands. Do it as he approaches you and you’ll see he will hesitate before he hits you again”.

Their friend Amélia apparently left with a strong resolve, because the next I heard about the matter she had hit her husband with the frying pan she was using to fry some steaks! As he arrived home and started to shout abusive things at her and menacingly approached her, she remembered her friends’ advice and felt her hand close strongly against the handle of the frying pan. When he lifted his hand to hit her she hit him in turn with the frying pan, not once, not twice but many times. I can’t say she was exactly homicidal but the fact is he was in very bad shape – not only sore but burnt as well – as the frying pan was both heavy and hot.

As I finished telling the story everybody at the table was laughing and they asked me if this husband had learnt the lesson. As far as I know he was calmer for a while. Then everybody left Mozambique and Granny and Mom lost contact with this friend but they were convinced that he had been taken aback by his wife’s reaction and maybe – only maybe – had changed his behaviour.

As lunch ended we were all saying goodbye and wishing each other a Happy New Year. As I got into my car to drive back I was thinking that unfortunately these stories of abusive relationships do not belong to a long ago “chauvinistic” past. Even the other day I was reading on some newspaper that nowadays there are many episodes of violence when couples are still dating. Even last summer on the beach we go to there was a big story about a son of one of the most prominent families there that had allegedly hit his girlfriend and she had filed a complaint against him.

So, I thought, women, men and a frying pan – sadly, a never ending story.