Monday, April 04, 2011

Pious envy

Dear Readers,

My mother-in-law wishes hers was bigger. Her piousness, that is. She does all sorts of things to cultivate it, to make it grow, to nurture it into a veritable Godzilla of godliness.

She goes to Mass every single day. She eats communion wafers like they're Wheat Thins. She has so much tacky, light-up religious paraphernalia that her house looks like a Bible Belt Las Vegas. And without a doubt the most privileged object of her frenzied devotion is the Holy Virgin Mary--the Lady Gaga of her sanctimonious little world.

Motivational poster, MIL-style

And as is fitting with any obsession, Mary is everywhere around here: her chipped, plastic, made-in-the-People's-Republic-of-China form encircled with grimy seashells and enshrined among the geraniums; her flourescent visage flickering spasmodically in a faded sconce above the wool-shrouded marital bed; countless tarnished medals and frayed santini with her beatific likeness scattered around like confetti after Mardi Gras--I could go on. And on.

For my mother-in-law, the notion that any woman could conceive children without having to have sex is like saying that you can have your cake and eat it too. (Or that you can win the lottery without ever buying a ticket, or that you can actually lose weight by scarfing fried calamari and pistachio-studded cannoli). It's such stuff as dreams are made on, and all the powers of her puny imagination fix on the notion of immaculate conception as a kind of wishful-thinking holy grail. She heartily envies Mary her immaculate status; she would give anything to have remained a virgin herself. (Of course, she's happy to have given birth to four children--in less than four years--thereby increasing exponentially her opportunities for self-sacrifice and matriarchal flagellation). I know this because, in her rare vulnerable moments--when a few stiff swigs of orzo bimbo loosens her tongue and lulls her into a confessional mood--she has told me how distasteful the whole rapporto sessuale is to her, etc. etc. (Too much information, and pass the gin, thank you very much!!!) Particularly--I would imagine--with a boneheaded brute such as my father-in-law playing the bumpkinish, carnal yang to her snake-blooded, ethereal yin.

It is the way of fanatics such as my mother-in-law--a woman as cold and unyielding as a pickled herring--to regard being an unsullied virgin mamma (however ludicrous and improbable) as the glittering apex of human evolution, a kind of vestal Elton-Johnhood of mega-galactic proportions, and the holiest of holies, indeed. And of course, equally important for this thick-stockinged, sensible-shoe-wearing, deflowered flower and sacramental junkie, every day is a blessed opportunity to be present at a kind of mind-blowing metaphysical Marypalooza--and to rock out in full unfettered fever as her absolute number one fan.

Lady Gaga wishes she had that kind of star power.

Yours--immaculately and otherwise,



  1. Oh man. Has your MIL ever been to the south of Italy? I shudder to think of how many Chinese-made blinking plastic virgins she'd come home with.

    If you need to earn any good-daughter-in-law points with the MIL I could hook you up with a black Madonna or even a sweet Padre Pio. If her tastes ever run to male saints, that is.

    Also, this is probably the first post ever to use the phrase "bumpkinish, carnal yang". Nice work, Campobello.

  2. Sarah, I'm thinking of slipping her a little "santino" of Guru Nanak or Sai Baba just to watch her head explode. But--so as not to be a total bitch--I'll have an aerosol machine at the ready in order to perform any life-saving measures which might be necessary.

  3. My dear E - reading your latest piece of brilliance was like rubbernecking a particularly gruesome car wreck. I shiver to think of my (non-Italian) m-i-l confessing anything of the sort to me.

    Has m-i-l been to Lourdes? You might want to get her a one-way ticket ...

  4. O dio mio, what a perfect blog! Why don't you try slipping the boneheaded brute a couple of Viagra and reporting back?

    That photo of the Madonna is plastered over every house in Tuscany. I vaguely remember that it came in the mail several years ago--but can't recall who sent it or the occasion.


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