Sunday, May 18, 2008


Watching this series on Italian men in the 30s and 40s who still live with their mothers, made me think how bad habits if continued long enough and in large numbers can take on the mantle of "tradition" and "culture". I've seen a few Bengali Mammonis in my own family. Men who stayed on and on with their often widowed and impoverished mothers. In return for a portion of their paycheck, these women waited hand and foot on their over-grown boys just like the Italian mothers do in the feature though its not clear if any money changes hands.

These women were glorified housekeepers who would never enjoy superannuation. When the sons finally got married, the brought home the wives to live with their mother. Nothing changed in the domestic situation except that the mother now had more kids to look after. Her domestic responsibilities increased as did her age. Came a point when she could no longer do what had come to be expected of her and the suddenly she became the evil mother-in-law who was showing her true colors after her son got married. It was clearly lost on her children that she was suffering from chronic fatigue and just wanted to be left alone.

The parting of ways came after much bitterness and acrimony. The sons bought their own houses and moved out with their fledgling families. The mother was left behind to be by herself as she desired. Somehow that did not work out either. She felt hurt and betrayed. Was she not entitled to getting something back for so many years of service. A phone call, a weekend visit in the least but much more really.

Everyone complained about being too busy to give her the time and attention she wanted. They were exasperated with her. What did she want anyway ? She hated it when we lived with her and she hates it now that we are gone. Maybe they should have gone a long time ago and allowed her an opportunity to forge a meaningful life of her own that was not defined by doing chores for grown up children.

In my neck of the woods, the Mammonis have typically been bad news for everyone but specially for their mothers. That may be different in Italy and if so it would be interesting to understand why.


ggop said...

Great link HC. Men are effing lazy worldwide. At least straight guys are..

Why not stay with Mamma, its so convenient! :-)

Ugh the constant nostalgia about mamma washing and ironing in a golden past irked me to no end!

Anonymous said...

I do not agree it is just that guys want to live with parents. Parents do want to live with their kids till they get married or even after marriage because parents also need helping hand. I can tell that from my experience. My parents live alone and none of my siblings live in the city, so they requested my aunt's son to stay with them. They say they feel very handicapped living alone as they are old now.