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The Secret History of “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE!”

October 31, 2021

(image via wikimedia)

My high school friends were shocked when I called my mom the devil incarnate to her face.

I don’t remember the reason. It was probably a curfew situation. All I know for certain is that a couple of my friends were with me at my mom’s apartment (this was after my parents divorced), and my mom had said no to something, and I responded loudly in a self-righteous tone, “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE! YOU ARE NOT MY MOM!”

My friends were shocked at my seemingly disrespectful behavior. They were further shocked that my mom just smiled and rolled her eyes at me.

After my mom and I figured out the curfew situation (or whatever it was), I explained the DEVIL INCARNATE comment to my friends. The short version was that when I was in elementary school, my dad had gotten drunk and then had turned his drunken rage at my mom about something stupid and yelled in that same self-righteous tone: “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE! YOU ARE NOT MY WIFE!”

And then my family laughed about it later whenever my dad wasn’t around.

That’s the short version. The longer version gets a bit more intense.

*****

When I was a kid in the first house that I remember, my bedroom was next to my parents’ room, and I could hear my parents fight in there when they got drunk. I couldn’t tell what they were fighting about, but I recognized the sounds, and that’s all I need to say. I’m not trying to relive the experience. I’m just trying to explain what happened.

Once I understood that my dad was slapping my mom around, my senses were alert to any sound from their bedroom. I’m still kind of a light sleeper because of it, but I’m not on any medication or anything like that. I just run a fan at night to block out random noise.

It didn’t happen every night. I couldn’t tell you how often I’d hear him hitting her. Maybe once every few weeks when he was with us and not stationed somewhere else. But it happened enough that every sound at night made me alert.

My dad was in the air force and would be stationed in Southeast Asia for months at a time because of the Vietnam War. We kids actually liked it better when he was gone. My oldest brother would act up a little more when my dad was gone, but there were lines he wouldn’t cross, so everything seemed okay from my perspective when my dad was gone.

There wasn’t much I could do about my parents fighting. I was in elementary school; I couldn’t bang on their bedroom door and tell them to keep it down, that I was trying to sleep. I just closed my eyes and tried not to listen. My older sister and brothers were aware of what was going on, but their bedrooms were farther down the hall or in the basement, so they could drown out the noise if they wanted to.

The physical aspect of the arguing ended one Friday night after my mom finally hit my dad with a fireplace poker stick. I wasn’t home when that happened. I had spent that night at my best friend’s house and then heard about the fight from my older siblings the next morning when I returned home.

The story goes that my mom and dad were at a party with a bunch of friends, and I’m sure everybody had been drinking. When my parents left the gathering, my mom had said something like “Let’s go home and screw.”

For some reason, this comment embarrassed my dad and the following argument at home escalated into physical violence with my dad shouting (according to my siblings) “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE! YOU ARE NOT MY WIFE!”

I don’t understand the logic of a man getting violently angry that his wife wants to go home and screw (unless she was talking to another man). But that’s what supposedly set off the fireworks. Dad start hitting my mom in the living room, she bashed him in his knee with the fireplace poker stick, and I think that ended that. My dad never hit her again.

When I asked my mom about the incident years later, she admitted that she hit him with the poker stick (I didn’t ask about the “Let’s go home and screw” comment), and she verified the “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE! YOU ARE NOT MY WIFE!”

My mom claimed that she was not the devil incarnate and that she was indeed his wife at that time of the incident. I understand that the devil incarnate would never admit to being the devil incarnate, so she could have been lying, but Dad was her only accuser, and he lacked credibility because he was the violent drunk in the family. Then again, the devil incarnate could have driven him to drinking.

As demonic as my father could get when he was drinking, I appreciate a good line when I hear it, and I have to admit, “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE! YOU ARE NOT MY WIFE!” is a keeper.

I can’t use it on everybody, though. Without context, people can really misunderstand what we’re saying. When a family member and I have a disagreement, I can occasionally end the conflict with “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE! YOU ARE NOT MY BROTHER/SISTER/MOTHER!” and they understand it. It’s our way of showing that there’s no hard feelings.

Like I’ve said, there are limitations. I’ve never said “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE!” to my wife. She doesn’t see the humor in it. I don’t think I’ve ever brought it up with my daughter either.

Unfortunately, my mom died recently, and I don’t disagree with my older brothers enough anymore to use the line very often. I’d hate to see “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE!” die out. It’s a good line, but… sigh… maybe it’s time for “YOU ARE THE DEVIL INCARNATE!” to go away.

2 Comments
  1. I’m sorry you had to go through that but I’m glad your family found a way to heal, even just by using that phrase.

    • Thank you. I was reluctant to post this one because I was concerned it would come across as a bit negative. Then again, I’ve already written about some positive childhood memories (and I can always write more of that later on too).

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