Saturday, June 1, 2024

Nightbitch

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

MM is a stay-at-home mom whose daily routine is heavily focused on raising her son. Her husband is always away on business trips and seldom helps around when he finds himself at home with them. The mother has regrets about her domestic life given how she had a successful career as an artist before she got married and gave birth to her son. As pent up frustrations begin to surface, she notices strange changes happening to her body. Aside from the surplus of hair growing in unlikely places, her front teeth also start to resemble those of a canine. Is she literally transforming into a dog or are all these a hallucination of her tired brain? The plot thickens when she meets a trio of mothers in the community who, she swears, have visited her one night as a trio of dogs. Curious, she seeks answers in a book about magical women written by a certain Wanda White, to whom she decides to write emails to quell her curiosity.

As a species, we learn by experience, not by theory. No matter how many times you tell me about the joys and pains of motherhood and giving birth, the best us guys could do is sympathize. Empathy is simply too tall an order, because we’ll never physiologically experience this firsthand. Maybe this is the reason why Nightbitch comes across like a 238-page rant to me, a litany in prose form with an energy similar to that of the I-carried-you-in-my-womb-for-9-months card our moms tend to pull when they lose an argument. As such, I have reason to believe that women, particularly mothers, will enjoy this novel more than us guys will ever do.

Nevertheless, there is still that turning-into-a-dog subplot that keeps you entertained. Part I of the book wraps up with a scene that feels as though it was written with a film rendition in mind. The excitement in that living room scene to conclude the first half is just so palpable. Unfortunately, the second half somehow fails to sustain all that hype. Perhaps the reason for this is the lack of clarity and closure as far as this magical subplot is concerned. Was she really turning into a dog or was she just imagining all of that? How was her husband okay with all of it? Did he think she was just having a mental breakdown and he was just being supportive?

It doesn’t help that the ending is weird AF. The whole turning into a dog thing is turned into performance art, except that she does not seem to be a dog during those performances but only dressed up as one. The entire Wanda White subplot is dismissed as a dead end with the reasoning that the University of Sacramento is defunct and the author just can’t be tracked down. Is she even a real person? MM says no. While the snippets of her novel provide a worthwhile distraction from the main storyline, in the end it seems as though it does not contribute much to anything. If you totally scrapped that subplot, the main plot would still stand.

Weirdness and inconsistencies of plot aside, what I imagine the author captures is the intensity of motherhood, its ups and downs. Again, us guys will never really know, so to all mothers out there who want to read this, let us know if her descriptions are accurate. My sole take away from it is how motherhood could be so intense in all the positive and negative ways that it might feel as though you were turning into a bitch. Feral. Literally. It’s not that far-fetched a symbolism given how such experience is common in females of the animal kingdom, but mostly without the complications us humans attribute to it due to our intellect.

All the arguments for and against motherhood, feminism as well as traditional gender roles are touched by the author. There is no stone left unturned, and I can only commiserate with her dilemma as to what role a woman should really play nowadays. If we were to look at it strictly from an evolutionary perspective, women are indeed in charge of making sure our species don’t die out, preventing extinction by giving birth. However, now that the current world population is at an all-time 8,000,000,000 high, I believe we can give women a break and let them decide what role they want without solely basing it on anatomy, physiology, and evolution.

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