What’s Love Got to Do with It?

  In recent news, Omaima Aree Nelson, a former model was up for parole after serving 20 years for brutally killing her husband and committing cannibalism.  Just a few months after marrying him, accounts state that she went to a neighbor’s house reporting that after a brutal rape by her husband of just two months she killed him.[1]  Reports of Ms. Nelson’s murderous actions in online papers such as the Chicago Defender, LA Times, and Newsome state that her husband’s hands were found in a deep fryer, his decapitated head in a refrigerator with multiple stab wounds, skinned his torso, put his entrails in his car, ate 80 of the 230 pounds of his corpse, and even attempted consorting with other men to help her get rid of the body parts.[2]

Several girlfriends with whom I shared the story had reactions, such as one-word visceral responses like “Gross!”   Two asked the same question, inquiring that given her allegations of abuse, why would she want to eat him?  It’s difficult to know the motivations for someone’s actions, particularly when feeling crossed or endangered.  Even harder to speculate why one takes some actions and not others.  Why not just leave?  Why not seek friendship or counsel instead of taking drastic measures in one’s own hands?  Why go so far as to kill and even eat someone?

While we may never be able to figure out Ms. Nelson’s motives, or truly interpret and understanding what was underlying them, perhaps her story gives us pause to think about our own love tragedies.  What have been the incidents we’ve experienced with ones we loved that consequently resulted in us acting outside the box and out of pocket?  When have we, because of hurt, rejection, or vengeance (just to name a few), said and done things that harmed others because of what we believe as perpetration against us?  When have we retaliated, treating a once loved one as nemesis and arch enemy, visiting upon them our scolding and wrath?  Maybe reading of this event can be an impetus for searching ourselves to act in ways where we don’t lose ourselves and our liberties.

In searching ourselves, I’m suggesting extending beyond justifications:  “I found out he was cheating on me, so I busted the windows out his car.” “I gave him everything I had and he gave nothing back, so that’s why I threw his stuff in the street and changed the locks.” “I called and threatened his female friends because there’s no way a man and woman can be friends and nothing sexual is going on.” Go deeper.  Meaning, search for what emotions may have already been in place such that when a particular event happened, it caused you to exceed and act way out of your character.  What was the emotional catalyst that was simmering beneath the surface and before the event, such that when it happened, it made that emotion rise to the surface, steering your actions into blind rage, furious fighting, or diabolical retaliation?

Ms. Nelson’s story gives food for thought around what are we willing to sacrifice of ourselves to confirm that someone can hurt us deeply.  Her story gives us a lesson in reflection and introspection.  To ask ourselves that in anger are we willing to lose ourselves to prove another can hurt us profoundly and deeply, to the point of almost not being able to recover?  While Ms. Nelson’s story is one of extremity, acting out of hurt is not a far stretch for any of us.

By Tanya Manning-Yarde, Ph.D

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1 Comment

  • Anika Nailah
    October 13, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Interestingly, our first reaction is to want to distance ourselves from someone like Nelson, but truth be told, love can make you do crazy, crazy things. Most of mine have been self-deprecating, not outward acts of violence. But is that any saner? Someone hurts us so we respond by agreeing with them by hurting ourselves. How often, for how long, and in how many ways have we been told that we are unworthy? And what makes us believe it even as we deny it? And what about the ways in which we have been conditioned to treat each other? Let’s do a little research on internalized oppression: We got work to do and we can do it. Much love to my all my sistas and brothas…


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