excerpt from “Beautiful Illusions”

[buy the book here: Beautiful Illusions ]monkeys

“I think I’ve figured out why I’m so needy, why I bounce from woman to woman to woman and why nothing ever takes. Venwick, whose name you should remember from your Abnormal Psychology classes, was one of those cruel animal experimenters in the Forties and Fifties. What he did was take baby rhesus monkeys, some of them anyway, and remove them from their mothers almost as soon as they were born.”

“So they didn’t have a chance to bond.” My friend lit her cigarette. Not really interested, but I was ebullient this morning.


“So your mother was a female rhesus monkey.” A shiver of a smile in this.

“No, but I was taken from her right after birth. My older sister took care of me the first few months of my life – I don’t really know how long. She had severe post-partum depression. They gave her shock treatments.” Carole flinched, wrinkled her brow.

“Only thing she’s ever said about it directly to me was that it had something to do with my father’s reaction to my being born. I was the only kid they had together, and I think I was supposed to cement their already unglued relationship. But anyway . . . .”

The snow tapped at our window, sounding almost like a creak. The wind roared and then died.

“I think I remember how this goes. It’s coming back to me now. The unhappy baby rhesus monkeys’ serotonin levels plunged, right? Unhappy baby monkeys: Mommy’s gone and here comes a snake! You know I read somewhere that the beginning of all human language might derive from primates trying to tell each other, ‘Watch out, there’s a snake!’

“What is more: these inquisitions of our cadres of obligingly cruel scientists went on for a long, long time. They took the long view. They took their notes, made their physiological measurements as these deprived primates aged into primate mid-life—guess what happened to the serotonin levels, already low? They remain low, researchers with the baby rhesus monkeys learned, long after the primate has grown up. The baby rhesus monkeys missed their mommies their whole lives, were depressed on into monkey middle age!”

Carole said, “Well, if I understand what you’re getting at correctly, you have a pretty gloomy psychological prognosis, am I right?”

I pulled the curtain back. It looked like it was about to get dark outside, though it couldn’t have been any later than ten-thirty.

I went over to my chair, to the desk she’d found alongside the road for me.

“I better get some of this stuff written down before I forget it.”

“Wait a minute, now. So does this mean you’ll miss your mother all your life, seek constant medication to raise your low serotonin, and seek women replacements for the gnawing absence that you’ve felt ever since you were a baby rhe – I mean, a baby?”

I put one hand upon my head, started scratching my abdomen with the other, and rolled my lips back as far as I could over my teeth.


[buy the book here: Beautiful Illusions ]

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