Unmasking the daddy of control freaks


THAT'S MEN:Why do women put up with this behaviour?

I’VE LONG BEEN intrigued by guys who take the control of women to ridiculous lengths.

Now I see a fascinating example of control freakery has been uncovered by author Wendy Moore. She tells the story of the control freak behind Professor Higgins, the man who sets about refining Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Step forward poet, liberal and philanthropist Thomas Day, born 1748, whose attempts to make a woman just the way he wanted her to be is told in Moore’s forthcoming book How to Create the Perfect Wife.

Had this gentleman lived today he would have been a reader of the Guardianor, if he lived among ourselves, The Irish Times.

He ticked all the right boxes. He was against slavery, gave money to the poor and was an admirer of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

But he was also a control freak who tried to shape two girls into being exactly the women he wanted them to be.

He started by adopting the girls, aged 11 and 12, whom he discovered in a foundling hospital. He gave them new names, Sabrina and Lucretia.

Then he took them off to France but soon got rid of Lucretia. who later became a hat-maker and married.

He stuck with Sabrina but she didn’t work out either.

This is where the true control freakery comes in. Moore told the Guardianthat Sabrina at the age of 17 “was described as being a very beautiful, very refined lady – not that this was what Day wanted”.

Any beauty, grace, style in “their” women brings out the worst in these guys convinced as they are that they will run away from them into the arms of admirers at the first opportunity – and let’s face it that would be a very understandable move under the circumstances.

No, Day “liked plump, white arms, and women who dressed very plainly and covered up their ankles. He wanted her to be hardy and completely subservient”, Moore said.

Plainly dressed and covered up is just exactly what these fellows want. I am 100 per cent sure that if they could get away with it some of our secular Irish control freaks would put “their” women in burkas. It would not surprise me one

bit if it turned out that some have already done so.

As I’ve written before in

this column I think I understand why they do it. I think they have a deep and abiding terror of being abandoned by women. They’ve got that fairly common “if you really knew me you wouldn’t want to know me” syndrome, except that in their case it’s magnified a thousand times.

Add to that the belief that a good-looking woman will jump into bed with the first man she meets when she leaves the house and the stage is set for trouble until she gets fed up and leaves him anyway.

What I can’t figure out is what women get out of this. Why do they stay with these guys for years? Is it love? Is it feeling flattered at being the object of an obsession? Is is hope that the guy will cop on to himself and stop behaving that way?

If they have children or are under physical threat I can see why it might take a long time to pluck up the courage to make the move.

Yet some women put up with this, for a time, even when they have no kids and are not under threat. I would love to hear from women readers who can explain this.

And Sabrina? Day shipped her off to a boarding school and she later married, apparently happily.

Served him right, didn’t it? Er, not really. I’d love to report that Day lived in deserved misery for the rest of his life.

The truth, dear reader, is that Day later found the woman he wanted, an heiress no less, and settled down with her.

And he banned her from seeing her family again.

Oh happy man.

Padraig O’Morain (pomorain@ireland.com) is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His book Light Mind – Mindfulness for Daily Livingis published by Veritas. His mindfulness newsletter is available free by e-mail