Psychotherapeutic humanities - "The Maid's Story" by Adam O'Fallon Price
May 12, 2019
The story in the June, 2019 issue of Harper's Magazine is "The Maid's Story" by Adam O'Fallon Price.
The story is about a hotel maid, Hannah Kohl, who is afflicted with kleptomania and steals small items from the hotel guests' rooms. Hannah steals a ruby brooch, a piece of cheap costume jewelry, from Annette Gerson who was staying for a few days on vacation with her husband and two children.
Hannah is terrified of her thefts being discovered and being fired from her job.
When Mrs. Gerson catches Hannah stealing her brooch, Mrs. Gerson enters into a scheme to blackmail Hannah into coming to her home and staying over night by offering medical care for her son, 8, suffering from polio.
As the story progresses Mrs. Gerson sexually molests Hannah and then manipulates the situation so that Hannah is fired from her job and has little choice but to move to Manhatten and become a live in nanny for Mrs. Gerson's children.
In this age of #MeToo, this is a story of sexual exploitation outside of the usual male/perpetrator - female/victim motiff. In this story a female becomes a perpetrator in a lesbian assault. What makes the story work is the class difference of a rich women preying on a poor one.
While sexual abuse makes the news and public outrage is fanned, class differences which often make the exploitation possible are overlooked. What appears to be sexual exploitation could not occur if class differences were not part of the situation.
As is so often the case from a psychotherapeutic perspective, the sex is the minor part of the offense in which domination, exploitation, and abuse of power is the root evil.
Domination and subjugation robs the person of his/her right to self determination and agency.
This is how the story ends.
Hannah Kohl is called into her supervisor's office and fired. She is told there is a message for her at the hotel desk to call Mrs. Gerson.
"How horrible," the woman's voice boomed in response to the news of her termination.
"Yes, I was reported."
"How horrible," she repeated. "Well, perhaps this is kismet. Mr. Gerson and I have just been discussing the need for a live-in nanny. I have so much to do, and only so much time-" she went on, but the maid was only half-listening, aware of herself as a guest watching might have aware of her: a slight woman in a sweater and long skirt and cheap brown shoes, shoulders shaking, bent over the desk in a posture of utter submission.