‘Grossed Out’ Man Trashes Girlfriend’s Umbilical Cord -- Despite Knowing its Cultural Significance

Twenty20

Woman packing box
Twenty20

In a long-term relationship, there's no doubt that both partners will make mistakes on occasion. And sometimes, those mistakes are forgivable. But for a Redditor in the Am I the A--hole subreddit, a thoughtless, self-centered, culturally insensitive move will likely be one he never lives down. The self-described 34-year-old original poster (OP) took to the community to ask if he's at fault for throwing out his girlfriend's spiritually and culturally significant pouch containing her umbilical cord.

  • The OP explained that his 21-year-old girlfriend of two years is Native American, and he recently came across her "small, beaten up leather pouch." 

    "It was about the size of a golf ball, and it was beaded, but there were beads missing and thread exposed and the leather was stained and greasy with something," he noted.

    "It was supposed to look like a turtle or a lizard or something, but it was so beaten that [it] was hard to tell. The thing absolutely stunk. We had it in a box of keepsakes along with our photos and other things, and it made the box have a musty smell. Imagine my horror when I asked her what the thing was, and she told me it was her umbilical cord?"

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  • The OP said her admission "grossed" him out. "I thought she was joking, so I laughed," he wrote.

    "She looked upset, so I asked if she was serious," the OP explained. "She was. I asked her why she had it, and she told me it was her people's cultural practice to stop you from searching for things or something among other things. I thought the sentiment was nice, but it stunk and was hideous. I understand that some people keep teeth and that sort of thing, but teeth don't stink. And teeth aren't kept in a strange little pouch. The whole thing skeezed me out, so I put it back and left it alone."

  • Then, two weeks ago, the OP said while his girlfriend was sleeping, he was going through their things because he wanted to scan an old photo.

    "I opened our keepsake box and the wave of musty air hit me," the OP recalled. "I couldn't take it anymore, so I hid the thing in a box in the basement. We went through our photos and things together (it was a lovely night, we did it over wine), and she didn't even acknowledge that it was missing. I even asked her if she noticed anything gone from our stuff. She said she didn't, and laughed." 

    Fast-forward to this week. He said he "decided to rid us of it and put it in the trash."

    "It went, and I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing my girlfriend's actual entire mummified umbilical cord was where it should've been to begin with," the OP shared.

  • The OP's girlfriend's mom then called and said she'd be willing to remake the pouch for her if she sent it.

    The OP's girlfriend "proceeded to tear apart" their room "looking for it, sobbing hysterically and not listening to any kind of reason." 

    "I'll admit, I felt bad," the Redditor wrote. "Maybe I should've just left it alone, but why even keep such a thing? I came clean and told her that I threw it away because I thought she wouldn't notice. She started screaming at me and said that it wasn't my right to throw her things away. I reminded her of when she threw my favorite shirt away just because it had a hole and a grease stain. She told me it wasn't the same thing, but isn't it? They were both items kept purely out of sentimentality. At least my shirt wasn't making our photos smell musty."

  • That's when the girlfriend went quiet and began packing up her belongings, leaving the OP behind.

    "I don't know where she went, or if she'll be back, but I'm so devastated," the OP wrote. "It was such a small and dumb thing to split us up over, but I do regret it." 

    He then asked the Reddit community if he's the a--hole.

  • Unsurprisingly, the community skewered the clueless, culturally insensitive jerk.

    The top commenter told the OP that he is indeed, the a--hole. "She’s not coming back. You're an intentionally culturally insensitive a--hole. She explained why and how it was important to her, and you threw it away. It is completely irreplaceable and not remotely like a shirt. I don't understand how that's not obvious. It has spiritual and cultural meaning, to compare it to an old shirt just proves how insensitive you're being. I almost guarantee she's ghosting your a--, as you deserve."

    Another user shared agreed with the significance of the loss.

    "I'm indigenous, my tribe is Hunkpati Dakota, and our people save the umbilical cord too. We put them in beaded pouches and keep them OUR WHOLE LIVES, and they're supposed to be buried with us. They're extremely important, and often times the pouch is made and beaded painstakingly by the person's mother.

    "You had no right to throw it away," the person continued. "Why was putting it in the basement not enough for you? Why wouldn't you have told her you didn't like it and/or asked her to put it someplace else or in something else?"

    Another person explained, "My mother keeps mine and my sister's umbilicals in pouches my grandmother made and beaded in a special box. They don't smell, they're preserved and turn into a crystal like material. I'm guessing the leather of her pouch was kept in a humid atmosphere and went bad after it soaked up moisture. Rotten/swollen leather smells horrible. Drying out the contents and the mother making a new pouch would have fixed everything."

  • Others called him out for the huge age difference that also seems to speak volumes about his behavior, given the OP is 34 and his girlfriend is 21.

    "Holy age difference. That is disgusting. Is there a reason you can't relate to women your own age? Why you thought it was appropriate to be with a girl not much more than a year out of high school while you were already in your thirties? That speaks volumes about your character," one person wrote. "All that aside -- let's assume you were a reasonable person in a healthy relationship with a woman your own age. You'd still be the jerk in this situation. You disrespected something that was clearly important to her."

    "I'm shocked that someone 13 years younger than you is more mature and socially sensitive," another Redditor commented.

  • The OP followed up to say that the comments made him feel terrible.

    He wrote that he felt "like complete s---" after reading the comments and claimed to have called the sanitation department for their city and tracked down the pouch. "I'll have to pay a huge recovery fee, but that's all worth it," the OP shared.

  • Chances are, however, that the damage has been done.

    As another commenter put it, the OP should return the pouch and assume his relationship is over.

    "You need to carefully package it, as if it were a priceless artifact, and pay for shipping with tracking, insurance, and signature required," the commenter wrote. "All the bells and whistles. Send it to her mom, that's where she's going. And again, she's not coming back. The calm as she packed tells all, she's done. She's past mad, sad, upset, and devastated, she's done.

    "She has nothing left to give to the relationship," the person continued. "She isn't fighting because she doesn't consider you worth fighting with or for. She has nothing to offer you, because by not respect[ing] the culture she holds dear, that's part of who she is, you didn't respect her as a person."

    Here's hoping the OP realizes he has a lot of work to do on himself. And fingers crossed his girlfriend never looks back.