AITA for throwing away my gf's umbilical cord?
Throwaway because her brother knows my reddit.
Hi, my (34M) gf (21F) of two years is native American and she had this 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. It was supposed to look like a turtle or a lizard or something, but it was so beaten that I 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?? It grossed me out and I thought she was joking, so I laughed. She looked upset, so I asked if she was serious. 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.
But two weeks ago when she was sleeping, I was going through our things and wanted to scan an old photo. I opened our keepsake box and the wave of musty air hit me. 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.
So yesterday, I 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.
But today her mom called, and told her that she was willing to remake the pouch for her if she sent it. Oops... She proceeded to tear apart our room looking for it, sobbing hysterically and not listening to any kind of reason... I'll admit, I felt bad. 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.
She was suddenly calm, and I thought she was willing to talk about it, but she started packing her stuff. I begged her to stay but she took her car and her stuff and left. I don't know where she went, or if she'll be back, but I'm so devastated. It was such a small and dumb thing to split us up over, but I do regret it. Am I the asshole?
ETA Stop bringing our ages into this, she was and is an adult and you have no right to judge us. Focus on what I'm talking about here and now. I didn't want to put it in a different container because at the end of the day, we still would've had a body part that should've been tossed to begin with. Just because something is cultural doesn't mean that justifies it. Would it be okay if I kept all my fecal matter in a little bag because I thought it was special? It doesn't and didn't make sense. I feel like she was overreacting and I think everyone calling me the asshole should have to smell the damn thing. Then you'd know why I tossed it.
ETA2 All these comments are making me feel like complete shit. The last time we fought, she came back after an hour. She isn't back yet, and it's starting to take a toll. She's the one that makes dinner, cleans, comforts me. She's always there for me. The notion that I might spend tonight alone is destroying me. She's always been perfect to me, and I do things like this that upset her. Maybe I AM the asshole.... I'm sorry guys. I've been calling her and calling her and she won't answer. I just want to apologize and get her back. I want her to know how much she means to me. I think I might call her mom and tell her what I did and see if she can make another one... I know it won't be the same and it won't have her umbilical cord anymore, but maybe it'll be a start?
ETA3 I couldn't get ahold of her mom, but I have been on the phone with the sanitation department for our city, and they put me on hold for 45 minutes looking through the trash from our neighborhood. I barely caught them, and it took a lot of pleading and convincing but they were kind. They managed to find the pouch, and I'll have to pay a huge recovery fee, but that's all worth it. They agreed to let me pick it up tomorrow. If I can get ahold of my gf, hopefully she'll come back to me and things can be alright. I'll never touch her stuff again if it means she'll stay with me. I'll update this when I can get ahold of her.
ETA4 This will be the last update... I'm so devastated. I got the pouch back from the sanitation center today as soon as they called me at 8am this morning. It was a little smashed up but it's ok. If our city wasn't as small as it is, I might not have been able to get it back. I paid them and left. I left a voicemail for my gf telling her I got it back, and she finally called me back. She told me she was coming back and I felt butterflies again like when I first met her. I was waiting for her to show up, and I wanted to fully check the condition of the pouch, so I opened it and discovered what was causing it to smell-there was a cigarette butt in it beside her umbilical cord that looked like it might have been wet at some point. It made the pouch smell like ash, along with the leather stinking from whatever greasy substance was on it. The pouch was okay, so I waited for my gf to come.
Well she came this evening and asked for it immediately. I asked if she wanted to have dinner with me and she said no. I was hurt, she said she was coming back? She told me no, she just wants her pouch. I didn't want to be an asshole again, so I just gave it to her. I told her I loved her and she slammed my own door in my face. I began to mourn our relationship but she came back in and grabbed me by my shirt and asked why I opened it. I told her I wanted to see if it was ok.
She said I didn't need to open it, and asked if I took the cigarette out. I told her I just touched it to look at it and she began to cry... She told me she was keeping that since her father committed suicide because it was the last thing he touched. She grabbed me again and I thought she was going to hit me, but she just went to our room presumably to see if she got all her stuff. Then she told me not to contact her again or she'd send her brothers to me.... I won't be an asshole and get the police involved, but that was definitely a threat.
I'm so heartbroken... I've lost my whole life. For two whole years, she was everything to me. I helped her get off her reservation, I paid for her GED. I did so much for her but none of it matters now. I put so much time into our relationship and into her, I was in it for the long haul. I know I messed up. I know I'm an asshole. I know I'll be alone forever. Thank you all for making me see that.
I went to our room, and she threw what looks like porcupine quills or something everywhere. She stabbed them into my side of the bed, put them in my shoes, in my dresser drawers. It seems spiteful to leave something so difficult to pick out of carpeting and bedding. They're all I have of her now though. I'm going to keep them. I hope she's better off without me. Lesson learned I guess.