Saturday, December 21, 2013

12/21/13 - The Moving Finger

Returning to action just long enough to point out that LW3 (mum to Holly/Ivy/Gertrude) would, if the letter had been written fifteen or twenty ago, have been murdered by her husband so that he could marry the younger children's governess.

LW3 is a near-perfect parallel to Mona Symmington. Her first husband, Captain Hunter, was disagreeable and disreputable. His daughter, Megan, mooches about while Mrs S wishes Megan would get out on her own (although with a case, be it one taken too far), leaving her with her younger children and their father. (And, of course, the Aphrodite-resembling - at least before she opens her mouth and reveals a competent and kind but flat personality devoid of enchantment - Elsie Holland, but that's another chapter.)

TMF centred around two of my favourite crucial questions. Anonymous letters making wild and foul accusations are going around the village. Why don't the letters mention any of the real scandalous conduct being committed (as pointed out by the vicar's wife, there's plenty of adultery, but the letters never pair anyone with the actual partner involved)? And why is Elsie Holland, easily the only radiant beauty in the place and just the type of person to be meat and drink for the typical author of anonymous letters, practically the only person in the village who has not received one?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Two for HA - 22 August

I was worried that starting Bicentric July would throw off Homocentric August, and it appears I was right. At any rate, I have similar takes on two of the Prudecutor's letters, leaving out the cancer and the sex toy.

Dear LW2: You have made an error of the deepest dye in this case. You are clearly dealing with one of those great many gay men who modeled their behaviour along lines recommended for young women in the middle of the previous century (if not a good deal earlier, for it is a truth that ought to be universally acknowledged that the vast majority of those ideally suited to be typecast as, say, Mary Crawford, are gay males). It may be hard to believe, but, even in these modern times, there are other gay men who adhere so strictly to outdated feminine lines of conduct that every sentence he ever came to speak to you could have been full of subtext inviting you to Take Him. Right There. Right Then. and yet the last thing he would ever have done had he lived to be nine hundred and two would have been to ask you for a date. You seem open to doing the asking yourself, although you do not state this specifically. Perhaps, in these modern times, it would never have occurred to you that people still behaved in such a manner. A pity, as you had, in many ways, the ideal co-worker. He'd have done anything for you, all the while restricting himself to nothing more than a few longing sighs and some possibly uncomfortable moments. But these moments would be far less creepy than those that originated in those who had given themselves a male line of conduct. Pardon me for a bit of heterocentricity, but it is well established that the ration of women finding men creepy to men finding women creepy is at least 9:1, if not a good deal more.

Unfortunately, the boat has sailed. You have offended a Princess, and such a course of conduct is never forgiven. Had I been in time to advise you, I'd have advised you to take as a model the conduct of one of the best-known gay men in history (and undoubtedly the most successful female impersonator) - Elizabeth I, or, rather, the half-brother to that young Princess who was put forward to impersonate her after her untimely death as an adolescent, long before she seemed at all likely to become Queen. Our Bess managed marriage negotiations with three brothers when he never had the slightest intention of wedding any of them. Had Francois II not already been married to Mary Stuart, there might have been a go at him as well. As it was, QE1 had to make do first with Charles IX as a suitor, then Henri III when he was still le duc d'Anjou and finally poor Hercule, le duc d'Alencon who moved up to Anjou after Charles died and who had shown considerable promise as a child before a bad case of smallpox did much to insure that the majority of his early potential was never fulfilled. A study of his methods would have enabled you to keep CW2 dreaming of you at night for years, if not decades. But now, it is far too late. He will never forgive you; all you can do is either find new employment elsewhere or convince an old flame of yours to hire him away from your current company.


Regarding L3, I shall first address the Prudecutor, who really ought to know better by now. Prudecutor, despite your best efforts to bring about such a state, the world is not populated entirely by happy little corporate drones. And here is a nice little piece of information for you, which you might even use if your envious disposition and your corporate overlords would permit you to do so - geniuses and corporations don't mix well. Now, it might be a bit of a stretch to call BF3 a genius, but, if he is, that's largely the answer. Geniuses tend to have interests and passions that are capable of escaping the narrow mind that is practically Requirement Number 1 in the Good Corporate Drone. Being an excellent example of the type, dear Prudecutor, you could hardly be expected to recognize that you are not the exception to the rule that your corporate overlords told you you were. But you might know by now that geniuses often don't mix well with people who cannot recite whole chapters out of great literature at apposite moments or other such accomplishments that are not only undervalued but which seem to raise resentment among the general population of Good Little Corporate Drones. As for what BF3 has been doing, you fell into LW3's trap. Never having held a full-time job = video games and unproven slurs on his character allegating bisexuality? The Prudecution has forgotten to ask the vital question, and the Defence can now claim in its Final Statement that BF3 has written an untold number of unpublished novels, work far more demanding than writing a second-rate (I know, I flatter it) advice column.

Now for those commantating: Members of the Commentariat, as it is you and you alone who will be adjudicating this case, I bring to your attention the fact that many gay men have modeled their conduct on those women who, in the previous century, attended university solely for the purpose of attaining what to them was the most valuable degree of all - the MRS. BF3 could well have been molding his character into something that will make him an ideal helpmate - not that this necessarily means that the couple is a good match. Many of you have fallen into the MRA trap of double-standarding by gender. Some of you have caught on to the possibility that his non-corporate character likely comprises far more of the attraction than LW3 realizes. If LW3 dumps BF3, he may well come to regret the decision when the Good Corporate Drones he partners afterwards turn out to bore him to tears, even if they do pay half the bills.

To LW3: We have one or two points to clear up. Were your opening compliments the usual blather or were they genuine? BF3 clearly does not seem so "perfect" for you if you have to be giving him ultimata about turning himself into a Good Little Corporate Drone. But I have two ways I could go here. I shall follow the path indicated by your response to the question of whether BF3 is smarter than you are. If you reply that he is, there is a chance the two of you could make quite a good couple. He might not be quite Terry Miller (although one could suspect that part of the attraction is that that the two might be similar with regard to appearance), but then you're not quite Dan Savage. And for the both of you, I'll add a hopeful yet. There are many happy partnerships between a practical grind and an idealistic dreamer. However, if you do not hold BF3 to be your intellectual superiour, then do him a favour and dump yourself already.

Moral: "In marriage, the man is supposed to provide for the support of the woman; the woman to make the home agreeable to the man; he is to purvey, and she is to smile. But in dancing, their duties are exactly changed; the agreeableness, the compliance are expected from him, while she furnishes the fan and the lavender water."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Quick and Serious to Start HA

The Thursday letters are too dull, but I shall begin the month by addressing the Tuesday writer who wondered about seating same-sexers together at her wedding.

First, I wish the LW had been specific. We do not know anything about these guests other than that they are same-sexers. The letter appears to read as if they are all of the same gender and there could be a little side matchmaking going on, but that's just a guess. We don't know if these are desired guests or obligatory guests. One can usually base a table assignment for one's long-time best friend, even from years ago, on knowledge a good deal more intimate than one can for a cousin one has seen three or four times and with whom the exchanges have never gone beyond a few sentences. We don't know the overall tone of the room. All we can do is guess from what the editors allowed to appear of the LW's question. As the LW did not specify an opposite-sex wedding, I am going to guess that the LW is one of those people who takes pride in being a little more completely gay-accepting than is actually the case, or at least is not quite so affirmatively same-sexer-positive as might be desired by the same-sexer guests who aren't saying so.

The Prudecutor reacts in horror at the thought of gay people being allowed to sit together. Typically for someone who likes to pretend at being same-sexer-positive, she takes the LW's "gay table" as THE ONLY POSSIBLE OPTION TO CONSIDER and accordingly advises that each of the same-sexer singles and couples be carefully separated in the supposed name of orientation-blindness, which seems to be the latest fashionable accessory among people with unattractive minds (spurred on, I admit, by many of the leading Overassimilationists.

While creating an Obviously Gay Table will appear to be something rather less warmhearted than it apparently is, assuming good will on the LW's part, it seems safe to provide a small rule that, unless it's someone one knows really well and can rest assured that (s)he will be happy with the placement, never to maroon a single same-sexer at a table with no other same-sexers. One can get away fairly often with marooning a couple, as they at least show up with some built-in bulwark against being at a mismatched table, and couples often have more bond-producing similarities in lifestyle with other couples than with other same-sexers. If possible, I'd advise the LW to make the most fun tables about an even mix of same-sexers and the most fun and progressive of the heterosexuals.

After all, it wouldn't be Homocentric August without its going without saying that the same-sexer guests will be right at the top of the Fun Guests List.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

4/11 - The Austenian Approach

As it is quite clear that L2 merits full attention this week, no preamble is required. I shall be content with saying that this is just the sort of letter that would work well in Homocentric August, as LW2's being a woman, while not flatly stated or incontrovertibly implied, here seems established beyond reasonable doubt, so that it would be great fun to twist the letter into male-writer status.

My husband and I are both politically liberal, support public radio, donate to the ACLU, and both have gay and lesbian friends.

Oh, dear. We can already tell what's coming. A few thoughts:

Politically liberal = our daughters are going to be Democratic-voting virgin brides?
Support public radio/donate to ACLU - side issues

Both have gay and lesbian friends: Now, this is a good one. It has many possible meanings. Right off the bat, one notices that LW2 says "both" instead of "each". If all the LG(BT?) friends are "their" friends, a highly plausible interpretation is that LW2 knows one or both halves of a lesbian couple or two, invites them to social functions, and H2 has no objections. Is that not just Standard Operating Procedure for many couples? That, therefore, marks the first point of cross-examination. How many LG friends are specifically his or at least were his originally if LW2 happens to be the sort of wife who takes on all her husband's friends. Then, too, there is the question of what actually constitutes a friend in his eyes. Perhaps the office lesbian is in the football pool, or someone's gay cousin fills in every couple of months in the neighbourhood poker game. Or he could be the sort of straight man who legitimately has a number of reasonably deep friendships with those who don't share his sexual orientation. It's not that rare. But it is worthwhile to establish the point with some exactitude, as it makes a difference whether this is just a blind spot in H2's sincere attempt at liberality or whether LW2 is reading her beliefs as theirs and covering for a bigot.

He thinks it's funny, however, to adopt a stereotypical gay lisp from time to time when telling a story or a joke.

Gee, nobody else has ever thought of that in the history of the universe!

 I hate it and have told him so every time he does it.

Not very well, apparently.

 I tell him that it sounds bigoted and I don't want our kids to grow up thinking that making fun of gay people is OK.


 He says that it's done in good fun, and the fact that he has gay friends proves he is not prejudiced.

Even the Prudecutor can handle this softball.

 Is there any way I can get him to stop, or do I just have to put up with it and try to counteract its effect on my kids with some well-timed lessons on respecting others?

If your lessons are as effective as your getting him to stop, keep your breath to cool your porridge, as Elizabeth Bennet once cited.


Unless your husband is Sacha Baron Cohen, he’s got to drop this act.

Classic Prudecutorial potential homophobia - Mr Cohen needs to drop it more than anybody. Does the Prudecutor find Mr Cohen amusing?

 From the sound of it, being flamboyantly gay is not even germane to the story he’s telling, which makes his adopting this persona all the more uncomfortable for people listening.

Actually, it sounds as if it is germane, because it's what's getting the laughs from the people he wants to laugh at the story.

 It used to be that imitating racial or ethnic dialects of a group you didn’t belong to was the height of humor. But the days of Amos 'n' Andy are over, and comedian Bill Dana himself killed off his Jose Jimenezcharacter. Given your NPR proclivities, I’m sure your husband has heard that there’s a revolution afoot in the perception of gay and lesbian people.

The last sentence smacks of Chief Justice Roberts and his declaration that same-sexers are so powerful that they don't require nondiscrimination protection.

 It doesn’t matter how many nonstraight friends your husband has, his humor is going to leave everyone cringing and wondering what subliminal message is he trying to deliver.

Not everyone is cringing, apparently. And wondering? subliminal? trying? It's pretty clear.

 You obviously can’t stop your husband, but you can tell him you’re not going to be able to rescue him socially when he does it, and that you hope the awkward silence gives him the feedback he needs.

That response is about as weak as a teabag that has been used to brew five cups.

 As for the kids, if he starts lisping in front of them, you can just shake your head and say, “This is something Dad does that should not be imitated.”

Isn't that the nudge, nudge; wink, wink seal of unofficial approval?


What is missing from the Prudecutor's response is any mention of using H2's actual gay friends in LW2's response to this situation. It is as if either the Prudecutor doesn't believe in them and doesn't want to admit it, or she desperately wants LW2 to conceal H2's bigotry so as not to cost him his same-sexer friendships. But there are so many creative solutions. One of his LGBT friends could be enlisted to explain to him exactly how belittling his conduct comes across as being to his LGBT friends, especially in the context of his doing it to score points with the non-LGBT members of his audience. Or such a friend could, on hearing one of these stories, especially in the presence of C2's children, decline to stifle a natural reaction to flee the room (in tears?) to provide the kiidies with a concrete example of just how this bad behaviour hurts people's feelings.

I'm also inclined to wonder about the context of H2's stories. I could easily guess that, if he maintains that his LGBT friends hear these stories and don't mind them, many of them are told in a work environment in which the LGBT hearers don't want to rock the boat.


Moving on to Miss Austen:

In Northanger Abbey Henry Tilney is really the only person who seems to have much sense of humour. He provides a reasonable antidote to the idea that the world is nothing but killjoys and any remark one makes will be twisted into an assertion of prejudice by someone so motivated. He manages to tease Catherine Morland from the beginning of their acquaintance along gender lines, beginning with the "perfect" style of letter-writing among women, and perhaps reaching its peak with his line during the country-walk with Catherine, Henry and his sister Eleanor that nature has given women so much understanding that they never find it necessary to use more than half. Context, people, context. Here, unfortunately, it seems highly unlikely that H2 is using his lisp voice in any form of flirtation.

In Sense and Sensibility, we see how Lady Middleton copes with then problematic behaviour of her husband when Sir John invites the Miss Steeles to Barton Park, to be compared to Marianne Dashwood's reactions to the vulgar attempts at humour of Mrs Jennings. Which of the pair LW2 might prefer to emulate is open to interpretation.

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr Bennet might provide H2 with some useful lessons in effective humour, particularly in the example of his extricating himself from Mrs Bennet's insistence that he force Elizabeth to marry Mr Collins.

The only real wit in Mansfield Park is Mary Crawford, who comes rather a cropper and occasionally goes a little far for the Edmund-Fanny inquisitory panel. Perhaps H2's LGBT friends might take a lesson or two in lemon-sucking from Fanny Price in particular, although they would want to be a bit more effective than Fanny in expressing their displeasure.

On to Emma, LW2 could perhaps take lessons from Miss Woodhouse in the art of soothing over a loved one's questionable behaviour, as we so often see Emma hard at work when dear overly-concerned Mr Woodhouse would deny any of his guests the best fare of his table out of genuine concern for their health.

As for Persuasion, in which Anne Elliot's sense of humour is very moderate at best, we might point out that H2's jokes would go over so much better if he were a baronet (it certainly accounts for much of the response received from Mr Shepard and Mrs Clay by Sir Walter). If, unfortunately, LW2 is not inclined to divorce H2 over this, C2 could take a lesson from Anne and Lady Russell in being able to smooth over a serious difference of opinion while remaining on such good terms.


"The style of letter-writing among women is perfect, except in three particulars... ...a general deficiency of subject, a complete inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar."

 "As it was no longer possible to prevent their coming, Lady Middleton resigned herself to the idea of it with all the philosophy of a well-bred woman, contenting herself with merely giving her husband a gentle reprimand on the subject five or six times every day."

"An unhappy alternative lies before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr Collins, and I will never see you again if you do."

"Of Rears and Vices [referring to Admirals] I saw enough. Now, do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat you."

"Thy ready wit the word will soon supply. The man must be in love to see ready wit in Harriet."

"Mr Shepard laughed heartily at this witticism, as he knew he must."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

4/4 - Looking to Tuesday

The only real point of interest in the Thursday letters this week was the almost thrown-away sentence towards the end of L1. LW1 summed up that she and BF1 had discussed the matter at length, he had realized how and why he was wrong, and he had apologized. What about answering the telephone during intimacy would necessitate a lengthy discussion? Either BF1 could not get why  it was so serious an infraction to LW1, in which case LW1 has potentially good grounds for dumping, or perhaps LW1 ought to make over BF1 to Gina from the Tuesday collection. Clearly BF1 can be dominated by women. He may well have a taste for it. And LW1 has a man who is amenable to lengthy discussions of his infractions and she still wonders if she ought to flee? She lacks the taste for dominance which would make her the best match for BF1. Gina from Tuesday ought to suit him a great deal better.

But it is the main Tuesday letter, which the Prudecutor almost gets right, that is the true gem of the week. This time, we shall not go back quite so far in time as to revisit Miss Austen. L1 is a variation on a plot line from Queer as Folk.

It was fortunate that, during the run of the series, the supportive parents (Michael's and Justin's mothers) appeared far more often than the non-supportive (Justin's father, Brian's and Lindsay's parents). Of the parental backgrounds, Lindsay's parents, of the country club set, have the highest in social status. They first appear when Lindsay and Melanie attend Lindsay's sister's third (all parentally financed) wedding in five years, and somehow agree to bring male escorts. Clear favouritism has been established. The Petersons' final appearance marks the most outrageous act of Lindsay's mother. During the period when Lindsay and Melanie are separated in the final season, Mama P convinces her daughter to return home, arranges a little dinner party including a divorced male contemporary of Lindsay's, and not only turns out to have tried to set the two up, but is also revealed to have informed her desired-potential-son-in-law that Lindsay had just broken up with a man.

In the second season, when Lindsay and Melanie marry, they have the temerity to ask the Ps (we never meet any of Melanie's relations, who apparently aren't much or any better) for financial assistance towards the grand day. They are flatly refused; it isn't a "real" wedding, as Mrs P explains during a tension-laden restaurant meal. In a second attempt, the couple plan to throw a very WASPy brunch, so that the Ps could meet their friends and perhaps feel more at home in such a group. A harp appears. Lindsay dons a WASPy blouse that makes her breasts appear about a third of their usual size. The Ps phone to beg off on grounds of Mr P's back trouble. Melanie secretly slips away, goes to the parental home, find the Ps preparing to play mixed doubles, and gives them a more honest assessment of their conduct and character than she permits herself to do in Lindsay's company, along with an account of how much effort Lindsay had put into the party. Back at the party, Brian drugs the punch. The atmosphere lightens, the assembled company loses considerable inhibitions and clothing, and a raucous good time is in progress when the Ps finally show up after all. Mrs P sucks four dozen lemons and walks out at once; Mr P gives an almost wistful look as he follows. No aid for the wedding, alas.

Presently, in another episode, another conflict arises with Mrs P on the telephone. Lindsay has all her life been promised that, when she marries, she can wear Granny Faye's wedding dress. But Mrs P thinks that the promise would only apply if it were a "real" wedding. Lindsay and Melanie then decide to go over when the Ps are out and take the dress without permission or notice. There they find a packet of letters from a woman named Vera. Vera and Faye became lovers during the war while their husbands were in the army. They planned to leave their husbands and live together, but Vera funked it when the time came. The final letter in the series, written decades later, explained that Vera had had a good enough life and marriage but had never stopped loving Faye. Strangely, that letter had arrived two year after Granny Faye's death, and been put with all the other letters from Vera. How had that happened?

Now, to this LW. I was pleasantly surprised by the Prudecutor, who had in the past advised LWs uncovering controversial materials among the belongings of the dear departed to burn such articles. I certainly agree that the LW ought to take steps to prevent the destruction of the letters. Sooner or later, there is bound to be an LGBT member of the family, for whom the letters would make a grand present. Those members of the commentariat who advise keeping the secret but not destroying the letters are basically just passing on the problem to whoever happens to go through the effects left behind when the LW dies in future. (Vague hints of Sir Quentin Oliver and his plan to lock up the autobiographies of the members of his little association for seventy years.) It is true that putting the letters away for a period of time may result in their coming to life when nobody who knew Granny will be affected personally; would such a thing be good or bad?

It feels a little like splitting hairs to inquire into the nature of the death, as some among the commentors have done. There's not enough that can be inferred about the wishes of the deceased. I'd advise a subcommittee drawn from the supportive members of as many branches of the family as possible. An inquiry might better be directed towards whether there is a hierarchy within the family that would give the LW and her mother more of a say about Granny's legacy than other relations. The Prudecutor's advice to share first with Mamma leaves open the possibility that Mamma may bring about a stalemate by insisting that the matter never be mentioned. Much safer for the LW if others who share the LW's viewpoint know about Granny first. There is also the question of whether to contact anyone in Maude's family. The Prudecutor and her commentariat completely miss that issue entirely; nobody considers it at all. And yet, as Granny and Maude were acknowledged as lifelong (best) friends, it would be rather odd for their families to be complete strangers each to the other.

And I can't help but wonder whether the LW bears some resemblance to Senator Portman. It might  have been "hurtful" to hear homophobic slurs at family gatherings, but the LW doesn't appear ever to have done or said anything about that before, and only feels inclined to speak up now because the issue has hit home. This is not exactly the stuff of a ringing endorsement.

Moral: "Granny Faye was... a dyke!"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back to Highbury

With the Prudecutor not mangling the letters too badly this week, we shall make a quick jaunt.

L1: This letter appears to be a plant. The LW must secretly be working for an adoption agency that is going to have to close due to eliminated funding. This letter is clearly an attempt to convince pregnant young women to prefer abortion to adoption. Who wouldn't, faced with the possibility of such a terrorist attack two or three decades down the road?

The Prudecutor even picks up on part of this, as she imagines LW1 cackling gleefully to herself as she plans her next assault on BM1's peace of mind. One might ask LW1 why the apparent likelihood of smashing BM1's life counts so little. As far as that goes, it doesn't say much for AF1, or LW1's attitude towards them.

I should advise LW1 to take a page from Harriet Martin's book. This is where we see Emma at very nearly her worst. Harriet is, of course, the natural daughter of somebody. She is informed that she cannot be acquainted with her father, and is content to take Mrs Goddard's account without further investigation. It is left to Emma to decide on no particular evidence that Harriet is a gentleman's daughter, and therefore worthy at least to become Mrs Elton (or at any rate to aspire to a higher lot in life than that of becoming Mrs Robert Martin).

L2: I am going to ascribe the fast-moving nature of BF2's courtship to LW2's having taken Miss Woodhouse herself for a role model. Emma did, after all, half expect Frank Churchill to confess an attachment to herself at the end of a two weeks' visit at Randalls. And the LW seems to base all her feelings both for BF2 and XBF2 on concerns similar to those of the heroine in being rather superficial.

There is also the Jewish factor. LW2 leads heavily with it, and L2 seems to justify her having done so. She leads what might well be considered quite a Jewish-toned life. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, although her using it to try to reshape all the people and relationships in her life to that effect does seem rather to be getting in the way of her future happiness. Perhapsm however, she will continue to follow Emma's example and end up with the right partner at last, although at 31 she seems to have taken more than a little from Anne Elliot as well.

But I am going here to emulate Mrs Weston. I shall make a match here and now between the Prudecutor herself and Mr Plotz. They ought both to be released from their current marriages within the next few years, and they are so ideally suited - the High Priest and High Priestess of Mediocrity Incarnate. It is a match made in, as Giulia Farnese might say, wherever such matches are made.

L3: LW3 has managed to expand the Bridezilla complex all the way to Birthzilla. Her nine-year-old child in the delivery room may well go beyond any of the wildest ideas of brides I've seen for a considerable period of time. Clearly LW3 has forgotten the very purpose to which her upcoming tenancy of the room in question will be undergone.

The only thing to which I can compare this idea is the practice of dancing with open windows. Recall well how that scandalized poor Mr Woodhouse. He could not conceive of anyone ever doing such a thing, despite Mr Churchill's avowal of having seen it done quite often. Even if the only purpose of the relation of the story was to secure Mr Woodhouse's blessing for the Westons' ball to be held at the Crown Inn, it was the sort of idea that ought to terrify someone in LW3's circle. Let us hope it is someone with a little more sense than the dear old dodderer.

L4: Let us warn off LW4 from her natural officiousness with two words: Mrs Elton. That should say it all.

Moral: "Emma was obliged to fancy what she liked; but she could never believe that in the same situation she should not have discovered the truth."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2/14 - Tribute to AVB

My apologies for having gone missing. It was just a matter of finding the Prudecutor too tedious to address. But today I thought of paying tribute to the recently deceased Dear Abby by providing three-word responses in the spirit of her famous reply to a San Francisco couple who didn't like the proto-LGBT goings-on around them and asked how they could improve the neighbourhood, "You could move."

LW4 broke into a cheating ex-girlfriend's house to retrieve an item belonging to her (well, LW4 never specifically presented as male, and it's more fun this way, especially given the date), stealing another item of value that turned out to belong to CX4's roommate. A follower of Dr Barreca, LW4 proudly spread the tale far and wide among her acquaintance as an example of successful revenge. But now she has reunited with CX4, the woman who drove her to alcoholism once already, and fears the story will reach XCX4's ears. She asks, "What should I do?"

Assume she suspected.

LW3 is in the health industry. His boyfriend has Unhealthy Habits - neglected teeth, sugar overconsumption, weight gain. LW3 claims that these things are very important to him, despite the fact that a time frame of at least a year has elapsed during which which LW4 apparently has declined to address the issue. He asks, "Is this worth ending a relationship over?"

Now you're asking?

LW2 has just one seemingly small problem. His otherwise amazing boyfriend, although providing LW2 with a sex life of sufficient variety and interest to render it unnecessary to consult Mr Savage, is unusually opposed to any sign of affection outside of the bedroom. This restricts LW2's desires for gestures that, to be fair and accurate, fall far short of the PDA level. He asks, "Am I insane for letting this bother me in an otherwise perfect relationship or does it signify a serious intimacy issue?"

It's just you.

LW1 has convinced me to break my rule for the day and gender her as female, as even the most gender-neutral bisexual person of my acquaintance would find BF1's conduct a bit of a stretch if the paramours involved were of differing genders. But, anyway. LW1 has excellent taste in authors, but has carried it a little too far. She has chosen for her model on how to conduct personal relationships that most dogged of investigators, She Who Must Be Obeyed. In a round of cross-examination that proves her qualified to practise at the Old Bailey, LW1 got BF1 to commit to a lie in his testimony only to uncover his perjury, thanks no doubt to the engagement of Ferdinand Isaac Gerald (or Ian Gilmour in later works) Newton, known as "Fig" in the trade, and flourish her proof of his perfidy in open Court. The prisoner at the Bar was sentenced to relinquish his social media passwords, and has lived under LW1's watchful eye ever since. After LW1, again taking She Who Must for her model, managed to convince BF1 that the two of them were somehow engaged (I only hope for his sake that LW1's father was at least the head of his Chambers and able to offer him accommodation), LW1 then deicded to look through F1's emails from before their meeting. (I could have warned her that this was about as wise as asking a client on trial for murder if s/he'd actually done the deed; an affirmative answer greatly restricts one's course of action in the case, as it is then imperative to plead guilty.) Her perusal of his old emails has landed her with the knowledge that F1 has not altered any of the loving terminology he used in a previous romance. LW1 now feels rather less special. She asks, "Am I just a replacement for an old flame he can't forget?"

Let's hope so.