Greetings to all the QCs yet again. This week's alternate title just springs from a remark I made at the Fray, and is in no way intended as any sort of commentary on Ms Plays Well. Now to work.
L1: Now, I must confess that I cannot imagine myself in the position of Mrs A. I doubt I'd ever be competent to care for anyone in such condition as her husband. Instinctively, thinking as a potential patient, I certainly would not want my loved one to become a worn-down and embittered shell of himself due to the demands of devoting himself to my care. We don't have to look too far back - LW3 from the previous week might well serve. But then reasonable doubt will creep in as I wonder how much of this is pride, and then hear the stories of people who gave up their lives to care for someone and describe the experience as being incredibly full of grace, and wonder if Billie Jean King's motto that Pressure Is A Privilege might apply, and it makes me all the more glad both that my body is bound to deteriorate much faster than my mind and that I have retired from Romance.
I have the tiniest hint of what Mrs A's life is like at the moment through running a weekly bridge game for residents of a nursing home. The player who has the most trouble simply following the rules of the game was a regular player in my club for twenty years, and still played as recently as 2006. She's nowhere near as far gone as Mr A, though apparently headed in that direction, and two hours a week are enough to drain most of my energy.
I shall not urge Mrs A in either direction. Only she knows what she needs to know to make that decision. And cross-examination seems too indelicate. But Mrs A is not LW1. Why is it LW1 and not Mrs A writing in for advice?
Several Fray posters have remarked on this and speculated that the okay from DP would hardly be the sort of thing they could wave in front of a disapproving family or community as if it were Charlie's Golden Ticket to Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. (Not that LW1 doesn't remind me a little of Veruca Salt...) One poster at least has suggested that LW1 isn't Mrs A because Mrs A herself might be reluctant and he's hoping the DP Seal of Approval will provide him with the key to the Lead Casket. Well, I added the latter part myself, but that was the poster's general idea. And I rather think I'd enjoy cross-examining him along such a line.
People familiar with Mr Mortimer's authorial efforts will perhaps recall an Alzheimer's case when the disease claimed one of the few judges with whom Rumpole shared a friendship. The judge's doctor was well-known for advocating euthenasia, but she claimed that his case had not yet reached that point when he died and she was tried for his murder. If I were to make this letter into a similar story, the husband would die. Mrs A would be arrested and tried for his murder. LW1 would get a brilliant defender, who would discover evidence against a doctor or another family member. At the trial, the prosecution would succeed in proving that the evidence had been faked, and LW1 would break down on the stand and be revealed as the murderer. But, interestingly enough, I have a more apt analogy coming in a bit. Wait for it.
The reason for my inclination to cast LW1 in the role of murderer may not be too hard to discern through a reasoably careful perusal of the letter. He mentions that there was no sex involved when they were teen sweethearts (seemingly gratuitous). Then there comes the reunion and their deep love. This is followed by Mr A's sexual inadequacies even before the disease, which has, of course, resulted in Mrs A having been deprived of sex for many years. Then we have her strong sex drive. Fortunately, they are principled people, and then we have the remarkable conclusion: "We are not intimate now but want to know, is it permissible for a woman to indulge her sexual needs with a man she loves since she cannot get that satisfaction within the confines of her marriage?" He doesn't change the subject to "I want to know," and once again we have her sexual needs and her lack of satisfaction within the marriage. I shall return to one more point presently.
I like SB1's Truth Serum version of L1 very much. It captures the spirit of L1 very well as one reviews the letter. They didn't boink the first time around because Good Girls Didn't or for some other reason. But it appears that he has done very little over the forty or fifty years since except to regret their not boinking. I shall not judge Mrs A for whatever intimate details she may have revealed (LW1 may well have cross-examined most of them out of her), but I note that he has nothing to say in praise of her character, being too lost in lust and overpowered by the desire of decades.
With all due respect, I challenge the statement that they love each other deeply. Perhaps she does love him deeply, but he gives no indication of such capacity. For another minor referral, I turn to *In This House of Brede*. Barbara Colquhoun, Sister Julian, is nearing her Final Profession when her brother, who has joined a missionary order, gives the community a talk which impresses many of the younger nuns. One of them asks at recreation, "Wasn't it *deeply* interesting?" and receives the reply, "No. He is not a deep young man." LW1 is someone who looks at Sophia Loren or Tina Turner and wants to boink because visually she's as hot as she was before, not someone who looks at Geraldine McEwan or Joan Hickson and sees with his heart that inside the woman there still lives the sweet girl who was the world to him and whom Time has not made less dear.
(As that was perhaps a fair piece of rhetoric, I shall acknowledge that there is a chance LW1 may have carried a torch for her all these years and might be pounding home the sexual aspect of the attraction in an attempt to downplay what he may perceive to be his improper emotions for her. It's worth a question or two in cross-examination, but I feel inclined to stand by the earlier sentence.)
But now we come to their actual situation. I don't criticize Mrs A, but I am concerned, if she does anything, about whether LW1 is the right partner, both for her sake and for his. For her sake, I could see it working out terribly. What if one night of boinking proves to be enough to quench his burning desire, and he waves goodbye just as he's finally helped her to own and reactivate her sexual self? I don't really think that will happen, as he seems to realize he's on to a Good Thing in the form of a Regular Source of Nookie, but if she's not very good in bed, who knows? But I wonder a bit more seriously about whether an old flame is the best sort of person for it. I'd be content to abide by Mrs A's judgment, though I note that an affair can give energy with which to deal with a tragic situation or it can drain energy, and an affair with LW1 could well turn into one of the latter sort.
Even if LW1 sticks around and carries on with the affair to Mrs A's benefit, the effect on him may be more than what he bargains for. If by chance he genuinely loves her more than he appears to do, how long will he be able to put up with being just the tool with which she satisfies her sexual desires? When the thrill of Regular Nookie wears off, if he feels bound to keep the affair going , he's likely to grow selfish, want more of her time, wish her husband out of the way, perhaps try to push her into divorce, or...
But now, rather late in the day, I finally come to my main comparison for LW1. It was rather entertaining that Mr Paris mentioned Dan Savage in the first post of the day, and a person's right to sex outside of marriage when it became impossible inside. I thought of Mr Savage in quite a different context.
Any regular follower of Savage Love has probably come across one of his most passionately held principles concerning Bisexual Men. With all the difficulties they face when they date gay men, such as finding on occasion that their partners might not believe in true bisexuality, or objections they perceive to be unreasonable when they dump their male partners for women, they are presented by Mr Savage with advice that they should date Other Bisexual Men and leave the Kinsey Sixes to each other. Now, while I am not entirely convinced that B and G don't or shouldn't mix, I think the idea that Mrs A is so particularly situated that the best companion for her is someone similarly circumstanced might have some merit. I'd like to see Mrs A in a support group for Alzheimer's Spouses and taking up, if she feels so inclined, with someone caring for an ailing wife. If LW1 really loves her, let him assist her in caring for her husband - but I shall not hold my breath waiting for that to happen.
I shall conclude this ridiculously overlong portion of post by saying that I'd rather like to kick LW1. Not that there's anything wrong with having a strong sex drive at his age, but to be so completely obsessed by how much he wants to boink Mrs A that he can't even provide a single compliment on her character - well, really!
L2: I am going to presume that LW2 is of legal age, because that means that I get to slap him for talking about a GIRL and not a WOMAN (pet peeve). But I would not do so very hard, as I rather like this sort of situation.
Serious people won't agree with me, I'm sure, but my memory is immediately drawn to *A Murder Is Announced,* in which witnesses to a shooting are arranged for through the expedient of advertising (and inviting friends to) a murder in the local newspaper. I'd be strongly tempted to advise LW2 not to send a real Valentine but a sort of pre-Valentine, accompanied by the suggestion that, if she's intrigued and would like the real Valentine, they correspond through a local Personals column. They could make quite a nice little game of it, and put a little money into the coffers of a dying institution in the process. Now there's a nice air of old-fashioned romance...
L3: Does LW3 never watch A&E, USA or TNT? Let us list: CSI Miami; Criminal Minds; Cold Case Files; The First 48; NCIS; Bones; the whole Law & Order franchise; there are other programs that probably rotate in and out. That was just from a quick scan of the weekly television section of my local newspaper. I don't actually watch much crime television, just keeping up with Criminal Minds because I liked Thomas Gibson in *Love and Human Remains*. But as long as I'm on a television jaunt, I have occasionally seen an episode of something called Parental Control, in which parents who dislike their child's significant other set their little darling up on two blind dates and watch the dates with the SO. The child then chooses which of the three (s)he will keep seeing. This is completly unserious, but we could devise a twisted version of the programme for Alice and her ilk. (A bit lame, perhaps, but I've been at this for several hours now.)
L4: Now we get to the rich fodder for cross-examination. Due to exhaustion, I shall not spend much time trying to re-word my posts in the day's early threads:
One thing I'd want to establish early on is exactly what sort of nonmonogamy we have in operation. Is he the only one sleeping with others? One might guess so as being true at present, even if she also indulged in nonmonogamous conduct earlier on. It would be helpful to get a general idea of the rough proportions of their conduct - about how many outside encounters to inside and his to hers, and how she felt about it all. It helps to know whether we're dealing with both of them going out for a pickup after several weeks of exclusivity or his having five outside boinks between his encounters with her while she sits in her room trying to feel GGG, or somewhere in between.
It's reminding me of *Torch Song Trilogy*. In the first act, Arnold hasn't heard from Ed for a while and goes over only to find Ed preparing for his dinner with Laurel. "If I have to accept that you're seeing other people, then you have to accept that I'm not!" Then in the second act, when Ed and Laurel are married and hosting Arnold and Alan, Ed and Alan get frisky in the hayloft and Laurel accidentally spills the beans to Arnold later over the telephone, during their fight about it, Arnold tells Alan that he agreed they could see other people, "Because I wanted you to feel that you could!" "No, because you wanted me to feel that you could."
I suppose we can safely agree that the majority of heterosexual relationships in which one partner takes advantage of sexual license and the other does not are an M doing multiple Fs, and that women are more likely than men to agree to nonmonogamy in order to keep a partner, but it's a bit of a jump from that to assume that any woman in such a relationship is really and has always been crying out on the inside, desperate for monogamy.
the first sentence that stands out for me in L4 is, "Lately I've started to feel that I don't want to continue nonmonogamy." Whatever sentiment one may think she's really expressing, she is hardly taking bold and declarative ownership of it. Ms Messy would certainly express herself rather more forcefully, would she not? I am reminded of the writer Grace Lichtenstein in her book *A Long Way, Baby* which she wrote after attending women's tennis tournaments in 1973. At the U.S. Open, she was struck by something Margaret Court said in an interview after she'd defeated Chris Evert in one semifinal. Asked about her opponent in the final, Evonne Goolagong, Margaret replied, "She's a beautiful mover, isn't she?" It occurred to Ms Lichtenstein that, had Billie Jean King been in Margaret's place, she would have made it perfectly clear that she was going to beat the living daylights out of Evonne. Margaret fully intended to do the same, but she had a classy way of not putting it in those terms.
LW4 then resorts to more distancing qualifiers before mentioning changing their sexual lifestyle, his presumptive non-agreement (interesting to cross-examine on exactly how flimsily or thoroughly she'd really tested the waters) and then how "horribly guilty" she'd feel for "making him do so". MAKING? She'd have that power? That's a bit of a jump from just Starting the Conversation, especially when she seems so terrified of doing so. HORRIBLY guilty? That may be the strongest statement she makes in the entire letter.
I raise an eyebrow at her thinking it's irrational of her to feel that she wants the relationship to evolve into monogamy, but my guess is that it comes perhaps from her being a convert to Savagism and a little overinterpretation of the scriptures leading to a mild overdose of GGG.
It does seem that she wants monogamy, but she doesn't want him to be monogamous "for her" because she wants no more ownership of this decision than she does of any of the sentiments that she picks up only with ten-foot-long tongs. Of course, it is possible that I may still be getting vibrations a few weeks old from Ms He-Never-Buys-Me-Flowers.
I do apologize, but I am going to have to cut this one short at this point; I have been going on for ages. My apologies for the incomplete bit at the end.