Thursday, April 8, 2010

4/8 - DP in a Cold Climate

Before taking off to the delights of Miss Mitford, this seems as good a time as any to take up a favourite question from Monday, the rather overlooked Washington, D.C., who only arranged for his mother to have lunch with the boyfriend's parents because he couldn't think of a good reason not to.

At first view, this almost reads like something that was probably an episode of *Dharma and Greg* or something similar with a few cosmetic changes. Does it matter that the parental situation will be 2-on-1? Reviewing the Austenian comparisons, although not always strictly parental, does not offer a lot of hope. Lady Catherine deBourgh is not impressed by the Bennets, while General Tilney doesn't exactly warm to the Morlands. Sir Walter Elliot does warm to Admiral Croft if not his wife, not so much because he conquers his prejudicial frame of mind as because it works on him in another way, when he decides that Captain Wentworth's superiour appearance is sufficient to offset Anne's superiour rank.

It would be instructive to cross-examine the questioner on how politically he meant the designations of conservative and liberal. It does seem increasingly likely in this age that people might well believe that the days in which folk were generally capable of mixing with those of vastly differing political stripes are vanishing into the past at an alarming pace. But this grouping doesn't give me the impression of Michelle Malkin vs Michael Moore. The boyfriend's parents, if anything, seem like Thurston Howell III and Lovey. Or perhaps, if it's socially conservative instead of economically conservative, Darcy's Christian parents meeting Peter's divorced(?) mother on *Degrassi*. It would also be useful to cross-examine the boyfriend. The question was noticeably (perhaps refreshingly) free from comment about the relationship, but it has endured a few years, which is mildly surprising given the questioner's seeming overreaction to the simple prospect of In-Laws Lunching.

The one thing we do know about the relationship is that he does not like the boyfriend's parents. It's possible the use of the C word and the L word has more personal than political meaning attached; there are gay people who automatically equate "Conservative" with "Wanting to Overturn Lawrence v Texas and Send Us All to Prison". But the real key to the question is his calling the boyfriend's parents *stiff* - a definite pejorative when used in place of something like "formal" and when not given any mitigating stamp of approval. I don't think I'd ask anything about it specifically, though, but would prefer to comment about the questioner's dislike of the In-Laws in a final statement.

As to what the questioner should do, the solution is easy. Don't just rely on speedy liquor orders; refer to Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas or Rumpole and the Old, Old Story and make sure that all three parents in question are sufficiently tanked up before they meet.

Now on to the Thursday questions and Miss Mitford:

L1: LW1 seems rather like Fanny, the narratrix, only without the close tie of friendship to the young woman In Pig (as Linda describes her first pregnancy). Both Linda and Polly might be a good tie to the roommate indulging in dangerous behaviour. Linda's first pregnancy just avoids disaster, and she is warned not to undergo another, although she does when she finds Mr Right on the third try. Polly, not satisfied with pressuring Boy Dugdale into marriage immediately on the occasion of his widowhood, losing the Montdore inheritance and not being able to afford to live in England, has to go and get pregnant after it's abundantly clear that her marriage isn't working. Fanny hovers without much effect, but at least with her own much superiour marriage and family for consolation. With Linda and Polly's baby both falling casualties, LW1 might be pleased not to have much invested in this situation.

As to what she should do, I have little to say. Being in no way, shape or form acquainted with the institution of pregnancy, I shall defer to those of personal experience. One can balance concern against a Nanny State with a Word to the Wise for the Inexperienced. I shall agree, though, with those who wonder why there has been no discussion of the Elephant in the Room - the Afterlife of the Pregnancy's Conclusion. The future mamma might feel as little concerned in the matter as she did in its origin, but the others might just dredge up the courage to consider the future. Disliking LW1, I waste no moral on her.

L2: I am so irritated by L2 that I feel the rare necessity to indulge in... salty language. Here we go. Why the SB1 do all the SB1 parents of every SB1 child in the SB1 school feel it to be so SB1 necessary to invite every last SB1 child in the SB1 class to every single SB1 birthday party?

This is ghastly. How on earth did this revolting habit ever spring up? Inviting the entire class or every member of the appropriate gender is a disastrous way to raise a child, particularly a girl. I hope LW2 and her husband pay for this through the nose when Constantina grows up to be a Grade A Bridezilla, requiring a wedding that runs into six figures. This is the natural consequence of raising a child to think that a crowd is appropriate and indeed required to celebrate an event so momentous as the anniversary of its birth.

The parallel in LiaCC is Lord Merlin, who dyes his doves pink and has a folly with an angel on top. Every evening at 9:20, it blows its horn to celebrate the hour of his birth, annoying those villagers who are just too late to catch the beginning of the news on the wireless.

There is quite decent cross-examination fodder here. So many posters seemed convinced that the invitations were handed out at school in front of the entire class that I had to refer to L2 to make sure that there was indeed no evidence of how the invitations were delivered. It would prove rather entertaining if the invitations had been mailed and Constantina's, lost in the post, were to arrive an hour after LW2 sent off her nasty email. Then, too, we have the suggestions that Morgana suppressed the invitation on her own initiative or that Constantina might have mislaid it, not realizing its significance. But why should LW2 bother herself with the ascertainment of facts that might interfere with her jolly good snit? It's likely justified to some extent, but I've little patience with those who want to indulge in confrontations that will let them feel better while making the situation worse for the child on whose behalf the confrontation is apparently initiated.

It would probably require rather better acting than LW2 could manage, but it might be possible to approach the situation presuming good will on the part of Morgana's parents, or at least pretending to do so. But no; it just doesn't convince me. The real problem with the situation is that almost any parental action from LW2 will seem hostile. The school might be able to do something, but one wonders, as the girls were all in the same class, how much the teacher knew about the other girls discussing the party and Constantina's exclusion therefrom. In many cases, official school policy is only as enforceable as the teacher in charge of the classroom. Is there anything else about Constantina that might induce people to set her apart in a not very good way? There might be something else about the unlucky little girl that just pushes her teacher's prejudices, especially if Constantina is not the easiest child to have in class.

Moral: One can overdose on Kumbayah.

L3: I rather dislike LW3 as well; her use of "shamefully" is quite enough cause on its own. It's too bad, as she raises a large number of potential comparisons. But what twaddle! It reminds me in part of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and in part of that pitiful literary exercise, the diary of Joan Plumleigh Bruce. Anyone who wants so little control over her own life is quite likely enough to get it.

Regarding LW3, she seems bound to set out on a course very similar to Linda's. She might have made a slightly better first marriage (and one of the few points on which one can give her any creidt is that she doesn't try either to justify her fantasy life with specious complaints or go into the standard blather about how she married Mr Wonderful-but-Unexciting) than Linda, but she can take warning from Fanny's summation after her second marriage that Linda had neither found great love nor inspired it in others, even though she did have better luck outside of marriage the third time around. Or LW3 can go that even better and take up a career similar to that of Fanny's mother, the Bolter, described as too beautiful and gay to be burdened with a child (and the drudgery of mundane daily trivia), who ends up running away from six husbands. LW3 seems so determined not to control her own life that she may be similarly blown about in the wind. Then too, we have such a variety of opinions offered - Lord Merlin's that "Love is for grown-up people," Lady Montdore's that "Whoever invented love ought to be shot," and the Bolter's, in response to Fanny's assertion at the end that Fabrice was the great love of Linda's life and she of his, "Oh, darling - one always thinks that - every, every time."

As tempting as it is to advise LW3 to take Lady Montdore as an example and transform herself completely into a frivolous Bright Not-So-Young Thing, I shall go a different route and advise her to feed her fantasies as much as she dares, letting her mind go farther and farther. It's probably the only way to get her to treat her husband halfway decently.

Moral: There's no motivator like guilt.

L4: I shall again not attempt commentary on specialized details. The pets in question seem to come with their own particularities. I am reminded of the young Radletts meeting in the linen cupboard, cavorting with mice and discussing the mating habits of ducks. That is really the best I can do.

Where the life of a pet is concerned, I don't care to be frivolous. Let LW4 present the truth and whatever facts are pertinent to help the imprisoned friend make an informed decision, see to it that an informed decision is made and carried out, and let the people involved shift for themselves.

Moral: Sometimes treating someone like an adult might just be enough to induce her to act like one.


  1. Greetings hrumpole! I was curious about many of the same concerns that you've listed regarding our Chat Room LW. What it boils down to, though (at least it seems, anyway), is what you very capably point out with several poignant examples: our LW doesn't like his in-laws. At all. I think it would serve him well to acknowledge that fact, embrace it, and deal with it on those terms rather than assigning surrogate symptoms (like the in-laws' conservativeness, etc.). Because the LW doesn't like the in-laws, I have a feeling that he doesn't want them around his mom. Who knows, though? They may all get along famously and even begin seeing one another out of the presense of the LW and his BF! Wouldn't *that* cause some issues! :-) Stranger things have happened.

    I'm not sure whether I should be honored or horrified by your choice of curse word placeholder! I'll choose ther former, however, as I'm certain that when you set about doing a thing, you do it in the most elegant way possible. ;-)

    Outstanding observations, as always. And the morals, one and all, are lovely and sharp and excellently pointed.


  2. Many thanks, SB1. Let's say that you have such a knack for selecting just the right word for that sort of occasion that I could think of noone better to fill that slot for insertion.

    I don't know whether to be amused or somewhat downhearted that the discussion turned into one of those massive WOs about what schools should, can and cannot do when clearly the bizarre practice of overlarge birthday parties for 7-year-olds is by far the greater threat to the stability of society as we know it. If one MUST have a discussion about schools' social policies, at least let it be about proms.

    Could we commission someone to compose a letter about a Prom Problem? It would be far more interesting than further tales of Wedding Woes.

    But back to the point, the funny thing about the ridiculously overlarge parties is that they can come from either end of the spectrum, as it were. It is either an insistence that, "You have to like EVERY other girl in your class, or at least be able to pretend you do convincingly," (which would really be rather creepy if it ever came about, noble as the idea might seem at first in the abstract) which was more or less my thought about overdosing on Kumbayah, or what one might call a variation on the Kennedy effect, instilling into a young child that she is so important that the milestones of her life must be absolutely fascinating and include as many of the hoi polloi as possible. She will grow up to be the bride in the letter from someone who received that STD card from someone whose acquaintance extended no farther than sharing elevator rides and mentioning the weather.

    I am very happy about the 4/15 DP, though, as I get to instance one of my favourite stories ever. I am not sure whether I shall be able to or whether it would even be wise to attempt to link all the letters to a common theme, but even I might run out of books if I had to do so every time.