This week, I find myself still somewhat depressed after a quick read through Andre Agassi's "Open," which was certainly frank but not terribly edifying. It depressed me to see how much he disliked the vast majority of the other players (without much cause beyond finding Michael Chang's propensity to credit God for his victories offensive); he was neutral about Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg, positive only about Patrick Rafter, and negative about basically everyone else, though he did come to terms with Pete Sampras and John McEnroe. It was also a little disappointing not to get his perspective on the Graf-Hingis 1999 French Open final, as that was more or less when he and Stefanie finally got together. Still, as he does seem to be under a good influence, perhaps he will turn out better in time.
Moving on to this week's DP, it does not strike me as incredibly inspiring. Maybe it's the enforced Mommy Theme, as the letters themselves don't seem too much below par if at all.
L1: Decent fodder here, without even inquiring into the details that might be of most interest to the majority of male posters. It ought to be easy enough to determine that this all occurred before LW1's existence. What interests me most is the mother's parenting style. As LW1 does not mention anything specific that strikes her as peculiarly surprising about the news given her upbringing, I might start the line of questioning along the assumption that Mumsy didn't jump right onto the Virginity-Or-Else Train. Reluctantly, I shall also state that there probably wasn't any coo-coo-ca-chew going on either with LW1's friends during the Mary Kay LeTourneau years or since. Does LW1 think that might be just the flimsiest possibility? Perhaps, but I have no strong interest in this particular Pandora's Box.
I do see a few traps here. The first is in assuming that they were actually really great parents in the first place. If we can assume LW1 isn't outright lying, then they were probably popular parents and she was the Most Popular Mom, but just because LW1 thought (s)he had parents that were just about perfect doesn't mean they'd score so high on an objective scale. My So-Called Life gives us a glowing example of how the teenage fantasy of the Perfect Parent can fail to measure up to the ideal. Another trap is for posters who might be inclined to smack LW1 around with the intent to invalidate what (s)he is feeling. While one might be inclined to find it a bit odd that someone would still be having difficulty processing such news almost a year after the disclosure, people have their own timetables, and putting on the You're So Wonderful mask DP suggests just glosses over that LW1 isn't quite where (s)he wants to be yet. Planning a bit of time apart for the summer seems in order. Not that I don't think LW1 deserves to be smacked around a little, just not for the reason that may seem the most likely. I am getting a very faint read that LW1 has assumed an air of undeserved moral superiourity for having such wonderful parents, perhaps not because of having been raised that way. That might be able to take some adjusting. The end goal, perhaps, might be for LW1 and Mumsy to be able to accept it being okay for them to have differing views of the past while still being able to keep it in the past.
It's interesting to reach for an Austenian parallel, as obviously we cannot find an exact parallel. I suppose Mrs Bennet or Lady Susan might not have objected to the conduct of the secret past, though neither was a popular mother. Mrs Dashwood would be the best parallel to the mother whose house was always where all the kids were, but she isn't the sort to have had a real past. I shall go with a non-mother here, Mrs Croft, who would have been the most popular mother around had she had children, and who, having at least married the future Admiral after an acquaintance of a duration she would just as soon not mention, comes as close to having a chequered past as any of Miss Austen's admirable females of middle age.
Moral: This letter will be nothing to the one that will be written after LW1's intended happens to learn Mumsy's Little Secret.
L2: As this letter deals mainly with logistics, I have little to say. It might be entertaining watching LW2 and Mumsy each determined to say and do what the other secretly wants her to say and do while never having an adult conversation about it, but not for more than five minutes or so. How unfortunate that this situation will be permanent.
The Austenian parallel is again not the easiest. Lady Elliot, Mrs Woodhouse and Mrs Tilney have already died. Only Mrs Churchill both thinks herself ill and is really ill, although her using her health as an excuse to her own advantage backfires on her. The mother and daughter who seem best suited to each being more determined than the other to bend over backwards are Mrs Dashwood and Marianne. It's almost a common theme for them. Marianne is only convinced by Elinor to refuse Willoughby's gift of a horse because clearly Mrs Dashwood would never admit to being unable to afford to keep it. And Mrs Dashwood in her turn is only too eager for Elinor and Marianne to accept Mrs Jenning's invitation to accompany her for a short season in London.
Moral: Happily, this sort of situation does not always turn on the unfortunate circumstance of ill health.
L3: The overwhelmed and dependent mother seems to be largely Mrs Bennet (despite her indefatigable efforts to get her daughters well married) with little bits of Mrs Price, who was completely unable to cope with the demands of a large family and a small income. The sisters are a little tougher. Anne Elliot might serve as a model for LW3's sister, but neither Elizabeth nor Mary would feel guilty about a falling-out. Emma Woodhouse might lose her patience in the way LW3 has done, only not with her father. The closest it might be possible to get to a parallel would be to take Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth might just possibly become fed up with their mother at some point, though she probably would never allow herself to give rein to her exasperation, and she certainly would not fall out with Jane about it, although they would have different opinions about the situation.
LW3 and perhaps her sister as well might do well to take Jane and Elizabeth as models. Although Jane consistently thinks rather better of people than Elizabeth does, they manage to maintain their affection for each other in the most perfect repair. I might also question LW3 along the line of whether what she really wants isn't to get out of the rent agreement without sacrificing her sisterly relationship. That probably isn't possible, and I'm not sure whether LW3 is willing to give up enough of her resentment for a happy ending.
Moral: It seems quite possible that LW3 isn't female, but these sorts of situations just play out so much more satisfactorily among sisters.
L4: One thing on which I am willing to take a little guess is that LW4 was presumable not among the intelligentsia when she was in school if she rallied against popularity instead of railing against it. But enough snarking. I find it very interesting that I am getting a strong feeling that LW4's having popular daughters seems a peculiarly apt punishment for her. She comes across as one of those Intense Social Worker types who have the unfortunate knack of alienating people who agree with them. "There are students who are picked on at their school," may just be awkward phrasing but comes across as if LW4 finds this a unique phenomenon. And the idea that her daughters might actually go through a rebellious phase seems to be the sort of thing she thinks she can eradicate if she raises them properly, so that, even if she suppresses it at present, it might be worse when it occurs. Think of Liz Probert, daughter of well-known Labour leader Red Ron, going to University and joining the - gasp - Conservative Association!
The daughters remind me of Maria and Julia Bertram. "Their vanity was in such good repair that they seemed quite free of it," or something along that line ran the description of them. LW4 herself seems more like their aunt, Mrs Norris, than their mother. And this leads me to my line of questioning. I cannot shake the suspicion that LW4, for all her wanting her daughters to have empathy and to stand up for the underdog, has been raising them to do so in that Intensely Earnest sort of way that makes it only too painfully clear to the underdogs for whom they stand up that they *are* Underdogs. It's all well and good to stand up for people, but how many have they actually befriended? And if the girls have befriended some underdogs, have they treated them the way Emma Woodhouse treated Harriet Smith or Miss Bates? For all her "rallying," I am not entirely sure that LW4 is clear on the concept, and therfore how far can we trust the principles she has instilled into her daughters?
Some posters see potential Carrie moments in the offing, which is certainly likely enough to explain the behaviour of those who rejected the however-sincere-it-was gesture from LW4's daughter. But there seems to be a little too strong a desire to contrast the Mean Girl popular faction against those Little Angels who Genuinely Like Everybody, who are occasionally instanced as the pinnacle of personality perfection. Too much like Mr Weston for my taste, though. The affections of someone who likes everyone can't really be the highest distinction in the calendar.
Moral: Had LW4 read her daughters two pages of Miss Austen's every night before they went to sleep, she might not have had this problem.