Thursday, July 22, 2010

7/22 - Of Croquet, Etc.

Ernie Els must be feeling like Alydar. A couple of weeks ago, that young woman who, as a young South African golfer, had been helped by the Ernie Els Foundation, led the U.S. Women's Open for much of the first round. And that just set the table for the picture-perfect blend of sport and politics at the British Open. What better way to mark Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday than with the victory stroll over the last six holes of the world's most international golf tournament for the Afrikaans-speaking pair of white Louis Oosthuizen (another EEF beneficiary) and his black caddie? Of the commentariat, Tom Watson seemed the most pleased to retract his Saturday morning prediction that the lead would come back from -12.

When a tribute to Mr Mandela turned out to be the first part of Oosthuizen's victory speech, it reminded me a little of Michael Chang winning the French Open in 1989. Chang handled the moment a bit more controversially, declaring his thought that God had wanted him to win the tournament as a sort of counter to the sad news coming out of China. Andre Agassi was perhaps the most prominent among those who never really forgave Chang for claiming divine favour. Serena Williams, the most frequent (far more often than Venus) God-thanker at present, seems to have learned from this, for it's one of the few things she does without raising controversy. And we have recently learned from a little-publicized Q&A after Wimbledon, about which I only learned because of a letter someone sent asking how appropriate it was to ask the question simply on the basis of his never crossing himself as many players of Spanish or Italian heritage do, that Rafael Nadal is apparently agnostic; his uncle Toni is on record as a confirmed atheist.

Mentioning Agassi reminds me that for some weeks now I have had it in the back of my mind to recommend Agassi's autobiography *Open* to those who would enjoy it. Although I merely zipped through the book in a couple of hours at the library, I can report that it ought to appeal to those who like the sort of memoirs in which the author makes no attempt to sugar-coat his opinions of his contemporaries. Out of everything Agassi wrote about fellow players, the only one about whom he said anything personally nice was Patrick Rafter. He more or less made an uneasy peace with Pete Sampras, had appropriate admiration for the skills of Roger Federer and at least managed not to write anything negative about Rafael Nadal, Goran Ivanisevic, Stefan Edberg or Bjorn Borg. But those with an appetite for snark will be amply rewarded in his commentary on Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors, among others.

But now we leave tennis for croquet. I am sure that astute readers, recalling this week's group of letters (on the whole, extremely feeble) will have guessed where I am going with croquet - all the way to the wonderful world of *Heathers*, of course. However, as these letters seem quite feeble, I shall not be wasting much cross-examination on them. I shall refer participants to various others in our little community.

L1: Very weird timeline here - married a month sandwiching his being laid off and having had time to develop into a nagger and verbal abuser? LW1 has apparently married Heather Chandler, who meets adversity by being as abusive of the position of Top Heather as possible. Why? As Heather says when she hits Heather's ball for the second turn running - why not?

LW1's husband should be locked in a room with Ms messy, who before she leaves will ensure that he has a thorough understand of exactly how he makes LW1 feel. LW1 herself should be locked in a room with the Submariner, who will imbue her with all the fortification required to make a suitable exit.

Moral: "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?"

L2: LW2 is Heather McNamara, who does yield to the temptation to attempt her life but is stopped almost at once and seems to turn out more or less all right. But the whole thing leaves me wondering why on earth a suicide attempt is something that absolutely has to be disclosed. Not that I could imagine being close enough to someone to become engaged without there at least having been some opening for, if not actual disclosure, then at least for learning each other's attitudes about the subject.

Suicide is usually selfish and silly, but why so many people are reacting as if an attempt is shameful is a bit much for me. I should like to cross-examine the Prudecutor. Why so much praise for LW2's "inspiring" story? What on earth is so ridiculously admirable about being "life-embracing"? It may make for a pleasant quality in someone, but what has LW2 done other than catch a lucky break, put in a bit of work and grow up? Good for her, but inspiring is a bit much. Exactly how shameful does the Prudecutor think a suicide attempt is, anyway? Anyone would think that, as Antony Blanche would have put it, a suicide would have tortured the Prudecutor, stolen her patrimony, flung her out of doors, roasted, stuffed and eaten her children, and gone frolicking about wreathed in all the flowers of Sodom and Gomorrah.

As is often the case (a further example called to mind is that of Andrew McWhirter in *Towards Zero*) the attempt seems to have put LW2 off the idea of suicide. If anything, she might be considered less likely to make a future attempt than she would have been had the past attempt never been made. The Must-Disclose crowd would hardly, one suspect, deem it Necessary to disclose past Suicidal Thoughts, yet would require LW2 to make a Shameful Confession despite being quite possibly less at risk than she would have been without having done what she ought to be (so Shamefully) confessing.

Was there not a thread some time back about whether a past abortion constituted Required Disclosure? That would seem rather more likely a starter, aside from the moral or religious connotations, because it could well have resulted in conditions that would have an effect on a future pregnancy. Or there was the sperm donor whose DNA has successfully been passed on to a future generation, a member of which might pop up some time in the future, even if that would require some alteration in law. There are probably many things that would make far more difference to life. Not that I'd tell anyone not to disclose, or to respond to a direct question with the reply, "None of your business," or to marry someone from whom it seemed imperative to keep a past attempt a secret - it just doesn't seem the sort of thing that, were I Pope, would strike me as grounds to annul.

I think the fiance should be locked in a room with Dr Susan, who has expressed considerable openness to it not hurting just to ask a question, or even to the reasonableness of one lover being able to express to another grounds for improvement. Dr Susan would do admirably for putting the fiance into a frame of mind that would make him receptive to the Shameful Disclosure and find him disinclined to revise his opinion of her in an unfavourable direction. Going the other way, I would lock LW2 herself in a room with any one of a number of male posters who might be considered generally irritating and might even possibly intend to be taken that way. There is one who boasts of being a once-in-a-generation genius who has been a source of infinite revenue to his grateful employer - Mr Help, if memory serves. If LW2 can survive being locked up in a room with him, then she is clearly at no risk related to suicide, and may opt not to disclose with a perfectly clear conscience.

Moral: "Suicide is a private thing..." "If you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn't be a human being; you'd be a game show host."

L3: I don't care for this much, as LW3 is another one of those who tempts me to bring out the M word, and yet she gets the plum assignment of being Veronica, who tells J.D. very early on that she doesn't like her friends, but that it's as if they work together and their job is being popular and stuff. The problem is just too ridiculous for comment. It is a bit unlucky that LW3's boss is part of the problem (rather in imitation of Heather Chandler).

I shall depart from formula in selecting for this job someone who has not (to my knowledge) ever written a word I've read, although we know a good deal of this person's views. I shall also decline to have anyone locked in a room this time. Instead, the office should be paid a visit. And for this visit I can think of noone better than Mr Messy, if I may so call that new U.S. citizen. (I submitted a post of congratulations on their accomplishment to Ms Messy's page last week, but, as has happened to at least half my posts there, it was swallowed up into the great beyond.) Who better to resolve all corporate conflict and turn them all into productive and happy worker bees?

Moral: "Got what I wanted? It is one thing to want somebody out of your life; it is another thing to serve them a wake-up cup full of Liquid Drano."

L4: This week just seems to keep going from bad to worse, doesn't it? LW4 and her friend seem to be in a competition to see which of the two of them can do the best impersonation of that Supreme Wannabe-turned-Queen, Heather Duke. She placates and lives in mortal fear of Heather Chandler, only to snatch the first opportunity that presents itself to replace her. If form holds true, LW4's friend ought to have some environmentally disastrous indulgence that would be a worthy equivalent to Heather Duke's cover-up of her childhood friendship with Martha Dunstock/Dumptruck.

LW4 and her friend should be locked in, if not a room, then perhaps a pool, with Ms Mermaid, who can teach them both everything they will ever need to know about proper care of the environment and a few things they seem to have forgotten or never learned about the proper care and feeding of friendship (as well as its purpose).

Moral: "I prayed for the death of Heather Chandler many times and I felt bad every time I did it, but I kept doing it anyway. Now I know you understood everything. Praise Jesus - Alleluia!"


  1. I got very excited when I read the title for this week's blog. You see, croquet is my fourth favorite sport, right after swimming, swimming, and rodeo, and I don't mind telling you I'm a bit of a ringer at it. We had a course out on the side yard all while I was growing up, pulled up and relaid dutifully each Sunday by yours truly, after my dad had mowed the lawn.

    Mermaid thanks you for the kind reference regarding L#4, and wonders if you would trust her ability to handle a weightier issue? L#2 ~ Suicidal thoughts are one matter, but an attempt is quite another. For what is a suicide attempt but attempted murder? It matters little to me that the intended victim is one's own self, what matters to me is that a pretty big line was crossed in the LW's mind at one point, and her betrothed deserves to know that.

    As for grounds for anullment, I suppose the argument could be made that failure to disclose a known hereditary condition (depression) prior to marriage would be considered fraud, especially if discovery of that said condition caused the husband to hesitate having children with the LW. To some people, this might be a mitigating factor.

    Hope you're well on the mend, dear friend. And ~ I call dibbies on the green mallet ~ IN PERPETUITY. ha! :)

  2. Well, I did hope to get across that it's extremely difficult to conceive of being about to marry someone with whom it would either not have come up already or whom one might be uneasy about telling - truly bizarre to my little mind. But it bothered me to the extreme to see the way commenters in general are treating the attempt as if it were something so shameful and a Massive Permanent Blot on LW2's character. This made me quite angry.

    I could be wrong, but I'm not convinced that attempted suicide is necessarily a sign of depression. Perhaps you go a bit too far calling it attempted murder. I know attempted murder. Attempted murder is reparative therapy without the consent of the victim, or, as some called me, the patient. As I said, "I won't live like this," is usually selfish and often silly and/or stupid - but it's miles away from, "X doesn't deserve to live." I am perfectly content to own my attempt, except that I had such romanticized ideas about it that it never occurred to me to make sure what I took would be lethal so that it makes me feel rather foolish, but, while I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm proud of it, I think it was the right decision, given the alternative that presented itself of living as a reparatized zombie, mainly because I am convinced it was the failure of the attempt seeming to be some sort of sign that gave me the fortitude to beat the disgusting therapy at all. It was the only thing that got me through it. I hadn't died, and therefore I just knew that the dreaded life of a living corpse that was nearly enforced upon me would not be my fate. And that belief was all I had. I beat the therapy, and I'm reasonably proud of that, because so many don't.

    As for the green mallet, you are welcome to it, but I play British croquet as in one post, six wickets, blue and red against black and yellow - I don't even have a green mallet.

  3. OMG, "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?"
    May I use it occasionally?

  4. "...but why so many people are reacting as if an attempt is shameful is a bit much for me..."

    Ahoy and greetings, hrumpole! I will admit that I haven't read much of what's been posted on The Fray or here at The Fly over the last few weeks. Preparation for, execution of, and recovery from my trip to the Father Land has taken a lot more out of me than I care to admit. I will say that we felt compelled to work 12-15 hour days while there in order to take full advantage of the face-to-face time, but, the effort has left me wearier than I thought it would. Seems I don't travel as well as I once did. Age, I suppose. :-(

    That said, I am hard pressed to think that too many worthwhile posters would find a suicide attempt to be "shameful". An item of significance and worthy of discussion prior to marriage? Yes. Shameful? I hope not. Now, please don't take that to mean that I am challenging your perception of the tone taken by other posters toward this letter. It's just that equating suicide with shame is not something that I've observed in discussions of past letters, so I'm surprised to hear that it might be being discussed in such a way regarding this one.

    Regarding this week’s entry, wonderful stuff, as always. You know, it's interesting to me how your posts stick with me. I often read them and don't know what to say other than some trite "Excellent post, hrumpole!" And I feel a bit like a git when I make such a statement, week after week. It's just that, there's always so much here, depth-wise, that it often takes me several days to fully digest. My mind works on your words over time and I often have little "ah-ha!" moments throughout the week regarding one or another of your observations. I don't say this to shine you on, but rather to explain that, while I read your column religiously, I sometimes fail to comment for fear of posting another of my lame huzahs.

  5. Ms Libby - Feel free to quote Heather Chandler as often as you wish. I was pleased to be able to find suitable quotations to match each character.

    Just out of curiosity, with which of the LWs do you think you'd be most effective locked in a room? I'm sure I'd be happy to expand my referrals.

  6. SB1, I hope I didn't come across as attemtping to stifle debate by playing the Personal Experience card. One does not have to have done it to have a valid viewpoint, and my great protege was able to remain so even after it came out that his sister had actually killed herself.

    I have picked up two distinct strains in the commentary - one, that it's just a neutral thing that most people seem to think a betrothed has a right to know, and even this strain I think is borderline. There seems to be an automatic assumption that a suicide attempt is always a symptom of a diagnosable mental diesease that might be hereditary, and I would call that Assuming Facts Not in Evidence. I could be wrong, but I definitely dispute that only the Mentally Ill try to kill themselves. I needn't address the second strain.

    I have, with a fair amount of deep thought required, finally gotten myself out of the automatic assumption that All Correct-Thinking People Have Considered Suicide. Once upon a time, if I'd learned that someone had never thought about killing himself, I'd have wondered to myself what was wrong with him. I'm not one to make the line between the thought and the act very huge, so basically I feel as if I'm just asking Non-Suicidals to pay me a reciprocal courtesy, though I can accept that the world in general sees it differently.

    I suppose you might counter by greatly expanding the definition of Mental Illness so that it's almost a case of, Here's Mine, What's yours? Then though it becomes as large and unwieldy as the definition of Sex Offender or Bisexual, and does that really help us?

  7. hrumpole, I'd probably be best for the cube dweller in helping them find the right path for them to tell people "GET BACK TO WORK, OR AT LEAST LET ME GET BACK TO MINE!!"

  8. There was a time, and I don't think we're so far removed from it, when suicide was considered a "shameful" thing. People couldn't be buried in church cemeteries; their siblings were no longer considered suitable prospective mates for people's offspring, and so forth. I have no problem grasping why someone wouldn't want to share such an experience with someone, any more than they might like to share with them that they were raped or had had an abortion. Many people consider these sorts of things to be indicative of either bad morals or bad genes of both, even if/when the person confessing such "sins" had no control over the event confessed.

  9. Great post Hrumpole!
    I too think that just about every human being has contemplated suicide at one point or another. It would seem that this would be something that people who are getting so intimately acquainted to comtemplate marriage would have talked about it, and that an actual attempt would spontaneously enter into the coversation. If not, there might be a lack of communication and communing that doesn't bode well....

    I too love croquet, unfortunately we have a woodsy and rocky yard, so we can't play it....

    Brain tumor for breakfast? Would you like it fried, broiled, boiled or steamed?