Thursday, August 26, 2010

8/26 - The Misery Chick

My impression of Monday is that a number of people seemed to be ranting about the process of college admissions - one of the things that can make judging figure skating look sane, rational and objective. Inequities are inevitable, and the best one can do is try to learn from them and take reasonable steps to reduce them. I for one am not sure that the world would be a better place if all inequities in college admissions were suddenly eradicated - not that I can see that as at all possible.

The situation in general does remind me a little of figure skating. One of the major criteria for a jump being ratified as clean and scoring the full base value is the matter of rotation. A jump is ratified as fully rotated if the last revolution goes 3/4 of the final turn. And a lot of the people complaining make me think of a skater whose quadruple toe loop goes 3.88 revolutions complaining that someone whose jump went 3.82 revolutions (but likely had a cleaner landing edge and better runout) was given a higher score once the Grade of Execution adjustment was factored in.

I don't know how admissions people manage to stand it. Maybe it's one of those professions that attracts those with sadistic natures, like Mrs Boynton in *Appointment with Death* becoming a prison wardress because she had that sort of temperament rather than coming to act like a jailer because she'd been a wardress in a prison. Even if there's strict policy about how to weigh various factors, it's not as if there's a lot that can be proved in black and white. And how would one want to judge an outside factor such as an Olympic gold medal? (If anyone has heard the story, apparently it's quite true - Sarah Hughes went to an Ivy League school, where one of her professors commented that she seemed familiar and she replied, "I used to skate a bit.")

This week I shall make a brief beginning with *Daria*.

L1: I am tempted to recuse myself. It took my parents more than seven years to divorce after she broke a platter by smashing it on his head, but then they both gave each other ample grounds in numerous other respects along the way before and after that incident. In some respects, I think it's a technical question. People like Ms Mermaid will know the crustimony proseedcake (if one may be Milnian for a moment, although AAM did not make a favourable impression on Mrs Parker) for such a sad situation in the form of the Xs and Os of what LW1 might do the next time his wife hits him.

There is also the question of possible post-partum depression. What has made me wonder for the last hour or so is how great a difference that ought to make. It may make a difference to whether LW1 wants to continue in the marriage if the accurate assessment is that she hits when she wants to but she presumably only wants to hit because of a medical condition that will go away. If that is not the case, then one might want to get a lot of answers about her calm acceptance of the situation. Or then again, it might be irrelevant why she can be so calm about the whole thing. Is he willing to live with this sort of attitude, whether she thinks love only expresses itself through anger verbally and/or physically or whether she saw this sort of conduct every day for her first eighteen years or whether she just feels now that she owns him?

Whatever the specifics of the situation, LW1 is clearly on the Jake Morgendorfer track. He's lost his way while his wife seems firmly on the path she intends to follow. And by the time baby Daria is in high school, LW1 can just look at where Jake and Helen are to see how he's heading towards frustration at practically every turn while Helen, despite the occasionally honest longing to put the spice back in her marriage, basically has the life she wants.

And while it's not as though Helen doesn't come through on occasion, I'd still tell LW1 to end the marriage as soon as possible, with the possible exception of the trouble being comprehensively linked to a firm medical diagnosis that should result in effective treatment. I'd go a bit farther and even consider having the child raised by a different family member; it doesn't deserve this. Now that he's become the husband she wants and that he never wanted to be, it really seems all downhill for him from this point.

Moral: "You took my daughter's poster, altered its content, entered it without her permission, and now you're threatening disciplinary action because she defaced her own poster which you admit to stealing? Ms Li, are you familiar with the phrase, Violation of Civil Liberties? and the phrase, Big Fat Lawsuit?"

L2: What is it with these technical questions? At least it could be a good deal more technical than it is. We could be more mired down in a consideration of whether L2 can claim ownership of a particular diagnosis and the attendant treatment. Instead the question is divided between how to find out, whether to tell the parents and how to cope with the parents as well as the potential diagnosis.

As far as the parents are concerned, the most technical part of the question would seem to be whether or how LW2 might be able to get diagnosed without their finding out. It seems unlikely. One can go all the way back to *Up the Down Staircase* and the school nurse with her list of regulations about what she can't do, so that all she can do for Linda Rosen, who's been hit by her father and come to school with a bruise, is to give her a cup of tea. I shall leave it up to the Expert Witnesses what services might be available to LW2 if the parents prove impossible.

I can see a cross split into two parts - asking LW2 why the diagnosis is so important, and coping separately with the parents. LW2 does seem rather invested in having a specific condition. In a way, this makes sense, as it will lead to a particular course of treatment, but how will LW2 cope if the diagnosis doesn't oblige? Will it then be a case of, Oh, No, It's Really All My Own Fault? Or will LW2 be able to relax, erase the possibility of it all going away through however Asperger's is properly treated, and then do whatever might have to be done to make life better?

As for the parents, while it's easy to say LW2 might be Daria herself, I prefer to make a comparison for the parents to the Langdons, whose daughter Jody suffers from the stress of being The Perfect African-American Teenager, although she doesn't have any of Daria's social awkwardness. Her typical summer plans, despite her own inclination for a bit of leisure, include two internships, volunteering at a soup kitchen and golf lessons in her spare time because her parents are up for membership at a prestigious country club. Given the Asian stereotype of major emphasis on academic achievement (it would be interesting to know how the parents have reacted to LW2's math marks), there could be something there.

As for what LW2 ought to do, much depends on whether the diagnosis comes through as expected, and how tractable the parents are either way. Again, this one is more of a technical question than I really like.

Moral: "I don't have low self-esteem. I just have low esteem for everybody else."

L3: Now here we have a good one. There are many ways in which people divide the world into halves. Some use such all-important questions as, Jeannie or Samantha? or Mary Ann or Ginger? or perhaps Roger or Rafa? or Venus or Serena? While it might be possible to attempt to look at L3 as a case of someone who either Does or Doesn't Do Funerals, I shall go a bit beyond that. One is either a Family Person or not. Interestingly, the *Daria* first season finale was the Misery Chick episode, in which Daria was the only person at the high school not upset by the former football hero's sudden death just when they were going to name a goalpost after him.

We all know what Family People are like. They have 50 or 70 or 90 close relatives and claim to love each and every one of them dearly as an individual. One might question whether that is entirely a good thing, but I completely accept those who are sincere and respect any one person's right to be that way.

The difficulty with Family People at least from the outside is that Family Trumps All. One cannot really rely upon such a person unless one happens to be a member of the magic circle. The best example that springs to mind of the Family Person mindset might be a call made perhaps 8-10 years ago to the notorious Dr Schlessinger. (It might be interesting to cross-examine a good many of her callers about their selection of advisor, but then one can do much the same on occasion with the Prudecutor.) The caller in question had agreed to be a participant in the same-sex commitment ceremony of a pair of friends. Shortly after that, he'd been contacted by one of his siblings preparatory to planning their father's 75th birthday party. He'd asked that the party not conflict with the commitment ceremony. (As for background, I seem to recall that the siblings were not very nice about his lifestyle, that he just didn't discuss his personal life with his father, there was no medical urgency in the case, I think the number was 75th but at any rate it was the sort of number likely to generate extra fuss, the party might have been a surprise [which would rule out talking about it in advance to the guest of honour] and I cannot be completely certain whether it was made clear to the sibling that the previous commitment was "lifestyle-related".) Shortly afterwards, the sibling called back, and of course the party directly conflicted with the ceremony, as naturally there was no possible alternative to the date of the birthday party. It was definitely the sort of thing the siblings would have done deliberately.

Astute readers will not be stunned to discover that Dr S gave the caller a decided and emphatic answer. Although the caller had hoped that he could visit his father afterwards and take him to dinner, he got nowhere. His father would want him at the party, and he had a moral obligation to attend it. Not to do so would be breaking the Commandment about honouring thy father and thy mother (either the fourth or the fifth depending on which list one uses, if memory serves).

That is the Family Uber Alles mindset, although perhaps it is allowed to be applied somewhat less strictly. Another take on that sort of thinking would be to insist that a good parent always automatically would be obliged to attend every child's game or organized activity, or at least, in the case of conflicts, as much of each as would be humanly possible.

Now, to cope with LW3; is LW3 a Family Person or not? Now, there are, I suppose, Family People who for one reason or another Just Don't Do Funerals, but in general a family funeral trumps pretty much anything, and certainly a mere getaway. My guess is that LW3 might or might not claim to be, but has been more or less happy to take more credit than deserved along the way, and finally the chickens came home to roost with a vengeance given the double deaths. Perhaps LW3 has just been willing to go along with letting that Family Uber Alles creed be recited by various and sundry relations without challenge or correction; perhaps LW3 has voiced pretty-sounding sentiments that went a bit beyond the truth - at least when it came down to a real inconvenience.

I shall not quite rank LW3 with Sir Walter Elliot, who, after one or two very unreasonable applications, prided himself on remaining single for his daughters' sake and, for his eldest daughter would actually have sacrificed almost anything he had not been greatly tempted to do. But I shall rank LW3 with Sandy Griffin, President of the Fashion Club, whose fondness for Quinn quickly becomes quite competitive. While Sandy maintains a consistent disdain for such a display of geekdom as being able to answer a question on manifest destiny in history class, she can't resist the opportunity, when Stacy reveals a PSAT score of 940, Tiffany 902 and Quinn 955, to inflate her own 920 to 956.

As for what LW3 ought to do or have done, the funerals aren't especially relevant. There are those who just don't attend funerals, but LW3 has confessed to the clear intent to do so had it not been for the comflict with the vacation. An attempt to reschedule would have been seemly, if only because LW3 wants the credit for having been deeply devoted to the deceased uncles. (If time permitted, it might be interesting to go into the matter of the surviving spouses.) I'm not entirely sure why the Prudecutor assumes that it's so automatic that all people on the face of the planet have at least one favourite charity. It is admirable, but the Elizabeth Elliots of the world will always regard the cutting off of superfluous charities as the first and sometimes the only step when a retrenchment is necessary. But an expression of sincere regret to the survivors instead of the canned remarks suggested by members of the Prudecution team cannot be out of order. As for coping with immediately family of the immediate complaints, a little sucking up may be the easy path, and that does seem to be what LW3 seeks. A negligible sort.

Moral: "...because, why own the country if Hollywood wasn't included?"

L4: Yet another technical question, apparently, as LW4 could set the old man up with some sort of delivery service. Let us hope for the sake of the old man that there is nothing creepy behind the requests. It is kind of LW4 not just to dismiss the whole situation out of hand or take some easy way out such as buying inferiour bread and fruit until being deemed insufficiently up to the task. But such an arrangement might create sad consequences if it goes off. LW4 and another temporary employee being responsible for the man's adequate supply of food, if such is the case, is rickety at best.

L4 may have a golden opportunity here to emulate the egregious Upchuck, but with rather better motivation than when Daria, Jody and Upchuck were three of a hundred finalists for a $10,000 scholarship prize. When they are all interviewed at the same time, Jody gives the canned and rehearsed-sounding answers that she thinks the prize committee will want, the sort that have clearly come from an interview coach. Daria gets fed up right away and gives truthful but sarcastic answers implying that only someone who could emulate the perfect corporate drone would ever have a chance at winning. Upchuck, who has at least done his research, offers the interviewer wasabi-flavoured gummi bears.

Moral: "I call it Ride, Chucky, Ride... it's more of a personal mission statement."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

8/19 - Why Now?

From the Monday group, I wish "I Married Bridezilla" had told us she was pregnant. That is the only sensible way to conclude that the two of them don't both deserve each other in perpetuity. I could not, after numerous scourings, come up with any reason in what he told us for his going through with the wedding. There is some comfort in thinking that at least he deserves what he gets, and that it probably won't last long enough to leave permanent scars.

This week's group just does not merit any fleshed out and fully formed comparisons, though a stray idea might pop up here and there. *Daria* will have to wait, as wasting it on this little group would be like Jane trying to start a relationship with Tiffany.

L1: My main thought in response to this LW's dilemma is, Why Now? Did LW1 have an Angela Warren moment, not piecing together everything about an event until something happened years later (the way in which Angela as a teenager saw her sister coming out of a guest's bedroom and didn't realize what it meant until she saw a woman she knew coming out of a hotel bedroom clearly not her own ten years later)? How old is LW1 in the first place? It probably means different things if LW1 has just come to adulthood than if LW1 is middle-aged. And the whole story does have a little element of possible self-dramatization. LW1 really took no further part in whatever happened and yet the man's life was "most likely" ruined? How would a 6-year-old know with any certainty that the case had gone to court? Are there more facts LW1 just hasn't recalled yet, or is this almost entirely just part of what's really an issue with the alcoholic father? The whole thing sounds like a big mess. Is there something in LW1's life that seems so awful that this issue is just an attempt to duck out of a different situation, given the stretch to look for legal ramifications? What is going on between LW1 and Pappa today, if anything?

The only concrete thing I can say with any confidence is that there probably doesn't have to be any contact with the father - assuming that they are still in a state of variance. A little digging into possible cases, given that LW1 can provide the right place and the right time, ought to yield information as to what (if anything) actually happened to the man in question. Perhaps LW1 might benefit one way or another from reading accounts of those whose eyewitness testimony resulted in a wrongful conviction, which is about as close as I can come to thinking of something in the same line. But there's just this sense that I can't shake that there's some poking around in quest of major drama here, and it just keeps coming back to - why now?

Moral: Too many possibilities depending on what we don't know.

L2: This is another weird situation. Even assuming all the competitiveness in the relationship to be on the one side (and I don't care enough either way to give any serious thought to the matter) as presented, there is much to ask. How exactly has LW2 "received news" that Connie Competitive is applying for a job at her own company? Exactly how would CC put LW2's career in jeopardy? Is CC given to sabotaging projects and taking down an entire team with her? Why does LW2 feel such lack on confidence in the company's ability to recognize long and valuable service and all the hard work that has supposedly secured the career to this point? And exactly how absolute is it that the two would work together? Cannot there be a bit of shuffling to avoid this? If Lw2's observation that CC would not be an asset to the team is so objective, then just why is there such concern she's so likely to be hired? (If LW2's account is even half objective, it sounds as if any hiring person worth the salt won't be taken in by the facade of reasonableness that is likely to be presented.)

At least one can believe with certainty that LW2 doesn't want to work with CC, and that LW2 acknowledges some selfish concern in that sentiment. And we can also accept with reasonable certainty that LW2 is not the most articulate fish to come bicycling down the turnpike. "I am in a senior enough position that I could say a quiet word to ensure that she doesn't get hired. Does this make me a horrible person?" Nice way to reveal a rather muddled brain.

I suspect that this is another of those technical questions. What exactly LW2 can or perhaps ought or perhaps ought not or perhaps cannot tell the employer might well be a question for Ms Messy's husband, or possibly Ms Libby, as they appear to be the experts on this sort of situation. But I take great exception, as so often, to the Prudecutor. Why insist on LW2 adding the hypocritical comment of wishing the best for this family member? If it's true, okay, but it doesn't seem so, and will likely just make LW2 look worse in the company's eye. Some sort of partial recusal, or statement made with an admission of some degree of prejudice, may be in order, but I shall leave the full legalities to the Expert Witnesses, who have the time and inclination to learn and memorize the legal course that might be most advised. And again, there's a little sense of yet another LW looking for drama, though at least in this case LW2 has an active and co-operative corresponding agent.

Moral: When working for people who are such fools as to be taken in by such a cousin, don't worry about the small stuff such as whether she'll work there - take over the company. And if LW2 hasn't the intellect to do so, then perhaps it's equitable karma all round.

L3: Now here we have almost the same letter as L1, for some reason. And again - the main question that comes to mind is, Why Now? And there are tons of other questions. Is he really wonderufl now, or is that just the usual Yadda Yadda Yadda that seems required of LWs these days as Obligatory Preface? How sure is LW3 that he actually was a virgin? What were the circumstances of the sorts of fights they were having? How were LW3's past hookups popping up in their lives? (It feels as if this were some sort of collegiate setting and that at least a small handful of LW3's circle of regularly seen acquaintances or friends were numbered on the Hookup List. Does LW3 automatically respond or want to respond to any difficulty by doing the easiest thing? And how did the STD screening come about? Has it been LW3's habit to be screened before each hookup? (seems unlikely) before plausible relationships? (somewhat better) was the boyfriend involved at all in the decision to screen? (no real sense either way) does LW3 just get screened on a regular basis? (commendable for someone sexually active but somehow seeming a bit more responsible than the sense of LW3 that emanates) How can LW3 be so certain that the boyfriend would be devasted NOW by the details of a lie from nearly two years ago? What change has come about in the relationship (my guess is that it has suddenly seemed much more viably long-term than LW3 had assumed) to make LW3 become so suddenly wracked with guilt NOW, when it is vastly less likely than ever that the exact number will materialize like manna from heaven? Who besides LW3 can even attest to the accuracy of the number that was originally provided? Was the undercount so blatant that the boyfriend happening to attend the right fraternity party would be enough to make the lie obvious? (In other words, is it like Blanche Devereux, when her husband turns out to have faked his own death, telling him that she'd been with other men since then... lots of men... two?) How regularly does LW3 act out of fear?

Of the first three letters, in which we are not given proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the gender of the LW, this strikes me as the one in which we could make the best case for the LW being male. The boyfriend appears to have reacted rather more straight than gay, but the possibility of regular screening might be more common among those whose sexual practices are restricted to entirely male participants. I might be wrong about this, not knowing what has become the norm among young sexually active women these days, and I'd be quite happy, like Toni Collette's Harriet Smith (the Gwyneth Paltrow *Emma* tried to solve the problem of the backwards-appearing casting by giving Harriet the lines to Mr Weston, "How fortunate to be twice blessed in mariage! It has been my belief that one loves but once; I am happy to be wrong."), to be shown to be in error.

I suppose a good many people will come down on the boyfriend. I am already getting a preemptive headache from all the capital letters one might expect from some of the more forceful on the commentariat. But I am inclined to give a virgin of either sex at least a sort of partial amnesty. LW3 testifies to participating in a hookup culture, which (s)he had every right to do, certainly as much as the boyfriend did to decline. But with a virgin it is not, as is so often the case, a matter of both people doing the same thing and one just having rather better luck at it (although I admit that he might just have been totally unsuccessful). Fixating on a number of past partners is a bit misguided, but I could see something along the line of a scale:

* I saved myself for the right person.

* I hooked up once or twice, but didn't like it.

* I did a few times, but decided I'd rather be in a relationship first.

* I did it once in a while when I was unattached.

* I did regularly, and preferred hooking up because the time wasn't right for a relationship.

* I did all the time, and never wanted a relationship until now.

There's a rough draft of a scale with various points where people might be. One can tinker with it, but that's a basic frame. While I can see the point of those who say that, particularly when neither partner is a virgin, Both partners have had experience and details are none of the other's business, I wouldn't call it a beheadable offense for someone to have a preference for a partner to fall more or less at a certain point along the scale or thereabouts, and I'd give latitude in both directions. It would probably mean, if I Unretired from Romance, that I'd be rejected for insufficient experience, but I'd give someone that right. And a virgin, who by definition has not had the benefit of any experience in the area in question, is entitled to a little extra leeway.

Now, LW3 could reasonably have responded to the Number Inquiry that it was None of His Business, although one might hope that it would have been done with whatever patience and/or understanding that might be only fair to an inexperienced partner. But LW3 took the easy way out, gambled that a lie would pave the way to a smoother future, won the gamble, and now so long after the lie is feeling strong guilt about it. Why now? LW3 could reasonably have dumped the boyfriend over his vicious jealousy at the time, and I doubt many of the commentariat would have withheld support. The gamble should have become irrelevant by now, and yet instead we have feelings of guilt.

I have two guesses and not much confidence in either. One is that LW3 wants specifically to be dumped rather than just for the relationship to end by mutual consent or to be the dumper. Another is that LW3 never really expected the relationship to last and suddenly the couple have taken a great leap forward. I could see someone deciding that the relationship had been built on a false foundation, even if it has by now become a great deal less relevant than it was at the start.

There is also what has happened with the boyfriend and his attitudes during the two years. On the evidence provided, one could at least assume that he has not been viciously jealous during the recent past. This is the sort of thing that is often outgrown over time - what X did with Y two months ago (and plausibly to better effect than what X has done with Z early in a relationship) might naturally be a much bigger deal than what X did with Y two years ago, by which time X and Z have developed what one would hope would be rather more satisfying.

As for what to do now, I can make out a case either for telling him or for not telling him. Telling can be framed along the line of both LW3 and the boyfriend coming out with a secret or lie or exaggeration put forth at the start of the relationship that no longer would carry anywhere near the importance they might have done at the time. Of course, LW3 would have to be willing to let something of the boyfriend's drop in the same spirit. And there is a risk that something which might seem potentially entertaining will blow up. I am reminded of the late David Rees' story "Watsonville". Alan and Stephen, lovers for some thirty years since their school days, had an Australian classmate, Eric Watson, who not only set up as a whore during the lunch hour, but kept meticulous records of his customers, their accoutrements, a brief review of the experience and the fee charged. Sadly for poor Eric, when he was caught updating his little book during French class, it was confiscated by the teacher. Although the teacher could not make out the meaning of the entries, he noticed that the class would instantly silent itself whenever he read out a random extract. One week, when Stephen had had flu, Alan (the narrator) had availed himself of Eric's services several days running. Desperate to avoid Stephen hearing of his sordid escapades, Alan resorted to desperate measures to steal the book, only to discover that, during the week he'd been home with flu, Stephen had indulged as well, one time more often than Alan, and without receiving a discounted price. Deciding there was no point to telling Stephen and risking the relationship, Alan swallowed the hard pellet of his anger, jealousy and hurt, lived with its bitter taste for a while, and gradually it dissolved. Thirty years later, having seen the book every so often when moving without opening it, Alan happened on the book during a week Stephen was away, reread it, and put it out to show Stephen as a piece of entertaining nostalgia. The result was a big blow-up, their worst ever, before a reconciliation.

The case for not telling is similar to the case of a cheating partner who has an affair, gets away with it and decides not to stray again. The philosophy is summed up in *A Caribbean Mystery*. It is one thing for Edward Hillingdon to fall for Lucky Dyson and get involved with her. His wife Evelyn explains to Molly Kendall that the two of them have barely said a word in private to each other for ages, ever since Edward felt he had to tell her about it. Evelyn supposes that it made him feel better. It didn't occur to him that it wouldn't make her feel better. LW3 can regard not telling in the light of carrying whatever burden lying might occasionally impose as a small price to pay for not disrupting the boyfriend's peace of mind.

Moral: Perhaps everyone should be taught to lie early, if not often, so that, when necessary, one can lie well.

L4: This is the most substantive L4 we've had in quite some time. And it is interesting, after seeing letters from others with such obsessive guilt, to see a letter with such an aggressive lack of guilt. It's quite Brodiean. But I don't like LW4 enough to compare her to Miss Brodie.

A divorced mother of a minor son. Can we assume safely that, if he were of an age at which most people would consider it not inappropriate to be sharing the bed, a number would have been supplied? I feel inclined to predict a Poll on the subject of the boy's age. If there were only Mamma to consider, I'd have little trouble with 12, but, as Pappa seems to be taking an interest in the proceedings, it might be rather closer to the blurry line. If this were the Range Game on the Price is Right, I suppose I'd stop it to cover ages 6-9, or pehaps 8-11, depending on where the range started. As for the restm there might perhaps be another Poll on the subject of how the poor kid turns out with whichever relationship difficulties. Sigh. Another one for the Waiting List to be raised by Ms Mermaid and the Submariner. People might be asking, What Is LW4 Thinking; I shall take out the What in memory of a parody magazine I once saw entitled Is Martha Stewart Living, from the other direction, of course.

I can't bring myself to say anything about what LW4 ought to do, as it is only too clear that she's only looking to back up her own position.

Moral: Pearls. Swine. Blanks. Fill In.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

8/12 - Holy Belinda Carlisle, Batman!

My winter cold, which usually runs from November through March, has decided to get an early start this year. On the plus side, I suppose we can consider it a good sign that the commercial showing Ms McMahon kicking a man in the groin was run by an opposing campaign and not her own. But it made me ill when Ms Rodham was elected to the august body that had been graced by the presence of the late Mr Moynihan, one of the few politicians (perhaps the only one) whom I always deemed too good for the Presidency. Of course, that was accentuated by Ms Rodham taking Mr Moynihan's actual seat. Are we on a slippery slope? Was this inevitable after Mr Reagan and Mr Franken? Is it a moral failing not to be more concerned with the impact of billionaires buying themselves into the government?

My title this week is actually in response to Monday. I officially dock the Prudecutor 23 points for using that ghastly nonword (or ought-to-be-nonword) "staycation". It would be more, except that I have the glimmer of a hope that those otherwise horrific commercials advertising this practice might be contributing royalties to Ms Carlisle and her friends. They certainly ought to do so if they are going to use an altered version of someone's song that closely imitates the original. (It is tempting to wander slightly off and raise the question of Messrs Dole and Springstein, but I shall actually pass on that.)

Now to tie together the last two paragraphs, I remember reading during the run-up to the vote that Ms Carlisle was the only celebrity to contribute a PSA to what eventually became the unsuccessful campaign against Maine's recent constitutional DOMA. I did actually see her PSA; it bordered on the underwhelming, but that wasn't her fault, and at least she did it. I have not actually seen her recent autobiography (although I may, in the weekly hour-hour and a half I spend at a library, look for it after I finish a biography of Mrs Parker), but believe that she eventually married someone who had a White House social position in either the Reagan or Bush (elder) administration and had a son who is of college age and gay.

Staying with Monday, I suppose I should not be surprised that the only subject which aroused much passion amongst the commentariat was the issue of wedding food. I shall relate a parable (I may have mentioned this before) that happens to be true, although I shall change the names of the people involved to Jane and Greta. One of the weekly rituals I witness is a discussion of Where to Go for Lunch, concerning somewhere between three and nine people as a rule. My all-time favourite dates back about five years. Jane had been absent for a couple of months due to illness, and it was her first time back. Greta was just beginning the Discussion when I had the inspiration to suggest that, instead of the eternal quest for consensus, people should let Jane choose where to eat. Greta immediately said that that would be perfect, and mentioned the idea to one or two of the others. Jane seemed considerably cheered up by being given the choice, and, mentioning that she had not eaten there for six months, said she'd really like to go to a particular restaurant for Chinese. Immediately, without any pause for thought, Greta blurted out, "I don't like Chinese." Not - My doctor told me to avoid Chinese, or - I can't eat there for religious/spiritual reasons, but simply - I don't like Chinese. Jane was instantly deflated, but coped as well as she could. I told Greta that she should write an essay about Chapter 10 in Pride and Prejudice, but she never did. Sometimes she seems to have learned something from the experience.

The one thing that irked me most from Monday was the Prudecutor's pat response to the concerned Mr Thought-the-Newborns-were-Finished. Does she NEVER utter sentiments that haven't been soaked in third-tier greeting cards? And that sort of reply totally failed to address the situation. There were good things about the decision to limit the number of children to what the couple had planned. There will be losses, maybe major, maybe minor. They won't go away if they're just ignored. Fortunately, there is time to work through some concerns before the birth. And there will be unexpected compensations. But it will not be necessary to decide and/or feel all the time that the way things turned out is superiour to all possible alternatives. And it will not invalidate his life and selfhood to have the occasional twinge of regret for That Which Was Lost.

Today's letters all reminded me, in one way or another, of Mr Woodhouse.

L1: Now, as the page was coming up, having seen the headline, I was visualizing a divorce. It appeared that there was some sort of version of the Newt Gingrich situation going on with Daddy just claiming that he shouldn't have to contribute anything to his ex-wife's care during her dying months instead of having her served with divorce papers while she was in the hospital. It seemed the obvious comparison. And it turns out that the pair stayed married through the whole death, and that basically Daddy just went on with his life as uninterruptedly as possible, and after the death decided to enforce a loan. Well, that raised a blink.

While everyone else jumps down Daddy's throat, I shall be a little severe with LW1. Do you ALWAYS call things a loan when that's not really what you mean? How much better did you feel about yourself because you "didn't take any money" for taking care of your mother? That was an admirable thing to do, but what sticks out a mile is that you were oh so pleased with yourself for NOT making a sensible financial arrangement for the time period. This is not to say that Daddy doesn't deserve to have his picture in the dictionary as the new definition of "chutzpah". But do not BORROW things you don't intend to give back - except perhaps a toothbrush. That might be all right. But I would not apply this policy to money, spouses, croquet equipment or other important things in life. Now, perhaps it was the right thing not to bother Mamma during her illness with financial details - although one might have to be very ill indeed not to have a stray thought during the entire two and a half years about one's child's financial situation.

Come to think of it, I am coming around to the idea that Mamma is the worst of the bunch. She had a state job with a pension (we shall see how much longer that lasts), and she was being cared for by a child and not a team of hospital nurses for her last two and a half years AND DURING ALL THAT TIME SHE COULDN'T BE BOTHERED TO MAKE A WILL AND LEAVE HER CARETAKING CHILD ANYTHING??? This may explain why the couple stayed married all those years - common selfishness over dollars and cents.

A widower with extremely unreasonable expectations about the future conduct of his children will always remind one of Mr Woodhouse. Perhaps LW1 should read *Emma*, and then report whether it is worse to be expected to repay this "loan" than it would be to be expected never to marry and leave home. Mr Woodhouse has never been able to reconcile himself to his daughter Isabella's marrying and moving to London, a whole sixteen miles away, and thinks it tragic that his grown daughter's former governess should prefer marriage and a husband and home of her own to remaining a spinster at Hartfield for the rest of her life. He is at least able to reconcile to Emma's eventual marriage, but more on that in L2.

As for what LW1 ought to do, why does the Prudecutor think that a reconciliation is such a wonderful idea? I'd think that $4,500 is a relatively small price to pay to get such a person OUT of one's LIFE. However, there is a much better way to reconcile if that is what LW1 really desires. The $4,500 seems like an ideal amount for a TV judge case. Have Daddy file a suit and then appear together before Jeanine Pirro or one of her peers. Get a free mini-holiday out of the experience, and I suspect the case will be resolved in LW1's favour.

Moral: "Fortunately, Mr Woodhouse was as far from foreseeing matrimony as he was from approving it. It was as though he could not think so meanly of the intelligence of any two people as to suppose them capable of the intent to marry."

L2: In all fairness to Queen Elizabeth II (who has become a great pal of Jelena Jankovic, among others, since her first visit to Wimbledon in 33 years), one might reasonably suggest that a blonde brood mare would be far more disturbed by her husband's uninterrupted attachment to an old frump than by the mere presence of her mother-in-law somewhere in another wing of the palace. A multigenerational living arrangement worked out quite well for Sr Nadal, despite the brief blip caused to his career by his parents' divorce in conjunction with knee injuries. [ASIDE: I was never aware of the original controversy, but, in case anyone has seen anti-Israel remarks attributed to Rafa anywhere, the Nadal managers and Rafa himself have made it quite clear that he makes it a point not to make political remarks of any stripe. I offer this just in case anyone has seen such comments anywhere, or commentary about them.]

The gift of most of the cost of the house is not necessarily a huge problem in and of itself. As for the living arrangement, there's a gout for every chacun, I suppose. But a husband who agrees to these things without consultation? Oh, dear.

LW2, do you want to live in 1810? If so, more power to you. If not, get out yesterday. And NEXT time, pay ATTENTION to the various CLUES that might have told you this would happen. They were almost surely screaming out at you and you just didn't listen.

If you still insist on trying to save the marriage, at least read *Emma*. The only way in which Mr Woodhouse can be reconciled to Emma's marrying Mr Knightley is for Mr Knightley to leave his estate at Donwell and move in with his father-in-law at Hartfield. Perhaps it would help if LW2 were sixteen years older than her husband - sadly, not the case. But she can still use the good example of Mr Knightley, and perhaps take encouragement if her relationship with her husband is similar to that of Mr Knightley with Emma.

Moral: "How very few of those men in a rank of life to address Emma would have renounced their own home for Hartfield! And who but Mr Knightley could know and bear with Mr wWoodhouse, as so to make such an arrangement desirable!"

L3: Intentionally or otherwise, LW3 is making Quinn Morgendorfer look deep. LW3, is the most terrible problem in your life truly that you might be asked by a neighbour with an unappealing back to apply his sun tan lotion? Shock! Horror! How dare he break all the rules of the Fashion Club by making such a vile request? And how dare he deliberately abuse and torture her by refusing to ask her out so that she could deliver a kind but crushingly humiliating rejection and send him scurrying away with his tail between his legs any time he catches sight of her, yet at the same time opening up a college fund for her daughter to compensate her for the indignities he inflicted upon her time after time by simply wanting to go out with her?

To be slightly more serious, it is entirely possible that he simply might be one of those people who does not pick up clues. Some don't. And to LW3's credit, she does call him a wonderful person and agree to his being good with her daughter without suggesting anything creepy. But that is about as much credit as she deserves. I am quite prepared to accept from LW3 that he is clearly interested in a romantic involvement, but require a good deal of evidence about the "very obvious" line he crossed. Not to say that his request would not be highly unpleasant to many people, but LW3 has only provided any evidence that she felt she had cause to be squeamish about his back.

The Prudecutor has gone completely off the rails - the kind thing would be to assume that she was molested by someone with such a back and has taken all people with similar backs to be automatic criminals ever since. Of course, the obvious reply LW3 might have made to the original request, which can still be offered on any future occasion, is that she only does sun tan lotion for actual or potential boyfriends. Still, if she made her squeamishness as clear as it's likely she did, maybe she'll be spared any further embarrassment. But I find myself completely puzzled by the Prudecutor's statement that, as he is obviously interested her, that entailed some obligation for him to have asked her out some time ago. Out of whose derriere did the Prudecutor pull that one? Sine when did an interest in someone equate to such an obligation? And does it apply equally to both sexes? Or, perhaps, does it apply only to repulsive people who make people worthy of belonging to the Fashion Club so uncomfortable that the only fair way to redress the balance is to make an unreasonable application to date so that the discomfort in meeting can lie where it belongs with the repulsive one? In fact, the more I consider this point, the more disgusted I become.

LW3's potential would-be gentleman friend, having so many otherwise amiable qualities, would be fortunate if he could get away with as much as Mr Woodhouse, who is always forgiven by all his neighbours and friends for his failures to observe commonly acknowledged conventions of social behaviour. If anything, people are eager to make excuses for his being remiss. But those devoted to him can manage him, as even Mr Weston does when Mr Woodhouse originally tries to tell Emma that she will want to leave the Coles' dinner party rather earlier than might be considered polite, or as Emma does when Mr Woodhouse reproaches himself for not paying a wedding-visit at the Vicarage.

Moral: "Yes; but a young lady - a bride - I ought to have paid my respects to her if possible. It was being very deficient." "But, my dear papa, you are no friend to matrimony; and therefore why should you be so anxious to pay your respects to a *bride*? It ought to be no recommendation to *you*. It is encouraging people to marry if you make so much of them." No, my dear, I never encouraged anybody to marry, but I would always wish to pay every proper attention to a lady - and a bride especially is never to be neglected. More is avowedly due to *her*. A bride, you know, my dear, is always the first in company, let the others be who they may."

L4: This is largely a technical question, and I dislike technical questions. I shall content myself with expressing mild surprise that, given such a vast number of friends, acquaintances and colleagues, LW4 has time to read and reply to every single mass email each of those friends, acquaintances and colleagues happens to send. And it seems only reasonable to point out that, if a donation were to be the equivalent of a favour that LW4 did for someone, or at least something in the form of reasonable compensation (ugh!), then LW4 might have made a personal request to the people involved.

LW4 reminds me of one or two of Mr Woodhouse's less admirable qualities. His concern for the health of all his friends mixes with a determination to take as much care of them as he would of himself. The one point on which Emma is always unpersuadable is in not allowing her father to persuade her to join him in taking a bowl of gruel.

Moral: "His own stomach could bear nothing rich, and he could never believe other people to be different from himself. What was unwholesome to him he regarded as unfit for anybody; and he had, therefore, earnestly tried to dissuade them from having any wedding-cake at all, and when that proved vain, as earnestly tried to prevent anybody's eating it."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

8/5 - A Mixed Bag

While bracing for the Proposition 8 backlash (and it will be mighty), I might try to draw inspiration from Bernhard Langer. Not having won either the British Open or the U.S. Open during his PGA tour run, he has won the Senior version of both titles in consecutive weeks. The U.S. Senior Open win was particularly impressive, not just beating Fred Couples on his home turf but coping with perhaps the most partisan golf crowd of the year.

This week seems rather banal. I think I shall stick with a few loose mystery parallels.

L1: What on earth is the Prudecutor smoking? There must be a lot that got edited out of this letter to justify all these assumptions that LW1 is just dying to cannonball right into this ridiculous mess after the recent fiasco. Why on earth should she have kept tabs on a possible bio-pop all these years when she had a husband and a more plausible bio-pop on hold? One could, if the case were on Legal Aid, spin out the proceedings by going into whether LW1's keeping tabs on all her old lovers was a prime motivating factor in the divorce, but for now I shall let it go.

This is very nearly a third party letter, and third party letters always irritate me. If LW1 has been so forthcoming as to provide her daughter with Tom's name and contact information (if she had it, and unless he happened to have stayed in the same place for twenty years, it seems far from a given that she would), she's basically done her part. She had options. She could have told her daughter that she'd only had one anonymous encounter that might have been responsible. She could have told her daughter more truthfully that (and of course we are assuming LW1 to be truthful in her evidence that she only slept with Tom and Mike during the possible period of time) the only other candidate for bio-pop reacted strongly, violently and, whether consciously or not, untruthfully to an original suggestion of his status. Which of the two might be preferable may depend on how irritating the daughter is. She certainly sounds like a first-class pill. How has she treated Mike since the bad news broke, one wonders? Probably not terribly well, if her eagerness just to close the book on Candidate A and immediately go plunk herself on the doorstep of Candidate B is anything by which to go. She appears to be the sort of person to whom people are interchangeable and disposable as they suit or don't suit her own needs.

At this point, I am almost tempted to decide that LW1, her daughter and Tom all deserve each other to such an extent that it would be tempting to endorse the Prudecutor's advice, but that never does unless there is no reasonable alternative. One could perhaps say that LW1 going all out to marry Tom might be going sufficiently farther than the the Prudecutor that it would not count, but it's uncomfortably close. It seems reasonable to warn the daughter that the only remaining possible bio-pop isn't going to play nice and then stay out of the whole thing.

Interestingly, I want to bring up two Christie cases here that both involve mothers instead of fathers. The letter actually reminded me more of *Sleeping Murder* (the filmed version with Joan Hickson) than of *Mamma Mia*. When Gwenda pieces together that as a small child she saw her stepmother murdered and Miss Marple tries to warn Gwenda and Giles that it might be unwise to investigate, she advances the case of Freddie Cartwright, who, after his mother's death tried to find the certificate she'd won for the best chrysanthemums, of which she'd always been so proud. When Miss Marple tells them what a sad mistake that proved, Gwenda and Giles guess that he found out she hadn't won, but it turns out that he learned she wasn't his mother.

My other example I offer as an example of a circumstance in which bio-parentage is of the greatest signficance, as in this case Who Cares? seems to be such an instinctive reaction to Daughter's quest. Given that she treats fathers as interchangeable, it's hard to get up any sense of it making any difference. In opposition, I offer up *N or M?* in which bio-parentage solves the whole case. Tommy and Tuppence, trying to ferret out a German spy installed in an ordinary-appearing boarding house, suspect everyone expect Mrs Sprot, mother of the engaging toddler Betty. Early on, Tommy supposes that even a secret agent might have a child, but Tuppence immediately replies that a mother would never bring her child into such a situation. When Betty is later kidnapped unaccountably by Vanda Polonska and the men in the rescue party dare not shoot because a missed shot could hit the child, Mrs Sprot shoots the kidnapper dead. Tuppence keeps thinking of Solomon from time to time but can't quite piece it together until she's confronting the other German spy, when she realizes that it was the two putative mothers all over again and that, like the mother willing to let the child be cut into halves, Mrs Sprot wasn't Betty's real mother (and that Vanda Polonska was, which was why she had to be killed before she could reveal the fact). If a question of bio-parentage is going to make a difference, that is the sort of difference it ought to make.

Moral: "About that child - shall we?" "Betty? Oh, Tommy, I'm so glad you've thought of it too! I thought it was just me being maternal. You really mean it?" "That we should adopt her? Why not? She's had a raw deal, and it will be fun for us to have something young growing up."

L2: Why is it that almost every young woman who goes to work for a law firm wants to pick up some easy money out of the situation? Perhaps the profession does attract or even evoke the less sympathetic characteristics of its male practitioners, but really! Every time we turn around we have a young woman who wants to blackmail or sue somebody. Now they're even venturing outside of their own firms and going after the neighbours. I hate to say this, but I suspect that the offence which LW2 takes at the anti-gay comments she keeps hearing is in direct proportion to the dollar amount she thinks they might add to a settlement.

As we all know that any decent cross-examiner leaves actual Knowledge of the Law to his solicitor and his learned junior, I am not in position to pronounce with definitive air on the subject, but I would certainly make a learned guess that LW2 will have to say something to someone before she can just go off and sue someone - she doesn't seem to care whether it's Jerry, his firm or her firm. Perhaps to cover all her bases she should send a formal letter to Jerry and CC it to the heads of both firms. That seems to be the sort of thing that Mizz Liz Probert might do. At any rate, there is surely standard legal protocol to establish a foundation for a potential suit in the future. LW2 ought to be familiar with the protocol involved and should follow it.

By the way, could we please, where appropriate, replace the word HOMOPHOBIC with the word HETEROSEXIST in those situations when it is the more accurate description? I can just imagine the posters trying to compare homophobes to racists. It cheapens the concept of homophobia to use it too broadly. Heterosexist is a perfectly good word, as good as sexist or racist, and equally applicable, but it seems nearly always shelved in favour of homophobic. Correspondingly, cases of real homophobia get watered down.

As for coping with the heterosexist pigs in Jerry's firm, perhaps LW2 can manage to get a couple of the worst offenders and Jerry off her plate at the same time - assuming of course, that she fails in a campaign to get her own firm to undertake the monumental venture of actually changing her location. If she can get a time when Jerry and a couple of the worst offenders are near her, she might request their assistance in putting up her Lesbian Avengers poster (this entails acquiring a Lesbian Avengers poster) or some suitable equivalent which will make them regard her with the same trepidation shown by half the staff of *Clue* once Mrs White reveals that her last husband had been found dead in bed and his head had been cut off, as well as his - "you know".

But I can think of an even more devious solution, one reminisicent of *Clue* when Wadsworth explains to the victims why Mr Boddy chose blackmail over turning them in to the police for being un-American. Perhaps there is money to be made out of this situation. There may be a chance that LW2's firm can turn the knowledge of their neighbour's heterosexist staff to advantage in a case. That might even further LW2's career. Or she can play for even bigger game and get a gay friend installed in the neighbouring firm. If LW2 thinks she can get some sort of settlement out of her situation, someone actually working for the heterosexist pigs can get at least ten times more, and they split the pool.

Moral: "He decided to turn his information to good use and make a little money out of it. What could be more American than that?"

L3: Oh, good grief. Someone really needs a pair of Big Girl Panties. But (and I imagine Mr Messy would approve of this) people should have two social networking accounts anyway if they are going to have any - one suitable to be viewed by parents and businesses, and a real one. The various measures to make certain information available only to certain people are outside my ken, but I always think it's just as wellto do a thing properly and put up a second account that will appear to be as complete as the real thing.

There are those who will suggest that LW3 actually have A Conversation with Pappa. This is not a good idea at all. No adult should ever have An Adult Conversation with either or both of his or her parents on any personal topic whatsoever - one runs the terrible risk of Being Told Things that one will Definitely Not Want to Hear. Discuss politics or finances or a variety of other topics, but don't let the topic of conversation turn personal.

It reminds me loosely of *Third Girl* the other way around. LW3 should just create a portrait of herself for her father and let him think it's his real daughter. In the book, Norma Restarick's father Andrew returns to England from South Africa. He seems vastly different from the father Norma remembers, but his portrait looks exactly like how he'd have been twenty years ago. Of course, it turns out that he's an imposter and had a copy of the real portrait painted by a skilled forger.

Moral: "After tailing a man she doesn't like to an area of London she doesn't know to find herself surrounded by people she doesn't trust, she admits to herself that she may be in danger. Isolated, trapped, but concerned that she may have misjudged these people, the ever-creative Mrs Oliver buys some time by placidly reaching up and pulling out her hairpins. Rolls of false hair tumble to the floor, amazing everyone, while she prattles away, escaping down the stairs. Poirot never thought so fast."

L4: Oh, good double grief. Some couples fight. Some couples don't. Is that so hard? What interests me is that LW4 is practically ready to throw over her entire engagement simply because of the concern of her "dear friend". Well, all I can say in reply to this is that LW4 is bringing out my usually dormant entrepreneurial spirit. I suspect a number of posters would be only too thrilled to know how to become LW4's dearest friend, and, after eliminating from her life a vairety of supernumerary people, letting her in on a glorious opportunity to invest in some real estate which is certain to quadruple her fortune. Yes, LW4 reminds me of the great Joan Plumleigh Bruce herself, just waiting for some kind poster to drop into her life and play the role of Ralph Gorse. She even has a Donald Stimpson fiance.

But I promised a mystery parallel, and there's a nice one in *Five Little Pigs*. Caroline and Amyas Crale fought like cat and dog for years. Most of the people who knew them took this as a sign of their marriage being not what it ought. This viewpoint was assisted by Amyas' frequent affairs with his models. With two witnesses overhearing a conversation in which Caroline said, "You and your women! I'd like to kill you. Some day I will kill you," to Amyas the day after Amyas had been forced to admit that he'd agreed to leave Caroline for Elsa Greer, with Caroline admitting to taking the poison that killed Amyas, and with Caroline's flat courtroom denial of the charge that was completely unconvincing, she was convicted of his murder. Caroline died in prison, after claiming in a letter to her daughter Carla to be innocent and in a letter to her sister Angela to be happy. The solution half hinged on Caroline being seen faking Amyas' fingerprints on a bottle that never contained the poison instead of the glass that did. The other half was that the phrase, "You and your women!" meant that his current affair was on a par with Amyas' past escapades, and that he didn't really intend to leave her for Elsa at all. Caroline had died happy, mistakenly believing Angela to have killed Amyas, and thinking that she was atoning to Angela for having scarred her for life. Angela, who told Poirot that violence in langauge was the way Caroline later safeguarded herself from physical outbursts, proved later to be the only innocent suspect who was quite certain that Caroline hadn't been guilty.

I suppose it's more important to be on, if not the same page, at least similar pages, than to meet but not exceed any particular quota.

Moral: "What nobody appreciates is that they enjoyed quarreling. But they did! Amyas enjoyed it, too. They were that kind of couple. They both of them liked drama and emotional scenes. Most men don't. They like peace. But Amyas was an artist. He liked shouting and threatening and generally being outrageous. It was like letting off steam to him. He was the kind of man who when he loses his collar stud bellows the house down. It sounds very odd, I know, but living that way with continual rows and makings up was Amyas' and Caroline's idea of fun!"