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."


  1. "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."

    A wonderful suggestion, which not only recuses her from touching Acne Boy's back, but also makes clear the fact that he is solidly in the "friends only" track.

  2. Thank you - I wasn't jumping up and down with delight, but I thought it would serve.

    Straight men certainly have it tough. If a woman would go out with a man and he doesn't ask her, he's a pantywaist if he's interested and shallow if he isn't. If she wouldn't go out with him and he asks, he's mortally offended her by assuming she has such poor taste that she might actually consider the question favourably. And now we learn from the Prudecutor that if she wouldn't go out with him and he would go out with her but doesn't ask, he has committed the offense of not giving her the opportunity to reject him. It's rather like the way Emma reacts to the Coles giving a dinner-party. At first, when she is determined that nothing on earth would induce her to accept an invitation, the Coles being so far beneath the Woodhouses socially, she becomes mortally when she is not invited, because she would have liked the power of refusal. By the time the invitation arrives, she's changed her mind because all of her friends will be going.

    I really wish I could have done this week on *Daria*, though. L3 reminds me so much of the episode when smoke damage forces the Morgendorfers to live in a hotel for a while, and one of the staff gives Quinn all kinds of comps. The police later tell the family that Quinn's admirer had been in the habit of hacking the hotel's billing account and changing the charges, and there is an ominous moment when What This Means sinks in. Quinn is mortified because it means that, "I almost went out with - a computer geek!!!"