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.


  1. HR, in all of my answers to these letters, letters which are themselves as meaningless and transitory as my answers inevitably end up, it has never crossed my mind to state something so obvious and so clear-headed as this:

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

    I'm typically too busy looking for a way to insert foul language into my presentation, all the better to use these letters as stress relief by way of little written punching bags.

    Good thing then, that I have you to give me your weekly output. Cheers!

  2. Ah - I thank you. I am not so fanatically devoted to the truth as some, but I think most people will admit that lying can be a useful, if not necessary, social skill. And the more I contemplate it, the more "How many people have you boinked?" has in common with "Does this dress make me look fat?"

  3. hrumpole, beautiful work, as always!

    I hope you don't mind me weighing in on LW#2, instead of the auspicious Mr. Messy and the audacious Ms. Libby. ;) I've owned a few businesses myself, and written a few employee manuals, so I've had to familiarize myself with a few things, local, state, and federal-wise. I'm no expert, but I'm not aware of any law or policy that would preclude the LW from approaching her boss and telling them what she knows about a private individual that she has learned is attempting to hire on with their company. The only cause of action would be between the cousin and the LW, and if the LW says things that are true (the cousin fired for poor performance, etc.) then she can't be liable for slander. If what she knows about this potential employee is true, she owes it to her employer to let them know. I know if a trusted employee came to me and gave me a head's up about someone, I wouldn't consider hiring that person (at least not while that employee was still there!) ;)

    Aside from that, how's about this? I think you are obsessed with the subject of virginity. Discuss!

  4. Ms Mermaid, I suspect I am the only person here who has brought a virgin out of the closet. I admit that this gives me what is probably a unique perspective, but readily admit to bordering on being appalled by the cavalier attitude towards virgins expressed by most of the other posters, as if it was all they could do to restrain themselves from making the little L sign with their fingers, as in, only a loser would still be a virgin in college. It was really rather sad.

    And it was sad that noone would be willing to make allowances for a virgin who might not happen to be able to make the transition with all the ease of someone who'd been hooking up on a frequent and regular basis for years. I'd be more surprised if a virgin didn't make mistakes with his first partner, especially if they were in a relationship. How much of what one learns comes through experience? And I did lose sleep over it.

    In fact, the only way I was able to reconcile myself to LW3 at all was to decide that perhaps the BF had had more relationships than LW3, so that BF's sexual errors were balanced by LW3's plausible relationship errors. This seems a plausible theory: LW3 had the hookups and the BF had the relationships. Being a relationship virgin, LW3 indulged in inappropriate relationship conduct, which is what led to the fight about the hookup partner in the first place. They were about equally insensitive but have more or less worked their way through it, and part of why LW3 feels guilty now (and LW3's guilt is about the lie and not the number) is that he knows he lied, but BF has been shown to be completely or very nearly so candid about his relationship number or some detail LW3 found pertinent at about the same time.