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."


  1. Just thought of an interesting twist to #2. She's probably of the age where she can request an ARD (Admission, Review, Dismissal) for herself, and may be of the age where her participation is considered mandatory. She may be able to persuade an ARD committee that she needs testing. If a majority of the team agrees, even though her parents express dissent, she may be able to get the testing she desires without their consent.

  2. Interesting - of course, that makes it still so much a technical question. Sigh. I'd still like to know what LW2 plans to do if the coveted diagnosis doesn't oblige.

  3. Hi Hrumpole, you're so right about families --yet we're stuck in them, some of us glued and can't escape....