I have been contemplating the questioner from Monday who had the World's Worst Gift Giver for a boyfriend. It reminded me that, some time ago, I had seen parts of a number of episodes of some comedy called Yes, Dear. Two married couples were the main characters, and one of the wives habitually gave her husband birthday gifts that were never what he wanted but were what she thought he should have or experience. If he wanted a round of golf at Pebble Beach, she gave him an afternoon of Swimming with Dolphins. Only, of course, if one buys into the double standard that Men Just Can't Give Good Gifts and Women Are Intuitive Geniuses Who Always Give The Perfect Thing, her gifts always worked out brilliantly. Bleah. But it occurred to me that the Monday questioner wanted him to consult her girlfriends and sisters (instead of his own family and friends) about what to get her - and the idea filled me with alarm. There are very few reasons a sane woman would want her boyfriend to spend time with her girlfriends or sisters. Besides the obvious possibility that her girlfriends/sisters can suggest far more expensive presents than would be seemly coming from the recipient, she might well be trying to get him to have an affair with one of them. A variation would be something along the line of entrapment or a test of his loyalty. But my hunch as to what is most likely is that she is trying to turn her boyfriend into a GWAP, an acronym for which I am sure astute readers need no elucidation. Now, if one desires to be a GWAP, more power to one, but I cannot approve of this devious attempt to turn him into one without his knowledge or consent. But onward:
L1: Now, the Prudecutor actually comes a good deal closer to gettingn this one than one would have expected from her. But she gets a good deal too hung up on the Clintonian aspects of the proposal. There is really quite a lot here. For one thing, when did the question of his kinks arise? Did he not open up until after the marriage and then drop the whole bomb at once? How much has the couple actually tried? Had they taken the Savage Approach of growth by baby steps, LW1 would probably have found some very minor thing she could do, or at least would have revealed that even the slightest deviation from pure vanilla extract would be a deal-breaker, and if not for her then probably for him. Whose idea was it for H1 to go into therapy? Did LW1 tell him in no uncertain terms that SHE wasn't going to do that disgusting stuff so that he'd better get rid of the desire if he could? That seems arguable.
And the Prudecutor really does not go far enough. She and Lw1 both seem to have the idea that the answer Yes will end the discussion, but it will begin a great many more negotiations. I have the sense that there is some expectation of this perhaps being a One and Done deal. It reminds of the LW whom I have never forgiven for being the one having the affair instead of her 14-year-old son who was whining that He's Never Bought Me Flowers, and Ms Mermaid's eventual opinion that maybe if he did it once or twice that would be enough to get her to see that it was not the big whoop she was making it out to be. That seems overly optimistic. There's no reason why LW1 can't find out all the details beforehand or perhaps even go and monitor an encounter, though I suspect that she has already had quite as much to do with the whole topic as she wishes, and would be grateful not to have to think of it any more. But there are practical things, especially if it's not just something he'll want to do one time only, or possibly on one or two special occasions every year. Who decides how often? Does he get to go to the dominatrix as often as he wants? Does she get to control the outlet for him (interesting perhaps in a different way)? How are they going to compromise?
Then, too, there is possibly the question of funding. If they happen to be a one-income family, that becomes quite a major question indeed, but, even if they have two incomes and each of them has by agreement a reasonable quantity for discretionary spending, there still may be things worth discussing. It seems the gut thing to do to have the entire expense come out of his discretionary funds. I could perhaps see one or two minor modifications, especially if there are any generally reasonable things LW1 might want shunted off to his outside encounters.
I have a main concern in each direction. Will LW1 really be able to let this happen without resentment? Her initial reaction may be something akin to relief, but she strikes me as the type who might become quarrelsome later on. On the other side, how is her sexuality and satisfacvtion to retain equal significance in the marriage?
It is very easy in a couple for the half with the bigger or more interesting issues to become almost the sole focus of their joint time and attention. As an example, I can cite one of the two or three episodes I saw of the Real World season not long ago in Washington, D.C. The bisexual housemate (male) found a gay boyfriend, and they were going out to mixed clubs, where the housemate kept flirting with girls. The boyfriend did not like this, especially when his request to flirt with guys met with resistance, as the housemate didn't think either of them should be flirting with other guys, but that it was perfectly okay for the boyfriend to flirt with as many girls as he wanted. Needless to say, this did not go over well. Possibly LW1 might negotiate some sort of fair compensation - has she perhaps always really wanted to indulge in Ballroom Dancing only to have accepted that H1 is not so inclined? If it's enough of a passion for her, something similar might be a suitable equivalent.
My guess is that economics will be their undoing. Her birthday will come and he won't be able to buy her a present she deems suitable, or something like that. Too bad in a way; there have been worse couples.
Moral: Why am I thinking of Go Go Gophers?
L2: Oh, good grief. Why, tell me why, has LW2 been coping with thisn on her own all this time? What, tell me what, has her husband thought, said and done about his sisters' refusal to turn their own child over to their mother? When, tell me when, is the thought of an unpleasant conversation with her mother-in-law going to matter less to LW2 than risking the life of a child who lacks the capacity to say No for herself?
The Prudecutor is almost right, but playing the Husband Game is a luxury and the stakes are too high here. The family clearly needs a villain, and LW2 is in the golden position of not being the menace to society's biological child. She should do everything in her power to get the menace off the road short of poisoning her. No, she should not have to do it. Yes, someone in the family should have done it a long time ago. For whatever reason, they just aren't going to make it happen until after it's too late. Sad but true, LW2 - if not you, who?
Moral: why am I thinking of Sweet Polly Purebred?
L3: While I don't like to make fairly broad assumptions, it may be necessary to assume that LW3 is at least apparently culturally Jewish. At least in such a case the boss' suggestion makes some tiny amount of sense, though not a great deal. (If LW3 did happen to be Jewish, a separate display might well work out quite reasonably. I have often seen it done. An ornament on a Christmas tree - ecumenically minded but iffy.) While LW3 seems potentially to be on the pillish side, I want to have sympathy for a member of a minority oppressed by the customs of an overwhelmingly large majority. Then too I have a bit of natural sympathy for a soldier in the much-vaunted War On Christmas. It is also interesting that "multiple" people complained and got nowhere. What on earth in such a case does LW3 think the Prudecutor can possibly recommend when talking top management has accomplished nothing?
I suppose L3 raises the issue of some potential downside to Christmas as a secular as well as a religious holiday - when the lines start to blur, things get uncomfortable, and, among other things, well-intended people who think the line is being crossed into state-sponsored religion end up being declared to be The Enemy by Mr O'Reilly. If I had more time, I'd check in on the progress of this year's version of that entertaining annual event, the War on Christmas.
One real downside for LW3 is that there is no obvious plus in being somewhat flexible about demands for complete equality across the board and the maintenance of complete secularity about any holiday observation. If we were to take the marriage issue, there are those who take the purist position of calling on all their straight friends to boycott the institution of marriage until it becomes available to same-sex couples as well. However, in that case, there is a distinct plus to encouraging straight friends to marry, as they are, after all, our primary source of future same-sexers. Yes, in an ideal world it might be lovely if we didn't have In God We Trust on the money or other things, but who has the resources to fight every injustice in such a Christianist nation? I can't contemplate this for too long; it will depress me.
Of course, the Prudecutor, who enjoys seeing Christians (even of the C&E variety) make idiots of themselves indulging in the excesses of the worst part of the holiday, would have to go and advise LW3 just to "get in the mood of the season and be merry". Ugh, double ugh, treble ugh. Of all advice calculated to bring out someone's inner curmudgeon! But there is something LW3 can do, which is really quite subversive. Just as atheists tend to know a good deal more about Christianity than actual Christians, there are various admirable things that some Christians actually do at this time of the year, and that more would do if they were not spending too much time quarreling about gifts or hosting or trees or any of the four zillion little distractions that so amuse the Prudecutor and keep her in a flourishing condition. Set the poor wayward souls a good example, LW3. They so need one, and being subversive may be the best way to get through this sort of adverse season.
Moral: Why am I thinking of Tennessee Tuxedo?
L4: Once again, where on earth has LW4's husband been since the couple became a couple? What other issues have their families' divergent styles already given them, and what can be anticipated? I do give LW4 some credit for balancing the habits of the families instead of preening over the superiourity of her own, and for actually including her husband in the couple's not being gamblers or wanting to go. A little of this is undone when she asks what SHE should do instead of what THEY should do, but that might be a bit blurry. It might be possible to try hinting that her husband might not be quite so solidly in the No Go Camp as she thinks, but I have too little interest in the theory to flesh it out.
I hate to get technical, and this really smacks largely of being a Technical Question. When, tell me when, did his parents decide to Christmas in Las Vegas? With everyone living so near, the timing seems a bit rushed. They could hardlym have had the plan in place well before Thanksgiving, or LW4 and her husband could have switched plans. And how much of a commitment was involved on C4's part? What exactly constitutes the Christmas celebration, and how does Christmas ever "balance out" Thanksgiving anyway when Thanksgiving is *one specific day* but Christmas gatherings and gift exchanges can occur on basically any day within a reasonable time frame either before or after? Did C4 pay his parents a Thanksgiving visit to observe the spirit and many traditions of the holiday even though they actually spent Thanksgiving itself with her family? Somehow I doubt it. Were they planning to pay her family a visit at some time during the high point of the Christmas season in order to observe the spirit and many traditions of the holiday? Somehow I rather expect so.
Now in theory it may be reasonable if C4 simply swap out who gets Christmas and who gets Thanksgiving each year, but why on earth it would be so impossible just to have both days with one family one year and the other the next is beyond me. This seems like a golden opportunity to do so.
Of course, the Prudector had to get on board the I Hate Vegas (at least as a possible site for Christmas observations) Train and base her whole answer on that - who cares? The main issue here is that apparently the celebration has expanded considerably. The celebrants are hardly going to travel all the way there to spend there the same amount of time in celebrating that they would have done had they remained at home. It's the greatly increased commitment of time that is the hook on which to hang this one (although she sort of backs into it, but only by accident). And for future years it might help to have it made explicit at as early a date as possible exactly what will constitute his family's Christmas observations that season.
Moral: Why am I thinking of Savoir Faire?