Thursday, December 9, 2010

12/9 and a Grim Mood Indeed

My carryover comment from Monday will be to blast the Prudecutor about her response to Works With Mean Girls. "Growing up does not eradicate the more pernicious aspects of human behaviour that thrive in high school, but as all the 'It Gets Better' videos try to express, going out in the larger world often brings relief from the relentless petty vindictiveness of high school."

If anything could tempt me to launch a private prosecution of my own, I would prosecute the Prudecutor for that disgusting sentence. The only thin sliver of a wedge of a point she has in her possible defence is that both situations do deal with something that does fall somewhere on the scale of bullying. It is highly ungracious of the Prudecutor to snipe at a project of a contemporary of her own that has probably done more good to the world in a calendar quarter than her entire collected life's work. It may just be possible that she considers the project to be so widely reputed that she need not credit Mr Savage by name. Just perhaps she can be given a Non Proven on this count, if one may be so Scottish. But TRY to express? And ALL? TRY to express has quite a dismissive air about it, as if she thinks that most of the videos don't quite reach her own personal high standards for making whatever point she thinks ought to be made, although, then again, the purpose of the enterprise isn't to put together a collection that suits the purpose of an originator or some other deciding power. And to try to reduce experiences that drive many young people to the brink of suicide and tragically often beyond to the level of relentless petty vindictiveness...? And they are getting it from many places other than merely high school.

That leads me to a potential sour note in President Obama's contribution. He advises young people in torment to talk to their parents, and never makes it clear that, for many of those worst off, their parents are a huge part of the problem. But that is a minor niggle. Prime Minister Cameron's contribution is perhaps less memorable for anything he says than for the fact of the leader of a conservative party and a conservative coalition government of a major nation sayingn them, which makes one perhaps somewhat envious. One favourite of mine is Senator Franken's. He goes beyond It Gets Better and says declaratively We Will Make It Better. As someone who quite honestly (within reason) cannot give a flying fig how much the poor or the rich or anyone in between pays in taxes, I like that sort of sense of purpose.

To conclude about the Prudecutor, I can imagine a number of people presenting a case that she is not anti-gay, and on some level she might not be, but this is where all her tee-hee, oh look! ANOTHER inappropriate Brokeback pun! ain't I just a card? from that black hole of a period during the summer when I had no home internet for nearly a month comes back to bite her in the you-know-where. Reduce gay people to being fodder for excessive attempts at feeble wit, and one loses credibility when one might need it later. I'll grant that she's not a homophobe of any stripe, but if I'm on the committee I'm not voting for her as the right sort of ally to make Grand Marshal of our parade.

But on to this week's batch.

L1: My dear LW1, where do I start? There are endless possibilities here. First of all, exactly how have you discovered that this is a sexual relationship? Do you have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, proof that meets the standard of the preponderance of the eivdence, or just the hearsay that Bee has told you she's boinking the glamourous Mr A? How did your closeness come about, and was it before or after you talked to him about the divorce? Did Bee's relationship with him seem to be on an exact parallel with your own, given her mother's illness? Exactly what sort of a position of power does Mr A occupy? Does he at present or will he probably or certainly have Bee in class as a student? From whom did the initiative come? Was there pressure involved? Could you see Bee with a different 45-year-old if she'd had similar opportunities to become closen to him without the particular teacher angle? How responsible has Bee been and how do you really know?

More to the point, why would Bee ask you to be her cover for a lie of fairly large proportion? Is this the sort of thing you have done for her frequently regarding smaller matters? Is there an imbalance in your friendship that might lead her to make use of you? Is there any trace in you of envy that Bee and Mr A are a couple? Is there a chance that you might have had a relationship with him yourself had circumstances inclined him towards you instead? And why is it that the one thing that terrifies you is losing her friendship?

This whole letter seems remarkably similar to the Cracker episode *The Big Crunch*, except that the friend of the girl involved in the intergenerational relationship is the man's backup, as it were, and lies to protect him rather than to cover up for her. If we learn anything from the conduct of Kenneth, the dynamic middle-aged schoolmaster/lay pastor of a congregation that is apparently a rogue sect, it is that, unless he is confronted with absolute proof, he will, as Rafe Gorse would advise, Deny, Deny, Deny. Even when the pregnant Joanne is brought forward and proclaims her love for him, Kenneth maintains to his wife Virginia that Joanne is delusional. It takes the photographic evidence provided by his sister-in-law Norma to topple Kenneth, who immediately slides into the response, "I was tempted and fell." While Joanne is missing, Kenneth arranges an interview for Fitz and Penhaligon with Sarah, Joanne's friend, who does her best to give a very inaccurate impression of Joanne's personality, habits and hopes. Only towards the end does Sarah reveal how wonderful Kenneth is and how much she's in love with and hopes to marry him.

There are way too many possibilities here to fasten on a single one. Quite possibly Mr A has had a long line of affairs, and there's even a chance LW1 might have been a candidate in his eyes or possibly might have been half-inclined to such a possibility herself. Then again, I keep recalling Phil Donahue's interviews with couples who became couples when one of them was quite underage who did go on to marry quite successfully. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I have been in similar situations on both sides of this, though without any actual boinking.

I feel too strong a need to recuse myself to be comfortable advocating any particular course of action here, but might be up to a few specific possibilities. If Mr A has Bee in a class, that is going too far. The other students in the class don't deserve the potential drama. If Bee is not the only one, regardless of her personal level of maturity, it becomes increasingly harder to talk down the Stone Mr A Club. Then a good deal depends on the nature of the request for cover. If that is way out of character for either of the two to do for the other and for Bee to ask, it could be a huge red flag.

I don't like this letter at all because a large part of me wants to tell LW1 to talk to Mr A, but I cannot convince myself it's safe. I really must recuse myself - way too much past history. But I will pronounce myself thankful that LW1's only cause for terror is that the friendship might end. Change the dynamics of the situation a little and we almost get the Rutgers bridge jumper.

Moral: "...and several smaller cash contributions, including one to the Police Widows and Orphans Association. I'm currently collecting for cancer research. Perhaps a small donation might be in order?"

L2: as I do not have to cross-examine LW2, I shall refrain from doing so. She has had enough woe to last a considerable period of time. But I shall observe that, once again, we have a notable missing ingredient from the letter - the notrious Husband Who Apparently Has Less Input Concerning Holidays Than He Did About The Wedding.

Why she even wants to be anywhere near her mother-in-law after all this I can only speculate in the least certain of terms. But again, it's entirely her choice. Maybe she can just smile and nod at whatever the mother-in-law suggests and then just do exactly what she always knew would suit her mood and her plans all along.

It would be interesting to cross-examine the mother-in-law. What part of, "I can't face that amount of shopping," does she not understand? And is she rather like LW3, one of those who always has to control and adjust all the details of every last holiday to be exactly to her liking? That LW2 acknowledges her mother-in-law's grief adds a Solomonic touch to the letter.

I have just finished reading a very sympathetic biography of Catherine de Medici. The author concludes that she had the dreams of an empress, planning to have all her children influencing the course of history from one European capital after another, but cheapened all her ambitions by negotiating for them in the manner of a shopkeeper. She was also very much a Peace at Any Price sort. I hope for LW2's sake that she does not get stuck in a pattern of following that example.

Moral: "She looked on thrones and crowns as though they were merchandise to be bargained for. In a sense she was right, but in staying so long in the marketplace, she lost that regal presence essential to kingship."

L3: What is LW3's real problem? Has she just overdosed on Martha Stewart? Is it not the seating arrangements but that it the size of the gathering is too much for her nerves, kitchen or budget and she can't bring herself to admit it? Or were the daughter's best friend and group mere placeholders until more legitimate claimants could fill out the table? If I were inclined to gamble, I'd go for the last proposition.

It would be a little too much to hope for if we were to discover that the best friend were really a girlfriend with a toddler or two and LW3 has been unwilling to admit to her suspicions all these years. But I rather expect that LW3 needs a same-sexed child (perhaps it is the daughter and the best friend just happens to be her best friend rather than a love interest) to give a much-needed push to her concept of family. For her to be so willing to flush people away, despite her expressed regrets, after seven years - and they have really never had other plans, nor would they have the capacity to make them on shortish notice? Something is not adding up here.

This reminds me of two women I knew, both widowed after long marriages, who had been best friends and regular bridge partners for several years. One year, they were quite excited by the prospect of a nearby regional tournament where they would be able to earn enough gold points to become at long last Life Masters. They put in a great deal of practice, and entered the week full of confidence. It turned out to be a disaster. Day after day they played worse than they had in years. A discussion on the telephone after the tournament ended started a quarrel which led to a rift, and they never played bridge as partners again.

Moral: "I love her like a sister. I have three sisters, and she means as much to me as any of them."

L4: Does LW4 know with fair certainty that her sister is going to start trouble about this? Or is she just caught up in a sort of general Fairness Malaise? This seems to have influenced the Prudecutor as well, who gets this one completely wrong. Dilute a gift out by dividing it into four (and who knows how many other) parts? Pathetic. Far better to have one relation in the family have a fully or more nearly fully funded education and be able to start a lucrative business which can employ all the other family members in good positions and pull them all up than just have a whole generation get a little assistance and start life with ten years' worth of loan debts instead of twelve. Discuss it with her sister or not - who knows, LW4 may meet all the members of the younger generation and wish she'd chosen a different one to favour based on his or her own character instead of that of the parents?

Jane Austen's own brother, one of a numerous family, was taken in by better-off relations and added their surname to his own, a common enough practice at the time, and one which had full familial approval. Miss Austen wove a variation on the theme into the opening chapter of *Mansfield Park*, in which the semi-adoption of a poor niece cements the reparation of an estrangement between sisters. Miss Brodie in the novel if not the film has Sandy and Jenny, when the girls have crossed the great divide into the Senior school, teach her Greek, likening the practice to the habit of families who could only afford to send one child to school having the scholar impart his learning to his siblings.

Also, my own experience of groups that have tried to run themselves by consensus is that such groups have fared much better when one or two people have privately taken on the heavy lifting.

Moral: "The letter was not unproductive. It re-established peace and kindness. Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched money and baby-linen, and Mrs Norris wrote the letters."


  1. 'going out in the larger world often brings relief from the relentless petty vindictiveness of high school."

    And, just for an extra pat of butter, how about that 'often'? Like, 'maybe, maybe not, no big deal...' Ptui.

    You're spot-on about Franken's message being the important one for straight people commit to. (Obama, of course, has a few things he could actually do about it, and that he doesn't makes me want to eat my bumper sticker.)

  2. As it was the Monday chat, I am willing to give the Prudecutor provisional amnesty on the grounds that unedited thoughts don't always come out right, but I agree about the OFTEN.

    Going back three spaces, I have a vague recollection of Mr Clinton presenting DADT in an attempt to be upbeat worthy of *Daria*'s Mr O'Neil. While I'll grant that a sitting president can hardly present a compromise policy as if it were a dead rat, I do recall a grating bit of optimism that would seem much more likely to justify shooting a television than the results of some pointless semi-rigged competition.