Wednesday, November 24, 2010

11/24 - Unexpected and Rushed

And here I thought we had a week off rather than a day less.

L1: This is going to be my one parallel for the week, and a very strong one. LW1's mother is Mrs Boynton from *Appointment with Death*, perhaps almost to a T. Mrs B, who married the late Mr B after being a wardress in a prison because it suited her personality, went on to torment her stepchildren and daughter and warp them to the point that they could not function as adults. She coped with her older stepson marrying, absorbing his wife into the family, and eventually took the little group abroad to Jerusalem out of boredom with her complete triumph at home. There may be posters who think the brother ought just to sort out his own life, even though he's been raised with the specific design of not being able to do so, but he could be much worse off than he is. I am a bit interested in whether LW1, with a very interesting attachment to Mamma, is quite as free as (s)he thinks, but that seems rather a side line.

I'd also rather not get too deeply into home schooling. That it offers parents interested in doing that sort of thing the opportunity to isolate their children, that sort of danger is of the obvious kind. I always think of the passage in *The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie* when the little girls observe for the first time that Miss Brodie and Miss Mackay have political differences which for many of them is the first suggestion that it is possible for those joined together in grown-up authority to differ. I actually rather favour home schooling, but by the old-fashioned means of tutors or governesses instead of mothers, as is typically the case.

But back to LW1 and the brother. My first concern would be to assess how bad he's become. In AWD, Lenox is almost completely apathetic and Jinny is on the brink of madness, but Raymond and Carol are still capable of attempts to rebel, even if quashed, and contemplate doing away with Mrs B to save Jinny. If we can assume that the brother is more or less at Raymond's stage, the solution is to follow the AWD line. LW1 must immediately introduce the brother to someone who will represent Sarah King, the young doctor who, after getting past her initial reaction to his being dominated and warped by Mrs B, provides Raymond with enough motivation to attempt a life of his own.

No time for morals, I'm past bedtime as it is.

L2: SHE'LL have to find a new Best Man? That says more than enough. The only possible line of questioning concerns whether this is an entirely limited illness completely confined to LW2's sister having been elevated to the exalted role of Bride-to-Be, or whether it is any sort of harbinger of Life to Come. If the latter, it is the obligation of the Best Man, even if deposed, to cross-examine the Groom at length in an attempt to determine whether he truly longs for a life of being dominated. If not, do whatever is necessary to cause a break. The old standby of getting the Groom drunk and setting him up to misbehave himself (with the added modern touch of filming the encounter and putting it directly on Youtube) might do as nicely as anything else. As far as the beard is concerned, LW2's best chance there might be to inundate his sister with the writings of Mr (Andrew) Sullivan.

Moral: I am reminded of *Cards on the Table* and Mrs Oliver's annoyance that South American tribes aren't always experimenting with and developing new poisons instead of sticking with what has always worked for their fathers and grandfathers.

L3: What bizarre sort of situation is going on at this company? Is LW3 deluded? Do the bosses simply have no idea how to communicate with the employees? How is this company not bankrupt? Is LW3 about to be offered a different promotion? If not, why train her?

I suppose this letter makes a refreshing change from those letters sent in by young women in business or the law who want to take a possibly awkward moment at work and turn it into means for blackmail or at the very least professional advancement or some other advantage. But one cannot think very highly of LW3's cunning or wits if her reaction is to be shame at being seen crying outdoors instead of considering the unease or guilt the appropriate supervisor is feeling or is likely to feel for having made her cry in the first place. LW3 is too tender-hearted for success in the corporate world. I advise a future as a Benedictine.

Moral: If LW3 is familiar with *In This House of brede*, I just hope she doesn't resemble Dame Veronica.

L4: LW4 irritates me to death, almost more than her husband. He's just extremely jerkily unprofessional, with a high probability of that carrying over into the rest of his life. But are we really to say that there's no part of this the waffling LW4 likes? How clean, as it were, is her own house? I have a little idea that she might be very close to the LW of some few weeks previous who just had to lament the deficient size of her partner's apparatus, a fact which she had almost certainly made known throughout the entirety of her acquaintance. That might make a credible reason for LW4 being insufficiently outraged by her husband's outrageously unprofessional conduct.

And yet she doesn't want to cause trouble for him in his career. She might point out to him in no uncertain terms that trouble will likely find him soon. Indeed, it is hard to believe that he has not been found out already. Perhaps it would suit her self-interest to try giving him as stern a warning as she dares. But she's such a waffler. I am too irritated to continue.

Moral: He may deserve to be divorced, but LW4 has not manifested proof that she deserves to be allowed to divorce him. People who marry jerks of his class really need to show that they have learned their lesson before the first parting, or else, as has been observed by She Who Must Be Obeyed, they will just keep on marrying the same sort of person over and over, only getting slightly worse each time.

Sorry this was so scrappy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

11/18 - Extremely Quick and Crabby

I refuse to justify this week's drivel with lengthy commentary (for me, at any rate). Besides, the answer is obviously Breakup.

L1: Surprise, surprise, the Prudecutor completely misses the point. The minor point is that LW1 apparently feels that she is entitled to issue invitations to gatherings not hosted by herself. This may or may not be of interest. I suppose it seems reasonable to assume that others of her family have been granted the same power, and that somehow the sister in question has never had to accommodate the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir or every surviving past or present cast member of *The Mousetrap*. I shall allow others to make points about the bizarre behaviour of the hostess (if the report is accurate). The major point is that LW1 seems to have no qualm either way about separating her beau from his daughter and granddaughter for the day. She seems to take it as a matter of course that his spending the holiday in the company of what little family he has is of no importance next to her requirement of a male escort. This couple clearly must part ways at once for the sake of the granddaughter if for no other reason. Her need of a grandfather outweighs LW1's need not to descend inton the depths of her sister's house unarmed or the grandfather's need for the sort of sex life Mr Savage would wish him to have.

Moral: If I were to put up a rewrite, it would dwell at length on the numbers that other sisters have been permitted to invite to family holidays and their inferiour connections.

L2: LW2 has clearly missed the boat here. Perhaps it is not too late. The obvious thing to do would have been to make major family celebrations out of the occasions of Daddy's birthday, the couple's wedding anniversary, and other momentous occasions, as many as possible. At such a celebration it would be easy to explain that poor Herbert would feel terribly out of place so that it would be much kinder to himk not to make him attend. Of course Mamma might feel disinclined to attend herself, but she might well do so if bribed with sufficiently enticing anniversary presents.

One might also wonder whether it could be of use to approach Herbert. The tricky part here is that it's difficult to decide (at least with less than an hour's reflection) whether LW2 has a screw or two loose, her mother is just guilty and defensive, or Herbert is a controlling boor. But in almost any of the possible outcomes, the conversation ought to work, and by whatever path ought to lead to a breakup. If Herbert is a dominating boor, it should come to light reasonably soon, and Mamma can dump him. If LW2 is a bit off, Herbert will pick up on this during their discussion and realize he's better off finding someone without such baggage. And if they are both the reasonable ones and Mamma is a bit off, then they can decide between them whether that is likely to be temporary (aw - no breakup) because of uncompleted mourning or permanent, in which case Herbert can decamp with a clear conscinece.

Moral: if I were putting up a rewrite, I think it would be most fun to go for LW2 complaining about how Mamma made her take down all the life-size portraits of Daddy she's had hanging in every room of her home so that Daddy can keep watch over her, but I might add that Mamma has been asking her to call Herbert Daddy and she does not want to do so.

L3: Does the Prudecutor seriously contend that LW3 could have gotten this particular boyfriend to marry her by refusing to move in together? Highly doubtful. It may occasionally delay marriage, but would an Ideal Husband really be pushed off the Marriage track because the Ideal Wife agreed to cohabit first? And again perhaps the answer is too obvious for the Prudecutor. Why on EARTH is LW3 putting herself in such a ridiculous position? If she really wants to marry this man (and I could dedicate quite a long post to the question of why she might), then what possible reason could she have for not proposing to him herself? She must do so at once. It will almost certainly lead to a breakup, which will be all the better for both of them.

This will be my one parallel for the week - it reminds me of Northanger Abbey. Catherine Morland, in Bath among people who are much more rich and fashionable than she with very little acquaintance, is delighted to meet up again with the attractive and witty Henry Tilney. As they are about to dance, she must converse for a moment with the undesired attentions of John Thorpe, the brother of her new dear friend Isabella. Henry claims that he would have been put out of countenance had Catherine's attention been withheld from him much longer, as he regards a dance as quite a parallel to matrimony, which Catherine cannot follow. Henry then explains that they are comparable in many points - man having the advantage of choice and woman only the power of refusal, for instance. Catherine cannot quite see them in the same light, and Henry teases her by supposing that this is because the traditional obligations of marriage are reversed in dancing - the man's job is to make the experience agreeable, while the woman's is to provide the fan and the lavendar water. He also says that men who do not wish to dance or marry themselves have no business with the partners of their neighbours. Catherine's original defense is that, while she must speak to isabella's brother if he speaks to her, she does not know any other man in the room. Henry's lament about this being his only safeguard lures her into saying that she does not wish to speak to anyone else, much more satisfactory.

Moral: If I were to put up a rewrite, it would make LW3 into a Very Girly Girl and go into her highly sophisticated snooping methods and how much time and energy it has taken for her to determine that he is NOT going to propose to her, and how she has absolutely no choice in the matter and would never ever EVER do such an Unfeminine thing as to propose herself.

L4: LW4 married a man who cannot afford a Smoking Room in his house. Divorce him at once.

No moral necessary.

There - done in less than the hour which was all the time I had for it today!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

11/11 - You've Got GERD!

Well, I believe I do, at any rate. If I should suddenly stop posting, it will probably be an indication that my persistent night cough has become even more serious. But in a way it is almost entertaining, as to some extent it was to have a broken ankle. I have concocted quite an ingenious little sleeping arrangement, and am now on a pattern of being able to sleep for between 2.5 and 4 hours, wake up coughing, spend only about ten to fifteen minutes coughing up stuff, read for up to an hour, and then get another two hours of sleep, with a somewhat less severe cough-up when I finally rise. Ingratitude, thy name is Hernia - and after I've been so kind to it for fifteen years, too!

L1: Now, it is usually great fun to cross-examine a Liar. They often make good impressions on the Judge and the Jury, and one can occasionally be pushed to new heights of ingenuity in order to pull off the mask and expose the witness for the walking bag of Untruth (s)he is. But an Admitted Liar? What's the fun of that? The Jury already know the witness is lying. Soapy Sam Ballard and Claude Erskine Brown for the Prosecution know it. Mr Injustice Graves knows it. On a good day, even Ollie Oliphant might have a clue.

But here we have a rather interesting situation. We have a woman who by her own admission lies to get what she wants or to avoid confrontation. She is caught out in a lie from some months previously, a case of combined selfishness and confrontation ducking, but in which she managed the lied-for act extremely clumsily. Now she understands why her husband questions her integrity, but expresses bewilderment that he questions the paternity of a surprising conception.

It would not be the most difficult thing in the world to build up a picture of a domineering bully. Because Little Wifey knows that her tendency to tell little or not-so-little lies is a Grave Fault, she does not stand up for herself in domestic differences of opinion. Husband plays on her inner sense of guilt and keeps her on a very short financial leash. He deliberately plays on her inclination to treat herself to a spa day and builds it up to such a point that she cannot take the pressure and lies her way into the treat. Then he has a foundation for questioning the paternity of his child, presumably to cover up some indiscretion of his own. I could make such a case fairly gladly.

Now would I believe it? I rather doubt it. The admission to being a lifelong liar has the flavour of the I Know I Have a Problem speech that has been used time and again by people to buy themselves some sort of grace without ever actually addressing the problem. One notes that LW1 presents no evidence of any attempt to address the problem. Then we have the framing of how her habit of lying played out during the marriage or before it. The spa visit is presented as the Big Lie, but if anything that draws the attention to that being the only lie mentioned, and makes one wonder whether one is not being gently led into the belief that there weren't other lies in play. A neat little omission. One might almost think that maybe there was never any question of fidelity earlier.

Just possibly H1 never voiced his concern about LW1's fidelity. And just possibly it was the spa visit that was his first indicator that LW1 is a confirmed and determined liar. But this has a touch of Nevile Strange in *Towards Zero* and his setting a trail of evidence that points to himself as the killer of Lady Tressilian while arranging for the case on those facts to fall apart, to yield to a second trail incriminating his ex-wife Audrey.

LW1 very likely wanted the spa day to come out. The easy answer would be that she may have been unfaithful after all, perhaps for some time, and wanted H1 to initiate the breakup. But to accept her evidence that she has slept with no other man, one might notice how she is able to adopt an indignant posture. "How could he?" practically drips from the conclusion of her letter. Even with the acknowledged scheduling, her own word that she has never slept with any other man since they have been together ought to be accepted. I am going to guess that LW1 either consciously or subconsciously wants her husband to suspect paternity because she has been entirely faithful. Would a paternity test really never have occurred to a confirmed liar as a possible solution? She wants to be dragged into it reluctantly, as the only way she can convince him of her virtue. And then who will have the whip hand in that marriage? It reminds me of why art dealer Jimmy Lazarus offered his friend Nick(Magdala) Buckley fifty pounds for a portrait of her grandfather that was worth twenty pounds at most. He knew that she would suspect the picture of being worth more, and would have it valued only to discover the truth. The next time he offered to buy a painting from her, she wouldn't - and he knew that another of her paintings was worth at least five thousand pounds.

If I liked LW1, I might advise her to take the Caroline Crale solution from *Five Little Pigs*. Horrified that jealousy had led her into maiming her baby half-sister, she adopted an extravagance of language in an attempt to give her violent streak an outlet. If LW1 could find some outlet where she could lie creatively, extravagantly to her heart's content, she might find it possible that her instinct to lie in real life would diminish. It might not do much good, but it could be worth a try.

Sorry, I'm not up to any morals this week.

L2: This is a bit of a muddle. In a way, it's similar to that annoying L2 of last week. Why has this family continued to host year after year when it was quite clear that their daughter had serious problems? Did they think that she was just misbehaving, or that it would be good for her to get herself over what they took to be a minor problem? The way LW2 is embracing the diagnosis as the greatest part of the solution to their problems is revealing. So it takes a medical diagnosis to convince LW2 and her husband (if he has any role in the making of decisions) to have a quiet holiday that her daughter will be able to handle. Ah, the damage done by the way in so many people have just bought into the Prudecutor-supported myth that Thanksgiving is supposed to be such a Lovely Occasion for Extended Family. Bleah!

So far so good, but then LW2 goes completely off on a tangent that it would be too much for her mother to host the dinner instead, and making a neatly-veiled crack about convincing her sister to host. Aha! One might have known that there was resentment that her sister's children have been such button-pushers for D2 all these years. But getting out of putting in an appearance? Oh, good grief.

The Prudecutor does not help by demanding that D2 immediately be thrust into the role of the Patient Living an Almost Perfectly Normal Life. I am almost revolted by the immediate impulse to turn her into a Poster Girl. Hasn't she suffered enough year after year? Can't she at least experience one quiet holiday with just the immediate family before some decision is made about being open about the diagnosis? I shall not even raise the question of whether a teenager might or not be permitted input into the question of whom to tell or not tell.

Interesting also that the Prudecutor sides with LW2 about her sister "stepping up" - what is WRONG with people who think that way, insisting on magazine-quality Family Holidays?

L3: So - while M3 certainly didn't put it very well, what is exactly going on between LW3 and M3 that firs the offer would lead to such an ungainly refusal and the violent reacting impulse to boycott the holiday because an offer to host was declined less than politely? These two deserve each other. I can't bring myself to care enough about this one to say anything more, except to hope that they remain bound up in a Prudecutor-sanctioned myth of the Perfect Family Holiday Gathering for the rest of their lives, making each other miserable year after year. I shall only hope that there isn't anyone in the family who genuinely deserves better than this sort of eternal tug-of-war.

L4: Why on earth continue to hold social events at work? A shower held by, for and with co-workers seems a horrid if not disgraceful idea. Talk about taking captives! And bosses socializing in this sort of atmosphere, where an employee was being honoured for a personal occurrence? Not a good idea at all. Think back to *Manor House* and the occasion of the festivities in the Servants' Hall. The Upstairs people might make an appearance Downstairs, but clearly not in the position of equals at the party. They would make a ceremonial appearance, perhaps including a short sppech or dance, and then leave the servants to their enjoyment. Or one might go back to *Cranford* and Lady Ludlow opening the May Day fair. She crowns Helen Hutton Queen of the May, but then takes no further part in the festivities as the townfolk celebrate. In these times, when birth class has virtually died out as a social indicator, perhaps corporate rank might make do.

A properly-framed apology when one has not quite maintained one's own standard of conduct never really seems likely to be out of order. The details LW4 can determine for herslef.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

11/4 - Severely Curtailed

Mostly just the bare lines of questioning this week (of all the weeks to have been reading *The Handmaid's Tale*) - too apprehensive for much more, and not about Zenyatta, although it was a shame the Breeder's Cup was on a synthetic track last year, which was the main reason she never opposed the now-faded Rachel Alexandra.

L1: To LW1, the whole family shamed you for turning her in. Your grandparents have been a great support to you. Where do these two overlap? They don't seem to belong in the same letter. To LW1's grandmother: What sacrifice if any are you making and are you providing your daughter with necessities, luxuries, or the capacity to harm herself further? Is the money really necessary or are you just trying to coerce your grandson into a symbolic act of forgiveness? Just why do you so badly need him to validate your choices for you?

Moral: It may not make any difference to what one does, but it may modify how one does it.

L2: To LW2, exactly why have you attended every year? Why is it acceptable in your marriage for you to be upset by your hosts but not for your husband to be upset by conflict? And how does he expect you to earn their respect by confronting them if conflict would upset him so? Why not spend the occasion in a place where you actually have a chance of having a pleasant evening, which you know by experience is not in that cousin's home? Why not contact the host privately in advance to request as a favour there being no repetition of the annual bullying, and then leave with dignity when it occurs? Which members of the family actually have good opinions worth earning and keeping? Why not invite those members to see if you can start your own tradition for an actual pleasant evening in convivial company without the toxic cousin? But mainly, which sentiments are actually your husband's and which are you putting into his mouth?

To the Prudecutor: Since when should Thanksgiving be a lovely event? How many people on the planet are there who are capable of gathering with a far-too-large group of ill-matched dinner companions for a poorly-orchestrated meal the menu of which is usually conducive to irritation and friction within the party who will genuinely call the occasion a lovely event afterwards and mean it instead of lying about as convincingly as Ms Messy and Dr Susan would declare themselves BFFs? Why do you persist in advising people to tell social lies that are so unconvincing they have almost no chance of being believed?

Moral: There's a reason why Hercule Poirot believes so many more murders than might statistically be expected occur during Christmas gatherings.

L3: To LW3, why on earth does your daughter's being an independent young woman whose life seems to be on the right track make you think you ought not to tell her she literally stinks? How much are you willing to see this cost her before you do? And why does this not prevent you from telling your children other, presumably far less urgent, truths?

Moral: Tell it or smell it?

L4: To LW4, exactly what kind of leader are you? How little influence do you have that this ridiculous program is still being perpetuated? Why do you have to participate in the Kool-Aid drinking ritual? And why have you never learned the urgent need to use the restroom when these degrading exercises take place? Wouldn't you really be happier if you just learned to love Big Brother after all?

My thanks, by the way, to Mr Messy for clearing up any uncertainty about the nature of the programme.

My only parallel for the week will be the *Daria* episode, "The F Word," in which Mr O'Neil assigns his English class to pick something at which each of them knows (s)he can't possibly succeed and fail at it. Early results are promising. Jody fails to convince her parents to let her have any free time during the summer, Mac fails to teach Kevin the branches of the U.S. government and Daria fails to convince Jake and Helen not to let Quinn have a major shopping spree. But then there are the successes. Kevin hands the other team the football and succeeds at being a bad athlete. Brittany asks Daria for advice on boring topics of conversation with her fellow cheerleaders and succeeds at being unpopular. Most startlingly, Jane changes her hair, applies kiwi-flavoured lip gloss, dons a teddy-bear backpack and unnerves Tom by succeeding at being conventional. Kevin and Brittany are kicked off their respective squads, and Mr O'Neil is soon in despair over how his terrible assignment has brought ruin to the school. Mac and Jody eventually intercede for Kevin and Brittany while Daria and Jane convince Mr O'Neil that his failure was a success. However, the most alarming success is that of Jane, who decides to remain conventional for a while, even to the point of being invited to try out for Brittany's spot on the cheerleading squad. Sanity and order are restored when Jane, at the moment of her tryout, has a vision of dating Kevin which spooks her back into being her artistic self, while her sarcastic cheer convinces the squad to take Brittany back.

Moral: "You had bouncity-bounce?"