Thursday, January 27, 2011

1/27 - Faux Outrage Day

I have been mulling over some ideas about moving the early-to-mid 1500's to later years and venturing across the Atlantic.

Catharine of Aragon would have been Elizabeth Edwards - placed in an unhappy but sympathetic situation, though more popular than her character might strictly have merited.

Anne Boleyn would have been Christine O'Donnell - an evangelist with witchcraft, purity and motherhood issues, and it's a neat parallel between having Protestant Bibles smuggled into England in consignments of French underclothing and flirting with Bill Maher on Politically Incorrect all to further the glory of the Saviour's Alliance for Lifting the Truth.

Jane Seymour would have been Newt Gingrich's wife, neglected and left to die just when times ought to have been most prosperous.

Anne of Cleves would have been Caroline Kennedy, whose brush with being a Senator worked out about as well as Anne's with being Queen, although at least Anne got a really happy ending.

Catherine Howard would have been silly enough to marry Rush Limbaugh. Had she not been rather stupid, I might have been tempted to say she'd have been Camille Paglia.

Katherine Parr would have been an ideological survivor - Barbara Boxer, perhaps?

Mary Tudor would have been either Nancy Pelosi or Sarah Palin. NP had tenure of about the same length trying to reverse the course of her country, but SP had the pregnancy issues. A toss-up.

Elizabeth Tudor would have been one of those cagey bipartisans like Mary Landrieu or Olympia Snowe.

Mary Stewart, given her silliness and taste in husbands, would have been Arianna Huffington.

This week, the questions are irritating enough that I shall declare a Faux Outrage Day:

L1: This letter is an outrage. If the LW had been male and revealed that the outline of one of his particular private parts had been inadvertently outlined through his clothing, the Prudecutor would have called him a pervert and a child molestor and demanded that he be run out of polite society in perpetuity. Additionally, we have the Prudecutor once again injecting her own preferences and sexuality into the situation in a completely inappropriate manner, and to the effect that I am feeling it necessary to go boil my eyeballs. Fortunately, I had no particular acquaintance with the person she names; had it been Stephane Lambiel, I could never have watched figure skating again.

For genuine advice on LW1's situation, I refer the question to the Submariner, who doubtless has far more experience than I on the subject, and is doubtless prepared to give a far more appreciative response. I shall only add that Claude Erskine Brown would completely support LW1's position, which is as good an argument as any I can recall for adopting the contrary viewpoint.

Moral: Anne Boleyn would have had a garment for this situation.

L2: This letter is an outrage. If the brother who hates his job and is deeply in debt had been a sister, LW2 would not have been so quick to write the sibling off as a complete failure or to have been so disgustingly judgmental about what he would likely do with the money. A sister would have been offered free room and board with LW2 along with a generous salary that would doubtless far exceed what has been ladled out to the brother in dribs and drabs by way of a token of gratitude. And the parents would have beenn investigated as abusers and blamed for ruining their daughter's life in perpetuity instead of their son's being called a blank-up for not getting with the program. In the Prudecutor's defence, however, she would most likely have made the assumption that everything has to be due to a diagnosable condition whether the sibling were male or female.

As for a real assessment of the situation, it seems reasonable for LW2 to offer to settle particular debts, not that that will really have any effect in the long run. I am a little reminded of those irritating people who fret endlessly in newspaper columns over whether they should retire credit card debt or student lines or contribute to their retirement accounts instead. They waffle on for paragraph after paragraph as if the whole of their moral worth would ride on whether they net an extra $1.67 to leave in their wills. Will it really make that much difference? Even if LW2 pays off her brother's most crippling debts, then he'll probably just live more on credit for a while as he racks up new debts instead of his taking a considerable cash sum and squandering it himself.

LW2 is more or less half there, and cannot be faulted too severely for not being able to get past the rigours of a severe upbringing. At least LW2 adores her little brother (with good reason, as he doubtless made her shine when she was facing the most critical of juries), and recognizes the value of his coming through for her in her time of need. But I would rather like to cross-examine her on exactly what she thinks maintaining the same parental attitude towards her brother as was upheld by their parents for all his life would accomplish. Does she seriously think her brother is suddenly going to become successful and motivated if she pushes him down the same path their parents tried for years and years to push him? Such hubris!

Moral: There are far worse things than hating one's job. Those who work to live instead of the other way around develop skills that can be of considerable value.

L3: This letter is an outrage. Mr Savage expresses it best. He recently received a letter from an infuriating woman who signed herself Serial Cheater in Love. She has been having an affair with her first love, who wants her to leave her second husband. The second husband has become much more attentive and loving since learning of the affair, when she was hoping he would divorce her and make the decision for her. She wrote to Mr Savage hoping that he would wave his magic wand and solve all her problems. His reaction to the letter was summed up eloquently in this sentence:
"This ***** can get legally married and I can't?" LW3 may not be quite that bad, but she's not a whole lot better.

If this were my novel, LW3 would hire someone (or convince a friend) to seduce her husband and arrange for her to catch them in the act. She would then be able to get a divorce without his feeling any right to feel ill-used, she would retain the affection and sympathy of his family, and everything would be lovely forn a while as she went off to pursue her desired adventures. After a year or so she'd want him back, only to find that he and his seductress had fallen genuinely in love.

But I really long for the sort of world in which one could tell such an idiot as LW3 that this is what happens to people who rush into making lifetime commitments without anywhere near the appropriate amount of serious consideration, and that it was too bad she didn't think before she opted for the Bridezilla path but now what was done was done, her husband had done nothing wrong, and just to grin and bear it. But that sort of thing only works in an ideal world. LW3 would doubtless punish her husband up the east coast, across Canada and down the west coast. I suppose really the only answer is for her to have an affair. That ought to get her vague lust for adventure out of her system. If she isn't caught, she may be sufficiently grateful to make sure that she treats her husband well. But I suppose she will probably be caught, and then he and his family will have a reason to resent her which will make them all feel a good deal better about themselves than if she simply doesn't want to be married at all and ruins things almost without any meaning.

Moral: If only LW3 could take Catherine Howard as a role model.

L4: This letter is an outrage. The fund collects an equal amount from everyone in the office and then doles out presents to those workers who become PREGNANT? This is discrimination of the clearest variety against men. I suppose LW4 and her female associates will try to cover their derrieres by claiming that they will spend just as much on whatever present they buy any man who happens to become pregnant as they do for any woman, but this is just another variation on the old trick of offering benefits to married couples and then telling same-sex couples that it's not discrimination, as unmarried heterosexual couples don't get preferential treatment, and if ever... well, at least some of those discriminators have gotten theirs.

As for this situation, it is interesting that a higher-up in the office would be the one to refuse to contribute to the fund in question. That just seems so typical. But I am more interested in LW4 putting herself in the role of the New Broom determined to change the entire corporation to suit her own sense of what might be right or appropriate. It might be fun to see her receive what she has coming to her.

Moral: Katherine Parr at least knew how to treat Mary, Elizabeth and Edward.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

1/20 - Up the Down Staircase

Some of the comments from Monday about the question of a retroactive confession of cheating have really depressed me. I suppose I'm just alien; it has almost never happened, but when I was last cheated upon (by someone even more torn apart by misery and guilt than the LW in question) my one strong or lasting instinct was to comfort him and to make sure he was thoroughly comforted and back to normal before holding a discussion about all the ramifications and what to do in future. All the prognostications of fury depress me, as do the claims that the husband in question had not maintained his end of the bargain. [See: Spencer, Diana] My take on the situation of the LW in particular is that she wants the friend with whom she cheated back in her life as a friend, and she thinks that confessing her transgression will get her over her guilt enough to allow her to reopen the friendship, even if she genuinely means not to slip again. I advise Divorce.

On the positive side, Kim Clijsters has perhaps set a new standard for how to treat questions of a Particular Nature. Interesting that Rennae Stubbs showed KC the message from Todd Woodbridge to begin with, but it seems to have ended all as a bit of good fun.

This week we visit Calvin Coolidge High School.

L1: This letter would certainly have more impact had it been written by H1 instead of LW1. There are two main issues. How much foundation does LW1 have for her claims against MIL1's sanity? As a side line, one might wonder what H1 and his brothers have been doing propping up their mother in all her delusional insanity for all their lives. Then there is the matter of how much justification if any MIL1 had for contacting the authorities about suspected baby abuse, and what she has done since she has been proved to be in error. There are ways in which people act when their conduct has been doubtful that demonstrate responsibility. From what we have to go on thus far, MIL1 is not acting in such a manner.

At least LW1 and H1 are sufficiently in accord to stick to their agreement, but why is H1 continuing to mope so? What does it matter which side of the family supplies any grandparents worthy of being known? And why would H1 continue to mope if MIL1 continues to behave in an outrageous way, making increasingly unreasonable demands? Something is just off.

I cannot see LW1 as Miss Barrett, the protagonist in UtDS, for all her railing against the insanity of the system. She might be the embittered Mr Barringer, Miss Barrett's fellow English teacher, who cannot treat a student in love with him with common decency. MIL1 might at a stretch be the battered Linda Rosen, who, asked by Miss Barrett if she can do anything for her, asks if Miss B can arrange for dancing in the cafeteria. But I think I settle for H1 as a cross between the school nurse, who cannot touch a wound or remove foreign particles from the eye and must accordingly settle for giving Linda Rosen a cup of tea, and the guidance counselor, Miss Friedenberg, who might have served as a role model for sound bite politicians. In her zeal, Miss F can produce at a pinch a Pupil Personality Profile for every student in the school with all his/her teachers' Capsule Characterizations, producing with pride about a thimbleful of empty generalization by way of insight into the characters and troubles of the members of Miss Barrett's class.

The solution to LW1's situation is simple enough: Divorce. C1 do not really see eye to eye. H1 is yielding to his wife now, but he will soon resent doing so.

Moral: "You have devoted... a whole generation of time to this work, haven't you?"

L2: The Prudecutor is at her most irritating. It may be reasonable to assume that meeting and marrying LW2 might be the best thing that ever happened to H2, but there may well be other things that have happened to H2 that could well vie for the honour, or at least sufficiently appear so to do as to make it unwise to make the bold declaration advocated by the Prudecutor. And it is a bit much for the Prudecutor to be so aggressive in her assertion that C2 have done Nothing Wrong when it is clearly a point of conduct that anyone could have predicted would have been considered questionable by the small-minded in a conservative community. Do we even know for sure that LW2 objects only to what she perceives to be entirely unjustified and malicious attacks, or whether what stings ios that some part of her inner self is not entirely convinced she has in this matter acted in strict accordance with the dictates of her own moral code. Personally, I'd be inclined to be content with congratulating C2 on beating the odds against rebound romances. Then again, I know so little of religions that I cannot pronounce with the glib assurance of the Prudecutor that it is ridiculous to disapprove of a separated but not yet divorced person dating or boinking. Religions contain many prejudices with which one might disagree while allowing that, given the basic premise of the faith group involved, a particular prejudice X or Y is understandable.

It might help to know whether LW2 entered into the campaign as an ostrich, or whether this particular race is an exception to the usual manner in which local politics tend to be conducted there. Is this the first race in which the incumbent has run a negative campaign, or one reaching so far as the personal lives of opposing candidates? I am almost inclined to guess that LW2 just did not foresee the campaign taking this particular turn, and that she is basically at peace therefore with her own conscience, but cannot be certain.

LW2 does seem to fit Miss Barrett's model, that of the innocent fumbling in the unexpectedly complex arena into which she finds herself drawn, coming to the brink of surrender, but just in time embracing her situation. Not a bad role model for a Candidate's Wife. LW2 could choose worse.

As to what C2 ought to do, one potential idea is to run on the truth, own what they have done, acknowledge that some people will vote against H2 accordingly, respectfully disagree with the wisdom of such a vote on such a basis, and perhaps reap a reward in a harvest of votes from those who choose to stand against prejudice. Then again, such a plan might not be feasible in their community. But it is possible.

Another course, and the one I prefer, is either a sham or a real divorce. A pretence of yielding to community standards might serve H2. However, given the odds against toppling a popular incumbent, however bad the local economy, I am inclined to favour a genuine divorce. Either H2 is as green as LW2, in which case he ought to have had better sense than to offer himself up as the sacrificial lamb, or he (or at least his party operatives) had some sense of the questions that would arise and did not enter the race on condition of dropping out at the first sign of LW2's discomfort. She doesn't care for the attention she's barely started to receive, and he's a real soldier. Not a match. Note that LW2 only mentions that she is considering asking him to drop out, despite her acknowledgment of the time and effort invested in the candidacy already. There is no hint that he has actually offered to drop out if she so desires. That may make a genuine divorce quite reasonable.

Moral: "Just walk slowly and think of the odds, 18 to 6."

L3: How has such a robot as LW3 actually managed to have an emotional relationship in the first place? It's easy enough to see why he's divorced, but I feel rather deprived, as I now cannot advise him to take such action. He has preceded me. On the other hand, it is interesting to encounter a male legal version of Dr Lilith Sternin Crane.

In his defence, at least he does not intend to boink more than one partner concurrently. And given that he has shown the ability to have sex with the same partner ten times while being willing to undertake an eleventh, we might even infer possible longevity for an individual partner. It would be interesting to delve into his relationship with partners who happened not to be age-appropriate - or would that be mean-spirited?

As I cannot tell LW3 to divorce when he has already done so and intends never to wed again, I can only advise him to date professionals with top-grade references. Who would be more likely to be more careful to guard against nasty litle diseases?

LW3's parallel in UtDS seems rather clearly to be the bureaucratic vice principal, Mr McCabe, who has neither vision nor insight nor compassion, but can be relied upon to uphold rules to the best of his considerable ability.

Moral: "It's the sound of thinking."

L4: A curious situation, which I can only compare to Mr Barringer's receipt of a love letter from Alice Blake. How does one cope? He didn't choose a clever method, opting to go over it line by line with the poor girl as if it were a poorly composed homework assignment. She ended by jumping out the window of his classroom some time afterwards.

Moral: "A love letter..." "Which I corrected for grammar and spelling and returned to the student..."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

1/13 - Operative Questions

What IS it with all these women who insist on playing coy games with The Proposal? Waiting Around for Him to Ask - my Aunt Fanny! And in the Monday case the Everything-but-the-Ring couple has already experienced what stereotypers would term Lesbian Bed Death. Part of me insists on thinking that it couldn't happen to a nicer couple. Another part of me has been continuing my little discussion about Eleanor Butler with Dr Susan. I used to be very White Richard, backing the Duke of Buckingham as the agent behind the murder of the Princes in the Tower. Recently, however, R3 has reminded me of Macbeth, and I have wandered into the Grey Richard camp.

Today I shall devise a few Operative Questions.

L1: LW1 confuses me somewhat. The tricky part with secondhand letters is that it's not alwas easy to discern what a LW is calling something and what the other person is calling the same thing. One is so inclined to reword things. Which of them called anal a Fetish? It certainly sounds as if he did, but I still want to make it absolutely clear that that is his own thinking and not just her mental association. The F word gets thrown about almost recklessly these days. If it originated from him, my guess would be that he is trying to manipulate her into making it their primary entree on the menu, as it were. If it originates from her, I suspect that she wants to make it into something seen as an exotic activity that is far outside the range of what a Normal Person might Reasonably Be Expected to Do. In a way, this is almost like watching a Cutthroat Defence when one knows one of two accused parties must be guilty and each accuses the other.

Another important question is, How has he presented the matter to her? He seems to have been a bit clumsy about it, not laying the groundwork properly and ensuring his partner's comfort along the way. Is he inconsiderate, just not very good at it, or has he made a reasonable effort and just met with a badly mismatched partner? The dealbreaker matter is sort of a side issue to this. Presumably he does not have to have it that way every time. It seems more a question of reasonable accommodation.

The question I like best is, Why has LW1 written to the Prudecutor instead of to Mr Savage, who is a good deal more expert in these matters? One possible answer is that she might not be aware of Mr Savage, but that seems not the most likely. She might have decided in advance that Mr Savage would definitely tell her to be GGG and that his comments section would, to be punny, savage her. Interestingly, just yesterday or so he pointed out in response to a young gay man that anal isn't automatic. Especially if LW1 pinned the F word on this of her own volition, I suspect she consults the Prudecutor because she knows just what answer she'll get back and she feels confident of a sympathetic reception. And it certainly seems that she got more or less what she expected.

I can go on and cross-examine the Prudecutor a bit. Just exactly when is exactly the right time to introduce a non-vanilla interest? Particularly with somewhat bland partners, advancing in small steps is much more likely the way to go. If anything, ABF1 has jumped the gun a bit or gone too fast for LW1. It likely depends on the exact meaning of dealbreaker (people are so like Humpty Dumpty and expect words to mean exactly what they pay them to mean). Unless the construction of the letter is rather off, he appears capable of functioning without indulgence. If he doesn't require it every time, then isn't it simply a question of whether he can be accommodated, and, if so, how often they should agree to do it?

And how, oh how, does the Prudecutor know exactly what is Standard Operating Procedure in bedrooms where her participation would not be required or welcomed? I would hesitate to spout myself, having Retired from Romance, but I should still venture to think myself a good deal more knowledgeable on this topic than the Prudecutor.

Moral: "What many men desire/That many may be meant/By the fool mutitude that choose by show/Not learning more than the fond eye doth teach"

L2: This time I shall begin with the most interesting question. Just when did The Father morph into My Fiance?

FSIL2 may have a good deal in common with more than one person or character, but the one who comes most definitely to mind is the Prodigal Son's Older Brother. Has FSIL2 basically played by Mamma's rules all her life and been rewarded very sparsely for it? Seems plausible enough to me. This does not justify her attack on LW2, but one can understand resentment on the part of someone who has done The Right Thing for year after year and barely been thanked for it when in swans someone who has done what would seem to be Clearly a Wrong Thing (or at least the Right Thing in the Wrong Order), and off she waltzes with a Big Reward.

There are so many questions one could ask. In many respects, this is reminiscent of the holiday questions we had featuring a LW and her MIL - where oh where has the Little Dog Gone? What is F2's contribution to LW2's decision-making process? It seems a bit much that he should be pushed out of the Family Interaction Prototype or get to check out on his own volition before the pair of them are even legally wed. Has FSIL2 had rather a hard time of it for someone with a rich mamma? Or perhaps did FSIL2 have a similar situation of her own in which Mamma behaved rather differently? Has FMIL2 always favoured her dear little boy over his two sisters (or at least the one who's complaining)? Is FSIL2 just badly behaved in general, greedy-grabby and wanting to keep her hands on as large an inheritance as she can? How is the Other FSIL2 taking the whole situation? Does FMIL2 tend to inject money into social transactions on a regular basis? There is just way too much one doesn't know to be truly comfortable with any particular line. My working hypothesis would be that FMIL2 typically is used to being on the receiving end of a good deal of sucking up - Miss Crawley in Vanity Fair, perhaps? And we all know that regular Sucking Up puts one at risk for turning into Goneril or Regan.

Then again, it is at least possible to look at the proposed gift as a Lovely Gesture. One hardly wants one's first grandchild to be raised by parents who are Financially Insecure. And there do exist young women who become Pregnant on Purpose, taking, as it were, Lucy Steele for a role model. Not that LW2 necessarily seems to be one of this type, but FSIL2 might have reason to think her so that has been Conveniently Omitted from L2. And some people do hold hat it matters whether a future child is the result of a commitment or the cause of one.

My working hypothesis is that FSIL2 has behaved more or less in a manner that she thinks worthy of being rewarded by FMIL2, although I'm torn on the question of whether FSIL2 particularly thought she deserved a bit of assistance, or that it would have been nice, or whether she hadn't had any particular thought about her mother's money until suddenly a large gift to a stranger pops up on her radar. This has the feel of L1 from last week and the ex-wife kept dangling for seven years about a child, and then LW1 got someone else pregnant and was thrilled forty ways to Sunday about everything. I wish F2 had written the letter; then we might know much more about his relationship with his sister. Has FSIL2 deliberately passed up the chance to become pregnant herself because it would have been financially imprudent (or even perhaps terminated a pregnancy for reasons of financial responsibility)? That seems a decent first guess, considering how little we've been given.

Should LW2 accept the offer? I can't bring myself to care either way. I don't really have a sufficient read on whether she'll earn every penny of it, and I cannot entirely settle on how much I dislike LW2. It is very curious that she first describes F2 as The Father, and then later calls him My Fiance without any mention of when the engagement occurred and any pertinent circumstances. I think I'm inclined to hope that the siblings and LW2 will all live unhappily ever after.

Moral: "Edwina said she was d****d if she was going to be Queen Lear."

L3: How on earth did this not all come out at the time of the estrangement? And why on earth would LW3 feel she ought not to tell the truth now? The only reason that comes to mind is that she thinks she might not be believed. But this whole letter just comes across as off. It could be a lot of fun; we have all the requisite characters, but we have the wrong LW. LWs calling a stepmother a total witch are rather a cliche. I think I'd most enjoy the perspective of the stepsister, quite the most original character in the piece. What has she been doing in all of this? Why has she now apparently aligned herself with her stepfather, presumably against her mother? What have her motives been? I so want a different LW that I just can't bring myself to go on with the current one.

No moral deserved.

L4: Well, who died and made her Queen Latifah? Why on earth is the whole neighbourhood so afraid of someone so ill-behaved? After all, it takes a village to kowtow to Hyacinth Bucket.

Moral: "Now, Emmett; if you're rude, she won't invite you again."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

1/6 - Take Two

Sadly, my seven hour post was lost when my connection went out. Of course, this box does not permit one to Copy. Great start to the year. I shall recapitulate as briefly as possible.

L1: Dislike all the prevarications coming from C1. Do they originate from SB1 or S1? Is LW1 really that sure the lawyer was such a good one, and that he really gave time and attention to the case? After all, some people think Claude Erskine Brown a good lawyer. Advised LW1 to send C1 and assorted family to the Dr Phil show to have C1 sorted out; odds are they will be. Was reminded of various cases involving offences against minors that were less clear-cut than appeared, but it's hard to imagine this being truly well looking for the Prevaricator.

L2: Asked FIL2 whether he knew he should take his wife to be checked unless he's enjoying her finally mistreating everyone else and not just him; MIL2 how LW2 was supposed to know about her allergies (or is it really H2's fault?), LW2 why she didn't insist on gifts to her being bought at the same budget to which she had to restrict herself, and H2 why he didn't supplement his wife's gift fund, as well as why, if she's returning the purse, his gift isn't going with it. Am fairly sure this is largely H2's fault. Advised Divorce.

L3: Was really irritated with the DIM LW3 wringing hands and worrying about how intrusive it would have been to have suggested to CW3 that he consult a doctor. It might have been intrusive or inconsiderate to suggest the diagnosis LW3 suspected, but really, would it have been that hard when there was a clear track record of trouble and CW3 had appeared quite open to suggestion? Was reminded of how all of Chambers tiptoed around not telling Wendy Crump that Claude was in trouble for having called her fat, and Wendy taking the final revelation without turning a hair.

L4: Advised Deception. Either bring in a professional poker player to the next game or decide to stand by the friend and pretend to believe that the accusers had been cheating for some time, and that part of the fun of the game was outwitting the cheat. Was reminded of Albert and later Henry fiddling with petty cash and Henry only being saved because Claude had been deducting the price of two pairs of pinstriped trousers from his income tax every year when he hadn't had new bags in a decade at least.