Thursday, October 25, 2012

10/25 - More Careful Plodding

Things are getting a little strange when the Prudecutor's main column is more same-sexer-related than Mr Savage's.This week, LW1 chooses to consult an outsider. Why? Is it because the problem involves (at least on the fringes) the question of assimilation? Does he want to avoid being given the standard line he might fear receiving from Mr Savage, to DTMFA? Did he read Mr Savage's response to the woman with the pro-life boyfriend advising her to lie and tell him she was pregnant, and immediately lose all faith in non-breeders?

The matter seems to merit inquiry because his choice of the Prudecutor could well hint at his cast of mind, which could have more than the usual influence on how one might want to deal with his question. This could be something to do with the situation. Or it could help fill in the noticeable gaps in the information presented.

[My boyfriend and I have been together just under three years. It was a whirlwind romance and we have a strong, honest, and loving relationship.]

The operative word is "honest". I am really rather sad here that this was L1, as that meant necessarily that one could not read the letter without having seen the headline and knowing the nature of the problem. It would have been interesting to have been able to read the letter without knowing it would necessarily end up concerning the closet, to see what would have seemed the best guess. Whastever difficulty a couple might have, there are at least a dozen problems that coincide better with the relationship in general being described as "honest", even if, as I presume, LW1 merely means that they are honest with each other - which is actually possible.

 [We both have fulfilling careers with hectic schedules—I do a lot of traveling overseas. He is now an actor working in Hollywood]

In other words, the couple has spent relatively little time together and must rely a great deal more on trust on a regular basis than those couples who do not spend lengthy periods apart. And what was BF1 doing prior to acting in Hollywood? Was this career turn a bit of a blindsider?

[and he is paranoid about anyone finding out he is gay, even though most people who meet him suspect he is.]

What the flip does that mean, and why on earth does the Prudecutor miss such a nasty remark - or, at least, nasty way of phrasing it? One suspects that Colonel Mustard did it in the billiard room with the lead pipe, or that one's spouse has been having an affair for the past decade.

He's in his mid-20s and still struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. I'm a few years older, and much more comfortable with who I am.]

Okay, so LW1 bagged a hottie. But one might wonder how strong a relationship is likely to be if one of the participants is still struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. In conjunction with his selection of the Prudecutor, this suggests that LW1 may be what we can call by the almost neutral term "discreet". It does raise the question, though, of exactly how open LW1 is in general, and wants to be, which the Prudecutor misses his never really addressing.

[He worries about the amount of hate that can be directed at an openly gay public figure in America, despite all the recent high-profile coming-outs, and I understand his dilemma. He’s concerned that his parts will dry up once directors and producers think of him as a “gay” actor.]

BF1 seems the sort of person who Acts Now and Plans for the Consequences Later. And he seems mighty assured that the parts are going to keep rolling in if he toes the appropriate line, which raises a curious comparison to the religious debate over works-based salvation.

[When we met, he was not working in the entertainment industry and we were not burdened with this.]

Okay, a little hint, but we still don't know how he got started and if he was heading in that particular direction or if Hollywood, as it were, found him. Was LW1 or the editor responsible for this lack of clarity?

[The situation is causing huge friction, as I never meet his friends or anyone he has worked with.]

The Prudecutor omitted to point out that surrounding oneself with entirely straight associates is likely to be considered a significant tell. And this does not seem entirely to gel with LW1's seeming discreet. I begin to suspect (word choice deliberate) a little game going on here of Who's the Man? - and am not in the least surprised that this one would sail so completely over the Prudecutor's head that she wouldn't even notice anything in the vicinity. One can almost give her half a pass, given that she has never been half of an MM couple, but then, given how much Mr Savage has learned to tolerable effect about Women Parts, perhaps not today.

[I stay home or make my own plans when he socializes. I’m not even allowed to friend him on Facebook or any other social media.]

Although not a Facebooker, I'll still ask why anyone would "friend" his spouse. I can give LW1 and BF1 half a pass given the amount of time they spend away from each other. And it's an interesting twist on the Martyred Wife theme.

[We had discussed marriage; but that’s now on hold and I'm doubting whether I should base myself permanently in LA with him as we had planned. I have no desire to play the role of a McCarthy-era secret lover. What should I do?]

Who the flip discusses marriage with somebody who is still coming to terms with his sexuality??? And the Prudecutor missing that one is about as bad as Serena Williams missing a 50-mph serve from Chris Evert.

Now for general points. One remarkable thing about this letter is that it illustrates the difference between seekers asking How Do I... (X) and those asking What Do I Do; LW1 manages to give away remarkably little in the nature of how he has acted and what he wants to do. In this case, it seems almost plausible that LW1 has just gone along with BF1's restrictions without ever having had any sort of conversation about them with the other person involved. There's a radical idea. And instead, here he is asking the Prudecutor, as if, should she have chosen to lecture him about the dangers of open homosexuality and the benefits accruing to those in the closet, he'd have taken her advice to adjust his own attitude with the same application with which he'd have been prepared to DTMFA or Issue an Ultimatum per her recommendation.

And, of course, the Prudecutor completely misses (as does LW1) something quite likely to be pertinent to the discussion. From her response:

[Maybe he’s partying with straight friends and pretending to pick up girls. Maybe he’s on the town cheating on you.]

While the Prudecutor did not finish the second sentence with the phrase, "...with other men," nowhere in her response to a LW whose BF is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality does she explore or even mention the dreaded B word? Being given the large number of people who round their sexual orientation presentation for convenience or some other purpose alone ought to have been sufficient grounds for her to inquire whether BF1 might have a stripe or at least a hint of actual or at least desired bisexuality. That could keep a cross-examiner with a perilous overdraft in refreshers for a few weeks.

There's so little LW there in the letter beyond the not wanting to be a Throwback Guilty Secret that there really doesn't seem to be much more to say at present. Of course LW1 has a legitimate dealbreaker, but one has so little idea of how inclined he is or isn't to use it. Possibly some of the earlier questions would help in that line.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10/18 - Short, Still Protesting

I thank the Prudecutor for making my case that heterosexuals should abstain from the discussion of gay rights in the same way that men should abstain from the discussion of abortion.

I shall point out quickly that it is interesting that the conversation would be beginning at the pregnancy. If the dear friends and family LW1 does not want to offend were not close enough for the conversation to begin when LW1 and W1 were about to start or had started "trying" for a baby, then it seems a little pushy to expect to be provided with details at this point.

Also, it's one thing to want to keep particular information private. It's another to withhold general information from "dear friends" for whom it might prove useful. If anyone out of the loop gets a partial pass, it is the lesbian friend who is contemplating starting a family, who might find a little general advice to be of great help, such as being warned not to go to X, who's homophobic. But then we don't know if LW1 has an Inner Circle who are in on the details or not.

I also got a bit of a heteronormative vibe from L1. It may well be that she is feeling atgawked, in which case I am quite sympathetic.

That is all of my attention I feel the Prudecutor deserves this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10/11 - Breaking Protocol

As much fun as it might be to compare L1, in which LW1 does better going for an immediate divorce than signing a postnup, and H1 is pushing LW1 into divorce by threatening it as a consequence of failing to sign, to Mr Savage's advice to a LW, who wasn't sure she could continue a relationship with an otherwise progressive boyfriend who didn't think abortion should be banned but believes that life begins at conception, that she should tell him she's pregnant, thus insuring the end of the relationship one way or the other, I am going to break tradition and concentrate entirely on a letter from earlier in the week. I present a copy of the printed version:

David and I have been best friends since we met in undergrad. When we were accepted to grad programs at the same university, we got an apartment together. Two days ago, David was killed in a car accident. I have been devastated ever since. When I looked up David's online obituary, I was shocked to see myself listed as his fiancée. As close as we were, there was never anything romantic between us. David was gay. The only person I really know in David's family is his brother, and I called him to ask him why I was listed as his fiancée in the obituary. His brother explained that his parents are ultraconservative and very religious and, even though they knew David was gay, they never quite accepted it. I guess people in his hometown town knew he was living with a girl, and his parents explained away this "sin" by saying we were engaged, rather than saying we were just friends or even just roommates. The funeral is Tuesday, and I don't know if I can go or not. I know David would have hated the lie his parents told, but I also know he loved them very much and wouldn't want them to be hurt. I'm not sure what people would say if his "fiancée" didn't show up for the service. But I am also not comfortable accepting condolences from people for something that is a lie. I know how much David struggled with coming out to his parents and how he fought for acceptance. There is a part of me that would like to demand a retraction and correction of the obituary. Another part of me says to let it go because David is beyond hurting now. What should I do?

And away we go. I shall start with a look at Things We Don't Know:

* Was David dating? If so, how seriously? It seems reasonable to presume that he was not engaged (although who wouldn't want to see the follow-up letter, "An hour after I proposed to my boyfriend and he accepted, he died in a car accident. His homophobic family called his female roommate his fiancee in the obituary. What should I do?"). The LW would likely know if he were dating, and it does change the equation a little by adding a party directly being hurt by the deception. Certainly his  feelings and wishes ought to carry considerable weight with the LW.

* How gay (though that's badly phrased) was David? He could have been bisexual-rounded-to-gay, as happens to many people, some of whom round themselves for convenience or to avoid anti-bi attitudes, some of whom are rounded by others, either taking a lengthy run of same-sexer expression for exclusive homosexuality, or for reasons of their own; even the LW herself could have a personal motive for wanting to bump up his Kinsey score to a perfect 6.0. This is largely a side issue, but it could affect the credibility of the lie. If it will be only too painfully obvious at the funeral that the family's presenting any woman as David's fiancee is clearly wishful thinking on their part, the less the LW might have to do by way of clarification.

* This is potentially a tough one for the LW, but what, in an ideal world, would have been her relationship with David? There are many such pairs that are just genuine best friends with no interest on either side. In others, she would date him in an instant and there's a serious power dynamic in play. There could probably be a complete sliding scale set out. I bring this out as a sort of variation on the Lucy Angkatell Theory (applied to her kitchenmaid's volunteering testimony to the police in a murder case) of how confusing it can be when the right thing to do is pleasant in a not necessarily good-for-one way. Although the LW appears to have her head screwed on properly, making David's wishes her top priority, it could be trickier if there were a glimmer of attraction that she only half-acknowledges to herself.

* Who exactly was responsible for the obituary being printed as it was, with the lie? Even if everything David's brother told the LW were true, the obituary might have been drafted by the parents jointly, one of them acting more decisively than the other, or by the brother himself without consulting them. It is entirely conceivable that the brother could be presenting the parents as unapproachable because of their being really more accepting than he'd want them to be. For all the LW knows, it's possible that the brother had even been filtering communications between David and their parents to keep up the estrangement.

* Had the fiancee lie been spread before David's death, or was it a sudden inspiration? The LW's guess is plausible. If it were so, and people in David's hometown had been fed that line about her for some time, it would make the assumption stronger. But it is not confirmed that it was general knowledge David had a female roommate. Then again, it is a general rule of Evangelica that heterosex or the possibility thereof trumps homosex.

* What exactly is the familial expectation of the LW's role at the funeral? She seems to think that sparing David's parents pain as she thinks David could have wished is pushing her into going, but for all she knows the family could want her to behave exactly as the Prudecutor has advised - being "too distraught" to confirm or deny the engagement. As a side to this question, how unanimous are the parents and brother in what they want her to do? The brother presumably hasn't requested that she confirm the lie, but he might be assuming that she will do so. He might even think she will be happy to do so - for all we know, David might have told his family that she was attracted to him, or said something that they interpreted that way.

* How much of a gay social circle did David have, and was the LW a part of it? He might have had a mostly straight-appearing life with few gay friends (which would make the funeral look a good deal more straight than it might), he might have had two circles, in which case she might have been part of either or both, or his social life apart from visits home might have been predominantly in gay or mixed company.

* The main question, presented by a surprisingly small number of posters in the comments, is how David reacted to/would have reacted to the lie. If it was in circulation before the accident, did he know about it? Did he disagree or agree with it? How would he have reacted to finding out, if it were something that would have been new to him? Sadly, the LW probably can only guess about this one, which ought to be what has the most influence with her. It sounds as if everyone were in the process of something that might have ended somewhere on the scale of general acceptance (probably not very far along from the sound of the letter). How does the LW think David would have reacted had he been at home visiting and his parents/brother mentioned her as his fiancee? to company? Would he have left? corrected the statement (with how much force?)? gone along with it to keep the peace? suffered while doing so?


With that out of the way, the Prudecutor's original advice, to attend the funeral, accept the condolences of others in attendance and be too distraught to discuss the situation, was widely condemned as a bit of a stinker. Later, the Prudecutor apparently modified her response (on Facebook instead of Slate) to include correcting that there was no engagement without outing David. One interesting aspect of the letter is how many possible shades of meaning can be attained through slight variation of exactly how the LW might do such a thing at the funeral:

The LW's statement to anyone offering condolences for the loss of her fiance can reflect how they felt, living arrangements and their standing. One has various components:

We loved each other
I loved him dearly
We were best friends
He was my closest friend
We were very close

We lived together
We shared an apartment
We were roommates
We were platonic roommates

We were not engaged
We were never engaged
There was never any idea of marriage
We were not dating
We never dated
Neither of us ever had any romantic interest in the other

with other variations can produce quite a range of possible inferences for those who didn't know David that well to draw. These suggestions from posters could be combined in ways that could make it quite clear that there was never any desire for romance on either side, or leave things so loose that strangers might think the engagement had been only a matter of time with a large number of possibilities in between suggesting partial and/or one-sided attraction on either side. If the LW decided that David would want her to go along with his parents as far as she could, she could easily be technically accurate while coming across as if the two of them had been keeping the contraceptive industry in business almost single-handedly. Or, should she wish just to stay on this side of the line of outing David, she could be quite explicit about that road being closed. One thing I can say in the LW's favour is that she definitely seems to be above the temptation to imply that David wanted her but that she could not return his romantic affection.


Now, as to what to do. The LW is faced with an erroneous obituary as well as the funeral. One possible aspect of the case that I don't think any poster mentioned is that the LW not correcting the obituary could be interpreted as some sort of homophobic gesture on her part. How David's gay friends/boyfriends/exes might take this libel (a strong word, but David's family have put in writing something they know to be false with the intent of getting people to believe an untruth about him that he would clearly have found unpleasant and distasteful; if the truth of a statement is sufficient defence in a libel action, then the untruth of a statement that would have pained the object greatly surely qualifies this lie for libelous status) is not hard to guess. Especially if she had relatively little to do with them, she could come off as implicit in the closeting. Then again, if she knows them all well, while in a way it would make the whole thing sadder, there could be an added dimension that would make the family's deception appear as much a hoot as anything else. It does seem the least the LW can do for David's memory to correct the obituary; if she prefers to do that after the funeral in order to give the family something of a respite, that seems acceptable.

If she doesn't want to go to the funeral because she can't see herself getting through it without outing David and she knows she doesn't want to out David, that seems fair enough. She does appear to feel pressured into attending by the fake announcement because her absence might raise difficult questions. Even if she attends the funeral, a memorial with David's chosen family, even if he had not quite yet gotten to considering them to be such, is a must. It might make things easier for her if she decides to opt for graciousness over loyalty.

I should go so far as to have her contact the brother, who may well turn out to be the source of all the misery in the piece, to warn him that the family had better not mention her as David's fiancee or introduce her to anyone while hanging that label on her. Even if she has no intention of outing David, I think she is fully justified in threatening to do so.

Oof. I get all this way and what we don't know makes it really impossible for me to feel comfortable advocating any particular course. I just hope for David's sake that the idea to call them betrothed was something pulled out of the hat after the death; it is a colossal betrayal as well as a libel.

One of the interesting things about the comments is that many posters, if we give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that they don't want the LW's correction of the libel to be sufficiently flimsy that the deluded will find it easy to interpret the libel as a mere stretch of truth, reveal a considerable lack of familiarity with coming out, from the vantage point of catching on to how people desperate to believe X will grab at any shred of support for their desired belief. Not that there's any reason people ought to be familiar with coming out and its associated ramifications. But it gives me a feeling of validation for complaining about straightsplaining and for thinking that it might be quite becoming for straight people to be just a shade less ready and eager to rush in with all kinds of pronouncements when they'd benefit considerably from letting less privileged voices be heard. And a special thumbs down to the woman who wrote a long post not devoid of eloquence about how she went along with the whitewashing of her late husband's family in presenting the couple as happy and the deceased as only the best parts of his character when he'd been abusive and they'd separated. We've all seen variations on that disgusting comparison before.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

10/4 - Out of Patience

I begin to suspect that the selector of these letters is the same person selecting the 101-style rerun letters for Mr Savage.

L1: LW1 bears a remarkable resemblance to Claude Erskine-Brown. From early days, when he was always on the prowl to discover whether our clerk Albert fiddled a few checks or bought drinks at Pommeroy's Wine Bar with marked pound notes from the Chambers petty cash, to later times when he investigated how much our next senior clerk Henry was trying to overcharge all the members of Chambers for weekly coffee money, nobody has outdone Claude Erskine Brown on the count of attention to minutiae. And he has shown a propensity to expand this into exploration of people's sex lives, such as the time when Guthrie Featherstone had a brief fling with a communist typist named Angela until I managed to arrange for her to overhear his final speech to the jury when he was prosecuting for possession of cannabis. LW1 could not be giving us a more effective impersonation of Claude if he had a direct line through which to channel.

If history has taught us three things, at least one of them is that there is no cure for Claude Erskine Brown. LW1 should do his wife the biggest favour in his power and divorce her yesterday.

L2: LW2 has fallen into the common trap of taking hearsay evidence as proved. She does not know that her grandfather abused more even one of his daughters, although the additional hearsay evidence makes it a good deal more likely. But hearsay is always much more satisfactory to the defence than it ever is to the Prosecution or the Prudecution. The answer for LW2 lies, as is so often the case, is the conducting of a proper cross-examination. There are a variety of witnesses who can offer evidence that is not hearsay.

Unfortunately, LW2 is not so circumstanced as to be able to conduct her cross-examination in Court, with all the witnesses sworn to tell the truth. Given these circumstances that are so far from ideal, the greater the quantity of expertise with which LW2 conducts the fact-finding mission, the better. I advise LW2 to find and employ the most expert cross-examiner available for a crash course in the finer points of the art. Modesty would make the naming of the most suitable candidate somewhat unseemly, but another point of recommendation is that the cross-examiner could demonstrate the art by digging into why LW2 has so much invested in the rehabilitation of G2. A mere paucity of grandparents seems a bit skimpy - as skimpy as the portions of food on offer at La Maison Jean-Pierre, run by that larger-than-life cook and character, Jean-Pierre O'Higgins.

L3: As painful as it is, I fear that I may have to recuse myself from this case. LW3 and CW3 have created such a feud out of so little actual grounds for the same (and in so doing provided an excellent example of the value of strong cross-examination skills, as a good cross-examiner could have gotten to the bottom of the problem in five minutes) that it is impossible for the two of them to be any other than members of those great feuding families, the Timsons and the Molloys. As LW3 is clearly asking for directions on how to grass on CW3 without appearing in the unsympathetic character that usually accompanies the role of a snitch, it is clear that the odds favour LW3 being a member of the clan Molloy, for the Timsons, in general, do not grass. There are exceptions - Cyril was led into being willing to point the finger at Dennis in a cutthroat defence before Judge Bullingham, but happily it turned out that neither of the pair was guilty of the malicious wounding of the bank guard, and both were guilty only of robbery. But I have never appeared for a Molloy, not even the generally inoffensive Chirpy Molloy, known for taking luxurious baths in the middle of the robberies he committed, although I did at least bring together the eyewitness and the perpetrator who framed Chirpy.

L4: As this was turned by the Prudecutor into a technical question, here's a better solution. LW4 should get the N4s booked onto either a talk show or a court show, the former for preference. Sob stories about people in the N4s' plight are all the rage, and hosts are falling over themselves to be the most helpful. Even after the Golden Age of Oprah, there should be enough left to go around.

Moral: "It wasn't a couple of shirts; three, to be exact."