Thursday, January 10, 2002

Poaching Ann's Land

Well, the response to my Advice Column starter plea has so far been ignored...of course it's only been about a day and half since I posted it. But I'm just itching to advise! I've dumped unsolicited advice on a couple of Comments pages in my blogtravels today, but it's just not the same.

This evening as I was reading Ann Landers on the back of the Comics page of the Oakland Tribune, while eating my Campbell's Chunky Sirloin Steak and Hearty Vegetables soup with buttered white bread, I found myself snorting at the rather lame advice she shelled out today.

"I could pull better advice out of my ass," a voice in my head huffed; "Could you, now?" the other voice in my head sneered (I'm lucky when there's only two voices); "Yeah, I could...granted, Ann has her reputation as a Really Nice Person to protect, and she has a different agenda and priorities, I know she worships the institution of marriage and believes in giving in when it doesn't hurt...but I thought today's advice was really lame"; "Well, what advice would you have given, smartass?"

I wrestled with the idea of plagiarizing Ann's column for you today, but instead I will just pull-quote it with proper credit. The following exchanges, with the exception of my re-interpretation, appeared in Ann Landers' syndicated column as posted today by the Contra Costa Times:

    Published Thursday, January 10, 2002

    Lack of liquor has her spirits down


    DEAR ANN LANDERS: We dine three or four times a month with another couple, either at their home or ours. Our friends serve wine with their meal but no hard liquor. They know that I prefer a single shot of vodka, but they never offer it. They say, "Bring your vodka, as usual."

    When these folks dine at our house, I make sure to have the variety of drinks they enjoy, including things I would not normally buy

    for myself. I am slightly offended they don't do the same for me. What do you think I should do about this? --California Conundrum

    Dear California: Accept the fact that these friends are cheap, and let it go at that. (Focus on their other virtues, if they have any) Meanwhile, the next time you have dinner at their home, bring two bottles of vodka and say, "This should last a while." They will get the message, but don't expect it to loosen them up. They sound hopeless.

Dear Ann & California: Oh, really! Now, Ann, I undertand that you are working only with the information that your correspondents choose to send you, and that you have constraints on your text-space. But CC obviously should have corresponded with Judith fact, though I'm sure you don't chat much with your rivals, you should have forwarded this question to her, as it obviously has to do with etiquette.

First of all, I am concerned about this person's preference for a single shot of preference to what? The wine that the host/ess has thoughtfully chosen to complement the meal? Vodka is for cocktails, perhaps as an aperitif, but you do not drink it during dinner. And what about that "Bring your vodka, as usual" comment? This implies that the correspondent has, in the past, brought his/her own bottle of booze to someone else's house in order to have a drink of the hard stuff. Here's a question: do you routinely bring your own alcohol to social gatherings to make sure you'll have some? If so, you may have a drinking problem. I used to do that sort of thing all the time – and though I'm not very anonymous, I am definitely an alcoholic.

To bring your own booze to a dinner party, not as a gift to your host/ess, but so you'll have your own fave hooch on hand, is incredibly rude. Shame on you, Ann, for criticizing your correspondent's friends. It is California Conundrum who is socially in the wrong. And double-shame for your suggestion that CC bring even more booze next time. That's just twice as rude.

The other facet to CC's complaint is that his/her friends do not reciprocate in exact kind to his/her host(ess)ing style: though s/he goes out of the way to have the friends' favorite libations on hand when entertaining them, they don't do the very same in return. Well, California Conundrum, you never get exactly what you put out – you get what you're given. In a social situation, or a romantic situation, or a professional situation, or really in any situation that I can think of in this life, you do not get exactly the same as you give. If you did, there would be no point in giving or getting, if you're just going to end up with the same thing you started with. See? And you can't expect to get just because you gave, just as you can't give in expecation of getting: that's not giving, it's commerce.

Finally, CC, you started the whole thing by bringing your own bottle "as usual." If your host/ess knows that you're going to bring a bottle of Popov's to swill during dinner, why should s/he bother to get any? It saves some time that could be better spent cooking or cleaning or doing one's own nails. I hope your friends recognize you in the column, CC, and dump your ungrateful ass.

    Dear Ann Landers: I have been married for only two years and have two young children. I am expecting again in the spring. The problem is my meddling mother-in-law. She is overbearing, manipulative and controlling. She has already told me what I must name the baby, how to decorate the nursery, and she even called my doctor and asked if he would tell her the sex of the baby.

    My father-in-law is no better. He drives to our place whenever he feels like it and goes through our mail and bills. I recently found out that our house is in his name; he has made it clear that if anything happens to my husband, the house will go back to him.

    I want my husband to tell his parents to mind their own business, but he says this is "just the way they are." I am about to leave him, Ann. Please help me make the right choice. --Boxed In in Baltimore

    Dear Baltimore: You and your husband are overdue for a serious talk. He must understand that you come first in his life now, and he needs to be more supportive. Meanwhile, change the locks on the doors, and do not give them the keys.

Dear Ann & Baltimore: Okay, I agree that the first thing BIiB should do is change the locks and have a serious talk (not to mention serious psychotherapy) with her husband; and I agree that Hubby needs to have it pointed out that he's a man now, and that his own wife and children come first.

But this is one of those where I want to hear more from the correspondent. Two years married, and already two children and one in the oven – and she thinks her only "problem" is the in-laws? Slow down, girl! You don't have to put out every night, you know...and there's this funny little thing called Birth Control.

Next, have her parents-in-law been this freaky since she got married? Or did they wait through the courtship, honeymoon, and first two children in rapid succession before turning into the Big-Brother-Nosey-Gestapo-in-Laws? Did she not have an inkling in all this time that these people were bad news, and that they had their son completely in their domineering thrall? And how did she allow her own home to be put in somebody else's name without her knowledge? Has she no knowledge of the contents of her own deeds and properties? Can't she, personally, confront her disgusting in-laws without going crying to her obviously whipped hubby to do it for her? How does she think she's going to raise three children without the strength to tell a couple of oldsters to go screw themselves, with gestures and illustrations if necessary?

And the husband! The lamest excuse for other people I've ever heard is "that's just the way they are." Just because you can't change other people doesn't mean you have to put up with their crap. You know, a cobra will bite you and kill you if you get in a small enclosed space with one, that is just the way they are: but you don't have to get into the space. In fact, it would be deemed wise to stay as far away as possible from cobras and "the way they are."

I think, Ann, that your friend in Baltimore should leave her husband as fast as she can...maybe not permanently, but until her husband grows a spine...if not for her own sake, then for her children's: because if this guy thinks his parents' behavior is acceptable, he'll pull the same crap on his kids and their mates. And maybe she can take some time to evolve a few more vertebrae of her own. I am floored that she allowed her husband to let their home be deeded in someone else's name, even if that someone-else bought the house as a wedding gift. At the very least, she can close down the baby-factory for a little while and take a rest.

Finally, if some old lady started harassing my ob/gyn and telling me how to decorate my home and what to name my child, there would be one more bald-headed old lady limping around my town; and if some old man walked into my home and started opening up my mail, there would be a lot of hand-slapping and name-calling and threats of Federal inditements (tampering with other people's mail is a Federal felony, even opening one's own son's mail in a house that's in one's own name). Stand up for yourself, BIib, or get used to being a doormat.

So, Marlénè's prescription to both Ann and Boxed-In in Baltimore: stiffen up and don't take any crap from anybody...not your husbands, not your kids, not your in-laws, not your friendly neighborhood advice columnist, and certainly not pushy drag queens with nothing better to do with their time than tell you what's wrong with your life.


Well, that was fun, wasn't it? Maybe tomorrow I'll go poaching in Dear Abby's domain. But Miss Manners I'll leave alone: I would hate to be even remotely rude to one of my idols, especially since our names are so similar. And Dan Savage I couldn't top (though it might be fun).

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