Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This is more like it!

The crazies are back! Just in time for the holiday:

DEAR ABBY: A few months ago I discovered that my partner of 14 years, "Curt," had been sleeping with my 20-year-old son, "Troy's," girlfriend, "Jenna." Our family is crushed at the betrayal; Curt crossed so many boundaries. We have a daughter together, and she considered Jenna her sister.

I hurt for myself as well as my son, who can't believe that the man who helped raise him would do this to him.

Jenna admits that the affair is half her fault. She had been sending Curt provocative photos of herself. Troy has forgiven her. When he told her he was still willing to work on their relationship, she ended it with Curt.

I have kicked my former partner out of the house. No one wants anything to do with him or Jenna. However, I told Troy I would support his desire to repair his relationship with her. I feel I owe it to him after what his "stepfather" did. My problem is, I'm having trouble actually doing it.

I am so conflicted! The holidays are nearly here and so is Troy's birthday. While I would like to accept Jenna for my son's sake, I hate her for having so little respect for me and my feelings that she'd have sex with the man I loved. -- TORN AND HURT IN ILLINOIS

Abby is disappointingly calm, and just tells everyone to get a lot of therapy (probably not bad advice, but bo-ring!)

Tricks and Treats

I haven't been keeping up so well with the seems all the crazies who were writing to the columnists this summer have gone into hibernation, not to mention the fact that I'm wearing out my typing fingers wandering the Internet in search of my columns (yes, I'm still bitter, Tribune).

As I suspected before, the only real casualty has been Tales from the Front....I can get to a Cheryl Lavin page through Tribune Media Services that offers "sample" columns, but they're not up to date, just selections from her illustrious career (not that it makes THAT much of a difference...she does cover a lot of the same ground over and over again. As they all do).

Anyway, enough with the administrivia.....on to the columns.

It's Halloween time, and the scariest aspect of all is the annual emergence of the militant anti-Halloween army, proclaiming that Halloween is pagan (anyone care to describe to them the history of Christmas? Or Easter?) and forbidding their children from attending satanic parties where, no doubt, the same music and games that pervade every non-pagan Friday night would rear their ugly heads. Amy's supplicant writes thus:

Dear Amy: I am 13 years old. One of my good friends is having a Halloween party this year. My parents aren't letting me go, because they say Halloween is "pagan." All my friends are going to this party. I really don't want to be the odd-girl out, but my parents won't even listen to me! When I asked if they had ever been "trick-or-treating," they said to drop the subject or I'd be grounded! I am really upset about this, and I am not sure what to tell my friend. — Not Tricked or Treated

Amy consistently maintains that, in general, it's parents' job to do their best by their kids, and kids' job to accept and respect their parents' authority. It's a good thing, I think, that she maintains her stance even when she's probably rolling her eyes at the parents--and she doesn't even let it show in a conspiratorial wink to the girl. She remains totally neutral, responding as she would to any other angsty teen letter: sorry you feel you're missing out on the fun, you have to do what your parents say, no you shouldn't defy them over this, and you're probably not as alone and outcast as you think you are. The end.

I basically agree with the advice, but wouldn't be able to be so neutral....I'd probably say something like, "yes, your parents are nutters, but since you live with them and they're your parents, you have to do what they say anyway." And thus would probably inadvertently give the girl the pluck to sneak out.

Sometimes, it seems, the best advice is to say very little and remain as calm and neutral as possible. Amy often does not do this so well with adults, but she does it very well with kids--probably because with kids, she can always just refer them to their parents, who have to do the real work. Adults she has the freedom to tell what she really thinks.

Oh man, I'm out of practice and rambling on and on. Have to stop now, and hopefully write more consistently, and coherently, in the future.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Times, They Are A'Changin'

If you are one of the three people in the universe who use the links on this page to get to your advice columns, you may have noticed that many of them have, of late, become defunct.

This is because the Chicago Tribune has basically dropped its advice columns in the free online edition. You can still get Amy and Abby (though they're usually updated earlier elsewhere), but Miss Manners and Cheryl Lavin are GONE. Or rather, you have to pay to read them.

I've been looking for stable links to regularly updated publications of my columns, and am still making my selection. Abby is still available at the UExpress address linked on this blog (that's also where you have to go to write to her). I've been getting Ask Amy through the Denver Post, for the very carefully assessed reason that it's the second Google hit on Ask Amy (after, you guessed it, the Trib).

I'm thinking of switching over entirely to, which has Amy and Miss Manners, as well as Carolyn Hax, a new favorite (well, new to me). I'll update the broken links soon, fear not!

My real concern is Tales from the Front, my favorite bizarre love column. So far, folks even more devoted than I am have been sneaking it out through Tribune Media Services and posting it to various open forums so readers can still get it for free. My hat is off to you! I did locate Cheryl on another site that now, of course, I can't remember.

Anyway, let's be patient and persistent and power through. And boycott Um....only kidding. Sort of.

Miss Manners and Masters of Ceremonies

I wrote in to Miss Manners today in response to her Wednesday column , which addressed a reader's question about the purpose of a master of ceremonies at a wedding. The person wanted to know when, and in God's name, why, this had become standard practice.

Miss Manners was brief and appropriately miffed that such a thing would ever occur: They narrate the event, giving fanfare introductions, public instructions and calls for applause. Why people will pay to have a formal party with their relatives and friends turned into something between an awards ceremony and a reality-TV show, Miss Manners cannot imagine.

(Yes, Miss Manners does write in the third person, in case you gentle readers had not yet picked up that convention).

Anyway...have many weddings become circuses? Of course they have. In fact, I think Miss Manners' description (damn, now I sound like I'm HER talking about mySELF) is rather apt. And yet, I think she has a tendency to inaccurately idealize the olden days, when weddings were simple and sane warm family affairs. So I wrote in to point out another perspective. My letter follows:

Dear Miss Manners,

A reader recently wrote in to ask you about the function of a master of ceremonies at a wedding. While think your response, which expressed perplexity and a bit of annoyance at the "cross between an awards ceremony and a reality show" that many weddings have become was correct, I think there may be room for flexibility here.

Surely when wedding receptions more often featured live music, there would have been a bandleader or wedding singer to set the mood, ease transitions, etc. In recent years, that has increasingly been the role of the DJ (some of whom, of course, are more irritating than others).

Even more recently, though, many couples have opted to forgo both bands and DJs, opting instead to create a playlist of their own and pipe it through thespeakers directly from a laptop. When this is the case, and when the party is above 150 people, I think it's acceptable, even desirable, to have someone with a microphone help guide the direction of the party--if anything, it keeps the host from screaming and pointing, and limits (to a certain extent) the impatient clinking of glasses with forks.

If this person is not leading a band or playing music, I suppose he or she is effectively a master of ceremonies.For the record, I agree that having an MC in addition to a DJ, wedding singer, or bandleader seems excessive.


Miss Manners will probably be horrified that I would suggest it's OK for a wedding to be so large that a host cannot herd all of his or her own guests without the aid of a loudspeaker. But if she wants to address THAT problem, she's going to have to back a lot farther than the 21st century. Weddings, not all weddings, but weddings, have been monstrous since the beginning of time.

It's not etiquette--it's tradition.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A whole new meaning to Breaking the Glass....

Here's some bizarre advice I encountered this morning while browsing, which is what I always wind up doing when I should be doing homework. In a helpful article for wedding guests (not sure if that link will work, or try to make you sign in), the author reminds guests that, no matter how clever or insightful they think they are, it's probably better to go ahead and buy a present off of the registry, rather than striking out on their own. OK, fair enough. But then, this:

For a personal touch, pick an item that has some significance for you and the couple (like buying them stemware to replace the glass you broke at their last dinner party), and include a letter that lets them know you put some thought into their wedding gift and got them something they really wanted.

Um.....what? I'm not even really sure how to respond to, is the author of this article bitter because this happened to her? Or could she really not think of a better example of how a registry gift might tie in with your friendship (in which case....this is not a persuasive argument for why you should stick to the registry!) Or was she trying to be sassy?

Well....she failed. This is just....weird.