Menu:

 
It's very tempting, when you're alone on Valentine's Day, to turn to your cat and say, "You're all the Valentine I need," before reading stories in the paper about elderly people who've loved one another since high school and then weeping quietly about how your old high-school boyfriends would probably think you've grown bitter and plump, and how people actually in high school would think you're implausibly old.

And because Valentine's Day is kind of like Facebook en-holidayed, it's also easy to spend the day firmly believing that every other person IN THE WORLD is happily married, gainfully employed, and totally and completely appreciated.

When I'm inclined to dwell on how my Valentine spent most of the afternoon ignoring me and staring raptly at a pigeon (and how I spent most of the afternoon staring raptly at him staring raptly at the pigeon), I remember a Simon and Garfunkel song my father drew my attention to when I was a child and he was teaching me about how people were unfathomable and appearances were deceiving:


Richard Cory

They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town,
With political connections to spread his wealth around.
Born into society, a banker's only child,
He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I'm living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes:
Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show.
And the rumor of his parties and the orgies on his yacht!
Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he's got.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I'm living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch,
And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much,
So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read:
"Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head."

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I'm living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

Obviously I'm about to make the message of this song apply to self-pitying 30-somethings on Valentine's Day instead of poverty-stricken factory workers.

I'm sure many people are happy and in love and not taking each other for granted and weathering misfortune together with cheerfulness and understanding. But many people are also getting dressed up and going out for dinner with people they resent or overlook or compare unfavourably to the younger, thinner, happier-looking people at the next table. And many of those younger, thinner, happier-looking people are wondering where the passion went and when their boyfriend/girlfriend got so fat and depressed.

I highly recommend feeling better about one's own life by learning to fear the worst about everyone else's.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you're not entertained, fair enough.
 
 
I recently re-watched a movie that is noteworthy for being quite good and for featuring a female lead who is, in my always-nuanced opinion, totally grating and charmless. The film is Four Weddings and A Funeral, and it is generally charming enough that one forgets that Hugh Grant received sexual favours from a prostitute in his car and can overlook the fact that the climax of the film involves Grant's character jilting a fish-faced, but well-meaning, woman during what's supposed to be their wedding ceremony.

It is even charming enough that, if one concentrates enough on the cheerful buoyancy of Grant's hair and the quippiness of Grant's quips, one can overlook the presence of Andie MacDowell.

She has to be one of the least charismatic, least believable, least likable female characters in any romantic comedy EVER. Grant trips about being hapless and delightful and pining over a woman so unredeemed by anything appealing that ones questions whether he's really a man worth pining over himself, seeing as how he's gone mad. Plus, Kristin Scott Thomas is in love with him, and any man who chooses a drawling automaton over Kristin Scott Thomas is depraved or mentally defective.

Usually when I really and truly loathe one of the leads in a romantic comedy, I find myself really and truly loathing the movie overall. But I have come across the MacDowell effect before; in fact, to honour my first experience of it, it should really be 
named after Ione Skye. Any woman of my generation and my general cultural background who does not hold Say Anything's Lloyd Dobler up as the standard of boyfriendness to which all other men should be compared is either lying or as crazy as a man who'd pursue Andie MacDowell while himself being pursued by Kristin Scott Thomas. 

Lloyd Dobler yearns and babbles, and then yearns and babbles and kick-boxes, and then proves the depth and selflessness of his love with a ghetto-blaster. The problem is that his deep and selfless love is directed toward a girl so irritating and so whiny that you keep expecting her to announce that she has to go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters. Ione Skye's Diane Court does well at school and looks clean, but that's about all that can be said for her.

The male leads in these movies helped me realize that I like handsome Englishmen who banter and that I like handsome American men who banter. They also helped me realize that even if I did run across such a man and he wasn't busy (a) getting a blow-job in the front seat of a car, or (b) appearing in Con Air, he probably wouldn't like me anyway because (a) I'm not unusually successful or good-looking, and (b) he'd be too busy losing sleep over an attractive head of lettuce.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
Picture
And the difference is in the paycheck.
I might not know very much about U.S. law, but ignorance has never before stopped me from commenting authoritatively and at length about anything, so I find myself with a number of things to say about the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to throw out a huge sex-discrimination lawsuit against Walmart.

First of all (and most importantly): is Walmart single? I know that corporations are treated as people under the law. I know that they are now allowed to make unlimited campaign contributions because of how free speech is and how much democracy flourishes, so it's not crazy to think they're entitled to a romantic life.

And what upstanding, self-respecting, feminine woman would not want to go steady with Walmart? Walmart was being taking to court by seemingly billions and billions of women upset only because they were being treated like ladies. Sure, says journalist Liza Featherstone, women "earn less than their male counterparts in nearly every position at the company", and female supervisors often make less money than the male employees they're being paid not very much to supervise, but that's just because, as one store manager explained, men "are working as the heads of their households, while women are just working for the sake of working." I couldn't have put it better! Women work to have extra money to buy lipstick and decorative baubles. As another Walmart employee stated, men "are here to make a career and women aren't. Retail is for housewives who just need to earn extra money."  How true, on both counts! I certainly associate Walmart with men hungry for career advancement and women not desperate for money to feed their families. 

So it's pretty clear that Walmart would make a good boyfriend, the kind of boyfriend who would let me work to buy myself some handbags and potted plants, but count on me mostly for my home-building, hearth-tending skills.

Antonin Scalia, though, has placed an obstacle in my romantic path. Although generally I think of him as both fair-minded and good-looking, he has made a serious misstep in this case. He claims that Walmart has not instituted any discriminatory practices, and that the company should not be blamed for allowing their managers the freedom to behave in a discriminatory fashion. 

So a corporation is a person, and yet it is not one bit like a person. It has the right to speak freely as though it is a person, but is suddenly not a person with agency and accountability when its employees rush about insulting and mistreating people. I mean, I'd like to hook up with Walmart because it wouldn't expect me take on unladylike responsibilities, or at least would not pay me an unladylike amount to take them on, but I wouldn't be comfortable knowing that every time we had a fight, Walmart could just say that it wasn't at fault and some semi-autonomous network of middle-managers was to blame. 

So I'll have to set my sights on some other   promising potential beau. I'm looking at you, Scalia. I'm willing to become incorporated if that's what it will take to get your attention.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.

 
 
Picture
Dear Catastrophizer,
   I recently and unexpectedly ran into an ex girlfriend that I'd not seen in 3 years. She seemed very pleased to have seen me, we had a very pleasant chat and parted amicably with a brief peck on the cheek and an embrace.
   I left with the feeling that that was one relationship I could be proud of, that we had both conducted ourselves like adults and despite having had an unsuccessful romantic relationship we were still able to interact warmly and cordially with all thoughts of bitterness and jealousy buried deep in the past.
   Surely this can't be right?


You have good instincts: of course it's not right. I like a good catastrophizing challenge, being given a scenario that appears rosy so I can apply my intellect to its sullying. Alas, this is not such a challenge or such a scenario. It's like shooting grim fish in a depressing barrel.

1) "...that was one relationship I could be proud of..." The quiet pathos of this sentence would be heartbreaking if I hadn't developed an immunity to quiet pathos by exposing myself to it continually over the course of thirty years. Do we really need to catastrophize this particular encounter when it's clear your life likely already boasts enough catastrophic material to power hundreds of obscure blogs? If a brief, unplanned chat with a woman you're no longer in contact with constitutes one of your few sources of interpersonal pride, you might want to just go off and live on a pillar in the desert and give the whole other people thing up (click here for artists' renderings of the kind of beard you would have to rustle up in order to do so).

2) I am now going to pull off a bravura interpretive performance by linking your unexpected encounter with the current popular revolt in Egypt, in the process cheapening both. People, like nations, behave warmly and cordially for a number of different reasons, the least likely of which being that they are genuinely fond of one another. It is far more likely that people, like many nations, are polite with one another because they don't want to cause a fuss, they don't have time for a lengthy airing of hidden grievances, or they're afraid of destabilizing the region and jeopardizing their relationship with one of Israel's few local allies. One of the things about "thoughts of bitterness and jealousy" is that, as they're thoughts, you can't see them if they belong to someone else. It's all too possible that your ex's head is teeming with malignant thoughts, but that she, like many nations, has decided to protect her own interests by pursuing a non-interventionist foreign policy.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.


 
 
Picture
I've always had a soft spot for Keith Olberman, despite the fact that he's both cantankerous and self-righteous about being cantankerous. Perhaps it's because I've always admired former sportscasters (where have you gone, equally smarmy Craig Kilborn?!). Perhaps because it's nice for left-wingers to have access to a bright blowhard who's not Michael Moore.

Pardon me while I engage in a tangent that will in the next paragraph (or so) prove to be brilliantly, commendably relevant. It was an established fact of my youth that on a regular basis, three-foot tall, spotty boys would give reasonably attractive girls a complex about not being hot enough. It's just how things were done. In today's world (after using that phrase, it will come as no surprise that I'm busily planning a sixteen-part series about how Facebook may be bringing us closer together virtually, but is in "reality" driving us farther apart), young girls, having seen boys with abdominal muscles in unfairly fanciful films, are beginning to subject their grade nine beaux to a similar kind of scrutiny.

Part of me thinks that's wonderful and hilarious. And part of me, the better and less likable part, thinks that all this means is that more men will learn to be more insecure at a younger age and then grow up to be worse husbands to their tragically insecure wives.

And now for the brilliant tie-in, the moment I relate Keith Olberman to teen dating without leaving myself open to charges of libel. Olberman, although he has spoken out against conflicts of interest and other people being biased and stuff, was recently suspended for contravening NBC rules by donating money to three Democratic candidates for Congress. Liberals everywhere rallied to his defense. "FOX is worse!" they cried. "But it's different when someone I agree with!" they exclaimed. I absolutely agree that Olberman is an individual and not a news organization and that he doesn't in any way or at any time claim to be fair and balanced. I agree that Fox is worse, and that's not just because I suspect all the women on the network are Christian hooker robots. But just because Fox news is REALLY bad doesn't mean that a liberal should get to be kind of bad without being criticized for it by other liberals. 

Just to make sure my analogy has been understood: teenage boys (the mean and judgmental ones) = Bill O'Reilly; insecure teenage girls from twenty years ago = painfully upstanding and morally correct liberals; mean and judgmental girls of today = Keith Olberman. There. Analogies can be convoluted things. Mine might have been convoluted, but at least it also had the virtue of being protracted. You're welcome.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HEREI will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough. Also, I'm not very good at copy-editing, so if something looks wrong, it was put there by accident.
 
 
Picture
I got another write-in question. That's right. And this time it's from someone who is not in the least related to me. Not by blood, at least. It's a very sensible question about whether children should have friends.


The NYT helpfully informs me that "best friends" for children are, in fact, bad for them. Is this just more overprotection? I figured if anyone could see the downsides of having (or not having) a BFF, it's the Catastrophizer.

In "A Best Friend: You Must Be Kidding", Hilary Stout discusses opinions held by various professionals about whether children should develop close attachments to other children.

"I don't think it's particularly healthy for a child to rely on one friend," says Jay Jacobs, director of Timber Lake Camp in New York State. "If something goes awry, it can be devastating. It also limits a child's ability to explore other options in the world."

However, as Stout notes: "The last people who should be considered credible when it comes to childhood psychology are camp directors." No, she didn't say that. She said: "Many psychologists believe that close childhood friendships not only increase a child's self-esteem and confidence, but also help children develop the skills for healthy adult relationships - everything from empathy, the ability to listen and console, to the process of arguing and making up". 

So what should one do, or think behind other people's backs while they do?

1) If a child has a close friendship, it will undoubtedly end badly. Childhood friendships are grounded in things like a shared love of the colour orange or a shared hatred of the colour orange. When children grow older, and they will, they'll realize that friendship is more complicated. Based more on whether one likes or dislikes Wolf Blitzer, for example. Of course, the fact that the childhood friendship will inevitably end badly could be seen as a good thing: adult friendships are also inclined to end badly, or at least to become trapped in a defeated, passive-aggressive stalemate, so early experiences of interpersonal failure will prepare him or her for the interpersonal disappointments of later life. 

2) If a child has multiple, less serious friendships with other children, he or she will probably never develop whatever skills are necessary for forming and maintaining healthy, grown-up relationships. He or she will always be lonely in a crowd, overly thick-skinned (or overly thin-skinned) and sociopathic.

3) Don't get worked up. I can testify to the fact that this is not an either/or proposition: it is entirely possible to be a child and not form either one unhealthy, intense friendship or a number of superficial friendships. I'm sure it will bring you great comfort to know that it is likely that neither of these problems will ever be yours, nor those of any children of yours. 
Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HEREI will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.
 
 
Picture
The Brits are so deliciously degenerate. Who has the guts to field their desperate queries? Miriam Stoppard. And, of course, the Catastrophizer.

Dear Miriam,
I had an affair with my husband's father a few months ago. I know you will think I was mad. I ended the fling as soon as I came to my senses and realised I did love my husband.

I haven't been married that long and my husband would leave me if he found out about the affair.

I truly regret what I did and I've told my father-in-law I feel guilty and ashamed. However, he says he'll tell his son about it all unless I carry on sleeping with him.

The worst thing is, I find it very difficult to make love to my husband because of betraying him and I don't know how to cover things up. What should I do?

Beth

1) I only regret the fact that you cannot break up with yourself. Leave yourself. Reject yourself, pack your bags and go. You get the idea.

2) "I ended the fling as soon as I came to my senses and realised I did love my husband." It's THAT realization that threw cold water on your fiery ardour? Not the realization that you were sleeping with your husband's father? 

3) This will be very similar to 2). "The worst thing is, I find it very difficult to make love to my husband..." THAT's the worst thing? Really? The worst thing isn't that slept with your husband's father?

4) I understand your attraction to your husband's father. I really do. Everything you say about him indicates he's a really great guy. You know, the sex blackmail thing. Awesome.


5) If you tell your husband, he'll probably leave you. After all, you've been doing with his father what his father did with his mother to make him. It's odd. If you don't tell him, you'll be obliged to sleep with both him and his father. That's also odd. I would recommend that you begin judging your judgement, but you SLEPT WITH YOUR HUSBAND'S FATHER, so I suspect that analyzing yourself would not result in much in the way of analysis. 

6) If you want to avoid such situations in the future, either remain celibate or have sex only with fatherless men. Although sonless men would probably be more plentiful.

7) But why try to put a stop to such hard-to-believe depravity? You are truly a catastrofabricator! You are not content simply to wait for the nastiness that life will inevitably throw at you - you actively court such nastiness. And by creating catastrophes in your personal life, you help other people (e.g. your husband) to become catastrophizers, so I am eternally in your debt. 



Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
 
Picture
A question! A veritable question! From someone I don't know! Or at least, from someone I haven't known for that long! At least, not for longer than ten years! Or so.


Your friend has published a novel. It is, of course, terrible. In fact, it's worse than terrible: reading more than one sentence actually makes you nauseous. And now your friend is asking if you've "had a chance to read it yet". What should a good Catastrophyte do?


1) Feel violently jealous and allow yourself to be seized by a devastating sense of personal failure. The book may be execrable, but it is also now published and it is well known that many consumers lack the gag reflex.

2) Good catastrophytes desperately fear conflict of any kind because it will undoubtedly bring about the end of a friendship or, possibly, yelling. So the first response to this situation should be: stalling. You've been busy at work. You've been sick. You've been sick at work. You've really been feeling down. Pull them all out. If your friend persists, and some strong souls will, proceed to 3).

3) Clearly you cannot tell the truth. That would be both foolhardy and brave. And totally unnecessary. If you told the truth, your friendship would obviously either be finished or irrevocably damaged. If you've been passive-aggressively attempting to extricate yourself from this friendship for years, by all means, be honest. But if there's still something to be gained for you from this relationship, there's only one thing you can do: lie.

4) Lie. I cannot say this enough. LIE. Don't compromise your principles entirely; just lie a little bit. Let's try it. I loved your chapter transitions. The font choice was very believable. I always thought you'd be capable of writing such a book. Or, simply gaze at them, clasp your hands together earnestly and make low, keening noises. That can be interpreted in any number of ways.

5) This is yet another truly delicious catastrophizing scenario because it gives rise to a larger question. Why are you friends with someone who writes nauseating prose? How's your prose?

6) What's so beautiful about this is that it will have a lasting impact on you. If you are really convincing when you lie ever so slightly to your friend, you will learn never to believe any compliments paid to you ever again.

Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.


 
 
Picture
The New York Times's Social Q's missed the boat on this answer, so I will catch the boat and then pilot it. Badly.

The Enemy Next Door

A longtime neighbor responds to my greetings with stony silence. I suspect this has something to do with a noise dispute I had with an upstairs neighbor who was then her employer. But that was a decade ago! Now, she avoids taking the elevator if I'm on it. Should I confront her and clear the air?

H.S.
Answering letters of this kind is really one of the most irresponsible things one can do, as one is provided with so little context. One, however, will proceed.

1) What
are those greetings that are greeted in return with a stony silence? Do you say, "A pleasant morning to you," or do you, say, drop your pants and say, "What would have happened if the Nazis had won the war?" 

2) In terms of the noise dispute - who was responsible for the noise ten years ago? Was it you? Is it possible you're still creating a stupefying amount of noise and she's too shy to reprimand you? At what level
do you play Poison's Unskinny Bop repeatedly?

3) I find your dilemma to be delicious in a catastrophic sense because there is more than one right answer. Whatever you decide, you will most likely spread interpersonal poison. If you do not confront her, you will stew and brood and your elevator rides will be exercises in quiet resentment and tension. If you
do confront her, there's a good chance that you will manage to alienate and upset her and that your elevator rides will become exercises in quiet resentment and tension. If she manages to avoid riding the elevator with you, try to dawdle near her front door or parking space so that you can cultivate that quiet resentment and tension. At least then, you'll know the feelings are mutual.
Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.
 
 
Picture
The question I will be considering today is the following:

Are there telltale signs a man isn't happy in his marriage?

I am including a link to the original answer from the New York Post, not because I think you should read the original answer, but because the link itself is instructive:

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/spitzer_babe_answers

If you were unfamiliar with the name "Ashley Dupre", never fear: the New York Post refers to her here only as "Eliot Spitzer Babe." That's right: readers of this paper can get love advice from none other than the call-girl who brought down the once untouchable governor of New York.

Unfortunately, she has not updated her advice column since mid-December. I choose simply to believe she has been deliberating ponderously over her next pieces of advice.

But on to the telltale signs. Yes, there are many telltale signs of unhappiness in a relationship or marriage.

1) Detachment. He may sidestep questions, avoid glances, fake sleep to get out of conversations.

2) Forced intimacy. He may enfold you in embraces constantly to prove to himself he still loves you.

3) A strange seesawing between detachment and forced intimacy. Not knowing yet whether he will force himself to stay and rekindle the feeble flame of love or allow himself to leave and have some sex with people, he behaves erratically, one minute clutching at you, the next, talking about having some sex with people.

4) Anything else. You see, catastrophytes, anyone you're involved with can already, right now, this very second, be planning to leave you. Anything can really be a sign of this intention, if you're looking for it. Or you're just paranoid, in which case, that's the tendency in you that will ultimately make him leave you.

4) He's having sex with Ashley Dupre.


Send the Catastrophizer your requests for advice and/or rationalizations using the form conveniently provided HERE. I will publish my responses on the THE CATASTROPHIZER page.

POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.