Saturday, February 27, 2010

Freaks and Geeks

This is about the umpteenth attempt Cousin Jackal is making to respond to this week's Dear Prudence, with specific regard to Letter 1.  For several days I've been writing posts and deleting them; some were too personal, others not personal enough. Ultimately "not personal enough" won, just because it probably wouldn't be interesting to read.

Letter 1 came at an odd time.  A few days ago I started reading the nonfiction Letters From Prison by the Marquis de Sade.  (I've found this is a marvelous way to keep people from crowding you on the train, by the way.)  In between describing the horrors of the Bastille and begging his mother-in-law for money to get out of debtor's prison, Sade waxes philosophic on the hypocrisy of society for pretending to be shocked by things that everyone does anyway.  This seemed particularly relevant to some of the comments made to Letter 1 on Slate.  Additionally, Letter 1 reminded me of certain events in my own life, and how destructive therapy can be when wielded as a club against a young person.  I thought about writing about all of that...and then I just said the hell with it and lost my fucking temper.  So basically it's the same as any week.

Just the responses, today; original letters can be found here.

Letter 1:
First of all, I have to give LW1 some credit for not making an outright clutch at the pearls.  The letter is written as matter-of-factly as she probably could have managed.  That said, Prudie's response is shameful.  A full psychological workup?  Therapy?  Sex abuse treatment?  (And can I smack that one commenter who kept extolling the virtues of conformity?  Please?)

I'm going to buck the trend and go with the assumption that the 13-year-old is basically okay.  Tucked in behind some of the concern voiced in this letter, I hear a parent's whimper that their pweshus widdle boy is gwowing up too fast.  I cannot articulate coherently how irksome this attitude is.  Your kid's hit puberty.  Masturbation is normal and healthy.  Sexual urges at 13 are incredibly fucking normal.  (To everyone who throws up their hands at the idea of their kid having sexual urges, let me ask this--at what age did you first masturbate?)  So he likes latex gloves, so what; at least he'll be okay with wearing a condom when he does get laid.  If he's keeping gloves lying around in piles, you can perfectly well tell him to clean up his room.  Get him a box for his gloves, with the admonishment that it's polite to keep one's toys out of sight when one lives with other people. But therapy?  Sex abuse treatment?  Do you seriously want your son to realize that you look at him and see a monster?  That you think about the grandchildren you'll never have because no good upstanding woman of values would marry The Gimp?  Horseshit.  (As an aside, please, for the fucking love of every fucking god that never fucking existed, can we all please stop using "values" as though it means anything?)   If you want to alienate your kid, then by all means chuck him into therapy.  Or, here's an idea, try actually engaging the kid in conversation like he's a human being with actual thoughts, rather than your precious widdle hothouse orchid.  Yeah, it's embarrassing.  Heaven forfend he get the idea that he can actually talk to you about the difficult stuff.  Oh, but he seems anxious?  Isn't therapy for anxiety?  No.  It isn't.  Therapy is for people who can't get past anxiety without intervention; you and Marigold Boy haven't even tried.  I'll bet he's anxious, he's 13 and terrified the kids at school are going to find out about the glove thing, and now his mom thinks he's a freak.  Here is what your kid needs to hear from you:  "Honey, there are a lot of shades of normal in the world and I don't think you're a freak.  I love you."  Just saying that will go a long way toward quelling a kid's anxiety, and if you reassure a kid he's normal it goes a long way toward helping him turn himself into a well-adjusted adult.  And that's your job, isn't it?  To build a well-adjusted adult? 

Oh, and the glove porn?  Boys look at porn.  Men look at porn.  They just do.  Good luck with that filter; he'll find the shit he wants to look at anyway.

Video Letter:
Boo-hoo-hoo, you think you're friend's hotter than you.  Try being interesting, it's a hell of a lot more attractive than being jealous.

Letter 2:
Your friend/boss can't be "easy going and mellow" and "overbearing and micromanaging" at the same time.  Those traits aren't even in the same ZIP code.  It's up to you to analyze the situation and decide whether this person is more your friend or more your boss.  If she's more your friend, perhaps you could make a few constructive managerial-strategy suggestions, in much the same way you'd suggest she not wear those paisley pants that make her ass look two miles wide.  If she's more your boss--i.e., the aforementioned suggestions would put your job in jeopardy--then hey, presto, you have to treat her like a boss and either adapt or quit.

Letter 3:
Your roommate...insults your dog...nicely.  And this is an "ethical dilemma"?   Does Roomie hit your dog?  Yell at it?  Throw things at it?  Cause it to go out of his way to avoid him?  No?  Didn't think so.  See, your dog actually IS an ugly, smelly little rat, and the fact that Roomie tells him this in babytalk says that Roomie actually likes your little smoosh-faced fleabag.  And for the record, Cousin Jackal calls one of her cats Epic Fail, Fatass, Bobblehead, Oaf, and Dipshit.  The other cat is Snotface, Fucker, or Little Shit (and I strongly suspect he thinks his name is "Get Down").  And since both are half-Siamese, Cousin Jackal gets called plenty of names by them in return.  Ahh, feel the love.

Letter 4:
Yes, it probably will be awkward, unless you can spend the evening making sure your friends all get to know one another.  If you're not willing to do this, don't throw a party.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carrion Luggage Redux

Socks…gloves…pocketwatch…. Oh, hello!  Pardon the mess—you’ve caught Cousin Jackal in the middle of packing for a vacation.  After kicking the last of the WhateversGoingAroundItis, I’m taking the witchdoctor’s advice and giving the den a good airing out by going on an extended voyage.  I’m off tonight on the slow ferry out of Duat, then boarding a train across the Western Desert, and from there, who knows?  El Dorado, Abydos, the wastes of Thule?  …Boots…a couple of meaty bones, save those for later…scales? Those always come in handy.  Ah, but it’s Prudie Day, isn’t it?  Then let me get on with it, so I can chuck the scales in with the rest of the junk:

Letter 1:
I spent my formative years being abused before winding up in foster care.  My therapist convinced me that after many years (and payments) that I had to “let bygones be bygones”.  Now I’m at peace and my problems are behind me.  Except…my youngest sister found me, and found Mom, and is trying to get us back together.  Suddenly I don’t feel so peaced out anymore; I may puke from sheer stress.  What do I do?

Dear Lifetime Channel,
Dramamine!  What?  Oh, sorry LW1, not for you, toldja I was packing for a trip.  First of all, you’re not at peace.  You can’t be.  You’ve got baggage.  Now, that’s fine.  What worries Cousin Jackal is that you—and your therapist—seem to be under the impression that with enough therapy (read: money) your problems can go away and never bother you again.  That’s not so.  It isn’t possible.  Don’t even get Cousin Jackal started on society’s stubborn insistence that anyone with personal issues has some cockamamie obligation to “fix” them, and that anything smelling of unresolved issues makes someone less of a human being.  People who demand scripted life stories and nicely wrapped up bits of closure have watched too much Oprah.  If you’ve got a worthwhile grudge, nurse it.  Coddle it.  Hug it and pet it and love it and call it George, because properly chained and trained that grudge-puppy will keep you safe from anyone like your mother so you don’t blunder into more abusive relationships.  You don’t have to give in to your sister’s wishes for a big happy family, but you do owe her an explanation—after all, you were there getting abused while she was gone, and no doubt Mommy Dearest has been filling her head with all sorts of self-serving excuses over the past few years.  Tell her, briefly and factually, why you want nothing to do with your mother.  Make sure she understands that you want her to look out for herself and that you are not trying to make her choose between mother and sibling.  Most importantly, don’t feel worthless for having these old pains dredged up.  (Cousin Jackal, unfortunately, has walked a few miles in your shoes, but that’s a story for another day.)  Pet that grudge-puppy, look around at the good life that you’ve built, and recognize that you have won.

…Compass…pith helmet… copy of Sarah Palin’s book?  Where did that come from?  Oh hell, you never know when you’ll need toilet paper…

Letter 2:
I married my husband while he was in the middle of a midlife crisis, and he’s so thrilled to have bagged a hot twentysomething like me that he can’t stop blabbing about it to his friends.  What I don’t get is why their wives don’t like me—I mean, it’s not like I actually socialize with them, but I don’t dress provocatively so I don’t get it.  How do I make them like me?

Dear Wholesome Fuckpuppet,
Shit, you married the Video Letter Writer from last week, didn’t you?  And for the love of all the gods that never were, I wish women would stop throwing in “but I don’t dress provocatively!”  What the fuck does that mean?  It sure sounds a lot like “if I don’t like what you’re wearing then you deserve whatever bad stuff happens to you,” and you can shove that straight where the sun doesn’t shine.  But I digress… Honey, just pretend you’re all friends and do something nice for each of these women.  Bake cookies.  Admire their shoes.  Do something.  Anything.  Just for the sake of doing it.  And for fuck’s sake get some real friends your own age.  Oh, and tell your husband that if he doesn’t lay off the “hee, hee, my wife is hawt” shit, he’s going to get the tree branch.

…The tree branch!  That’s what I forgot to pack.  Good thing, too, because I need it for LW3…

Letter 3:
My husband and I are proud upstanding ‘Merkin citizens who never, ever, ever would dream of doing anything remotely unsavory.  I mean, we were both hellraisers as teenagers, but we’re totally reformed and have good normal wholesome family values now, with the clenched sphincters to prove it.  We have two small children and we are absolutely clueless as to how to delude them into thinking that we have always been perfect godlike beings, especially when my husband has a pot-related tattoo.  Please, please help me mindfuck my children!

Dear Half-Baked,
Congratulations—just when I thought today’s letters were going to bore me to tears, you’ve managed to set my very teeth on edge with the urge to rant.  Oh, where to start?  I’m going to call shenanigans over the whole “he hasn’t done anything illegal since he signed on after high school” crap.  He got a tattoo.  Of a tiger smoking a joint.  While he was in the military.  You just don’t get that sort of tattoo if you yourself don’t smoke pot.  You just don’t.  But oh, now you’ve seen The Light(™) and want to whitewash your pasts as far as your kids are concerned.  You want permission to lie.  Yes, lie, you coward.  You want your kids to think you’re superhumanly flawless.  News flash, moron: if your kids are smart, I give them until age 6 to figure out what a load of doublespeak you’re feeding them; if they’re average, maybe age 12…and then those chickens are going to come home to roost.  Forget a woman scorned, hell hath no fury like one’s offspring after they find out you’ve lied to them as part of a behavioral conditioning scheme.  They will call you hypocrite, and they will be right. 

…Parasol…opera glasses…leftover tin of whoopass…is whoopass a liquid or a gel?  Will it fit in a quart-size baggie?....

Letter 4:
I helped a lady in the supermarket by telling her that her fly was down, thus sparing her the indignity of walking around all day with her underwear exposed.  My husband said I should have just snickered and then posted her picture on FailBlog.  Who’s right?

Dear Barn Door Monitor,
Hell yes you should have told her!  Why did you even have to ask?  And why on earth did you even mention this to your husband?  How does that come up in conversation, anyway?  “What did I do today?  Well let’s see, honey, today I saved two baby raccoons from a forest fire and told a lady her fly was down.  Just saving the world as usual.  Pass the salt.”  Oh, and what’s up with your husband being an asshole?  Seriously?  You married this guy?  Hope you never get spinach in your teeth.

Well, that about does it.  The steamer trunk is full to bursting and now the only problem is figuring out how to convince the TSA that a passport written on papyrus is legit.  Have a great week!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Prudie...gets with the program?

Cousin Jackal woke up this morning to a major shock.  No, not the prospect of yet another day of cabin fever, as the snow piled up outside has made scavenging a tad impossible; rather, the realization upon reading today's Dear Prudence that Prudie has, mirable dictu, managed to pull her head from her nether regions this week.  Methinks she has been reading Dan Savage.  Which is good, because in Cousin Jackal's opinion, if the world operated the way Mr. Savage thinks it should, we'd all be much calmer and happier.  However, as per usual, my cup o'rage runneth over, so I'll take out what I can on these letter writers:

First letter:
A long, long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and all that Disney/Norman Rockwell stuff was actually true (really!), I met a lovely girl.  We held hands, shared malts with two straws, took long walks in the park, and little birds and forest creatures would gather around us and sigh at the pure, pure love we shared.  Then dark clouds gathered, and I was called away to war, and she waved her hanky as I trooped off to go beat back the bloody Hun.  I never saw her again...until a few weeks ago, when we met again in a supermarket checkout line reaching for the same copy of Martha Stewart's Guide to Homemade Vegetable Sex Toys.  O, she told me a woeful tale, wherein the man she married never came to her bed but to do his duty whilst thinking of England, and now in his later years his brain is turning more to mush with the passing of each day.  Our love still springs eternal, but we are godly upstanding folk, so we daren't do more than share long doe-eyed glances and pregnant pauses.  But, uhh, we got needs, y'know?  So, yeah, um, hypothetically, can we ditch her husband and have some crazy monkey sex?  We don't mind if the birds and forest creatures watch.

Huh?  Oh, sorry, I was vomiting.  Look, dude, you've got a little cognitive dissonance going on.  On the one hand you and your lady love seem to think you're honorable sorts who would never break that whole "in sickness and in health" portion of the Standard Marriage Vows(TM)...but on the other hand, dammit, hubby's got the cognition and sex drive of your average eggplant and it's Just Not Fai-hai-hair that you shouldn't be able to do the nasty when you want to.  Now personally I think traditional marriage vows are crap because they don't take into account the myriad of ways Life has of telling us, one and all, to bend over and take the fire hose.  Unpleasant things happen.  Catastrophes happen.  Things that no one on their bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked wedding day could imagine ever sundering the perfection of their relationship.  But Alzheimer's is certainly such a thing, and if this woman's husband isn't already not the man she married, then soon enough he won't be.  If you and she want permission to cheat, fucking talk to each other about whether you want to cheat.  Because that's what it is when one spouse fucks someone else when the other spouse isn't aware of it.  Either be okay with it, and be prepared to hide it from hubby to keep him from experiencing acute sadness and/or anger in addition to the daily panic of slowly forgetting all that made his life...or wait 'til he's dead.  Your call.  Just don't fucking kid yourself about your intentions.

Video Letter:
I'm in my forties and going through a pretty standard Mid-Life Crisis(TM), assuring myself that I still have some juice left in my balls by behaving like a fratboy with a twenty-year-career-professional's salary.  Long story short, I've got two fuckpuppets.  I woo them and ply them and promise undying affection to each of them...but it's not like I told them they were my one and only, or anything.  I mean, why would I do that? That would be stupid, because I know they'd stop giving me vagina access privileges.  So do I have to tell them?  'Cause it would totally wreck shit.

Oh, you.  I know you.  You're one of Those Guys.  Yeah, the ones with the red convertibles, the beer pong tables in the basement man-caves, and the crow's feet.  So, if I can sum up, you basically want permission to keep being an overgrown, manipulative horny teenager because it makes you happy and you don't really care what your beeyatches want so long as they keep their traps shut and let you climb in the saddle whenever you feel like it.  Oh, but they're totally cool with things now--right?  Sure about that, are ya?  I bet they're cool with it--since neither knows of the other's existence.  I believe you when you say that they don't have marriage on the brain (a.k.a. Picket Fence Syndrome), but even YOU are smart enough to realize that the only reason you have two pieces of arm candy is that you haven't flat-out told them, "No, honey, you actually don't mean anything to me, I'm just having fun riding your snatch."  See, while it may be that they don't each actually want a relationship with you, it's equally probable that they don't want your low opinion of them as walking orifices rubbed in their faces.  So go ahead, buddy, don't tell them.  Let them find out on their own and dump your ass.  But I'm sure you're fine with that--I bet you think you can still pick up college chicks.  Good luck with that.  Even college chicks can smell the whiff of fear that comes off a guy desperate to keep from aging.

Letter Two:
I, like, like a girl, and stuff, and I kinda, y'know, want to ask her out, but I'm like, too shy, so, should I, like, send her an anonymous note or something?

Yes.  I suggest you slip it in her locker between classes and decorate it with little hearts and arrows in the margins.  Or maybe you could go stand outside her bedroom window and pelt it with gravel until she opens it, whereupon you can serenade her with a boom box.  Seriously--how old are you?  Here, have a towel, you need to dry off behind the ears a bit.  It's great that you like this girl, but frankly if you're not brave enough to even make yourself ask her out using YOUR OWN REAL FUCKING NAME, chances are she isn't going to think you're worth dating.  Chances are, she may think you're a stalker.  Look, the worst she can do is say no.  Actually, the worst she can do is make fun of you on Facebook.  So there you go.  Hike up your Underoos and risk being The Biggest Joke On The Internet.  Ask her out, chickenshit.

Letter Three:
My mother's friend has been dating a wonderful man for just under two months, and he proposed.  She is ecstatic.  He's a Super Secret Agent and he told her that that was all he could say, because if he told her what he REALLY did every day then he would have to kill her, otherwise the fate of the world would be in jeopardy.  He invented cold fusion, found the Golden Fleece, and kicked Chuck Norris in the balls and lived to tell the tale.  He used to run a diamond mine and got really really rich but didn't want to lose touch with the common man so he got a job stocking nails at a local hardware store.  I looked him up on Teh Interwebs and was shocked, shocked to discover that he couldn't possibly have done all this.  Should I tell her, or should I just sit back and watch the hilarity ensue?

Train wrecks are an awful lot of fun to watch--when they happen to your enemies.  So yes, if you have some particular grudge against your mother's friend, by all means watch her sham engagement turn into a sham wedding and then you can cackle like a hyena while she tries to pick up the shattered remains of her emotional health.  Or, y'know, you could bring some facts to her attention and avert tragedy like a decent human being.  Sheesh, you people actually have crises of conscience over this shit? 

Letter Four:
I'm a senior in college and I've been putting together a plan to create a model that will plot the course of my boyfriend's and my life together after graduation.  Thing is, I was brought up my entire life to understand that men don't like women, only tolerate them, because women, y'know, have normal human emotions and don't particularly like being treated like fuckpuppets.  I swore when I met my boyfriend that I would be the perfect woman, the woman all men want, the woman who was rational and logical like a man and was perfectly able to see why a man as special as my boyfriend couldn't possibly keep from getting some strange every time he felt like it.  Lately I've been getting the weirdest twinge in my gut.  Jealousy?  No, impossible.  That's an emotion.  But I can't help but notice that I'm doing all the future planning here, and my boyfriend...isn't.  I don't understand.  Should I write up a brief outlining my completely rational reasons why I think I'm getting the short end of the stick?  How about a PowerPoint presentation?

Are you by chance majoring in business?  Yeah, real life don't work that way.  Jesus H. Christ on a polka-dotted circus pony, I actually feel sorry for you.  You're Sad Open Relationship Girl.  I know you.  Hell, I've been the fuckpuppet of the guy dating you; I've witnessed you firsthand.  You fell in love with a guy who, at some point during his college career, discovered that if he used words like "romantically monogamous" and "open relationship" he could have all the security of a regular booty call (I mean, girlfriend) while simultaneously being free to hook up with anyone else he wanted.  If you didn't want the same thing, hey, not his fault, he was totally cool with you dating other people, so long as he didn't see it or know about it and you were always there when he wanted access to your orifices, and if you didn't take advantage of the situation and fuck your way through the football team, well, that was your decision.  Not his.  At all.  So I'm guessing you dated a little...and felt kind of like you were you slowly stopped dating anyone else...and now YOU are monogamous but HE isn't.  Meanwhile you're busily planning your post-graduation merger and he' completely not on board it's frickin' obvious to a total stranger.  YOU are not in an open relationship. YOU have bought hook, line, and sinker the misogynistic claptrap spewed by all entertainment media that the only sort of women men want to be around is the sort that doesn't talk, doesn't think, and never, ever has an emotion (but preferably makes enough money to lend a guy some, and of course puts out on request).  Horsepucky.  Rationality is wonderful.  Logic is wonderful.  Logic to the point of rationalizing the bullshit "relationship" you find yourself in, huh-uh.  Does Not Compute.  You're not happy.  He doesn't want to marry you.  You got used.  In the words of the eminent Mr. Savage, Dump The Motherfucker Already.  I guarantee that in twenty years, he's going to be the Video Letter Writer.  If your boyfriend truly wants a logical, rational partner who never lets an emotion get in the way of him having a good time, perhaps he should buy one of those new Japanese Sex Robots that Cousin Jackal has read about.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Greetings and Introductions

Hello! and welcome to my Underground Lair, which is neither, as it is above ground and has a couch and a television, which I believe technically makes it a den.  I'm your friendly neighborhood Jackal and a recent regular on Slate's "The Fray," which seems to be giving its death rattle. With kind and gentle urgings from other Fraysters I decided to hie me over to the interwebs to continue vomiting my weekly hairball of snark, a.k.a. mocking the "Dear Prudence" column.  While bashing DP is fun, hopefully this blog will expand to include more thoughtful rantings over time.

But first, answers to a few questions:

Why is/was your screen name Jackal1013?
Because I could remember it.  See, originally, I just needed a screen name for Slate.  I've always liked the Egyptian god Anubis (as a child I thought the Egyptians were brilliant, as they made their deities adorable cartoons), so that's where "Jackal" came from.  "1013" is a recurring number in The X-Files, and Cousin Jackal likes her some X-Files the way other geeks like them some Star Trek.  So initially there wasn't any special meaning behind it, but Cousin Jackal seems to be on a roll, so I'm just going to let it snowball and see where it goes.

"Cousin" Jackal?
Yeeeaahh, that was a one-time gag that took on a life of its own.  The Fray board has an "Aunt Messy" (her blog is here), so I figured I had to pick a different title if I was going to be a part of the DP-bashing family; that got cross-referenced with Cousin Itt (of Addams Family fame), and the result was...yeah.

Why is it "A Scavenger's Take"?
Jackals pick clean the dead, rotting carcasses of animals after larger predators have had their fill.  Look no further than the Dear Prudence column for a rotting carcass (*rimshot*) and as for the larger predators, head on over to The Fly for a sampling of what the apex Fraysters have to say about it!

Is that supposed to be you in the picture up top?
That's a Black-Backed Jackal and it was such a cute picture that I had to stick it right smack at the top of the page.  I mean, c'mon, don'tcha just want to reach out and pet those huge ears?

Are you supposed to be a furry or something?
No.  (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

So is this blog for real, or are you a character?
C) A and B.  The opinions, advice, and ranting in this blog are for real, but I'll dress them up in Cousin Jackal's made-up life so they will be more amusing.  In other words, if it sounds like unreal bullshit, it probably is--enjoy.