Some years back, my paper ran an interview with the author of a new book. I forget the title, but it was a guide for younger women who marry older men, which the author had done. How this happened was glossed over in a sentence:

“Bob was married when he met Tiffany, but he soon separated from his wife, and they began their relationship.”


I believe Bob was a dentist, and Tiffany was a hygienist in his office. Oh.

A friend clipped the story, and scrawled in the margin: She broke up a family, and now we’re doing an approving story about her.

For once, we were ahead of the curve. For the first time in maybe ever, this NYT story from the Vows pages was on both memeorandum, the political blog aggregator, and wesmirch, the gossip blog aggregator. You can see why:

Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla met in 2006 in a pre-kindergarten classroom. They both had children attending the same Upper West Side school. They also both had spouses.

Blah blah blah about how well they got along and what fast friends they became, and:

They got each other’s jokes and finished each other’s sentences. They shared a similar rhythm in the way they talked and moved. The very things one hopes to find in another person, but not when you’re married to someone else.

Ms. Riddell said she remembered crying in the shower, asking: “Why am I being punished? Why did someone throw him in my path when I can’t have him?”

In May 2008, Mr. Partilla invited her for a drink at O’Connell’s, a neighborhood bar. She said she knew something was up, because they had never met on their own before.

“I’ve fallen in love with you,” he recalled saying to her. She jumped up, knocking a glass of beer into his lap, and rushed out of the bar. Five minutes later, he said, she returned and told him, “I feel exactly the same way.” Then she left again.

Well, you can see how this would be a talker across the spectrum. The National Review sent its designated old maid to tut-tut. Even Gawker and the Village Voice joined the fun of beating up on John and Carol Anne.

I’ve known a couple or two who got their start like this. It’s unfortunate, but it’s really not the worst behavior I’ve seen in 53 years of life on the planet. I believe following your feelings should end when you start following a stroller, but everybody’s different, and besides, without couples like John and Carol Anne, who would we beat up on? My puzzlement is best summed up by the Voice writer, who wondered, “Why would you sign up for this? Why would you apply to air your family business? WHY ARE YOU SO DAMN PROUD OF YOURSELVES?” Well, yeah.

There is one blanket exception to the rule I would make in all cases, and that’s when one spouse decides he or she wants to leave for a same-sex partner. In those situations, the most decent thing you can do as an onlooker is button your lip, avert your eyes and silently Be There. I’m still waiting for the Times to Go There. Maybe next year.

Not much going on here today. We’re into the holiday slide, methinks. School is out, but work carries on. We had the Nall Family Christmas Saturday, which went very well, although my brother overbought, as usual. He could head these situations off at the pass if he did a little advance planning, but as usual, the last couple of days were punctuated by phone calls from the mall. The most famous of these came one year, 60 minutes before dinner was to start, and went like this: “Does Nancy need a vacuum cleaner?”

I didn’t. But this year I got a soap dispenser with an electronic sensor, which cracks me up. Did I activate the optional blinking-light timer, which runs for 20 seconds, so that your hands get good and washed? You need to ask?

So let’s skip to the bloggage:

I know the Irish drink, but I had no idea the Brits were this bad:

The foul smell is ominous. Downstairs in a central London pub, a woman has passed out on the floor of the ladies toilets, lying on the cold tiles with her dress pulled above her waist and knickers at her feet.

Intoxicated and at risk of choking on her own vomit, this is no teenage tearaway but a respected economist and middle-aged chief executive of an international company. It is Christmas party season in the City.

The City being, of course, the financial districts of one of the world’s most important cities. A great rewrite of “Silver Bells” is just waiting to happen.

This guy hangs out at a corner I sometimes pass en route to the freeway. Sometimes I wave. I used to think he was homeless and crazy, but I can see the iPod wires in this clip, and he’s obviously oriented enough to know what season it is:

Off to work. Happy Monday, all.

Posted at 9:49 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

73 responses to “Homewreckers.”

  1. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 10:05 am

    “The Irish drink”? What, the entire nation? Everyone with Irish genes? That’s offensive, but yes we do. Why the hell not? In the world we
    are presented, isn’t it a rational response when pot costs so GD’d much? So what. The woman you mentioned sounds very like a rape victim. She must have been drinking and her skirt must have been too short. Asking for it. Maybe she was sitting on the Xerox machine and somebody got the wrong idea.

    436 chars

  2. coozledad said on December 20, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I made the mistake of trying to keep pace with a friend of ours from Essex. After he’d swept the house of everything drinkable, I let him open a case of barley wine I’d made some years before and studiously avoided (malt, hops, champagne yeast. alcohol content? Unknowable.) While I crawled off to bed to stare death in the face, he proceeded to dispatch every damn one of them. When I walked out on the front porch the next morning, he was there sitting in a folding chair, reading a book.
    “I drank your barley-mo. It was good.”

    530 chars

  3. LAMary said on December 20, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Regarding the couple who chose to tell their story to the NYT nuptials page. Yes, why share all those details with a few million people in a format accessible to your kids forever? Those stories happen, and as has been noted in this place several times, no one but the people in a marriage knows exactly what goes on in that marriage. That doesn’t justify advertising less than wonderful behavior, but it might explain it happening.

    433 chars

  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 20, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Your brother didn’t know about the ten dollar price ceiling? (Just saw that movie yesterday, and it was better than I expected, but my expectations were low.)

    As for the oddly revelatory if not unusual couple, as one of the resident theologues here in our corner pub, my most eyebrow lifting moment was “Why did someone throw him in my path when I can’t have him?”

    “Someone,” hon? Oh dear. “All they had were their feelings” was a close second, but it wasn’t a quote.

    477 chars

  5. brian stouder said on December 20, 2010 at 10:27 am

    If your brother was a Hoosier, he’d a’ asked whether you needed a sweeper

    edit: Pammy bought those electronic soap dispensers about 6 months ago. I looked upon them with a critical eye, but I confess they have grown on me. My only bitch is, if the thing is placed too close to the sink, then I somehow accidently set it off in the process of brushing my teeth (don’t ask; something to do with my unthinking motions/habits/rituals)

    433 chars

  6. MichaelG said on December 20, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Maybe he bought it at Jared’s.

    30 chars

  7. Julie Robinson said on December 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

    My hubby’s first job featured those kind of parties, except they were middle-aged men. So. Much. Fun.

    A few minutes ago I heard a loud “whump” and looked up to see yet another car in our yard. They had missed the turn at the T, gone into a skid, and hit one of the trees in our yard. They quickly did a donut and got the hell out before I could do more than stare gape-mouthed. Now I’m awake.

    399 chars

  8. Jeff Borden said on December 20, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I try not to read too much into the actions of those like the couple in the NYT. People change over time, interests can diverge, situations can change, particularly in areas like finances and child-rearing. I am bothered that so many people feel it is all right to betray the trust of a spouse by beginning an affair. If a couple is no longer seeing eye-to-eye, if they have “fallen out of love,” then be honest about it and begin the separation dance. It certainly raises the stakes –are you willing to walk away from all you’ve built and invested in a marriage– and forces the person to confront all the ramifications before they begin to enjoy the hot buttered sex.

    An aside: How funny to see Kathryn Lopez commenting on anything to do with marriage. She knows less than your average celibate priest.

    808 chars

  9. holly said on December 20, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Just made a morning run to Woodfield Mall to start my Christmas shopping. I am a little behind this year. I usually have it all done by this time. Daughter wanted a set of tires for her car and the hubby took care of that. I did not find anything I wanted to buy for anyone so I think I will give gift cards. I take that back. I did find a pair a pants, a white shirt, 2 pairs of shoes, some make up and hair rollers. What can I say. I needed it.

    446 chars

  10. adrianne said on December 20, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I love your brother’s mall shopping binges. Reminds me of my dad, whose M.O. was rushing out sometime Christmas week and amassing huge bags of nice clothes for my mom. I must admit, he had an eye for fashion – I don’t think my mom ever took anything back. And she never got a practical gift from him in her life!

    312 chars

  11. ROgirl said on December 20, 2010 at 11:12 am

    The story about the drunken Brits really seems to be about class, that is, it’s shocking that “well-spoken,” “well-dressed,” “well-educated,” people with good jobs in “posh offices” in the city would get so stinko drunk in public.

    That’s the prerogative of working class football hooligans, skinheads and other members of the lower orders.

    342 chars

  12. Moe99 said on December 20, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Am writing from chemo on my IPOd, so this may be sketchier than usual, but any time your spouse gives you a vacuum cleaner for Xmas should be the occasion for warning bells to start going off. Particularly if it’s a used model from said spouse’s impoverished mother’s estate.

    275 chars

  13. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Holly, I think that giving gifts to charity in your giftees names is a fine way to deal with gift-giving. Heifer.com is excellent. feedingamerica. that used to be Second Harvest, is another worthy. I rely on these, along with CDs I know they never heard of, for my brothers that basically have wives that buy them everything. It’s like pagan Babies, but you don’t get to pick a name. But seriously, ensuring water for somebody in the southern region of Sudan, that’s unquestionably a good thing.

    I’ve got two hive-mentality twin nephews that thought some free i-tunes and a couple of camels for somebody that needs them was a pretty good gift last year. I’m not endorsing anything, but I have vetted these organizations pretty thoroughly:



    (95% goes straight to benefits in both cases, though I think a little spending on lobbyists might not be a terrible idea, if anybody thought it might work.)

    Feeding America/Second Harvest is outstanding. We donate cash and we do a small portion of the work. We know it works. If you can’t think of a better gift, try sharing humanity.

    I spend a lot of time working for the local foodbank. The idea that kids in America have insufficient food is abhorrent to anybody that isn’t a Congressional Republican. We do what we can. Anyway, those are great gifts if you can’t think of anything else.

    1491 chars

  14. del said on December 20, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Hang in there Moe! Nice to have an ipod.

    The bit about the NYT couple reminds me of my uncle’s musings about his English class students considering “Ethan Frome’s dilemma” — what to do when another woman was thrown in his path? The foreign students disapproved of Frome’s flights of fancy in even considering running off with his new love. The American students thought him cowardly for not doing so.

    407 chars

  15. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    If you want a quick raft of “gifts to charity” options, and especially if you’re a science fiction fan, check out this post:


    201 chars

  16. kayak woman said on December 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I am hoping I don’t get [another] vacuum cleaner this Christmas.

    64 chars

  17. 4dbirds said on December 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I went to your WeSmirch link and was shocked by this item <a http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20452096,00.html
    I have a 6th degree of separation with the missing woman as we have a mutual friend. Hope she is ok.

    229 chars

  18. basset said on December 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    >>I made the mistake of trying to keep pace with a friend of ours from Essex. After he’d swept the house of everything drinkable, I let him open a case of barley wine

    My mother was from Essex and barely drank… she seems to have passed on the gene, though.

    Prospero, I’m with you on heifer.org, that was Mrs. B’s Christmas present last year.

    357 chars

  19. Jolene said on December 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    In his Friday column, Nick Kristof identifies several aid organizations–some domestic, some international–that he hopes people will support in end-of-the-year giving. Most are less well-known than Heifer and others we’ve all heard about, although he likes them too.

    Would like to give charitable gifts on behalf of my teen-age nephew and nieces, but I fear seeming self-righteous to them. They want for nothing, and are all old enough to understand suffering. As my parents got older, we sometimes gave charitable gifts in their honor, which they liked, but I don’t think anyone in our family has involved the kids in this way. Have thought of sending them a link to Kristof’s column and asking them to pick one of those orgs or to identify another that they would like to support. Would be interested to know what you think of this idea.

    991 chars

  20. beb said on December 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Julie @7: have a contractor bring in some large boulders to line the front of your lawn. Protect your trees.

    Nancy @0: I’ve seen that young man, too. Thought he was a homeless crazy person as well. Then I noticed he has a can on the ground for donations. I wonder how well he does because if I were waling and saw someone acting like that I’d cross the street and avoid all eye contact.

    I had a mother-in-law who began making donations in the name of her granddaughter. My feeling was that if you care so little about your granddaughter that you won’t make the effort to get her something she might like or use, than um — go to hell. Donating to charities is a good thing but kids — kids especially — look forward to getting things for Christmas and a note saying a good deed was done in their name doesn’t really cut it.

    And that’s my Christmas Grinch for the year.

    879 chars

  21. Jolene said on December 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Just to be clear, the “kids” I was talking about in my message are 14, 15, 18, and 20. Three of them are going on a cruise over the Christmas break. Both because it’s difficult to know their tastes or to give a gift that might really matter to them, I had thought of gifts to charities and of asking them to identify the organization so that it reflects their concerns. But I take your point, beb.

    Other views?

    416 chars

  22. brian stouder said on December 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I understand what Jolene is saying, and I get what beb is saying, too. (wouldn’t want to be viewed as a George Costanza, sluffing off gift-giving with phony charitable donation cards)

    I think the way it would ideally work is, the young folks would have to be “in” on the whole deal. If the young folks could accompany you to wherever a place (say, the Red Cross, or wherever else), and they themselves could hand over the cash, then all the bases would be covered (and the kiddo would get the feeling of having really given something themselves)

    edit: in the meanwhile, Jolene posted her clarification. I guess I’d be crass with the teens and 20-somethings, and say to them something like “I am going to give you $____ (whatever amount). I can contribute this to whatever charity you want, or else I’ll send it to you”. And then, they really would feel the donation, if they opted for that.

    904 chars

  23. Jim G said on December 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I think contributions to charity as gifts should be “opt-in.” It’s one thing for a person to say, “I have enough stuff, here’s a list of my favorite charities”; it’s quite another to decide that someone else has enough stuff and that you’ll give money to charity “in their name.” Unless someone has asked you to do it, giving money to a charity is not a gift to anyone other than the charity, regardless of whose name you do it in (can the person whose name the gift was made in even take a tax deduction for it?). Some people may be pleasantly surprised by that sort of gift, but I suspect it’s obvious when that would be so. I’d be very surprised if it would be true of many people under the age of, oh, 25. When in doubt, give Stuff.

    As for the couple in the NY Times: I’m starting the divorce timer now, and setting the over/under at six years. We know nothing about their previous marriages, but that picture in the Times tells all the story I need (or want).

    973 chars

  24. Bitter Scribe said on December 20, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    One thing I don’t understand about contributing to charity “in someone’s name”: If John donates in Mary’s name, who gets the tax deduction, John or Mary?

    153 chars

  25. brian stouder said on December 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Jim G’s post made me go ahead and click Nance’s NYT link, and I didn’t make it past these sentences: (racing flags added)

    Ms. Riddell was a reporter and anchor on WNBC television in New York (yellow flag! caution caution caution!) and a mother of two. A glamorous, petite woman with a strong handshake and stronger opinions, she is not the type to be easily dazzled, yet she was struck by Mr. Partilla’s exuberance. “He bounds into a room,” said Ms. Riddell, who was 40 when they met. “He doesn’t walk in, he explodes in.” (red flag!! stop stop stop!!)

    “explodes in”? Leaving aside the easy inferences of such imagery, is “exploding” into every room a good thing?

    695 chars

  26. Dexter said on December 20, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Everyone who has worked in an office or factory or warehouse has seen it. Marriage fidelity means a lot, but not so much when it becomes apparent one can bed a co-worker, married or not.
    It works all kinds of ways, as you adults know or can imagine. We aren’t talking about the married woman who would sleep with anyone who asked her; she had a husband who understood her needs and never stood in her way. So yes, that really happens too. My last workplace employed me for thirty years, and almost all the women engaged in sexual relationships with at least one man there. It was that way because men outnumbered women widely.
    It was hardly ever so cut and dried as two married people dumping their spouses and hooking up with a wedding cake; it was always some kind of sideways behavior…one person single, one “in the process of divorce”…one young divorcee hooking up with a guy 55 years old, on the sly … every possible scenario. I had a job that enabled me to talk with everyone; I knew everyone there, hundreds of people, some barely, some well, and all people love to gossip.
    Anyway, after all those years of listening to all the love stories, the goofy stories of jealous wife clobbering the lover with a telephone book, as well as coming upon a murder scene a minute after three shots killed a man over a birthday flower delivery to a woman, right outside the workplace doors, well…I ain’t seen it all but I have seen enough. It happens. It is your business because you have to listen, opine, judge…or just get up and walk away, saying “Shit, it isn’t any of my business.” That last part is how I treated it at the end of my work days and how I treat it now.
    I guess it’s easier to have an affair now, with all the online hook-up sources and that obnoxiously advertised Ash ley Madi son dot com site. They continuously advertise on satellite radio , urging married people to have an affair. How easy can it get?
    So does every married person have cheatin’ impulses? I don’t know. Have I? I am sure you don’t care. Old friends continue to tell me that when I think about going out for a few beers and shots, I should play the tape all the way through. I would guess that would be difficult to receive in a brain that’s already leaning towards cheating. Guys, anyway…because as “they say”…a stiff prick has no conscious.

    2373 chars

  27. Dorothy said on December 20, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Jolene I think your idea is lovely and could be the beginning of a lifetime of charitable acts done by your nieces and nephews. The ages you list are an ideal time, in my opinion, to give a gentle lesson in helping out others who lack the necessities in life: food banks, Salvation Army, the Red Cross, etc. Kids these days are more savvy about the world and it’s messes – like Haiti, Afghanistan, etc.

    That being said, I can see Beb’s point as well. Little ones don’t have the cognitive ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and wonder what it would be like to be hungry or need a coat. But if they can tag along to help out at a soup kitchen or Meals on Wheels once in awhile, slowly they will begin to understand the idea of helping those less fortunate.

    When my kids were little we’d have conversations about what we’d like to do with all the money if we hit the lottery. On the top of my list was paying for their college tuition, helping out my siblings and their kids, taking my mother to Ireland before she dies. And I didn’t beat them over the head with it, but I always mentioned that I’d probably help out families who had health problems with their children, and really needed financial assistance for surgeries, lodging while the kids were in the hospital, etc. We read those articles in the paper and I always feel so badly for those families! I’m pleased to say that my kids have mentioned a few times that they’ve donated to Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, among other charities.

    1537 chars

  28. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 2:44 pm


    Don’t you think you should get naming rights for the heifer. (And whence this word?) I got into big trouble with the nuns back around sixth grade for insisting on Lucifer for our Pagan Baby. What’s wrong with “Light-bearer”? My argument was that my brother was named Cristopher, and we could change the f for a ph. Parent-teacher conference no. 21. Nuns hate it when boys are smarter than they are. Back in the day, nuns just despised boys, en classe, period. De rigeur.

    I like the donation/gift way of giving because, aside from “peace on earth and mercy mild”, my brothers and I have everything we could want or need, aside from things like Lamborghinis. Occasionally I come across a book or record I know one of them will appreciate and has probably never heard of, so I buy it and make the gift immediately.

    I have three sisters-in-law. How do you buy gifts for sisters-in-law, if they aren’t winos or chocaholics, or both? One of them is one of my best friends. Another is a usurping bitch semi-trophy wife that I like OK but couldn’t really care less about. Her predecessor bought me great Christmas presents for years. No illusions my brother had anything to do with it. She’s a Starbucks addict, so I send her a card with a Starbucks card every year. Same to my ex, usually with a CD with music I know will make her think about me. We do what we can, and live with our vanities.

    1405 chars

  29. Catherine said on December 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Jolene, a twist on your idea for the “kids” is Kiva gift cards. Kiva does international microfinance. Small loans provide capital to help entrepreneurs all over the globe get small businesses off the ground, and become self-sustaining (think $300 to a sandal maker in Central America, to buy raw materials). The kids get to decide where to invest their money, so there is an element of choice. In choosing their loan, they must consider things like country, gender, type of enterprise and amount needed. The money is paid back, and then the kids can choose to withdraw it, donate it to Kiva, or re-lend it.

    I’ve given these before, and I think I wouldn’t try it with someone under about 12 — there’s a lot to understand — but with older kids it can provoke reflection about their values, questions about economics, and more tangible understanding about the “rest” of the world.

    885 chars

  30. Julie Robinson said on December 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    All the churches/schools/offices we’ve been a part of have had charitable giving so our kids have always helped with that. Often it’s adopting a family with specific needs through a local organization that has vetted them for income and non-duplication. This year it’s the only giving we are doing, and I’m finding it really helps to change the focus of the season. (I should say that we are writing down some minor loans to our kids.)

    But I don’t think it can be imposed on others so I like Brian’s idea.

    beb, the rock solution has been used by neighbors and I gotta say, they look ugly. And the DH would NOT like to mow around them. I took pictures this time to petition for a sign indicating that the street comes to a T. Is there a name for that?

    Edit: Catherine’s Kiva idea is perfect.

    805 chars

  31. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm


    Thanks for bringing up Habitat. I’m one of about forty-five Americans that think Jimma Ed Carter is a great man. My work time is divided pretty much equally between Habitat and our food bank. Seems I’m only employable these days by non-profits. Habitat is excellent, though. Codes and building materials, and incredulously happy faces.

    I buy myself Christmas presents. This year, CDs by John Lee, Buddy Guy (with a John Hyatt cover, and Mustang Sally), McKinley Morganfield, and box sets by Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt. Could anybody explain why they put that obnoxious tape on the diamond cd cases and then shrink-wrap them, even inside shrink-wrapped box sets? If Andy Rooney had a clue what a cd is, he’d go off on this shit. For my other, it’s frequently Victoria’s Secret. She really likes that stuff. Me? Well, it’s OK.

    854 chars

  32. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 3:19 pm


    Kiva is a great idea, and it’s potentially self-propagating. I’m sure it’s legitimate (I’ve looked into it) and the premise is excellent. I loaned some bucks a few years ago and rarely think about it any more. I like to think in terms of Malthusian growth in the effect of my few bucks reinvested.

    362 chars

  33. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Bitter Scribe: I suppose I could write these gifts off, but it really never occurs to me when I’m doing the returns. It would be fine with me if the recipients got the break.

    174 chars

  34. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Grinches United,

    I’m talking about gifts to adult siblings with the wherewithal to buy themselves pretty much anything they want. And maybe not the moral fiber or social consciousness to do the donating themselves. This is not meant in any way for kids. Buy ’em kaleidoscopes, gyroscopes, toys, paints, markers, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe records, things that expand imagination.

    384 chars

  35. MichaelG said on December 20, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Here’s some cute. Who says you can’t make a bird poop on command? This is my erstwhile wife and Murphy the burd at the Auburn house. Murphy is a 29 year old Yellow Naped Amazon. Somewhere around here I have a picture of Murphy eating a chicken drumstick. It’s pretty funny.


    326 chars

  36. paddyo' said on December 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Prospero @ 13 and 28:
    Thanks for the parochial school flashback to Pagan Babies. It didn’t register back then, but looking back now, I love how the church organizers of this fundraising campaign described what it was that we little Soldiers In Christ’s Army were doing this for: Not merely to “save” or “convert” or “rescue” these poor deprived-of-Jesus infants and kids, no-no-no . . . rather, we were doing this to “RANSOM” them. Yeah, like, hostages ‘n’ shit, I guess, from those foreign dens of Satanic non-believers.

    Man, growing up Catholic.
    I mean, MAN . . .

    I, too, am a believer (!) in charitable contributions for Xmas giving to grownups and older children. Last year, it was Greg “Three Cups of Tea” Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. This year, it’s a local friend and ex-colleague’s own boostraps school-construction-assistance charity for dirt-poor African villages.

    Oh, and BTW, HBO viewers may get a laugh (or a wince) at Ricky Gervais’ latest stand-up concert special, which includes a snarky-mean riff on being the recipient of this sort of Xmas giving . . .

    1088 chars

  37. Jolene said on December 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    paddyo’, I first heard about pagan babies from a Catholic school-educated friend when I was in grad school. I loved the phrase then, as I do now, but, even more, I liked that my friend and her classmates named the saved babies. In the suburbs of St. Louis, the most popular names in that era were Cassius Clay and Jacqueline Bouvier. (Yes, we are old.)

    355 chars

  38. Rana said on December 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    MichaelG, I once bird-sat for a colleague who had 5 cockatiels. A few of them were trained to “go potty” on command. All I can say is that, after you’ve had a bird poop on your shoulder a few times, you come to appreciate that training a lot more. (Birds can’t be trained to “hold it,” alas.)

    I’m always leery of giving to charity in other peoples’ names as “gifts” when they haven’t solicited it. On the one hand, it feels a bit preachy. On the other, what if your charitable impulses and theirs are not the same? (I can think of instances of people donating to anti-abortion organizations “in the name of” pro-choice relatives, for example, or to church-based charities on behalf of their pagan or atheist friends.)

    I can see a family deciding together to do this, but to spring it on someone out of the blue seems to be making the “gift” more about the giver than the receiver. There are other ways to avoid the “they already have a lot of stuff” problem; my family of pack-rats likes to give food, for example, and then there’s the “single gift from our family to their family” approach. I guess, for me, if you’re going to give to charity, give to charity, and if you’re going to give someone a gift, give them a gift.

    1239 chars

  39. Dorothy said on December 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Well said, Rana. I’m sorry I was preachy (above). Truthfully I’d rather just give to charity and shut up about it. It sounds too much like bragging to talk about it. But since we exchange ideas here on a regular basis, I was only trying to make suggestions, not blow my own horn (or my kids’ horns).

    302 chars

  40. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 20, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Turns out that NYT Vows story was both a marital AND journalistic, um, cluster: http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/2010/12/20/the-story-behind-that-controversial-nyt-vows-column/

    Poignant note also missed in the original story: both marriages were originally written up in the Times as well (links in the Forbes piece).

    I just donate to “Kids for Cthulhu” for everyone, and that settles it.

    399 chars

  41. paddyo' said on December 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    For what it’s worth, my 2 cents’ worth on this, Rana:

    Donating instead of buying Xmas presents can be a seasonal gesture that needn’t involve giving “in the name of” or giving to politically volatile causes. I do neither in this setting. I mention it to family members only to say that, in thinking of them this season, instead of sending those sometimes-obligatory crappy gifts-for-gifts’ sake, I’m spending it instead on a pretty good cause. I don’t say how much, which I realize certainly COULD be bragging. And I do this only among immediate family or very close friends.

    Anyway, that’s one way to approach it. You raise worthwhile questions and concerns, however, and no doubt there are those for whom this kind of “giving” presents plenty of ulterior, Pharisees-style motives. But as I said, it can still be a seasonal alternative without holier-than-thou baggage attached.

    Again, for what it’s worth . . . and I accept the possibility that my view may, indeed, only be worth two cents!

    1002 chars

  42. brian stouder said on December 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Jeff, interesting article. I loved that the NYT reporter was named “Cypher” (possibly spelled differently); which immediately reminded me of Robert DiNiro (as Louis Cypher in Angel Heart).

    Granted, I only made it 4 sentences into the actual NYT “Vows” article itself, but the thing seemed unmistakably about exhibitionism (dick-flash writ large, so to speak), by big-foot media professionals, in a big-foot media outlet.

    And all I have to say about that is: Pass.

    474 chars

  43. MaryRC said on December 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I checked out the link to K-Lo’s column in the National Review and found to my surprise that they have a comments box now. Although many of the comments took a hard line with some pretty stern tsk-ing over the immorality of adultery, they all seemed civilised. But I was struck by this comment:

    The commenter would like to have the option of “a kind of covenant marriage in which no-fault divorce is simply not a legal option and divorce is a painful, expensive and drawn-out for those people. I would like my daughters to know what kind of young man was proposing to them by the kind of marriage he was willing to undertake (and it would be helpful to know what kind of young ladies my daughters have become by understanding what was the kind of marriage they wanted to enter in). I would like the legal option for myself …”

    Aside from why it would be helpful to know what this says about his daughters (doesn’t he know them well enough now?), it seems to me that you either keep your marriage vows or, for whatever reason, you break them. To want to be forced into covenant marriage where breaking your vows becomes more difficult makes it sound like you don’t trust your own ability to keep them. Either that, or you’re just showing off.

    As for the link to the Independent article on drunken bankers, the comments there are more appalling than the drunken behavior, with the undressed economist on the floor of the ladies’ room coming in for the most venom. They seem to assume that she undressed herself.

    1531 chars

  44. paddyo' said on December 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    What Brian said @ 42 . . .

    On Sundays, I usually turn to the NYT’s “Vows” page for a glance and a grin at the stereotypes that tend to hold sway there. This couple did not disappoint. I got about as far into the story as Brian did and moved on, not wanting to regurgitate breakfast.

    285 chars

  45. nancy said on December 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I think the economist in the ladies’ room did undress herself. Skirt up, knickers down, sit on the potty, oops-whirlies and then tim-berrrrrrrr.

    I absolutely do not understand the conservative-right fondness for ol’ skool divorce, even as I acknowledge I’ve known many couples who came thisclose to splitting, stuck it out and today are glad they did. It’s the legal-ness of the old ways that I find oppressive. Marriage is a contract, check. A contract is a legal agreement, check. A legal agreement can’t be broken without cause, check. And so, to escape your loveless marriage, you have to sue your spouse, in court, on any number of awful grounds. With witnesses. Who could approve of this but a lawyer?

    726 chars

  46. nancy said on December 20, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Oh, and one final note, Paddy: Gregg Sutter, who does research for Elmore Leonard, had a pagan baby once.

    It turned out beautifully.

    205 chars

  47. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Shit, Captain Beefheart died.

    An accessible tune.

    Less accessible tune.

    Weird tune stranger than Tom Waits strange. Crow is the drummer, frequently played with Frank Zappa

    Artwork and photos.

    954 chars

  48. Jolene said on December 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Good discussion on the giving-to-charity as a gift issue. Some of the problems noted–giving to causes the recipient might not support, for example–seem easy to avoid. Although I suppose it’s possible to find someone who wouldn’t support the work of Doctors Without Borders, Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity and the like (not to mention the less well-known organizations in the various articles linked here), there can’t be many, and none of them are on my gift list.

    The real issue, for me, is the question of whether giving a gift to make yourself feel good or to make the recipient feel good, and I haven’t decided for myself how I feel about that in the case of my almost-grown niece and nephews. I am not close enough to them to know what books or music they might want and don’t have and can’t afford whatever technological gadgets they don’t already have and might be yearning for.

    About the best cast on the idea of giving to charity on their behalf would be that this might be a way for us to develop a new, grown-up connection between us by supporting something that they care about. Guess I’ll talk to their parents and see what they have to say, and I guess I’d better do it fast!

    1215 chars

  49. Jolene said on December 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Hysterical, Nancy. Am also interested to have learned from today’s discussion that pagan babies were not merely bought, as I had heard, but ransomed. Who was it that was supposedly holding them? Were there specific villains or just your standard-issue heathens?

    264 chars

  50. Rana said on December 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    MaryRC – isn’t that what pre-nups are for? I agree with you that either you think you’re up to keeping the contract or you’re not, and if you have such doubts at the outset, perhaps formalizing the arrangement isn’t what you want to do.

    On the charity gifts front, I don’t want to give the impression that I think they’re bad in all cases. (Heck, we had wedding registries at Heifer, Mercy Corps, and Doctors without Borders ourselves.) It’s more that, as with all gifts, you need to decide what your goals are. Given the choice between a smelly candle picked out by someone with no sense of what I like, and a small donation to Heifer, I’d prefer the donation. But choosing between something lovingly selected or made by someone I know well and a charity donation to some random charity I’ve never heard of, I’d prefer the former.

    839 chars

  51. paddyo' said on December 20, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Agreed, Rana, a sensible approach . . .

    Nance: If I were drinking milk (but only if at least 3 hours before Holy Communion), it would be spraying out my nostrils right now.

    OMG, the Pontifical Association of the Holy Childhood! It’s all coming back to me now. In this righteous cause for the ransom of Pagan Babies, we were required to sell Holy Childhood Seals (like large postage stamps, but all colorful like the very best Holy Cards ever). I sold enough not only to get a Pagan Baby out of limbo-on-Earth, but also to get a lovely premium: A shiny, shellacked, fake-wood-framed portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her usual sky-blue garments, hands folded and head bowed in reverent prayer.

    Wish I still had my ransom note — er, uh, I mean, Certificate of Adoption.

    784 chars

  52. prospero said on December 20, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Riddell-Partilla: Grade A prime concupiscent assholes. Claiming they worried about the feelings of the kids makes them doubly heinous. At least they didn’t resort to murder.

    Jolene, it was my impression at age 10 or 12 that the Pagan Baby money funded roving bands of mercenary priests that looked like GI Joe and were commando-trained to swoop into villages for quick-strike baptisms, and I got to name the babies. If you look at it this way, it seems a lot more honest than the outright mail fraud practices of the Graham, Roberts, Robertson and Falwell families. The idea was never to impress them into “the Faith”. It was to ensure by baptism they could enter the Kingdom of Heaven. My thoughts on this sort of thing changed radically when I read At Play in the Fields of the Lord, a spectacular novel by Peter Matthiessen, which makes the whole idea seem ludicrous.

    873 chars

  53. Judybusy said on December 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    On the gift giving, my mom, three sibs and I decided to pool our money and give to a charity. We take turns picking the charity and each person (including spouses) gives $50.00. I suggested it the year we all just sent gift cards through the mail, especially since my sister-in-law re-gifted a gc she’d received the year before from my brother. Granted, it was for my favorite store, but I found it really tacky, and it prompted me to do something more meaningful. This year, it was my turn to pick and we gave to a small non-profit, http://www.clarehousing.org that provides housing for people living with AIDS. We specified that the money to to a capital campaign for a new apartment building set to open in January! I was on the board until this year, so it was a lovely way to leave the organization.

    If I were to give to a charity in lieu of a gift in any other situation, I would definitely think about the other person and ascertain as best I could that they would really appreciate it.

    989 chars

  54. alex said on December 20, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    The most fun Christmas giving I ever did? Not so much for the little ones in my family who already have everything except attention spans. No, I took a name from the Salvation Army’s angel tree and bought a child a complete wardrobe at Kohl’s including good shoes and a warm winter coat. And a carton of cigarettes for someone institutionalized wanting same through our local mental health association. It felt great to do something for people I didn’t even know.

    463 chars

  55. coozledad said on December 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    My wife’s grandmother gave her a dime store negligee. I could have told the old woman she ain’t never wear nothing in the sack unless she’s flying the Japanese flag.

    165 chars

  56. JayZ(the original) said on December 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Catherine, Julie and Prospero all gave props to Kiva. I have recommended this organization to many young people who want to begin contributing to charities, but who have limited budgets and cannot afford to donate much. Since they are lending money instead of giving, they are able to reinvest their modest contribution (as little as $25) every time a loan is repaid.

    367 chars

  57. nancy said on December 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Speaking of milk spraying out one’s nose…

    Cooze, I had to think a second about that one. Do you come up with these witticisms on your own, or is that another one of your priceless southern regionalisms? I think you could hire yourself out as a dialogue polisher for the “Deliverance” sequel.

    296 chars

  58. Dexter said on December 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    I like Alex’s actions with the angel tree and the smokes for the person who wanted them. Good job.

    99 chars

  59. coozledad said on December 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Nance: I think that one’s British, but I’m not sure.

    52 chars

  60. Dexter said on December 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    My contribution to the dialogue for the “Deliverance” sequel:
    “He’s shore got a pretty grill, don’t he!”

    “Now squeal like Yoko!”

    133 chars

  61. Jolene said on December 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I think that one’s British, but I’m not sure.

    Yup, a Google search on “flying the Japanese flag, menstruation” yields several sources that confirm cooz’s etymological assumption, including the cleverly titled Flow: A Cultural History of Menstruation.

    See also this blog entry called “What to Call Your Period in Other Countries”.

    866 chars

  62. LAMary said on December 20, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I give my kids something from Heifer Int’l every year. Geese, a forest, a goat. They get stuff they want too but throwing in some ducklings or something makes it better.
    The UK is a great source of ways to say rude or gross things. Trust me, I hear it all the time.
    And lastly, I would add to the marriage break up conversation a bit advice to women contemplating marriage. Observe the way your potential soul mate treats his mother. If it sucks, run. The little heartbreaks that guy can hit you with can hurt your soul.

    522 chars

  63. Julie Robinson said on December 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Great wisdom there, Mary. I knew I had a winner when he took me home for the weekend and was the only guy helping in the kitchen.

    130 chars

  64. MaryRC said on December 20, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Nancy, re the un-dressed economist, I leaped to the worst possible interpretation of this scenario so I’m relieved to realise that there were other possibilities.

    162 chars

  65. brian stouder said on December 20, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Sunday evening, the young folks (except for Chloe, the 6 year old) and Pam and I played a game of Scrabble, and Pam knocked lumps on my head; so last night, I got a rematch against just her, and she again toyed with me before rolling to a comfortable win.

    As I was cleaning up the game pieces (loser duty), we were contemplating how long we’ve had that game set. It’s a “DeLuxe” version on a turntable with a plastic grid for the letter tiles to fit into – much better than the old paper game board, which allows the wooden pieces to move all around (we still have that older version, too)*

    We recalled that Pam had gotten it for me one Christmas, and in looking into the box we found old score sheets, one of which was dated 1992 (and she won that game, too!); this was before we were married, so she gave me a very nice gift back in the day.

    This immediately reminded her of a pre-married Christmas gift that I got her – possibly even that same year (but who knows?): a commemorative video set of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds World Series championship season.

    She forthrightly stated that that was the single worst gift she ever got in her life; but it was before we were married, so she knew what she was getting, with regard to me!

    *when I was taking the pieces off the game board, I arranged them and checked whether any letters were missing. Turned out we were missing one “A” and one “C”; searching the box, we found the “A”; but I have lodged a formal protest of the game results, and shall have a rematch once we get another letter set.

    And anyway, I ask you – how much worse is it to give someone a very nice video set about the Reds (featuring Marty and Joe!), on the one hand, than it is to buy a person a game that you then always beat that person at? Eh? Eh?

    1793 chars

  66. brian stouder said on December 20, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    btw, I’m always inclined to leap onboard any bandwagon that promises to breathe life into Abraham Lincoln for contemporary Americans, although this one – which has him fighting the undead puzzles me, a little:


    an excerpt:

    Australian actor Eric Bana is circling the title role in 20th Century Fox’s big screen adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” TheWrap has learned. While Bana hasn’t landed the coveted role yet, he’s scheduled to meet with director Timur Bekmambetov soon, and is certainly in contention for the part.


    The epistolary-style book is written as a biography of Lincoln based on “secret diaries” he kept that were given to the author by a vampire named Henry Sturges, who saved Lincoln’s life when he battled a vampire as a teenager. The two develop a friendship and Sturges teaches Lincoln how to hunt and kill vampires. Tim Burton is producing “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” which is scheduled for release on June 22, 2012.

    Well, A.Lincoln was a teenager in good ol’ Indiana, so those early vampire battles should be east of Evansville!

    1244 chars

  67. Dexter said on December 21, 2010 at 2:24 am

    The lunar eclipse is a winner here…lots of breaking cloud cover lends an aura of a 1930s (or 1975, of course) Frankenstein film…fast-moving clouds roll away to reveal an eclipse of the moon. It’s quite haunting and moving.

    228 chars

  68. cosmo panzini said on December 21, 2010 at 4:13 am

    I’ve never been to England, but have known a fair number of Limeys over the years, and my guess as to why so many drink to such excess (Christmas parties and soccer hooliganism being only two examples) is that living there is a regimented hell that we here would have trouble imagining, and if we had to put up with similar circumstances, our behavior would be pretty much the same. Almost without exception, Brits who spend time here realize soon that we live without most of the day-to-day petty, mostly bureaucratic, interference that they take very much for granted. Yes, there is some here, but not to the much greater extent that it exists in Britain.

    661 chars

  69. Dorothy said on December 21, 2010 at 8:30 am

    paddyo – when I was in first grade my mother gave me an envelope one morning and instructed me to give it to Sister Mary Gabriel when I got to school. On the way there, I got to worrying that inside the envelope was a note telling my dear teacher that I’d been bad the night before. I decided to pitch the envelope in a trash can on the way there.

    A week or so later Sister called my mom at home, saying I still owed $5 for the Christmas seals we had to sell. Ooops! Guess what was inside that envelope?!

    511 chars

  70. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 21, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Question for all the civically engaged folk around here: a bleg to you all this fine morning. I’m curious to see how a number of differently situated people respond to this:

    I’m always nervous about plans to “end homelessness” since they’re often cover for ending funding for housing agencies & programs. This is an initiative led by people we’ve worked with here in Licking & Knox Counties, OH, and I’m trying to set aside my usual hesitant skepticism — but if someone in a particular place sees a specific hole in how it would play out where they live & work, it would be very helpful. We work directly with Laura Zellinger and indirectly with the Common Ground folk, so truly, your viewpoints — rural, suburban, variously sized downtowns — will have an input into where this national effort is going in the next two years.

    Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions you are willing to post, or feel free to e-mail me thru knapsack_squigglyatsymbol_windstream_dotorperiodorwhatever_com — at least in the Midwest, this problem is going to get worse before it gets better. And state budget support got whacked last year, and will possibly go away entirely this year for many of us between the Great Lakes & the Ohio, so we’ve got to get fiendishly clever about how we’re using the dollars we’ve got.

    1410 chars

  71. paddyo' said on December 21, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Dorothy, Dorothy, Dorothy — tsk, tsk. That would’ve earned you at LEAST 10 extra Our Fathers, Haily Marys and Glory Bes at your next confession . . . and dear Lord, another Pagan Baby out there, still unransomed!

    213 chars

  72. LAMary said on December 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I’ll have to ask the in house Brit about the regimented hell he left. He’s never mentioned anything like that.

    110 chars

  73. DEdelstein said on December 22, 2010 at 3:46 am

    “I believe following your feelings should end when you start following a stroller…” Words to commit to heart.

    111 chars