Marriage, memory and mishapprehensions

This is late mostly because we ran errands this morning, and it was more convenient to run them before I sat down.

While I was in Portugal my dad was telling me tales of his youth, including that he used to be the letter writer for men who wanted to ask women to go out.

You see, in a highly segregated society, where “going out together” was a formal thing and only done after the man had met the woman’s parents and asked permission, the process as I understand it went something like this: the man saw the woman somewhere, perhaps several times, and thought that she was someone he would like to date, if not to marry.  (A lot of them leaped to thinking she was someone they wanted to marry because people will be people.)  He would then approach her, normally via a common friend.  If they had no friends in common, the man would discern where she lived and send as persuasive a letter as he could, asking her to allow him to come over, meet her parents and take her out on a date.  (First dates tended to be something lame and public, like walking up the street together, in full view of the entire village.  Parties and the like came after you were sure and you were an established couple.)

My dad, a poet with a massive vocabulary, was often co-opted into writing these letters, translating his friends’ simple sentiments into high flung stuff with literary allusions.  This was all the more important since if the parents were impressed it would be easier for them to give consent.

So he told me on Sunday morning he held “letter writing time” in the field next to my grandmother’s.  (This was part of a convoluted story about how he had had to dumb down a letter FOUR TIMES before his friend the construction worker got an answer from this woman he was struck with, who finally agreed to meet him.  The higher-dialect letters actually had scared her.)  And he said “You don’t remember, I’m sure, that there was a stone ledge near the top of that wall.”  And I said, “Of course I remember. My brother took me there, when I was very little, to watch the oxen draw water.”  My dad was both pleased and amazed I remembered since the ox-drawn watering system was replaced by a mechanical one when I was five or six.  But my brother taking me out, with his friends, to watch this was a high mark in my days.

Yes, this will tell you how deprived of excitement our days were, I guess, that watching oxen go round and round while they drew the water had, I guess, been a pastime of village youths for generations.

It occurs to me that as we get older it’s a enormous relief to find someone who shares our memory, particularly of something more out of the usual.  So many of our friends have died or lost their memory or simply gone elsewhere and broken ties, that we’re left sitting there going “What in heck?  Did this ever happen?  Am I misremembering?”  This is particularly true, as I said, of something unusual, like for instance the other day I posted in a private group a picture of my mom’s family and someone said “those are huge soup bowls.”  I had to say “Tea bowls.”  Tea was drunk in bowls we’d think more appropriate for soup.  Not in the higher classes, mind.  My best friend who was impoverished high class loved coming to my house and having tea in a bowl because her family wouldn’t allow it.

It’s one of those things, because until the person asked, I, myself, now after 30 years of using cups and mugs for tea had completely forgotten those huge bowls we used to use.  Even mom now uses a cup.  Fortunately there is photographic evidence of the bowls.

You memory automatically gentrifies your past to match your present, I think.

Beyond that, the idea that people wrote letters to ask someone to date struck me as almost unbearably charming.  And at the same time, under the rubric of the past being another country, I wonder what historians who find those letters in family mementos will think.  Dad had well above average education, definitely above average intelligence and a natural love for words and playing with words.  He wrote letters for his friends who were farmers and farm hands, construction workers, and various other sorts of skilled and unskilled manual trades.  Would an historian, finding these letters exquisitely copied in good hand think that everyone back then had a huge vocabulary and easy classical references?  I mean there were books of “letters” which furnished patterns on “How to ask a young lady out” but my dad’s are obviously not of those, and if they don’t find the original in my dad’s handwriting (which any half smart swain would have eliminated long before it came to marriage) what will historians think?  “There were literary giants among the people in those days, self taught and amazing?”

The other thing that struck me is the thing that I used to envy my parents for and that I suspect my kids would too if they knew it.  It’s an Odd thing, I think.

I would have preferred that form of dating to what prevailed in my day, where you could have gone out with a guy a dozen times, and maybe kissed and all, and you still had no idea if you were his girlfriend or “just friends.”  In fact, most of the time men took advantage of this to lengthen the “just friends” phase as long as possible and play the field.

Because knowing when you’d crossed that or the “fiance” threshold was a thing of penumbras and emanations and of reading someone else’s expressions and intentions, it often ended in tears (not for me.  I found the whole thing annoying and tended to long-distance relationships, where you HAD to know.)

It occurs to me in the old system there were all sorts of protections built in, and not just for us odds.  First of all the process of asking someone out was public and involved the whole family, and the first dates involved the neighborhood watching you.  The knowing what phase you were at also prevented most (not all.  People lie) broken hearts.

I’m not saying “olden days were better” I’m saying they were easier to read and I often wished they’d been like that in my youth, as do my kids, who have a hellish time figuring out when a girl is throwing herself at their (usually just one of them, but…  Although there was this one…) heads.

And now that I’ve rambled all over the page, I’m going to take myself to clean the house, so I can write. 🙂  It’s almost unpacked, so I should be able to actually do a weekly cleaning proper.

Have a good weekend.  I’ll try to torture Grant some tomorrow.

141 responses to “Marriage, memory and mishapprehensions

  1. This is not late. Most of the other posts you have put up were early.

    Check the notice provided for expected time of daily postings.

  2. While you are checking the notice, please also to check the box.

    You know to which box I refer.

    • this box? *Click* *blog explodes*

    • Mr. Speaker, I rise in regretful opposition to my Right Honorable Friend RES; While consistent checking of the checkbox in question is no doubt a praiseworthy high and honorable goal in concept, in practical application certain notice of the results must be taken. Specifically, a rough analysis by my staff has concluded that comment traffic, absent the many follow up posts to check said box other than the first time through, would drop precipitously, possibly by as much as half. How then would this fine establishment continue in the manner to which it has become accustomed? To say nothing of the loss in bar revenue.

      No, I am afraid checking the box in question the first time through is not in line with out long and deeply held beliefs, and so I must urge my fellow members to oppose this proposition.

  3. Now I have music from the soundtrack of The Quite Man invading my head. You know, there are far worse things.

    • Ahem. The Quiet Man. I think, however, that The Quite Man may be a trans-gendered remake, due for release in late September.

      • Oh horrors! If it were I think I would skip that one just as I skipped Ghostbusters relaunch.

        You know that leads me to consider — gender identification has become just one more example of how times of flux can contribute to growing misunderstands and discomfort as we try to navigate the social waters without a chart.

      • I believe you are thinking of The Not-Quite Man.

    • That’s exactly where my mind (such as it is and what there is of it) went, too. The wagon ride, ending in a walk. The race. I love that movie.

      • To my mind many of John Ford’s films are true masterpieces of film making from top to bottom. I hope someday to see The Quiet Man on the big screen.

        Earlier this month The Spouse took me to see Ford’s The Searchers on big screen. Even though I was familiar with the film, I found myself overwhelmed by its magnificence anew.

      • It is a glorious film, so it is.


        Beautifully shot, acted and directed, it is amazing to think that Ford had to “bribe” the studio to let him shoot it. Thus we not only got Ford’s wonderfully idyllic portrayal of a mythic Ireland but Rio Grande, the concluding film of his “Cavalry Trilogy.”

        Lt. Col. Kirby York: But put out of your mind any romantic ideas that it’s a way of glory. It’s a life of suffering and hardship, an uncompromising devotion to your oath and your duty.

        • While looking to confirm the name of the film Ford had to give the studio to get permission for The Quiet Man, I found this which relates the film to today’s post:

          Early in The Quiet Man, for instance, this sense of release gives us the scene where Sean impulsively kisses Mary Kate, and where she slaps and then a few moments later kisses him just as impulsively in return, as the wind howls about the windows and bangs the shutters of an as-yet-untenanted White o’ Morn cottage.

          Later in the story, the same overflow of barely-controlled romantic passion sets in motion the jubilant “escape” of Sean and Mary Kate from the fussy propriety of Michaeleen Oge Flynn in his role as shaughraun, ending in the famous thunderstorm scene in the graveyard where wind and rain rise up as if in response to the elemental force of the attraction between the lovers.

          The great puzzle of Innisfree thus becomes, for an altogether mystified Sean Thornton, how so powerful a passion can be blocked by mere custom or tradition, here represented by Red Will Danaher’s refusal to let his sister marry the American stranger.

          For in America–where, as Sean once plaintively says, all a man has to do is honk his horn outside the house and the girl comes running out–brothers or parents or family or community have no part in such matters. A painful undercurrent of pure emotional bafflement always runs just beneath the comic surface of The Quiet Man, at times coming very close to tipping the story over into personal heartbreak.

          Nowhere is this possibility more obvious than in the scene where an uncharacteristically grave Michaeleen Oge Flynn must explain to Sean Thornton that in Ireland his proposal of marriage to Mary Kate means, by itself, exactly nothing: “This is Ireland, Sean, not America. Without her brother’s consent, she couldn’t and wouldn’t.”

          The near-tragic undertone of the scene lies as much in the heartbroken dignity of Mary Kate’s speech before she runs upstairs–“Sean Thornton, I thank you for the asking”–as in the image of her tear-stained face watching at the upstairs window as her lover departs.

          A major complication in this context is Mary Kate’s independence of spirit. For had Sean Thornton simply had the misfortune to fall in love with a woman weakly submissive to social demands, there would be a problem for him but none for the story. But Mary Kate Danaher is, as we see almost from the beginning, the very opposite of such a woman. The resemblance between The Quiet Man and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew has been noted often enough.

          It is nowhere more obvious than in those scenes where Mary Kate responds to any hint of male domination with a fearless physical defiance: aiming a ferocious blow at Sean Thornton when he presumes to kiss her in the White o’ Morn scene, threatening her brother with a heavy piece of crockery when he moves as if to chastise her physically–“You do,” she says, “and there’ll be a fine wake in the house this night”–or taking a wild roundhouse swing at Sean, to the great delight of the onlooking villagers, in the “dragging” scene.

          Mary Kate is, like Shakespeare’s Kate, a barely-controlled elemental force, and a central question posed by The Quiet Man is why she then chooses to submit herself to custom or tradition.

          The Quiet Man will resolve this problem by giving primary importance to a relation between marriage and property that was a survival from early or pre-Christian Irish law.
          http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~wcd/quietman.htm

          • Further:

            It is precisely this conception of property that Sean Thornton, as a newly-returned American, is initially unable to grasp, just as he is unable to grasp the notion of community or collective solidarity that explains Mary Kate’s otherwise mystifying insistence that he claim her dowry from her brother.

            For behind Mary Kate’s insistence, as behind the rituals of marriage negotiation reported in Arensberg and Kimball’s study, lies the older notion of kinship alliance described in studies like Alwyn and Brinley Reeses’ Celtic Heritage: “In medieval Ireland and Wales, the most highly esteemed form of marriage was a contract between consenting kin-groups — marriage by gift of kin’ . . . –and between partners of comparable status, with proper arrangements about marriage payments. . . . The approved union, even among common people, was a match’ negotiated by two families.”

            In The Quiet Man, of course, there can be no consent between families, for Sean Thornton’s parents are dead and he has no siblings. (Thus the men of Innisfree, who recognize his ancestral right to “Thornton land,” will assume the status of a surrogate family or kinship group in relation to Sean, taking his side in the quarrel with Red Will Danaher and even fighting for his rights in the wedding night sequence where Danaher refuses to bestow on his sister the furniture she inherited from her mother and grandmother.)

            But the underlying issue in the conflict between Sean and his bride is a breakdown of custom that she feels as a matter of deep personal shame and he finds wholly unintelligible. So long as Mary Kate has married a husband in “American” terms–that is to say, as a union of two isolated or unattached persons operating in a social void–she will remain a woman in exile from her own community, an unintegrated figure cut off from communal life and values. She will also remain, in terms of ancient Irish law and custom, an unequal partner in her own marriage.

            The notion of marital equality here, though it has been mistaken in feminist commentary on The Quiet Man for gender equality of the modern sort, goes back once again to a notion of balance or equality between kinship groups. Property serves in this instance as a symbolic medium for establishing what Nerys Patterson calls the “legally defined degrees of relationship according to which a woman was more or less vested with rights in her husband’s household and fine.”
            Op cit.

            It is this greater depth of marriage as a union of clans that America, boiled down to family nuclei, has lost. Instead of a grand resonance of deep traditions we have merely the “scrap of paper” licensing a convenient relationship. With little investment it is surprising that any marriages survive for the lengths they do.

            • Marriage is indeed, or at least used to be, largely an economic arrangement, one that was done carefully because it needed to last, at least until the kids were grown. But in today’s society, marriage has been regulated to death. States and countries add all kinds of conditions to the deal until it’s like trying to open a business.

              It seems to me that the way to get the best outcomes would be to leave as many of the conditions of marriage as possible up to each couple to decide by contract (thus minimizing transaction costs so that the Coase Theorem can apply, for the econ majors among us).

            • If your culture is any good; if it has anything worth passing on (or if you believe this to be true) then you’ll have the devil’s own time achieving it without the grandparents, the aunts and uncles, and all the rest of the older generation. They’ve got to have a vested interest in the next generation, if the next generation aren’t going to be a bunch of ignoramuses deprived of their cultural capital.

              Balancing that out with the freedom to make the marriage arrangements you want is a real trick. We actually manged to pull it off by and large here in the U.S. (see also: Democracy in America, and Kay Hymowitz on the not-so-Sekrit American project.)

              And then we ate our seed corn.

              Puts the progs insistence on destroying marriage as a universal cultural institution for creating lasting cross-generation social bonds into perspective, doesn’t it?

            • *stands up and applauds*

              This, sir, is what a literary criticism not only could be, but *should* be. Well done.

              This holder of a BA in English salutes you!

          • Geoff Withnell

            Gad, it takes me back. When my oldest daughter was about 15, and had just started dating, she was going out with a boy to a school dance. Not her first date, but her first date with this boy. She was upstairs, waiting to make her entrance. From her bedroom, she could she the driveway in front of the house. My wife and I were sitting in the living room, reading and watching tv. Beep, beep, came the sound from the front of the house. “Oh crap”, I thought. My wife looked up, concern on her face. My daughter’s voice came down from upstairs. “Daddy, will you take care of that for me?”
            “Don’t worry, honey, it’s covered”
            I went outside, and found the expected car with a young man, engine running.
            “Are you here to pick up Shoshana?”
            “Yes, is she coming out?”
            “NO, and you are going. Be on your way.”
            Went back inside. Shoshana threw herself into my arms. “If he’s not man enough to come in and face you, he’s not man enough to date me!”
            I love my daughter.

    • The music for “The Walk” just wlll NOT get out of your head.

      One of the things that convinced me I had to leave Los Ageles: KCOP used to run “The Quiet Man” every St. Patrick’s day. Then they CUT “The Walk” because it didn’t fit between station breaks. Then they stopped running it.

  4. Being on the east coast, I always allow a few hours for Colorado to wake up 🙂
    Even the dating for a while scenario you lived with is superior to today’s ‘hook-up’ culture. I blame the pill.
    Some changes are good. While I never used a bowl for tea, I did drink a lot from ‘jelly glasses’ and remember when dishes came in the laundry detergent.
    Other changes? Well, that the villagers recognized your Father’s literary skill and asked for assistance is certainly one up from modern teens, who don’t apparently bother with either spelling or grammar.

    • I also remember using jelly glasses as a kid, mostly for my morning juice.

      • When I was growing up a local dairy packed their sour cream in tumblers that you could collect. Momma had a set of ice tea glasses decorated with blue daisies courtesy of that brand.

        When first married The Spouse and I put together a set of Looney Tunes drinking glasses courtesy of Arby’s. The Spouse had brought UnCola glasses into the marriage.

        • I remember getting a bunch of Looney Tunes glasses as a kid (good quality, quite heavy) that my grandparents picked up. No idea where, but I thought it was at Burger King. I know the Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back glasses (crappy quality, quite thin and breakable) we got at Burger King. I only have one of the SW glasses left, but I think I still have about half a dozen of the Looney Tunes ones left.

          • Yes, the Looney Tunes glasses were of very good weight. The UnCola glasses were of lighter weight, broke easily and did not survive.

            We missed the Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back altogether.

          • I think Hardee’s had Looney Tunes glasses in the ’70s; some of ours are beginning to fade. I wish I had one of those portable scanners (the kind that used some sort of radioactive source and had to be, annoying, calibrated with samples when you switched sources. Then again, I never did use one much, if any, so having one might not do be any good.) Then I could convince my wife that they don’t have lead in them (or find out that they do).

          • Professor Badness

            I still use jelly glasses! The Blackburn Jelly jars are the perfect size for my wife and kids, and they come with a convenient handle. I don’t know of any other jelly jars that still come with a handle.

      • A few months back while shopping I noted to my wife that they still sold jelly in drinking glasses with a lid. Don’t remember the brand, but it wasn’t the one we buy. On the rare occasions we actually buy jelly.

        Still have a lot of fast food glasses, including a few Christmas motif wine glasses from Arby’s. If you happen to pass through a second hand store and see some on the shelf- BUY THEM!. Then resell them on Ebay. Most are collectibles.

        From a purely practical point of view, it makes sense to package things in things that can be reused as other things. The ultimate in waste reduction. But- just how many glasses do you really need?

        • Here it was mustard. I know at least three different glasses mustard used to be sold in, up to the1970’s, and which people then reused as drinking glasses. Collectibles, all of them now.

      • Chris Nelson

        We had a large collection of snuff glass jars that ended up being juice glasses.

    • “Even the dating for a while scenario you lived with is superior to today’s ‘hook-up’ culture. I blame the pill.”

      I remember reading a few years back that many girls were longing for a “friends with benefits”-type relationship because that at least implied that the guy was supposed to care about you as a friend. With the standard hook-up, you’re expected to treat your partner as a disposable sex-toy and be treated the same way in return. Wanting anything more (such as for the guy you had sex with to remember your name) was “being needy.”

      Strangely enough, the “disposable sex-toy” model of relationships doesn’t seem to make most girls happy…

      • Nope, I didn’t like it and I doubt all that many women do, but since it can seem like the only way to find a man who is also more than that lots play anyway. And of course most women also do need sex and at least get the physical pleasure that way, but personally I can’t enjoy it much if I know almost nothing about the guy beyond how he looks. Frankly, after a while of trying it that way spinsterhood seemed preferable to the idea of perhaps repeatedly finding out I had done it with a jerk or worse.

        And after I stopped giving in and demanding we’d get to know each other a bit first that’s exactly where I ended (okay, I am an odd, not exactly brilliant socially and I was even worse when I was young, and somebody with trust issues so… :/ ). Do I regret this? Somewhat, sometimes. But it still seems preferable to having had lots of sexual relationships which ended nowhere, at least for me, especially since I do seem to have a relatively low sex drive to start with so mere sex isn’t particularly satisfying and I can easily do without, and I never had any pressing need to have children either.

        So, stereotypical spinster with cats it is. Oh well, there are worse fates. 😀

    • My grandfather STILL drinks from a jelly jar. Or at least mixes up his morning coffee concoction in it. That and a pickle jar.

      • In Dixie even “nice” restaurants might serve iced tea or soft drinks in a Mason jar.

        • Same in Appalachia.

          I have a few nice glasses (and the good china) for company, gift of my grandmother, which only see light on special occasions. I have mason jars and pint jars for everyday use. *grin*

          • Same in Appalachia? When I was growing up there you could trell the nice restaurants because they were the ones that used Mason jars.

            • Tiny town- we had, I think, one and a half restaurants (the hot dog hut counts as at least a half- they served more coffee of a morning than the restaurant served meals). Glasses were jars, plates were just about any style but all battered and durable, tables and chairs were heavy red oak that’d cost a mint today… but the food was awesome. We ate there once a year after Christmas when we could afford it.

              That must mean we had a nice restaurant then. *grin* Granted, the *only* restaurant in eighty miles, but still.

        • There was a nice chain restaurant near me that served all its beverages in mason jars (with handles?), and it had a slightly different menu than most places, and it was conveniently located for lunch or dinner. So of course it is gone now – some genius back in early 2008 decided to buy that place and the restaurant next door to tear down and put up a strip mall – and it all fell apart in the 2008 economic decline, but after the place had closed, of course.

          • After the serving drinks in Mason ™ jars became a fad, classes appeared to look like Mason ™ jars, but wouldn’t do for canning. Some of these had handles.

            I can’t remember anyone using Mason ™ jars for any beverage other than moonshine; jelly glasses were the household choice in our neck of the woods. When I ate supper with a friend and saw metal tumblers, I thought that was very up town.

            • In 1970, I saw Georgia Moon clear whiskey in a Mason Jar at a package store. Never saw it again.

              • Mason ™ jars and those big, glass, water cooler bottles were the preferred delivery method in days gone by.

                • The glass gallon wine bottles was what I was most familiar with it being housed in. Sophisticated people might pour it in jars or glasses to drink, but those of us who weren’t putting on airs would simply hook our finger through the glass loop on the neck, prop the base of the bottle in the crook of our elbow and tip it up.

  5. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I’ll try to torture Grant some tomorrow.

    Ah, very good because the last we saw Grant he was losing the fight with the lamia. 😉

  6. When my years were counted in single digits we had “tea bowls” — exceptionally large tea cups, I suppose — which were used for us kids when sick, with sore throats or other comparable ailment. They probably held a good eighteen ounces of hot sweet tea, with a broad surface which allowed the tea to quickly cool to drinkable temperature.

    Were I to go clanking about in the dishware cupboard I think I could turn up the two such cups I inherited, though we hardly use such mammoth tureens these days.

    • Sounds like the mammoth sized ‘cups’ my wife insists on using for her morning coffee.

    • Here everything was tiny when I was a child. Tiny coffee cups, more like modern espresso cups and only slightly larger ones for tea. Then they slowly started to get bigger, and now people usually drink their coffee from cups which might hold as much as three or four times, occasionally even five to six times more than what used to be a normal coffee cup thirty to forty years ago.

  7. Imagine the young ladies, discovering their swains to be average tongue-tied dolts barely capable of drooling coherently, rather than the thoughtful, high-minded romantics those letters promised.

    Did your father also have an extraordinarily prominent proboscis and deadly rapier?

    • I don’t think a deadly rapier. And honestly, that’s part of what dad was saying “The weird thing is they married and these women never wondered where those romantic guys had gone. Perhaps they just thought they had all this romance locked away in their souls unable to express it. Not a bad illusion.”

      • scott2harrison

        My suspicion is that the ladies knew exactly who authored those letters and were flattered that their swains had gone to the best for them.

        • Terry Sanders

          I’m with you. Especially since, based on one of her previous posts, I suspect some of those ladies were — or knew someone who was — on his wife’s “be our maid while I make you a dress and teach you hygiene and deportment” waiting list.

    • I was thinking of Cyrano when I read her description as well. 😉

      • I refuse to comment on the side of dad’s proboscis and will simply say that he calls it “roman” and that I was terrified I’d end up with it when I was a young woman, since I resemble him a lot in other ways.

        • That seems to follow the male line. My sister has a very petite nose. Mine looks like something you’d use to open beer bottles with.

          Could be a function of neoteny, though. Women have more gracile bone structure and softer features. I’ve a cousin who has a massive shelf of a brow you could rest pencils on, but his daughters have smooth brows. And wicked senses of humor, just like he had at that age- it’d do him no good to deny them, those kids are 100% him in female form. *chuckle*

          • The “Roman” nose can be inherited by females often enough. I’ve seen it among plenty an Italian-American of my acquaintance, including relatives.

            • I have my father’s nose, but otherwise more of my mother’s features except as a more European looking version, all the bits which made her look somewhat Asian westernized. Which is a pity since father’s nose and mine are kind of wide and a bit potato shaped, while mother had a much nicer looking narrow one (according to my mother back when I was young my maternal grandmother’s first comment when she saw me as a newborn: “she has their nose”, referring to my paternal family).

      • Me too. 😉

  8. My wife’s parents came from very different backgrounds. Father-in-law was in the Air Force and grew up a military brat, moving Army base to Army base, calling Las Vegas as ‘home’, with a Spanish-American background. Mother-in-law was a farm girl from North Dakota with a German-American background. Right after they got married she called home crying because she was certain he was out to murder her. The misunderstanding stemmed from him taking out a life insurance policy in her name.

  9. Captain Comic

    Not on point for this post, but it took me a while to write.

    For Dave Truesdale
    From another David who caused much foot stamping and pearl clutching at a WorldCon
    With appreciation and apologies to Leslie Fish (please don’t sue me)

    The time had come around at last
    For another fan-filled fling.
    So I had music in my heart,
    And in my step a spring.

    I packed up all my books and thoughts,
    And headed to KC.
    But how could I have ever known
    What was waiting there for me?

    Refrain:

    And I’m banned from WorldCon from now on,
    Banned from WorldCon just because my fun was wrong.
    I thought I’d have a jolly time,
    And perhaps a drink or two,
    But now all of my WorldCon days are through.

    Now every fan they know, of course,
    That cons are open wide;
    From opinions, stories, words and such,
    There is no need to hide.

    But then again, the ways can change,
    And restrictions might appear.
    I thought that I would just relax,
    And not give in to fear.

    [REFRAIN]

    They told me there were words to learn,
    For hearts of purity.
    Including eight new ways to say
    That “He”s becoming “She”.

    I just thought they were kidding,
    And laughed a little bit.
    I didn’t see, I didn’t hear
    Their teeth begin to grit.

    [REFRAIN]

    It was then that I began to see
    The panels, talks and cliques;
    That decided what was right and good,
    And what they had to “fix”.

    I held my tongue and waited,
    Certain it would finally end.
    But it got worse and worser still,
    And even worse, my friend.

    [REFRAIN]

    One last batch of eye-rolls
    And the dam it finally broke.
    I thought I’d be allowed to speak,
    And that they could take a joke.

    They said I was inciting,
    And hurtful and a boor.
    And then, with every nose held high,
    They showed me to the door.

    [REFRAIN]

    So take this as a lesson learned,
    And add it to the lore.
    For every Fan is equal
    (Just some a little more).

    I hope you have a happy life,
    And I hope you live it free.
    But if you go to WorldCon,
    You won’t be seeing me!

    [REFRAIN]

    • *Sits up on hind legs, applauds* Bravo, sir, bravo!

      • Indeed. Jolly good, old chap. A bit of a lark, eh?

        Sure, an’ they’ve been puttin’ the “con” in World Con for a number of years now.

    • It’s good, but honestly, was expecting something in the vein of Banned from Argo

      • Captain Comic

        Well, all I’ve heard is that Dave encountered the New Fandom and got booted for saying “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

        No real room for riots, wreckage and fuss…

        • Snarks flash, snideness swing,
          Shining armour’s piercing ring
          Horses’ ass with polished shield,
          Fight Those Bastards till They Yield
          Midnight mare and blood red roan,
          Fight to Keep this Genre Your Own
          Sound the horn and spill the ink,
          How Many of Them Can We Make Think!

          With apologies to you know who.

          • Your answer, Good Sir, is none. Their thinking is done FOR them, and your kind of thinking is forbidden..

        • I was thinking along the lines of:

          And so we’re banned from Worldcon, everyone
          Banned from Worldcon, just for wanting books that’s fun
          We love fantasy, science fiction, and good books by the score
          And they don’t want us at Worldcon anymore.

        • Well, yes. That’s because the song is “Build me up, Buttercup”. Which, obviously, there has been far too much of in those parts already.

          • From what I remember seeing at the last Worldcon, most of them are not well built. In fact they appear to have substituted quantity for quality.

            • A lack of sufficient sand in the concrete provides an inadequate foundation, leaving the superstructure subject to shifting winds.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Concrete? Nope, they removed the concrete foundation and put sand in its place. 😦

          • Captain Comic

            Well thank you very much!

            Now I’ve got “Why don’t you suck it up, Buttercup?” teasing the back of my brain…

      • That’s the tune it scans to.

        BTW, Captain, Leslie would never sue you for committing filk. She has asked to be sent copies of any Argofilk. Let me know if I can pass it on.

        • Captain Comic

          Please do. I know it’s a bit of a grimace song for her, I hope she takes this in the humour it’s intended.

          • Well, considering she allowed the Creaseys to publish an entire book of Argo filks (Bastard Children of Argo) with her comments on each one, and then let Xenofilkia fanmag publish the follow-up “Bastard Grandchildren” (including mine), I suspect she’ll find a way to put up with it… 😎

    • This group go off topic? What, something like a discussion of ways to serve grits in the middle of a magnetohydrodynamics discussion of the sun’s magnetic field?
      The sad part of your song is that this behavior at WorldCon is not the exception, it is the rule.

      • This group is great practice for the Owners Group for my motorcycle. One of the regulars , a retired Lawyer and Council was mentioning how diverse the group. This group is close to that one, but we really do not have “reasonable” leftward thinkers. The one we had this past weekend did go on defending BLM (“Too, you forgot the Too” me- “They forget the Too as well, so no, it is not “Too”), and went on and on for a bit about how Trump was not more like Hillary than not, but did admit that voting in the same sots, no matter the party, into Congress was not going to change much, and we just differed in how the changes should be made. All was forgiven by his bringing the many pounds of fresh sweet corn.

    • Good one. I’ll have to get busy writing, too.

    • Oh good. Yours is much better than mine, which never got much further than the concept. Great minds and all that. 😀

    • [claps]
      Nicely done, indeed.

    • Passed along to the wicked one…. Dave says thanks, and adds in the same vein,

      I read all of the comments too,
      and all those rhymes as well,
      too bad that those who sing them
      are all consigned to hell.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Bravo, sir. 🙂

  10. So your father was a Speaker to Parents. Or at least a Speaker to Girlfriends. 😀

  11. I used to read the 1950s books of manners for teenagers. Later, I compared what I’d read with what I saw in school, and decided that the older ways were a lot better suited to people like me.

    • I dated a city girl once, in college. I don’t think we ever knew quite what to make of each other back then, as neither one of us quite knew where we were supposed to be in the relationship (to sometimes hilarious results).

      Asking to meet her parents was… interesting. *chuckle*

    • I think those types of books, and the systems of manner and etiquette they presented, mostly worked because there was sufficiently widespread agreement on what rules were – and those rules were not constantly changing. There weren’t things like new batches of pronouns being added, with social, personal, and/or or governmental opprobium for using the wrong one). The rules didn’t have to accommodate word A suddenly becoming forbidden, word B only being allowed to be used by group X, word C suddenly being replaced by word D. The response to common courtesies was not to berate those offering them. Now, social interaction it is like a minefield – and people keep coming along and shifting the darn mines around!

      • Shifting? There are too many tossing the damned things under your feet when ever you try to take a step. These also end up being the same people who complain that no one will “take steps” anywhere around them.

  12. Her; Take me, Now!
    Him: Where? I’ve only got a quarter tank of gas.
    Yup, it’s a lot easier if you know where you stand. There were several times that I can look back at and say “Yup. She was hitting on me. Damn I was clueless.”

    • She lay back upon the bed and said, “Go to town!” So I went out to my car and did so.

      • I heard of a guy with a similar experience, except he got lost in suburbia.

        • Its like the old joke about 2 MIT undergrads.
          One rides up to his buddy on a really nice new bike and the buddy says, ” Sweet new bike! Where’d you get it”. The guy on the bike says ” I was down in Harvard square and a Harvard coed rode up naked on a bike and tells me to take anything I wanted. So I took the bike.”

          • Good choice, her clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you.

            (In the version I heard she takes of all her clothes)

          • Nowadays that might be the smarter response. No risk of getting accused of rape if she regrets it the next day, who knows, she might have been drunk or something. Even if she accuses him of stealing the bike afterwards.

    • Terry Sanders

      A young lady once invited me to a revival meeting at her church. I got directions (rural Tennessee, y’know), wondering why she seemed a trifle reluctant. Then I hung up, and saw my father in the door with a truly monumental smirk on his face. I asked him what was so funny, and he explained that she had almost certainly been hoping I’d offer to pick her up and let her *show* me how to get there.

      [facepalm]

  13. Hmmm. Wonder how many of those Civil War letters were written by that one guy who wrote fluently and poetically? Those letters that are always cited as evidence of the literacy levels of Civil War era soldiers.

    • “Get Hopkins to write a letter for you. He uses real purdy language.”

    • Maybe not all that high. Bell Wiley writes in the chapter “The Gentler Sentiments” in the book The Life of Johnny Reb:

      Most soldier suitors were compelled by circumstances to do a considerable part of their courting by correspondence. Their love letters were so strained by the stilted formality of the period as to be hardly worthy of the name. A Reb addressing his betrothed would tell of the weather, of the state of his comrade’s health, of politics, of the probable course of the war, and of innumerable other trivialities of camp life, but very little of love.

      Wiley tells of some attempts at poetry. He also tells of Private W.C. McClellan of Company F, 4th Alabama Regiment, who wrote and read letters for illiterate men in his unit. He succeeded in getting three men engaged within a month.

      From Wiley’s description, there was no set form of courtship, with some using intermediaries; some sending query letters to see if a girl was willing to receive their letters; some courting the local girls around camp, and some cases of bigamy. Wiley writes of one who got letters to his old wife and his new one confused when he mailed them.

    • I’ve got a story that may come off the back burner where the heroine is a professional letter writer. The peasants have her write marriage contracts and feel themselves cheated if they understand more than one word out of three.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        There’s a hysterical moment in one of the ’80s “Fifth Millenium” books where one of the POV characters is taking a letter for her illiterate barbarian mother, “scribed in entire and unerring accuracy as per the Oath of the Scrivener”. Complete with sound effects and “aw hell, just put in all that mushy stuff for me, they know I love ’em.”

      • Terry Sanders

        Presumably she would eventually learn to write two drafts — one in the proper language, and one that simply listed the terms. “Here’s what you agreed to, and here’s what you’ll give to the judge…”

  14. c4c

  15. Not to worry, some historians will see suspicious similarities in style, and there will be a great schism between the “one literate guy” (or perhaps woman, no doubt someone will argue it was a woman) hypothesis and the “that’s the way they wrote back then” hypothesis. Then someone will dig up this very blog post and the first group will say “Ah-HA!” and the second group will say this is nonsense and you or your dad was just bragging…

  16. It occurs to me in the old system there were all sorts of protections built in…

    Yep. I cannot say I want the old days back. I don’t. But the current romantic climate – rife with opportunities for misunderstandings and broken hearts – has a lot not to like.

  17. Interesting timing on this post, since just a week or so ago I received an email (the modern day equivalent of a letter) from a gal’s stepmom, asking me out for her stepdaughter.

  18. Speaking of remembering oxen drawing water, I’m just old enough (or my great-uncle’s mules were old enough) that I remember seeing the retired mules one of my great-uncles had.

    • I flew with a corporate pilot whose father had raised mules (yes, in Missouri). This would have been in the late 1990s, and the pilot was in his 60s. He said that at one point he asked his father if he liked mules and the response was “H-ll no, but they bring in the most money per acre of anything I can grow.”

    • I’m old enough to have been run over by a mule drawn wagon loaded with fifty pound bags of 5-10-15. Fortunately the ground was turned and harrowed, for the wheel went right across my head (I will not claim it did no damage).

      The oxen drawing water reminded me of a mule hooked to a sugar cane grinder. Around and around and around it would go. Some folk still plowed small plots with mules. We borrowed a neighbor’s mule to set out sweet potatoes once, and can’t recall why we didn’t use the tractor.

      At school we used to have a Halloween Carnival on a Friday afternoon in October, and one attraction was a hay ride in a mule-drawn wagon. Rode it once or twice, but it wasn’t a novelty to those of us who grew up in the country.

  19. Going around in circles dull.
    But, water good.
    And draw water MUCH better than draw flies.

    • I’d draw flies, but just can’t get the wings right.

      • I recommend you avoid accepting help from anybody offering to help you draw flies. That never ends well.

      • I have considered timing flies while I was having fun, but couldn’t find anything about what distance to time them over.

        • This is a common misunderstanding of the concept combined with a modern loss of context – the saying was actually “Time flies while they are having fun.”

          The context here was very well implanted by my recurring efforts to keep the 273 cu in Dodge V8 engine in my 1968 Dodge Dart GT running in my youth, wherein adjusting (and readjusting, and why won’t this damn thing stay tightened? And look, now the gap has changed itself again…) the timing of the ignition system was such a frequent exercise – that was all about the instantaneous rate.

          So the well known but misinterpreted saying describes the survey, in statistically significant samples, of the wing beat timing of flies which at that moment are, and are not, having fun.

          Since it’s an instantaneous rate measurement, no known distance is required. The only tricky bit is figuring out when the flies are having fun or not.

          • “Ignition points” was a good enough reason to hate any manufacturer who insisted on putting the distributor at the far end of the engine…

          • Geoff Withnell

            No, no ,no, according to Kermit, the saying is “Time’s fun when you are having flies!”

  20. And because someone recently sent this to me; I will share the question uppermost in many of those women’s minds that received your father’s letters.

  21. On the subject of cultural depths, connections and memory, this afternoon the RES household went to Kubo and the Two Strings, a film which delves powerfully into at least two of those three.


    I recommend spending the extra effort and money to see this in 3D — it is the rare film that truly deserves it.

    Suitable for the entire family, some scary moments which might distress less mature members.

  22. Sarah, have you been holding out on us?
    At 2:45 he goes to a flim “Witten, Produced and directed by Sarah Holt”
    Space Travel to Mars – Documentary with Neil DeGrasse Tyson

  23. Professor Badness

    So, an old friend of mine was somehow roped into asking girls out for friends in college. And the ends he would go to were unreal.
    These included showing up at the girl’s apartment dressed as the MIB, with cohorts in tow, and “escorting” her to the date. Delivering singing grams, formal invites in Starfleet uniform, even more formal invites in renaissance garb.
    The most recent effort involved having a young woman “escorted” by an “Agent” to the airport in Salt Lake City, (with the collusion of her family, who had packed her bags) Driven from LAX by more “Agents” to Disneyland, where her beloved was waiting on the Disneyland Railroad caboose to propose.
    To say this operation was complicated, is putting it lightly.