Oh, Annie Lane!

Annie Lane’s column today is titled, “Time to Address Table Manners”. Oh geez. I’m glad she’s still tackling the big issues.

Dear Annie: We need help in handling a family situation that arose during a Thanksgiving visit. My brother-in-law has no table manners.

He generally forgoes silverware and eats whatever he thinks appropriate with his hands. He does this both at home and in restaurants. Fork food is shoveled onto the fork with his fingers rather than a knife. Picture that — with turkey and gravy. Then he wipes his hands on his pants. The napkin is reserved for blowing his nose after he eats.

My sister watches in apparent disgust but doesn’t say anything. They have been married for more than 40 years. Nobody wants to sit opposite him as he shovels food into his mouth. How do we handle this behavior? — Disgusted (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh, for crying out loud. Once again, Annie Lane has positioned herself to give broad, generic advice of no import. Hmm… she’ll probably take the assertive route and urge these people to teach their brother-in-law better manners. Because that would go over so, so well in real life. [Facepalm.]

Dear Disgusted: It’s shocking that after 40 years of marriage, your sister has not said anything and still watches in disgust. His behavior at the table is awkward and unappetizing for everyone. You have to speak with your sister about it. If he is invited to Thanksgiving and is going to sit down with the family, he must use a knife and fork, and under no circumstances can he use the napkin to blow his nose at the table. If he cannot behave, you might put him at the kids’ table, though his atrocious manners would set a terrible example for children.

Tell your sister that unless he shapes up his table manners, he is going to have to sit out of dinner. Maybe he can come over for drinks before dinner, but he will lose his right to sit with the family at dinner. He might not even know that what he is doing is so bad. That is why it is up to your sister (his wife) to tell him! 

Okay, that’s mediocre. But he might not know that what he’s doing is so bad?! Is that possible? I mean, someone would be just as likely to… I don’t know… fart loudly on an airplane without even trying to restrain it. Or blow their nose without a tissue in the grocery store. You know what I mean? There are accidents, and then there are extreme lapses in normal judgment.

I suspect Annie Lane’s making up her letters again, probably while getting high on her holiday nog. One giveaway is the extremity of the letter. There are bad table manners, and then there are bad table manners. This guy sounds like a boor. This could just me be, but I wouldn’t invite him. I think it would be simpler to not have him over than it would be to go through the whole rigamarole of getting his wife to fix his manners. The wife, however, could be given the role of either letting her husband know why he has to stay home, OR simply staying home with him and not letting her husband know there was ever an invite (for her). Because I really don’t think that someone whose table manners are that bad deserves to be invited. I’d put it that way to the wife and let her proceed accordingly.

Dear Annie: This year, I am grateful to have hosted a meal and love with two other family units who were far from their own families (in several ways).

You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends — and show them the caring you wish all biological families would have. — Friends Are Family

Dear Friends Are Family: Thank you for sharing.

What?! No, no, no, no, no. This is so unthinkable. Once again, Annie Lane’s writers are penning her column for her. Seriously, everyone out there, this is a free-for-all. If you want to get published in an advice column for any reason, just send your suggestions for living a better life to Annie Lane. [Facepalm.] And what is this, a PSA for friends? I’m a huge believer in friendship. It’s what I’m all about. But this is pathetic. Is Annie Lane this incapable of creating original content? AAUGH!

Let’s see what else is in her column today! I’m hopeful that the third letter here will include some hard-hitting journalism that will really alter my worldview and dig deep into the issues that affect us all. [I just burst into laughter. Hey, I tried to type that with a straight face.]

Dear Annie: This is regarding “Seeking Opinion,” the senior woman who was debating whether to ask for a ride to her church.

I think there was a missed opportunity to engage the church to help. Churches that I’ve attended readily stepped up by providing a ride, which also served to create and build a connection between the rider and the “chauffeur.”

I would have recommended contacting the pastor of her church and asked for help arranging a ride. If they didn’t eagerly respond, I’d recommend finding a new church that did. A lack of response indicates that church is not her “tribe” — time for something better. — Exploring Options

Dear Exploring Options: What a great suggestion! Thank you for sharing this keen insight, and it sends a powerful reminder message to pastors everywhere.

I’m so excited I’m lactating. [Shaking my head.] Sigh. Well, someone needs to address these pertinent societal issues. It may as well be Annie Lane. Will the church send the old woman a ride? Stay tuned next week. I’m on the edge of my seat.

*****

Well, I’ve been working on my non-memoir ALL DAY, and all I’ve accomplished is some data-entry related tasks. Namely, I’ve switched the 102,000-word doc from first-person to third-person. I used the find-and-replace function and checked each word individually as I went. For example, when I changed the word “my” to “her”, I had to make sure that “my” wasn’t in a line of dialogue. Because the first-person would be:

“I really love my television programs,” I said. 

And the third-person would be:

“I really love my television programs,” she said. 

Because if you change the “I” and the “my” that are in the spoken quotes, you’ve messed up the story. I’ve been working on that FOR HOURS. I think I’ve fried my brain. Fortunately, Annie Lane’s riveting bit of journalism was just the diversion I needed.

Sadly, all of my beta readers dislike the switch to third-person. I understand where they’re coming from. My main character (basically,  me) is weird and seems standoffish in third-person. In first person, you feel more like you’re inside her head, which is trippy, psychedelic, technicolor madness. In third-person, you’re on the outside looking in, and you crave the shimmering vibrancy. That’s the best way I can explain it.

However, I want the book to be literary, similar to Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone. Although in my case, it would be more like, She Was Born Undone and They Tried to Put Her Back Together. (I can tell I’m in a weird mood now. Like I said… braindeath.)

I asked Sonya for the notes from her beta reader’s group, which I don’t attend because it’s in Prague. (I did attend it several times while there. It was fun!) I told her I didn’t want to rush her, but I needed her to give me the notes before she could forget them, since I didn’t know if she wrote them down or made mental notes. So she freakin’ sent me a solid page of notes amounting to, “Change everything! And make it first-person again, we beg of you.” And I was just staring at the notes, like, Sure, I can tackle all that, with a look of panic on my face. I think I can tackle all the issues raised, but I really want it to be third-person. I’m not even sure why, but it feels right to me now that it’s a non-memoir.

One drawback to writing fiction is that reviewers jump all over you if you create any aspect of a scene that strikes the reader as unbelievable. I’m not talking about high fantasy here, but of everyday human reactions. Like, apparently, with the police, for example, there was this time that I called them because my brother and sister were about to attack each other, and the police showed up two minutes later and saved them.

Readers’ reactions are like, “She’d never call the cops in real life! Who does that?!”

“The cops wouldn’t show up in two minutes unless they were really familiar with the family!”

And on and on. So if anyone reviews my non-memoir in that way, I’m just going to be all like, well, I did call the cops, and they did show up in two minutes; and no, they weren’t familiar with our family, but we have a low crime rate in my neighborhood, so if you throw them a domestic dispute, they’re all over it. And they have the whole neighborhood map memorized. It’s a small area.

People look for that when they’re critiquing fiction, like, “That’s not a normal reaction of that character.” Unfortunately, with my main character, who’s essentially me, I’ve never reacted to anything normally. I don’t even know how. Oh well. I could mention that in the non-memoir.

Ophelia marched to the beat of a different drummer. And so, when her siblings were primed to kill one another, Ophelia did the only sensible thing and called the cops. Although no one ever understood why she did it, she was a legend in her own mind, for she’d saved them from being killed or maimed. And for that, she was forever proud. 

I clearly need some sleep. I’m just like… Zzzzz. Hmm. Sleepytime would be good. I think I’m a bit manic. It’ll self-regulate by the time I wake up tomorrow, so it’s not worth worrying about. [Yawn.] Oh yeah, I need some sleepytime. Hmm. Oh wow, it’s late.

As you can see, doing data entry for hours and hours isn’t healthy for my brain. I think I had a job doing data entry once. I wound up in a stall in the restroom sobbing loudly and hysterically. That was a bad moment. Two nights before, I’d gotten drunk because I wanted to know what it was like to be drunk. I thought it was a mystical altered state of consciousness. As it turned out, I was wrong about that.

When I came to, I couldn’t find my eyeglasses. I was supposed to start a new job the next day, and I couldn’t see diddly. My dad took me out and bought me new eyeglasses with a new prescription. And then at the job the next day, the data entry was supposed to be done in these monitors that you had to look down in your lap to see. Our supervisor joked (as if this was remotely funny–it wasn’t) that she’s had perfect 20/20 vision until she did our jobs. The fact that my eyeglasses weren’t the same prescription I was used to from my old pair didn’t help. The images on the lowered monitors started to swim. I was in a panic, like, I’m losing my vision, and this job is damaging my eye health. I didn’t know what to do, so I wound up in the bathroom practically shrieking like an unhinged maniac. A few people asked from the other side of my stall door, “Are you okay? Can we do anything for you?” and I didn’t even know how to reply.

I went home and found my old eyeglasses. They were on the VCR, which I guess made sense before I passed out drunk.

So, yeah, data entry’s a bad fit for me, which is sad, because I’m not good at doing anything else in a professional context. I’m so relieved I get the big disability bucks now. All that pressure to work and be sane was just too much for me.

2 thoughts on “Oh, Annie Lane!

  1. I’m fairly confident that after forty years of marriage the wife has probably exhausted herself asking and telling her husband to be less animal like and messy at the table. She’s probably given up trying which is why she’s just glaring instead, if the family are so bothered, I’m sure they’ve seen him eat before, why hasn’t someone just brought it up to him? It doesn’t have to be aggressive confrontation but surely they could manage asking him why he eats that way and letting him know it makes them uncomfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an interesting point! And it’s kind of weird, now that I think of it, that the letter writer said, “We need help in handling a family situation that arose during a Thanksgiving visit… They have been married for more than 40 years.”

      It makes it odd that the letter writer never noticed the issue before!! Huh! You make a good point that they could just be assertive about it! Since he’s been in the family for forty years, what’s the worst reaction he could have? [Nods thoughtfully.]

      Liked by 1 person

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