Sunday, May 28, 2017

Learning the Art of Conversation

Whatever the reason, people no longer know how to communicate. They might have mastered the art of texting but they do not know how to engage in conversation via the spoken word.

As it happens, behavioral economists are at the ready to teach them how to do it. Sue Shellenbarger does not mention that the techniques espoused by the experts she quotes come down to us from those master manipulators, but they do.

Shellenbarger reports in the Wall Street Journal on coaches who try to show people how best to engage in conversations. She opens with this example:

If someone says, “I just got back from vacation,” three in four people give a dead-end reply like, “Boy, do I need one of those.” A more inviting question, such as, “What was your favorite day like?” can keep the conversation from dying on the vine, according to research by Contacts Count,a Newtown, Pa., consulting and training firm that advises employers on networking.

True enough, the second question was more inviting than the first. But it was also more intrusive. If you do not know someone you do better not to be overly intrusive. It's rude.

The consultants ignore the larger issues: the gender of the conversationalists, the circumstances that are drawing them together, their relative marital statuses and their positions on the corporate hierarchy. Without knowing these salient data points, we do not really know what is going on in the conversation. A man accosting a woman at a bar with an intrusive question is not the same as a man meeting another man at a corporate function and asking an intrusive question.

We want to know whether the two people are getting to know each other in order to do business or are trying to seduce each other. Dare I say, that it is best not to play off the ambiguity that might pertain when a single man starts a conversation with an attractive single woman, who is also his colleague, his subordinate or his boss. Each different situation changes the dynamics.

If you open a conversation with a jarring, intrusive question you are in the world of seduction. Or, the world of the pick-up artist. You might not think so, but you are. If you are doing this at a business function, you are acting inappropriately.

Much is wrong with the example Shellenbarger offers.

First, when you meet someone you should not announce that you just got back from vacation. If I do not know you why would I care whether or not you have just gotten back from vacation?

A better open gambit raises a topic that is common to the two of you—the weather, the event, the markets, the ball game, the company you both work for. Anyone who opens a conversation with a stranger by announcing that he has just gotten back from vacation is not interested in connecting. He is interested in seducing and manipulating.

Second, if someone does as the consultants suggest and opens the conversation by announcing that he has just gotten back from vacation, the correct response is: where did you go? How did you like it? I've always wanted to go there? Ask about the vacation and draw the person out.

In order to maintain reciprocity you should then share some information about your last vacation or about your forthcoming vacation. In conversations, reciprocity should be the order of the day.

I do not believe that three out of four people are so brain dead that they would respond: “Boy, do I need one of those.” Yet, if you are dealing with someone who is so gauche that he announces that he has just returned from vacation, a throw away remark about how much you need a vacation is dismissive.

Third, no one really asks, upon meeting someone for the first time, what his favorite vacation day was? It’s intrusive and prying. It fails to respect social boundaries and assumes that the person is an intimate friend. Even if you are close friends what would happen if his favorite day was he and his wife spent the day in bed with someone they picked up at the bar?

Since her example sounds like a caricature Shellenbarger offers us another example from another corporate trainer:

Vanessa Van Edwards had been attending networking events for several years during and after college when she realized she was having the same conversation again and again. “It went like this: So what do you do? Yeah. Where are you from. Yeah, yeah, been there. Do you live around here? Well, I’d better go get another glass of wine,” says Ms. Van Edwards, a Portland, Ore., corporate trainer and author of “Captivate,” a new book on social skills.

She started trying conversation-openers that jarred people a bit, in a pleasant way: “Have you been working on anything exciting recently?” Or, “Any exciting plans this summer?”

“If I’m feeling very brave, I ask, ‘What personal passion projects are you working on?’ ” Ms. Van Edwards says. She began making contacts who followed up more often.

Again, we do not know whether Van Edwards is addressing men or women or neutered beings. Perhaps people respond to her new opening gambits because it feels like a seduction. And because she is good looking.

Why did it take Van Edwards several years to figure out that she was not connecting with people at corporate functions? Perhaps, her new contacts followed up more often, but we do not know whether the contacts were male or female, and we do not know what the stakes of the conversation were, so we cannot draw any proper conclusions. Connecting with people and charming them are two different things. Being captivating is often being seductive.

At a time, when women complain about sexual harassment in the workplace it might be a good idea to avoid conversational gambits that feel like seduction. Just saying.

And, of course, asking probing questions might make you a busybody:

Such openers also risk falling flat. Ms. Van Edwards recently asked a stranger she met on a business trip what he was working on that was exciting. The man replied that he hated his job and was going through a divorce. She salvaged the exchange by thanking him for being honest, empathizing and drawing him into brainstorming about what’s it’s like being stuck in a rut and how to escape it.

Was she salvaging something or was she retreating into seduction mode? She seems more to be offering therapy than engaging with another person. One does not know what she means about meeting a stranger on a business trip. Did she meet him at a bar or was she in a meeting with him? If she met him at a bar, her approach seems more to be in the realm of the pick-up artist than the corporate networker. A man who is getting over a divorce who gets hit on by an attractive woman at a bar or in a meeting will probably not be thinking of making a business deal.

Most people know better than to accost strangers with intrusive and invasive questions—unless they are trying to seduce them. And if they are not really trying to seduce them, adopting a seducer’s approach is misleading and dishonest.

Shellenbarger continues:

Only one in four people sees value in asking probing questions of strangers, based on a Contacts Count survey of 1,000 people. Doing so can be risky, says Lynne Waymon, the firm’s CEO and co-author of a book on networking. “I’m demanding more of you when I ask thought-provoking questions. I’m making an assumption that you’re in this conversation to make something of it—that you’re not going to see somebody across the room and say, ‘Oh, I need to go talk to Susan or Bob,’” she says. “But the connections you make are going to be much more dramatic and long-lasting.”

Thought-provoking questions are rude and intrusive. They show a failure to respect boundaries. If a woman adopts this posture and is not trying to seduce the stranger, then she has been lying to him and to herself.

In a last example Shellenbarger quotes a woman who is more introverted, but who has learned a question to ask a stranger—which sounds like a pick-up line.

Learning to start deep conversations can be a relief to the people who dread networking the most. Pamela J. Bradley says she’s an introvert. Meeting strangers used to touch off an anxious voice in her head. The voice would scream, “I have a terrible time networking, or I have a terrible time remembering names,” says Ms. Bradley, human-resources manager for Keiter, a Glen Allen, Va., accounting and consulting firm. Asking probing questions turns down that voice and puts the spotlight on the other person, she says. Among her favorites is, “What’s keeping you awake at night?” because it encourages clients to explain their most worrisome issues.

If a female stranger asks a male what is keeping him up at night, she is playing a seduction game.  If she is talking to a client who is not a stranger and is offering to help him she would do better to ask how she can help his business.

Asking what is keeping someone up at night draws a picture of the person, alone in bed, tossing around, unable to get to sleep. It’s not a flattering picture, unless she wants to become part of it.

No man would ever ask another man what is keeping him up at night. If he did he would be told that it’s none of his business.   

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Step-mother-in-law Is a Witch

You might be surprised, but Ask Polly, the New York Magazine advice columnist, has been showing more good sense lately. Hats off to Polly. Now, the magazine has offered the views of a credentialed therapist, the better to allow us to examine the thinking of a real therapist. Polly, of course, is a satisfied patient.

The therapist is Lori Gottlieb, and, sorry to say it, but she makes Polly look like a fountain of wisdom.

Yesterday, a man wrote to Gottlieb to ask how to handle his out-of-control and highly intrusive stepmother-in-law. The man feels a need to protect his four children from his wife’s stepmother. One wonders why said wife did not write the letter, but the man’s concern for his children and for the appalling behavior his stepmother-in-law is exhibiting toward them is perfectly normal.

For your edification, here’s the situation, described by a man who calls himself Exhausted:

About six years ago, my wife’s father remarried a significantly younger woman, a childless-by-choice professional. This woman is a very cool and aloof person. Apart from my wife’s father, she seems to have no close relationships at all, even with her own family. Yet from the moment she entered our lives, she developed an obsessive attachment to our four children. Actually, she often seems to have trouble remembering that they are our children. She forcefully offers my wife unsolicited opinions on everything from toilet training to discipline to where they should go to school. The other day she referred to herself as “a member of the parenting team.”

And also:

Meanwhile, she refuses to heed any of our rules, from bedtimes to pocket money. She buys the children extravagant presents that we could not afford — and if she hears of any special family plan we have, she’ll make a point of preempting our plan in a more expensive way when the children visit their grandfather. What escalates the situation to the truly disturbing is her habit of playing favorites among the children. She’ll invite the children to draw pictures and give a prize to the child who does the “best” job. At Christmas, she’ll give one child a lavish new toy; another child will be given a used piece of luggage she no longer wants. She’ll heap praise on one and only one child in front of the other three. Family visits typically end with at least one child in tears.

Of course, they tried to speak with her and with her husband, to no avail:

It’s impossible to talk to my father-in-law’s wife about any of this. She erupts in rage against anything she takes as criticism. She’s always telling us how much people admire her.

And, finally:

She’s already assigned my wife and me to her enemies list. At the start, we tried to talk to my father-in-law. That’s becoming more difficult too. He just shrugs and says, “Yes, but deep down she’s a wonderful person.” We want to preserve the relationship with my father-in-law if we can. But we have to protect our kids. Any ideas?

Before launching into Gottlieb’s appalling advice, I would mention one point. The couple in question seems to be less wealthy than the wife’s parents. Thus, they have a financial incentive not to cross the wife’s father or his new wife. Gottlieb does not mention this, because therapists have no sense of reality.

Gottlieb does not know what the couple should do, so she says that they, whose primary moral duty is to protect their children from a toxic step-grandparent, should show Dad’s new wife… COMPASSION. After all, if a grandparent reduced your children to tears, systematically disrespected you, pretended to know more about parenting than you do… you would naturally think that she is mentally ill—or as Gottlieb says—suffering from a personality disorder. And you would naturally want to feel compassion for her—regardless of the effect it has on the children. Huh?

Gottlieb suggests that the woman is suffering from a borderline personality disorder—dubious diagnosis in itself—but she seems to believe that people suffering from BPD need for you to be compassionate. Does she really believe that compassion can do anything more than to feed the illness? Is she willing to sacrifice four children’s lives to placate someone who is mentally ill?

For the record, BPD is a serious disorder. It used to be called a borderline psychosis. The National Institutes of Mental Health take it very seriously, indeed:

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning. These experiences often result in impulsive actions and unstable relationships. A person with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last from only a few hours to days.

Some people with BPD also have high rates of co-occurring mental disorders, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders, along with substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thinking and behaviors, and suicide.

Just the kind of woman you want to have babysit your children. Gottlieb has clearly lost it here. One suspects that she feels compassion for the woman because the woman is childless.

For the record, a quick search reveals that Gottlieb herself is a single mother, having been impregnated by a sperm donor. For all of her training she feels some considerable sympathy for the stepmother-in-law’s childlessness. What good are all of those so-called professional studies if you are still thinking only with your emotions and if you are incapable of offering anything but empathy… even for an unsavory character who is deranged.

Anyway, to allow Gottlieb her say, here it is:

That said, I can help you understand why your wife’s stepmother may act this way, why I have so much compassion for her, and why it will help you to feel better if you have some compassion, too.

Trust me, if this woman’s behavior is harming your children, you ought not to feel any compassion. Your primary responsibility is to your children, not to your rich relations.

For her part, Gottlieb does not think that exposing a woman to the erratic behavior of someone who is borderline psychotic is not dangerous. Considering that BPD is a serious illness and considering that the woman’s behavior has already hurt them, Gottlieb is clearly off the wall here.

She writes:

As for protecting your children, I’m not sure that they need it, given that their step-grandmother is erratic but not dangerous. They can survive a sucky gift or losing a contest or not being the favorite of the day. (And if they choose careers in Hollywood or politics, spending a limited amount of time around a person with borderline traits is excellent job training.) Let the kid stuff go, love your father-in-law in his own right, and when you want to strangle his wife, bear in mind that she’s suffering far more than you are. I promise you that’s true. Remember, you get to go home. She doesn’t.

Whatever does that mean? If the woman is harming your children you must do better than to imagine that she doesn’t get to go home. the notion is meaningless and absurd.

It is obvious that father-in-law is being manipulated. And that he does not know any better than to allow himself to be manipulated. He has been completely cowed and fears the wrath of his new wife. Again, that is no reason to sacrifice your children. Gottlieb thinks that the new wife loves him, but clearly the woman lacks a moral character, so I do not believe that she loves anyone but herself. Gottlieb thinks that finding him has been the father-in-law’s good fortune—but clearly she is an appalling human being, a poisoned gift. Clearly, Gottlieb is imposing her own fictional fairy tale on this marriage... about which she knows nearly nothing. What she does know is that the man is being completely manipulated by his new wife.

Since the stepmother-in-law has never been a mother, she has no business telling parents how to bring up their children:

If you choose to tell a man who loves his wife that something’s wrong with his wife, a rift might indeed develop. But if you choose to embrace this man’s good fortune after a tremendous loss — after all, he found somebody to love who loves him back — your relationship with him will likely remain quite close. And the more you choose to look very hard for the ways in which this woman really is — deep down — if not wonderful, then at least full of human longing, the less upset you’ll feel when she behaves in ways that bother you. The more compassion you can have for her internal world, the more you’ll appreciate whatever joy she brings your father-in-law, and the more you’ll be able to take in the love, however imperfect, that she tries to show for you and your kids.

No one knows that she is bringing joy to the wife’s father. Considering how the man describes her, it feels more likely than not that she has taken over his mind and his heart and is using him to enact a scenario that she voluntarily chose to forego. One suspects, incidentally that she did not choose voluntarily to be childless.

As for the solution: the couple should cut back on seeing Dad and his new wife. Be less available. Invite them less. They should tell her that if she does not treat the children equally she will not be welcomed for holidays. If it comes to that, cut back entirely. Perhaps then Dad will come to his senses. You ought never to sacrifice your children to an old man’s willful blindness or to his wife’s mental illness.

The No-Class Party

What’s wrong with the Democratic Party? I am sure that you have been wondering how a once proud political party could have lost as many elections as it did over the past eight years. Even today, once proud Democrats are tearing out their hair and gnashing their teeth over their failure to defeat Donald J. Trump. If Trump is as bad as they say he was and if his badness was so obvious that even a ferret could see it, how did it happen that the marvelously qualified Hillary Clinton could not beat him?

Clearly, the question has been wracking the brain of the superbly qualified and totally competent Hillary. Of course, saying that Hillary was competent and qualified is like saying that women are just as strong as men. Unless you believe in magical thinking you are fostering an illusion.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton showed why she lost and why so many women hate her. In her commencement address to the new graduates of her alma mater, Wellesley College, the Duchess of Chappaqua demonstrated, yet again, that she has no class. She also has no grace, no dignity and no decency. You see, her Hillaryness used the occasion of what is normally a pep talk filled with harmless bromides to act like an embittered crone. One suspects that the women who hated her knew this already. 

She did not lose, she implied. She was cheated out of what was rightfully hers. The Russians and James Comey destroyed her well-oiled campaign machine, machine that did not even understand the workings of the electoral college. Duh?

Better yet, as at least eight hundred commentators have pointed out, Hillary made a full throated defense of facts and reason, just before she declared that Richard Nixon had been impeached. In truth, Nixon was never impeached, but Hillary’s husband was. That someone who was peddling paranoid thinking about the vast right wing conspiracy could proclaim herself a champion of facts and reason beggars belief. That someone whose husband announced to the world that he never had sexual relations with “that woman” could stand up as a champion of facts causes your brain cells to short circuit. And let’s not forget the lies about Benghazi and so on and so on and so on.

Worse yet, what if the newly minted Wellesley graduates step forth into the world and follow the advice of an embittered crone. (It gives new meaning to the term: croney capitalism.) Will the bad attitudes that Hillary is promoting help their careers? Will the vitriol she was handing out help them to have more satisfactory personal relations? Do they want to grow up to have her marriage, or even her career? 

After all, whose life has been more of a lie than Hillary's? This champion of women’s rights rode her husband’s coattails to every important job she ever had. And she failed at all of them, of course. In the end she did not feel that she had to work to win the presidency because she believed that the nation owed her the office, considering all that she had put up with to give the nation Bill Clinton. The North Koreans owe her a debt of gratitude.

If you want to leave facts and reason aside try pondering the thought that Hillary was the most qualified person ever to run for the presidency. And then ask yourself how competent she showed herself to be while Secretary of State? And let’s not forget the private email server and the pass she got from James Comey in July. Note that the scrupulous Hillary rails against Comey's October surprise but has nothing to say about Comey's efforts to shut down the investigation in July.

At the very least, Hillary’s message to the Wellesley graduates was an offer to drink from the same poisoned cup that had made her so embittered. It showed no class. It showed no respect. Any woman who takes her message to heart will pay a price.

Anyway, our famous former president Barack Obama has a far better sense of public decorum than Hillary. It is not a very high hurdle to clear, but still. And yet, just in case you thought that Obama was all class, last week, in the midst of President Trump’s trip to the Middle East, he showed up in Germany to meet with Angela Merkel. Why did he do it? Surely, he wanted to upstage his successor and to pretend that he had not been repudiated as roundly as he had been repudiated. Obama behaves far better than most, yet his effort to undermine and cast some shade on Donald Trump counts as the ultimate cheap shot.

At a time when Trump was working to undo the damage that Obama had visited on the Middle East—and with some measure of success—Obama brought back his “citizen of the world” shtick and regaled an audience in Germany with it, yet again. That the American people preferred Donald Trump to the Obama shtick and had rejected as many Democratic politicians as they had over the Obama years did not seem to register.

Obama could not resist yet another star turn. Like Hillary he could not accept that he lost, that his legacy was being repudiated. If anything, Trump’s Middle Eastern trip was a blanket repudiation of Obama’s handling of the region. Perhaps he was not as much of a sore loser as Hillary. He did not display the revolting lack of sportsmanship that Hillary showed at Wellesley. But clearly, Obama cannot accept that center stage is no longer his.

One should also note that Obama was invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two were palling around in Germany while Trump was on his trip. Perhaps they were laughing about the terrorist attack in Manchester. Perhaps they were joyfully chatting about the rising rates of immigrant crime in Germany. After all, no European leader—exception given for the Swedes—had so openly embraced the Obama policy of opening borders to Muslim refugees. The horror of what had transpired in Manchester, like the horror that had happened in Berlin over Christmas, allowed the two leaders to pat each other on the back and to yuck it up. Speaking of indecency, the blood was not yet dry in Manchester when they put on their pro-refugee lovefest.

Think about this. After receiving Obama in Berlin, Angela Merkel went off to meet President Trump. Considering how classless her gesture was would you expect that the American president would be reward her? As it happened, Trump stuck to the message of his trip: the need to unite to fight against Islamist terrorism. Weak-kneed European leaders, led by Merkel, are more concerned with fighting climate change and Islamophobia. In that they echo the priorities of one Barack Obama.

Naturally, Trump was roundly criticized for not making nice with the all-too-nice European leaders, now led, not just by Merkel, but by boy wonder Emmanuel Macron. For two days Donald Trump forced them to face the truth. As it happened, this made them unhappy. Much of the American media declared that Trump had been rude. And yet, when he told them to honor their commitments to NATO and did not mention Article 5, he was telling them that they would do better to fight than to whine. He was telling them that they should not lie back and bask in the glow of their overly generous welfare states while counting on the United States military to defend them. For the record, the last time a nation sought to invoke Article 5, it was France after the massacre at Bataclan. You will recall that Barack Obama rejected the call.

The strength of a democracy, even a democratic republic like ours, lies in the ability of losers to accept defeat graciously, and to retire from the public stage… for a time, at least. The legitimacy of a new government depends on the old regime’s ability to recognize it. If Hillary is complaining that Trump is illegitimate and that she was cheated, she is undermining democracy. If Obama is meeting with foreign leaders and pretending that he is still president, he too is undermining democracy. He has more grace and decorum, but the message is the same.

Friday, May 26, 2017

From Poland: A Message about Terrorism

Many commentators are railing against President Trump for not being overly polite to other NATO leaders yesterday. Perish the thought. While they are all cheering the arrival of the weak-kneed former president Obama in Europe-- why not try to upstage your successor?-- it is perhaps not so bad that someone put them on notice. 

Following Obama's lead these countries have been caving in to terrorism, opening their arms to dangerous refugees, and failing to protect their citizens. The British police keep saying that they are tough and resolute. But, the Manchester bombing said otherwise. And we should also recall the appalling performance of the authorities in Rotherham. Sacrificing children to the forces of radical Islam has been British policy for quite some time.

If you think that Trump was tough on the European elites, listen to the words of Poland's Prime Minister, its Iron Lady, Beata Szydlo, yesterday:

Mattress Girl Bound

The part that takes your breath away is that the Vice website takes this seriously. The Vice reporter thinks that it’s art when a dazed and confused young woman declares herself a performance artist, then strips down to a thong bikini and allows herself to be whipped by a professional dominatrix. Better yet, the site accepts when the woman in question, Emma Sulkowicz, formerly known as “Mattress Girl,” declares that art is about making political statements.

Four years at Columbia University just went down the drain.

You might remember, Sulkowicz’s parents are both psychoanalysts. They must be proud of their errant offspring.  One wishes that they could have provided her with even the most elementary guidance. If you do not feel badly for them and for her you have no feelings at all.

Vice thinks it's high art and political propaganda when a young woman takes off most of her clothing in public. 

Vice tells Mattress Girl’s story:

Emma Sulkowicz is a performance artist living and working in New York City, though most recognize her as the Columbia University student who made headlines her senior year in 2014. Sulkowicz, then a visual arts undergraduate, focused her thesis Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) on hauling a dorm room twin-size mattress everywhere on campus to protest the university's mishandling of her sexual assault complaint against a fellow student. Sulkowicz and Mattress Performance sparked a national debate about sexual assault on campus. As coverage increased, Sulkowicz—wielding a 50-pound mattress and wearing blue hair, a somber expression, and absolute resolve—became the center of a larger culture war tearing through America.

One recalls, because Vice recalls it, that Mattress Girl topped off her first performance piece by doing a graphic pornographic video of what apparently happened during what she—but not the police—called her rape. What's wrong with being respect for your mind?

Vice has been keeping track of her career:

Sulkowicz has furiously continued her work as an artist. Soon after, she released Ceci N'est Pas Un Viol, a follow-up to Mattress Performance. Then, she had her first individual gallery show in Los Angeles. For the past year, Sulkowicz has been enrolled in the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program (ISP) and on May 20th, graduated with a performance at the program's studio exhibition in midtown Manhattan.

Perhaps you want to know why Mattress Girl chose to be bound and gagged by a professional dom. Vice has the answer:

As Sulkowicz explored that question in relation to performance art, she realized that by design, every sinking ship has a sinking woman on its masthead. "So, I told my classmates I was going to wear an American flag bikini and hang from the wall of the gallery in the shape of a figurehead of a ship, making a statement about the impotence of artwork during our given circumstances."

She is protesting. She is attacking white male hegemony. She is trying to save the world. She thinks that every sinking ship has a sinking woman on the masthead. Question for the day: can you distinguish a sculpture of a woman from a real woman?

Sulkowicz explained:

“[I chose] to have a white man tie me up while wearing a business suit with a Whitney necktie, while I wear a Whitney ISP thong bikini," Sulkowicz said.

As for the performance, here is what happened:

As the performance started, this man in a suit, named Master Avery, started to berate Sulkowicz. "Your boobs are too small," he spat. "You can't even stand up straight." He pulled a long, gnarled rope out of a black leather bag and started tying intricate knots around her upper thigh. Once the knots covered both of Sulkowicz's legs, Master Avery started around her waist, moving her body as he worked quickly.

Just in case you think that you took a wrong turn and found yourself in a BDSM dungeon, Sulkowicz explained:

"We're acting out this sadistic-masochistic relationship between the institution with all of its financial power, and this program that wants to be political but can't be really because it's being tied up by this institution," Sulkowicz explained.

And then:

Using a pulley system attached to the ceiling, he used his whole body to lift her from the ground, and after a few tries, Sulkowicz was suspended with her arms and legs wrapped around the beam, rendering her immobile. The rope visibly cut into her skin as Master Avery took off his belt and started hitting her with it.

Such is what passes for art among enlightened New York elites. Be sure to curb your enthusiasm.



Another Dangerous Woman

Another day, another dangerous woman.

Samantha Wilson violently assaulted Brian Kusmer in a Chinese restaurant in Vero Beach, Florida.  Wilson became irate because Kusmer had kept their daughter out of school. So, she leaned in… and attacked him with a plate of pork fried rice, with red sauce.

The Smoking Gun has the story:

Responding to a disturbance at the China No. 1 restaurant in Vero Beach, a sheriff’s deputy discovered Brian Kusmer, 31, wearing his lunch. Kusmer said that he was waiting for his former girlfriend, Samantha Wilson, to drop off the couple’s eight-year-old son (whose custody they share).

When Wilson, 30, arrived at the restaurant, the duo argued about Wilson repeatedly keeping the child out of school, according to a police report. Kusmer told a cop that he asked Wilson to leave the restaurant after she got mad and began screaming at him.

Before departing, however, Wilson allegedly threw a plate of food on Kusmer, who later declined medical attention, but said “the sauce burned a little.” 

Local authorities are not soft on crime. They arrested Wilson and threw her in jail for battery. Unfortunately, it was not her first run in with the law.

Eventually, Wilson was released:

During police questioning, Wilson reportedly copped to the pork fried rice battery. Wilson, police noted, said that she “never physically touched Kusmer she only threw the food at him.”

Pictured above, Wilson was arrested for domestic battery, a misdemeanor, and booked into the county jail. She was subsequently released on her own recognizance and ordered to have no contact with Kusmer. Wilson’s rap sheet includes prior collars for criminal mischief, theft, negligence, and child abuse. (2 pages)

Here's her mug shot... perhaps she can use it for her OK Cupid dating profile?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

She Wants a Baby; He Doesn't

Here’s a situation that arises more often than it used to. A childless woman in her late 30s marries a man who has two children. He tells her clearly that he does not want to have more children. She either agrees or acquiesces.

They live together as a happy family. They are inhabiting an “ecohouse” in the country… meaning, I surmise, that they are both suffering from advanced environmental awareness.

So far, so good. And then, at a moment in time, she feels overwhelmed by the desire to have children. A biological imperative has awakened and she cannot imagine not having children of her own.

Calling herself “Undecided” the woman writes to Ask Polly. She describes what happened when she reached her 40th birthday:

Then, at the end of April, I turned 40 and shit hit the fan. Every time somebody posted their latest baby ultrasound on Facebook (and, as you can imagine, in my cohort that is happening way more often than people post pictures of themselves raising a Solo cup and looking hammered or whatever), I burst into tears. I started having intense baby dreams, like more than one a week. Every time I brought it up with my partner, he would reiterate that he loved me so much, that he felt so guilty, that he didn’t want kids.

Naturally, Undecided talked it over with her therapist. The therapist thought it was her problem:

I started talking to my therapist again. She said this pain was my pain and that if I needed to explore it, I owed it to myself to do so, more or less. 

Her husband feels upset and feels abandoned. After all, he thought that he had made a deal, that he had reached an agreement, and now she is going back on it:

He is super, super, extremely upset. He feels like I am putting him and the kids second. He is not really wrong about that — but it feels like a version of the truth, and it’s not necessarily my version, or even our version.

But the more he is sad and distant the more I regret everything I have said up to this point, because I love him and I hate to hurt him, and maybe it is not worth it to “figure shit out” if it costs us all our trust and feeling of safety in one another?

Undecided makes a decision: to check with her physician to see if she could still have a baby. To see whether she is fertile. If she is not fertile the couple does not have a problem. If she is, they do.

Here, Polly is basically correct. I will not regale you with her terminology, but she understands that this marriage is in deep trouble, and that it is in trouble because of the husband. The woman has given up everything to move to the country and to help bring up her husband’s children. That the husband does not understand and cannot accept why she would want a child of her own speaks ill of him, speaks ill of his character and makes him sound like a self-centered boor. To say nothing of: an ingrate.

For all future reference, if a man really does not want more children he should NOT marry a woman who is of childbearing years and who does not have any children of her own. Whatever she says, however she feels, she is most likely going to change her mind. And if she does, he is obliged to respect not only her wishes but her own biological imperatives. 

Even if, by chance, she had signed an agreement saying that she would never want children of her own, the truth is, for any man who marries a childless woman in her thirties, he ought to be man enough NOT to hold her to the agreement. One understands the rules of contracts. One understands that people ought to keep their word. But, circumstances arise when you cannot keep your word—you are in a coma or your flight is canceled—and, in those circumstances, an honorable partner will forgive you your apparent and unintentional dereliction. 

In the current circumstances, the man ought to acquiesce. He owes it to her. She knew his wishes and she married him anyway. But still, things change; biology has a voice; the man ought to accept her change of heart. If he insists on being the obstacle to his wife’s having a child of her own, he is a disgrace. Keep in mind, she is saying that she wants to have his child. What’s wrong with that? Is he afraid that in his late forties he will be consigned to diaper duty again?

Such is my opinion. Happily, Polly agrees. One notes also that Polly herself has a stepson, along with two children of her own. She is well placed to understand that bringing up someone else’s children is not the same as having your own. The point is salient, but, even if it were not so obvious, any man who is worth anything would happily accept his wife’s wish. Clearly, she is not abusing his trust.

The husband in question is morally defective and will probably have to choose between changing his mind and losing his marriage. Polly is correct to observe that this woman has done nothing wrong. She ought certainly stop thinking that she has and should fire the therapist who is inducing her to do so.

In Polly’s words:

But, I have to say, the idea that wanting a baby amounts to putting him and his kids second is so off-base that it presents an enormous red flag. Throw in the fact that you’re panicked over having ruined everything BY MERELY EXPRESSING THIS DEEPLY FELT DESIRE, and that red flag starts to block out the sun.