Friday, December 22, 2006

Monthly Letters

Normally I do monthly letter assessment of my characters at the beginning of the month, but not this time.

Constable Paul Wright

In Liz’s December monthly letter she said:

Christmas is going to be nice. I'll spend the day with my family, see as many of my old buddies as possible, then head up to Mtigwaki for a while to visit with friends. I'll be staying with Gary and Viv. Paul's going to come up to stay with them too, and I'll be able to see Jesse and Marg and Susan and everyone else. I'm really looking forward to it, and to the break from my family. Living at home again has been a trial in itself! I'm hoping that in the new year I'll be able to devote some time to finding an apartment close to where I work.

But in the December 7, 2006 strip, she said (without Paul’s responses):

Hello, Paul? I’ve been trying to call you! What’s happening with your transfer? Really? January?!! Can you come here for Christmas?...then…I’ll see you before New Year’s!

I had presumed Paul’s response was that he was going to come to Milborough for Christmas, even though in the August 29, 2006 strip, Elizabeth said:

Dear Paul-Great news! I’ve got a full-time teaching position at a school that’s about 16 miles from where I grew up! I had an interview today and came home with stacks of material. The teacher I’m replacing left so suddenly that nobody was prepared. This means I’ll have a schedule, predictable hours, and I can come to see you during the holidays. This will be the first time since I was a child that I counted the days until Christmas!

However, it appears that what Elizabeth had really planned was to spend Christmas Day with her family and then to travel to visit Paul and see him before New Years. So, his answer to the question:

Can you come here for Christmas? was probably No. I thought we talked about you coming here. Remember that old “keep my promise to Jesse” thing?

And his answer to the statement:

then…I’ll see you before New Year’s! was probably If you leave the day after Christmas Day, then I will meet you in Spruce Narrows 2 days after Christmas Day.

However, it appears that this has all still changed, because we know that the Mike and Dee invade Elly and John story is going to take all next week. Elizabeth will not be able to travel to see Paul until the week starting January 1. Consequently we have this from Liz in her January letter:

I'll be heading up to Mtig to visit in a few days! I wanted to see the village, the school, my students and my friends. I think I already mentioned that Gary and Viv are putting me up, and Paul will be picking me up in Spruce Narrows and joining me for a few days. I've called Jesse, and I've taken a shopping list from various residents so I can bring some stuff with me when I arrive. I may as well be useful!

The variation from the December monthly is that Susan and Marg are no longer mentioned. And also, that Elizabeth’s visit to Mtigwaki instead of just to visit with Paul is explained by saying Paul will only be there for a few days. Me, personally, if I had only seen my girlfriend for one weekend in the last 6 months, I would stay at her place and day visit Mtigwaki on some day when she had to work. This is one of the things I hate about the way things are constructed in these strips. The only reason Liz is going to Mtigwaki with Paul is that is the only way she can see Paul and Susan interact, which will lead into the big breakup. The only reason Paul is there for a few days instead of the whole time is so Liz can get comforting from Vivian and Jesse. If she went to Paul’s place in Otter County, and did a day trip to Mtigwaki from there, none of this would happen. She would have just enough time to visit and then it would be back to Paul’s place.

I need to go - I have to call Paul and make some more travel arrangements. I can't wait to see him. We have a lot to talk about - especially his transfer which he says has come through! I know he'll have some adjusting to do. City life won't come easy. Even though he's lived down here (police college, courses etc.) it's not the same as "making the move".

This section tells me that I did interpret the strip correctly, and Constable Paul Wright did get his transfer. The iffy part is the phrasing, “which he says has come through” instead of “which came through”. This leaves open the possibility that he has lied about getting the transfer, which actually wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. However, we see here, the first time Liz indicates that Paul would be making some sacrifice to move to the south.

We haven't talked about marriage yet. We have talked about our futures! I think my parents are totally accepting and will get along with his family really well. Paul's mom and dad are exceptional people - very involved with their community. They're good to me and I think they'd be wonderful in-laws...when and if. But - I'm not going into wedding mode. Some of my friends totally focused on gowns and gala events, maybe more than they focused on the seriousness of the ceremony. When I say "yes", it'll be because I know it's going to be a working, long-term partnership. The ceremony is secondary. Security and commitment come first!

This marks the first time Elizabeth has ever mentioned marriage and Paul Wright in the same paragraph. Elizabeth is making the distinction between talking about marriage vs. talking about their futures. This is a perfectly Liz-like statement. Back when Liz was moving back to Milborough, her future was the topic of discussion. But when Liz finally brings up marriage, she speaks of it in terms of how well her parents and Paul’s parents are going to get along. Clearly the lesson of the Sobinski – Patterson rivalry is not lost on her. Of course the problem is that Liz has never actually met Paul’s parents. She avoided meeting them in the December, 2005 strips. The closest you get is Liz's Letter, April 2006, where she says:

Boozhoo! I hope you all had a good March Break; I certainly enjoyed my week off. I left Shiimsa in Vivian's custody and went to visit Paul for a few days. It was the first time I'd seen his place or met his family, and it was both nerve-wracking and fun.

I like his relatives; they're noisy, affectionate and very informal. We visited his uncle's house for dinner one night and I felt like I blended right in. They made me feel very welcome, and didn't waste any time before they started teasing me. I like Native humour... the more the Ojibwe folks poke fun at you, the more accepted you feel. It helps if you don't take yourself too seriously to begin with, because you just can't get away with it! The ability to laugh at oneself is a vital survival skill up here, and we had a lot of laughs.

The only relative mentioned is an uncle. Paul is in Otter County. His parents are in White River. She visits Paul and meets an uncle. Paul’s mom and dad should get a mention, if they were met. The part of the January letter which mentions anything about Paul’s parents just tells me there was a visit we don’t know about. In April’s Real Blog, the letter writer talks about Liz visiting Paul in White River, so there is a possibility the letter writer believes White River is a made-up town in made-up Otter County. Unfortunately, White River is a real town between Toronto and where Mtigwaki purportedly is, so I don’t know what to make of it. If in letter-land, Paul lives in White River, the same town his parents live in, then Liz met his mom and dad on the same trip where she met his uncle, and mom and dad should be mentioned more prominently than some uncle.

But immediately after launching into why Paul’s parents would be a good match for her parents, January monthly Liz starts immediately backing off the wedding. She is setting up the reason she and Paul are going to break up. She will not view Paul and her to have a working, long-term partnership. Security and commitment come first! I dread the next part because Constable Paul Wright has been easily the best boyfriend Liz has had when it comes to security and commitment. Eric, Anthony, and Warren were all cheaters in their relationship. Lynn will have to retcon the way Paul has been portrayed to date, to make him a cheater too.

As for April’s Real Blog, I will retcon away Paul’s visit to Milborough and try to leave enough hints that he could be lying about the transfer or he could be spending time with Susan Dokis to make whatever happens work.

Howard Bunt

I had hoped the trial would be over by January, but it still lingers on. Liz says:

As much as I'd wanted to spend more time with my family when I moved back to town, it hasn't proven easy because of the trial and my job, but now they're right in the house and I plan to enjoy every moment.

I'm doing better now that I'm past my portion of the trial. There's still the final session and sentencing which I may or may not attend - and, there's still a minute chance I'll have to testify again. Man, they sure are giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. If the system is ever unjust, it must be rare! My counselor is still in touch and I still work with her, but my goal for the new year is to put the whole incident behind me - get it processed, experience the emotions required, get comfortable in my skin again and set my sights toward the future. It'll always be part of my past, but I've got a lot going for me and I need to concentrate on living my life again.

What this means to me is that since the monthly was created 2 weeks before the end of the month, and there are 6 weeks in advance for the weekly strips, the author of the monthly letter doesn’t know if Liz is going to the trial ending or not. January will be the third month of the trial, and I think the letter writer is actually snarking Lynn’s tendency to drag out plots over excessively long periods of time. I find the snark fairly amusing, considering we are in the midst of the fire plot which was started 1 ½ years ago. It sounds like Lynn is considering whether or not to go ahead with her original idea to have Liz and Anthony go back to the trial to hear the verdict and use that as yet another bonding moment. The reaction to using a rape trial as a romantic setting is just not working with even her most loyal readers, and I suspect Lynn has indicated she might not go that way and has not yet decided.

As for my character of Howard, he has essentially gotten the legs to last as an unfettered April’s Real Blog character for at least another month, until we see Liz going to hear the verdict or we read the February monthly letters mentioning the verdict. The other possibility is that Howard will never be mentioned again, kind of like the way things happened after the original assault.

Jeremy Jones – not mentioned anywhere. He is done, as far as this strip is concerned. At one point, I thought he might be a potential romantic interest for April, but the onslaught of praise for Duncan Anderson continues relentlessly on again. My favourite lines were:

Eva and Duncan are sort of together too, and they're soooooo cute. Duncan's a sweetheart, and he appreciates a very smart woman. Eva's got a good brain, and she's gorgeous.

If I didn’t know better, I would swear we were going to see a “Duncan likes April more than Eva because April is smarter than Eva” storyline. There has to be some reason why April is ladling on the Duncan praise month after month after month, and also a reason why she keeps talking about how romantic difficulties will break up their band.

A Duncan romance which breaks up the band would work very well for the more career-minded April, so she can concentrate on those science courses with her new boyfriend Duncan, who is also into science. I hope we get to see it, but we might not. However, with the Becky McGuire story completed, Lynn doesn't have anything left to do with April and school. So maybe...


Anonymous qnjones said...

Liz's "security and commitment are the most important things in a marriage" really set my eyes to rolling. Of course, for her, marriage is not about finding someone you have similar beliefs, ideals, and interests with. Marriage isn't for finding a companion who really knows and understands you. No. It's about finding someone to take care of you, so Mommy won't have to worry anymore, and so you won't have to figure out how to balance that checkbook after all, because now Hubby will make sure all that "hard stuff" is taken care of. It's for popping out the obligatory 2.5 kids and living forever in domestic drudgery. Yikes.

I am no big fan of marrying because you're "so in love" either, but that Liz didn't talk about compatibility of interests, life goals, values, etc. made it sound like Liz believes marriage is this perfunctory thing everyone does so they can live "Pattersonly ever after."

I think it's really telling that she is obsessed with the "in-laws getting along" issue. It says that she thinks that is the biggest problem with the Mike and Dee marriage. Not Dee's sneaky pregnancy. Not Mike's absentee fatherhood. Just that the in-laws don't get along with St. Elly.

Interesting that you noticed that Liz said, "Paul SAYS he got his transfer." If he's going to be shown to be a liar, oooh, that will be one dopey storyline.

I'm not sure they're going to break up over Paul's relationship with Susan. To me, it sounds like he might actually make the move and come down to Toronto. I think maybe Susan is going to be Paul's consolation prize. Paul flips out over the big city, he says he's going home and asks Liz to go, Liz says no and dumps him for not being down with the "Milborough for life" plan. Then Liz realizes her parents were right about Anthony. Whirlwind wedding. We later hear about Paul and Susan nearer the wrap-up of the strip.


I find it kind of ridiculous that Liz says "we're not talking about marriage!" right off the bat. Which means that, even though she's not talking about it, she's thinking about it. Which, IMHO, is idiotic. Liz and Paul have always had a long-distance relationship, though the distances have been shorter at times then they are now. They had 6 months of a once-a-week visiting relationship, and then 6 months of not seeing each other at all (I'm not sure the Sunday strip meeting really happened in the weekday strip world). If a real person in this situation said, "We're thinking about marriage!", or even, "I know, I know, people think we should totally be thinking about marriage!", I would call those people idiots. Liz and Paul do not really know each other at all. They are infatuated with the idea of each other, but have barely spent any time together, realistically speaking.

I once conducted a relationship that was long-distance from the start. We dated for several months. He was very much like Paul, and idealized me, and was desperate to get married. However, I quickly realized that, when we spent time together in person, he was different than the person I liked so much in phone calls, IMs, and emails. There is no substitute for face time, because people can present themselves however they like on the phone or the Internet. You don't have to be faced with someone who is not in a good mood, and they can hide their flaws. Until you spend lots of time IRL with a romantic partner (or anyone), you don't really know them.

I find it sort of disturbing that no character has ever said something like this in the strips or monthly letters. Liz acts like it's perfectly reasonable to be so committed (and, on Paul's side, so desperately in love) on the basis of so little time together. It's not. It's a bad idea to base so much commitment (they're exclusive, Paul wanted to live together already in Mtig days, and Liz has the M word in mind) on so little real acquaintance.

I'm hoping that Strip Liz will stay as cautious as she has been. It can be annoying to see her so reluctant to commit to anyone, but frankly, Paul is not commitment-worthy (at this time).

As soon as the M word was uttered, I yelled, "Gah!" Huge pet peeve of mine--girls who instantly start thinking "marriage" when sex or a relocation or some other "herald" kind of event happens.

However, I think I'm holding out hope that Paul will move south, things will stay happy between him and Liz, and they'll get married. And Anthony shows up at the wedding with a machine gun and blows every last Patterson away, screaming, "If I can't be a Patterson, no one can be a Patterson!"

7:28 AM  
Blogger howard said...

If he's going to be shown to be a liar, oooh, that will be one dopey storyline.

Count on it.

I'm not sure they're going to break up over Paul's relationship with Susan. To me, it sounds like he might actually make the move and come down to Toronto. I think maybe Susan is going to be Paul's consolation prize. Paul flips out over the big city, he says he's going home and asks Liz to go, Liz says no and dumps him for not being down with the "Milborough for life" plan.

I will grant you that Susan may not have anything to do with the break-up and she may be purely consolation prize, so we don’t feel badly about Paul. However, there was the one strip where Michael Patterson hinted that “absence makes the heart go wander”, that say maybe she does have a part. However, I would be extremely surprised if Paul actually transfers, because this would be a tremendous sign of commitment to Elizabeth on his part, and it would be hard to get around that.

I find it kind of ridiculous that Liz says "we're not talking about marriage!" right off the bat.

In my mind, marriage in exchange for the transfer was Elizabeth realizing that Paul had jumped through the majour hoops she had set before him. She moved, he transfers. He maintains contact despite the distance, unlike Warren. And the biggie, he tells Elizabeth he loves her, instead of keeping his feelings quiet, like the Anthony. However, the real reason for mentioning marriage is to make it especially tragic, when Paul breaks up with her. Just like before Elizabeth moved, she never said she loved Paul, but after she moved, she has said it again and again. Emotion for effect seems to be the Lynn style.

1:40 PM  

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