Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Before there was Woody Allen, before there was Philip Roth, there was...the Man of Law. That's right, everything begins & ends with the Canterbury Tales.

Let me get right to the middle: my freshman year in college I started watching soap operas for the first (& maybe last) time in my life. If you had lived on a woman's floor in the mid-80's you would know: one end of the floor was for General Hospital & the other Guiding Light. I lived almost exactly in the middle, but that whole Luke & Laura rape thing really put me off. Also the Guiding Light room was way cooler, so Guiding Light it was. I moved dorms for my sophomore year (to the all-women dormitory described here) & what with the rugby players & AG majors, soaps did not get much of a look in. Except in J***'s room. She had been watching Guiding Light faithfully with her mom most of her life & that was not going to stop anytime soon.

For those two years & not so much as one episode since, I was a faithful viewer. & a lot of what I viewed was one character -let's call her Reva- getting hit by a car. Again. Whenever beset by worries of any kind, this woman ran into the street. Which really just compounded her worries (could someone refresh my memory: did she lose the baby because she got hit by a car or did she get hit by a car because she was losing the baby?), making me wonder why she did not move somewhere with less traffic. I always wanted an Amish episode were she seduces Yoder & then his wife drives over her with a buggy.

I told you that story to tell you this one: in the Man of Law's Tale the victim keeps getting on boats & getting set adrift. Or is kidnapped & put on boats. Or flees on boats. I am quite sure she always end up drifting. It is all very murky & scholars have spent centuries talking about the boat: is it christianity or faith generally? Is it a re-birth thing? A better question would be: after the second time you have been set adrift, would you continue to live on the coast? Where someone might trick you onto another boat? Well, she never did move inland. I guess some women just cannot get out of traffic.

I think (& so would Woody Allen & Philip Roth if they were me) that the more important question is WHO keeps putting her on that damn boat? The first time, it is her father but she does not actually drift that time, just makes a lousy arranged marriage. After that though, it is always the mother-in-law. More than one mother-in-law. Each man she ahems has the mother from hell.

That is all I have really, except this final philosophy on mothers-in-law (which I should say I arrived at before I ever met my husband): mothers-in-law are like giant, hairy, poisonous spiders. No matter what it looks like, she is way more afraid of you than you are of her.

//it turns out my memory was better than I thought. Apparently Reva was Amish, briefly. I am sure I must have heard it somewhere; how could I just think that up?

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