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The Rhetta Saga: Lessons Not Learned.

The interesting thing about the first few months of Mike's infatuation with Rhetta is that he was as certain as anything that this strange person she deferred to simply had to be her current boyfriend. Rhetta actually expressed a certain measure of surprise when Mike copped to this assumption because she had yet to learn Foob Fact Number Six:

Fact: Michael Patterson isn't overburdened with curiosity as to what's going on around him and fills in the cracks in such a manner that makes him a victim.

If you're paying attention, you'll have noticed that this inability and-or refusal to ask what the other person wants is pretty much what torpedoed his relationship with Martha. Never once did he ever ask what she really wanted because he's not smart enough or decent enough or human enough to ask himself that sort of question. Given who he is, it doesn't take all that smart a person to figure out that he was probably going to make the same mistake with Rhetta and get complacent and get blindsided when she does unfair things like not be held to a higher standard of behaviour than he is. Once again, we had to deal with his infantile wailing about false-hearted women and oafish behaviour because of Foob Fact Number Seven:

Michael studiously avoids learning from the stupid things he does because doing so would tend to mean that he has to accept responsibility.

while his churlish act of sending her a break-up e-mail and other cute stunts remind us of Foob Fact Number Eight:

Mike goes out of his way to avoid asking himself 'How do other people see me?' because he fears that the answer is 'They see a sullen doorknob with an unrealistic and self-serving self-image.'

What he doesn't know is that there's a ninth Foob Fact that comes into play. Said Foob Fact wears its hair in a bun because it thinks that the back of its head is flat and makes panicky noise about how close he is to people who don't automatically defer to her. More on that tomorrow.

The Martha Saga: Phase Three.

Now that we've reminded ourselves that Mike is an asshole who thinks that he doesn't have to give anything up when he's in a relationship because that's the love interest's job and that deep down, he's a whining infant that thinks that people don't really love him and just want to torment him for fun because they have needs too, let's remind ourselves of the third and fourth Foob Facts.

Fact Number Three comes into play when describing the collapse of his relationship with Martha. As you will recall, Doofus was too busy focused on getting his learner's permit to give anything like a crap about her feelings. As you will also recall, the jackass blamed his initially failing his driver's test on her out-of-the-blue it-totally-had-nothing-to-do-with-what-he-was-doing betrayal. This recapitulation of Phil's infantile whining about how he let a woman mess up his head and his bleating about the unfairness of his having his fate decided for him lead us nicely to Foob Fact Number Three:

Fact: Despite the fact that he's mostly to blame for the break-up, Mike refuses to accept any sort of responsibility for his actions but shifts all the blame on the person he's with because he's not into being blamed for things.

This leads us to Fact Number Four. Fact Number Four comes into play when he meets Martha a few weeks later and he cannot believe that he had such strong feelings for this persons. He foreshadows the maunderings of his idiot sister Liz when he tells himself that no, he didn't really know what love was when he was around her but now that he's with someone who strokes his ego, he does. This leaves us with one conclusion as to what Foob Fact Number Four is:

Fact: Michael never really loved Martha at all. He was in love with the idea of being in love and the person he's with is simply a means to an end, not a person with feelings he'd be oppressed and shackled by having to respect or consider.

When one fast-forwards to her having to endure his pompous blathering about how it's probably her betrayal that made a misery of her life (which neatly echoes that fucking imbecile Phil's hateful tantrum about how Connie should die in misery because she grew cool to his self-absorption and complacency), it doesn't take a genius to realize that Martha had to remind herself of Foob Fact Number Five:

Fact: You'd have to be some sort of masochist to get in the three-way that is getting into a relationship with Michael and his grossly inflated (and horribly toxic) ego.

The Martha Saga: Phase Two

As I led off with yesterday, Michael not only expected Martha to do all of the heavy lifting in their relationship, he let his inability to trust anyone get in the way. He chose to misinterpret the forced 'friends or boyfriend' dilemma as her trying to play games with him and also chose to interpret her expecting him to make amends for giving her a Valentines that was abusive and demeaning as an act of betrayal, humiliation and manipulation because he's the sort of asshole who does things like that.

What this means is that Mike was a willing recipient of that hateful, ignorant comment about reading between the lines that useless goof of a wife-repellent Arnold made to explain away the fact that his own toxic personality is why he's still single. To amend John's breezy comment about how you can't cheat an honest man, we were dealing with a case of yet another buffoon allowing himself to be lied to because it scratched an itch. Martha's discovery of the fact that Mike was being a butthead because he wanted to believe the worst of her should have alerted her to another reason she's lucky Mike is no longer part of her life:

Foob Fact Number Two: Mike Patterson doesn't actually trust anyone and expects to be betrayed and laughed at.

The reason for this is sadly somewhat obvious. Said reason recoiled in disgust and horror from him when he wanted attention because she was and is too much of a child herself to be a parent.

The Martha saga: Phase One.

As we all know, we are about one year or so away from reminding ourselves that Martha's understanding of her dealings with Michael Patterson would tend to almost always paint him in a rather unflattering light. They might have met cute but, man alive, did they ever break up ugly and it's mostly because Michael is a self-serving, self-absorbed dimwit who, when encountering any sort of frustration, confusion or negative emotions, engages in horrible blubbering about hateful deceit. Let's remind ourselves of a great big sign the Martha of 2016 is telling her children about in order to protect them from the morons of this world.

The one-two punch I had in mind would, of course, be his inability to see her side in the sharing of notes crisis and his pathetic bleating about that stupid-ass gross-out Valentine he brainlessly bought. We remember that she was on the horns of a typical teenaged dilemma because we remember that Janet and Meg were transfixed by the notion that she had to share everything ever to prove she was their friend and not some creep hiding things from them because we remember that kids can think some awfully damned stupid things. We also remember that the stupid fool Mike clearly seems to have thought that she should have been willing to spend most of her junior high years with a target painted on her forehead to Prove Her Love For Him. We also remember that the stupid creep turned right the Hell around and got his arse in an uproar because she didn't like the insulting gross-out Valentine he couldn't buy because people would think he was a pansy or some stupid fucking thing.

This should have reminded her of the Foob Fact Number One about Michael Timothy Patterson:

"Fact One: Michael Patterson is a user who expects that the people around him have to do all the work in a relationship while he gets to sit on his own fat arse because he's not some slave or something."
The thing about the end-game for Thelma is that it's something we've all seen before by now. Everyone has encountered an older person who, up until a certain point, was the picture of vigor only to have a sudden decline after a certain point. Thelma's decline was simply a lot quicker than most. The problem is that this is going to be Lizzie's first time dealing with someone's death. She was just talking to this person a little while ago and for reasons she can't explain, she just died. A little while later, this Ed fellow also passed away and she was just talking to him to. A few years later, she'll be visiting Marian only to have her get really sick and then just die on her too. Since human beings are built to see patterns in events, Liz is going to be looking for a common factor and finding it staring back at her in the mirror.

While this is a silly but typical thing for someone looking for an answer to think, we can't look to the Pattersons to help. This is because Elly is total crap at explaining anything to children. Either she goes off on a confusing tangent that answers no questions or somehow gets angry at the person for no clear reason or she tries to duck the issue because it scares her; what she's not going to do is actually reassure her children. This probably means that Liz, while not consciously aware of it, has it in the back of her head that if she visits an old person, that person will die within days. Picky-faced Martians see a ditz who turns her nose up at the smell. We see another victim of Elly's cowardice and stupidity.

The method of retroactive love.

Given what we know about how little use Elly had for Thelma Baird when she was alive, it would make sense to assume that she play-acted mourning a woman she was cold to because she knew that despite her feeling as if dealing with her was a burden, her children thought the world of the kindly old meddler who gave them yummy treats, praised them for a job well done and many other things that got in the way of Elly's loving plan of showing that she loved her children with all her heart by being a bitter, angry nag who could never be pleased with anything. The problem with that reasoning is that under the angry blowhard and psychotic-looking malcontent, there's a born follower ready to cravenly follow a party line.

What this means is that Mrs Baird's body didn't even have a chance to get cold before Elly started revising the past to make them best friends. Elly's fear of being known to have an unpopular opinion and her living and dying by what other people might think made it a priority to not be known as the Bad Person who didn't especially miss someone she didn't like dealing with. This took the form of her telling herself that she hung off of Thelma's every word and thought of her as an extra mother and a whole host of other crap. It's too damned bad that she was too busy rewriting the past to notice what her refusal to give Lizzie a proper understanding of Death would make a mess of the future; otherwise, Liz wouldn't think that for her to enter nursing homes would always kill the person she's visiting.
As we all sort of know by now, Lynn has always had a problem with older women telling her what to do. No matter who that older lady might be, Lynn seems to actively resent having to deal with or obey someone who isn't a big, strong man who she can respect. What this means is that the point of the arc we just watched seems to be to remind us that Elly never really seems to have especially liked Thelma much.

This is because she has done certain things that a snippy, defensive, sullen and just plain angry basket-case like Elly would see as war crimes:

  1. The first big arc with Thelma ended up with her conning Elly into taking in a puppy she didn't want because she knew she'd get stuck with it because she liked children who needed to learn to obey their mother more than Elly.
  2. Thelma used to waste Elly's valuable time about boring people she never met, boring places she can't visually imagine and boring events that mean nothing to her.
  3. Since Thelma is childless and thus possessed with the wicked urge to overstep her authority, she used to override Elly's parenting decisions and spoil dinners for children who had to learn to eat only what Elly cooked when Elly cooked it.
  4. Thelma has annoying interests that repel Elly and the overweening need to force Elly to partake in them.
  5. When she explains this to people, they all defend Thelma and call Elly a prickly annoyance who's still an irritant and spoiled brat.

This is why the last time we see Thelma, Elly takes Lizzie with her so that at least someone going to the old folk's home will be happy to see the old meat-axe. The interesting thing is that since she isn't actually family, a form of stupid magic takes place when Thelma passes away. Suddenly, a live irritant will magically become a dead mentor Elly always loved.

The coyness-prurience complex

One of the most irritating things about the Early Years of the strip was having to remember that Elly had an unholy fixation with Connie's life of not especially quiet desperation. We saw a lonely, clingy needy woman having a miserable time because there was no Special One for her and sort of blaming her son for the Longed-For One's absence. Elly clearly seems to have looked at Connie's wind-blown and unhappy existence and saw a wonderland of illicit activities and sexual possibilities closed off to a professional good girl like her.

The reason that this was a problem is, as you could probably guess, the sad fact that Lynn seems to combine a prurient interest in the doings of others with a need to pretend that she isn't obsessed with the idea that the world outside her window is a non-stop orgy she isn't allowed to join into and is sort of too shy to want to join anyway. This forces her to take irritating steps to hide her fixation from her fellows. Instead of either flat-out saying that Liz and Eric were playing house and losing her fans OR having Liz laugh in his face when he suggested doing so and gaining more fans she might not like, we got the stupid compromise of Liz making a show of having separate beds. This way, she could have her cake and eat it too. She could imagine all sorts of weird things and the fanbase could imagine Liz keeping the faith. Everyone wins except people who hate dissembling.
As you will perhaps recall, long ago, I came up with the rather depressing idea that the reason that John and Elly kept going on those kid-hostile vacations in the sun was in order to finally have the honeymoon they never believe themselves to have experienced. It was never about the sheer impracticality of uprooting a child for two weeks every March or the logistic nightmare involved in corralling them or even Elly's sick dread that somehow, a child's naughtiness would end up causing a disaster. It was all about the very real problem of her being disappointed and feeling that yet again, the magic she was promised failed to materialize. The reason that I mention this is that when the Martian asked why she couldn't go on the trip, Carrie Patterson tried really hard to explain that parents are people too and it's nothing personal in order to avoid telling her the truth: the Pattersons and their co-cannibals think that the presence of rugmunchers and small fry puts the brakes on anything remotely romantic.

We confirm this suspicion every time the idea of John and Elly being in love and doing sentimental things baffles and disgusts the younger generation. The obvious subtext of Lizzie and Mike stating that parents simply aren't allowed to display affection like they were people are something is that evil, selfish children race around squealing "You can't have emotional needs.....you're a MOTHER!!" because Lynn doesn't want to live in the world we do. This world has children think that their parents were born old, angry killjoys who live to suppress fun and make them renounce happiness out of revenge. The idea that Mom and Dad used to be kids like them only ever fully develops when they're in their mid-twenties. This means that John and Elly are finally about due for their real honeymoon. It also means that some poor shmuck baby-sitter is trying to explain to Mike and Liz's kids why they gotta stay in the snow without flat-out calling them selfish romance-eaters.

Triple trouble on Exile Farm.

The interesting thing about the real Cruikshank family is that they have three daughters. The other interesting fact is that they're much the same age as Kate and Aaron are. This is why whenever Cousin Laura appeared, she seemed to be just a little older than the Patterson child she was calling a clodhopper. What this tells us is that something entertaining is happening that the Patterson family are too dim to realize: Bev and Danny also have three daughters. For the sake of convenience, let's call them Karen, Laura and Melanie. They look similar enough that someone not especially familiar with their family would confuse them with one another and none of the three of them especially loved playing baby-sitter because their idiot uncle from the big city was too big of a girl's blouse to deal with the alleged out-of-control behaviour of his slug-like imbecile offspring.

This led the three of them to formulate a plan to prank the moron city folk; said plan involves their conceit that whatever 'Laura' stuck Foob-sitting is an only child. Since idiot Mike and clueless Liz are almost attentive as their moron parents, the gag is a viable one and since by the time the Martian showed up, Karen and the real Laura had moved elsewhere, it seemed appropriate to just let the idiots from the city go right on being ignorant. It should be noted that John was probably as big an asshole as an older brother as he is a father and husband so it's easy to see why Bev and Danny would get in on the fun. After all, there's nothing farm people love better than putting one over on city folk. The success of the Letters From Wingfield Farms series of plays is testament to that.


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