The interesting thing about watching Elly make huffy comments about the scandalous outfits girls like Martha and April want to leave the house in is that she fails to learn the lesson she should from every time John tells Liz point blank "You aren't leaving the house dressed like that, young lady!!" when she wants to head out wearing the sort of abbreviated outfits that he approves of on girls he's not related to. I've told you why he's averse to remembering or considering the fact that the girls he undresses don't appreciate the favour but instead of talking about his not wanting to feel like the shameful lout he is, I'd like to talk about the blind-eyed moron Elly is.
This is because she talks about dangerous outfits and lacking the body and the language and simpers about boys who magically found reasons to break dates with her leaving her lost and sad and alone and heartsick and feeling as if she were never going to be married and blames all the wrong people. She blames the popular girls who didn't actually want her to die alone despite her belief otherwise. She blames the mother who always lacked faith in her because she didn't praise her for every little thing she ever did. She blamed evil conflict-causing men for designing clothes that flattered everyone but her because it's 'their' fault she mentally magnifies every fault she has to billboard size. Her ultimate failing as a person is that she did not blame the one person who deserved it: Jim Richards, Over-Protective Father.
Y'see, like a lot of English Canadians, Jim had a severe authoritarian streak to his personality. People like him are why French on cereal boxes used to be seen as a Papist plot to undermine the British Empire. People like him went berserk with glee when Trudeau The Elder declared martial law during the October Crisis. Greg is a people like him and moved from his home because his little girl was dating a CREATURE OF DARKNESS and not some boring non-entity who rebelled in unison with other drones who made tame noise about sticking it to the Man because the Man wanted to sell them AC/DC LPs. This means that it's damned obvious to me that anyone with the bad luck to trigger the right-wing loon father Elly idolizes was taken aside and threatened with mayhem if he didn't step off. John passed the test by being even more boring, bland and conventional than Jim himself was. Elly knows nothing of this and never will because she doesn't understand male behaviour and never shall.
As we know, Liz seems to have spent the last few years of the strip trying very hard to avoid visiting Jim. We do know that Mike was his usual self-serving self and, as such, only decided to grace his elders with his presence when he wanted to be praised for something. We also know that he was his usaul empty-headed self and reacted in a fatuous and self-pitying manner when he didn't get the response he expected. What we never saw is any sign of any curiosity as to his life from Liz until she wanted to be validated by Iris in the very end of the story.
An observer might be forgiven for thinking that she's ashamed to face him because part of her feels remorse as regards her morally repugnant act of rewarding a lying thief who flattered her but, much like her mother, she tends to substitute moral indignation for actual morals. Much as Elly will never apologize for what Kortney did to April, Liz is never going to want to feel guilty about Jim's harmonica...especially since he kind of always scared her as a child.
You see, I never had any sort of impression that Jim responded the way Lizzie wanted to when she pretty much flirted with him the way she does with her sick freak of a father and that made Lizzie wary of the old boy. When you base your identity on trading on your looks and someone doesn't buy what you're selling, you don't necessarily like this person. This inability to quite get what she wanted as a child explains why she sat in cars waiting to get away from the smell and sight of scary old people who die when she gets to know them.
Of course, there is one exception to the otherwise ironclad rule against not maintaining perfect fidelity to one's assigned Longed-For One: the otherwise Once In A Lifetime True Love has to be dead for at least ten years and you have to be over sixty so there's no chance of the step-child problem. This is why the only thing Elly stressed about with Mrs Baird and her dad was the stress love puts on the human heart. In both cases, elderly people were allowed to be together for their last few years because, well, it beat her long-feared dread of dying single all hollow.
The interesting thing about this is at that some point, someone usually makes a rather maudlin and mawkish remark about how after seven decades of fidelity, he or she is suddenly the proud owner of a complicated love life. This, I should think, is owing to a sort of belief in an afterlife that's a shadowy approximation of the living world. In this Foob Valhalla, we're supposed to look forward to an eternity of Marian grousing at Jim for 'cheating' on her just because she was dead longer. Perhaps he, Mrs Baird and Les Moore can go off to Afterlife Montoni's one day and talk about their troubles over ghostly gazpacho pizza. After all, St Dead Lisa is also sort of angry at him for remarrying and would tend to be a jerk about it.
One of the few things we actually do know for sure about Elly's past is why it is that the Richards family was so late adopting television and fitting in with the neighbors. It would seem that despite having anything like talent or an active interest in updating his routine, Jim was too in love with being THE entertainer in his family to notice or care that his kids seemed to want to fit in with the crowd. I've met the type and know the wounded pride that's on display when the needs of his offsprings to avoid being mauled by the popular kids for just plain not knowing what's on television collide with his need to be a big shot. The way he sees it, they'll get over being embarrassed because he's the father.
The problem is that this habit of mind that assumes that filial piety requires a child to stand around getting picked on while Mommy stages the stupidest protest EVER results The same Elly who used to wonder why they were the last on the block to get a television grew up thinking that Mike's wanting to fit in is a bad thing because she survived and also he owes her since she and John pay for everything anyway. The need of children to simply get through a scary day where it looks like everything is trying to destroy them is discounted mostly because cement-headed adults like Jim and Elly confuse their no longer feeling that way with feeling that way no longer existing.
Since Mike has Jim's broken chromosomes and is thus another blithering idiot who's too dumb to feel empathy, it's sort of obvious that The Delicate Genius is pulling the same stunt as we speak because he can't break the cycle of assuming that conforming is bad for children and great for grown-ups. It doesn't matter one bit that Meredith claims that some person who isn't part of the family is making her life a living, seething Hell because of what he does. Some kid isn't the boss of him and no one picks on kids any longer so Meredith will just have to ignore the vitriol on her Facebook wall if she has any love for her father.
The interesting thing about the current arc is that just after Connie leaves, we find ourselves dealing with the fact that it takes until pretty much till early February for Jim and Marian to leave. We never have an explanation as to why it is that the two of them are there because it's not as if John and Elly are going on one of their kid-free vacations in the sun but what we do get is the same thing that happens whenever Elly's parents show up: Marian takes over the parenting while Jim staves off boredom by looking around the house for things to fix.
The odd thing about that is that at least Jim is aware that what he's doing constitutes something of a problem. As I've said before, Marian seems to be less willing than he is to let go of the being a parent thing than Jim is and it shows. The end result is that we're dealing with a situation in which when they return to Vancouver, Jim is at least aware that Elly will have a lot of work to do undoing the damage they did while Marian doesn't even understand that a problem existed.
As we know, Jim spends a great deal of his time engaging in pointless busywork because he's trying to decompress from having to retire. Like a lot of men his age, he finds the enforced idleness involved to be less a liberation from dull care and more a sort of prison sentence where he's not allowed to contribute to the world. To that end, he decided at one point to test the insulation in the attic and proceeded to kick a large hole through the ceiling of Lizzie's room. His reaction to being told that these things happen so there's no need for the sort of angry recrimination he was expecting was to tell a baffled Marian that people should be as angry at him as he is.
The reason that I mention this is that we sort of get an echo of this when Elly demanded that John boil over with rage about a minor car accident so she can finally feel better about things. What this tells me is that both Jim and Elly have the underlying expectation that any sort of mild inconvenience is going to result in a major blow-out and are baffled and confused by silence, forgiveness and understanding. Oh, they like the latter two just like everyone else. They just want to earn them by having to endure chaos and uproar and hurt feelings like they're 'supposed' to.
As we saw last Friday, Elly seems to have made a fetish of drying clothes out on a line like her mother did because, well, her mother did it that way and since Elly is all about getting a pat on a head, a cookie and praise and approval from the mother who raised her to believe that praising and encouraging children in any way would inevitably lead to their ruin, does so without understanding why Marian never used a dryer back in the fifties. To understand Marian's deal, we have to turn to an outside source: the parents from the comic strip Cathy. Every so often, they reminded us that they still use the handy little money saving tricks they picked up as children during the Great Depression; the underlying premise is "We know we look foolish but trust us....this'll all come in handy when the economy swirls down the crapper." Simply put, dozy little Elly didn't understand that when Marian responded to questions about just popping it into a dryer like on television with comments about getting the job done right that Marian really meant "clothes dryers cost a lot to buy and to run."
Ah, well. At least Marian was all about stretching a dollar because of her perfectly understandable fear that the post-war boom would go bust and leave her and the family to have to economize. Jim did a lot more damage instilling his fear of change in Elly because of the reason why. Let us start by his confessing that the prospect of women doing just fine without women terrified him half to death, factor in his resentment that television meant that he was no longer the sole arbiter of how his children were to see the world and end with his panicky shrieking about how any social arrangement that left women equal to him in the ability to break things off led to chaos, anarchy and one night and we end up looking at a man who feared the new technology because it meant that he, Jim Richards, could no longer parade around and act like he was the only person who could know things. Elly is thus not only the brainless imitator of a woman who would have gladly adopted new ways were she not convinced that the second after she did, the economy would collapse but also the panicky emulator of a vindictive jerkwad father who resents new things because he's obsolete.
Of course, even if Marian weren't a nervous cheapskate and Jim not a boorish, jealous dolt, Elly would still fear the new things because of that organic problem that I alluded to last month. As I said, the reason that she wishes that the stereo John bought her was a sort of music box that she could just turn on and off instead of the scary and bad thing with all those scary and bad controls evil, conflict-causing MEN stick on something that should be SIMPLE is to make life worse for busy mothers with no help is that her number-blind brain simply cannot handle complexity. Since there are too many knobs and buttons on her dryer, she prefers the line because the scary machine can't humiliate her by getting things wrong on purpose if she doesn't use it.
The very odd thing about the notes about how simply awful it is that John tried to 'poison' the children by exposing them to the 'luxury' item that is a TV dinner is that Lynn calls it a luxury in the first instance. Granted, I do know what she means. As a fellow English Canadian of lower class origins, I can read that and think of her thinking of some big-shot having a fancy-dancy-prancy television dinner instead of regular food like normal people despite knowing that what we're both contemplating is cheap-ass prepared food like Kraft Dinner or Hamburger Helper or any number of convenience foods whose chief virtue is that they don't cost a Hell of a lot.
Part of her antipathy to this sort of food is hinted at when she has a child ask for junk food or sugar cereal instead of a brand name. The same woman who eats a normal hamburger and talks about how she can't find the right kind of sawdust to make the ones she makes like it owing to her not even being able to conceive of the fact that Mother made them all wrong in the first place thinks of fast food and Frooty Bonkers as horrible non-foods imposed on her by bad people who don't want her to show her children her love or express her creativity by cooking casseroles that sit in their stomachs like lead weights thereby preventing play or making cereals that go down like a bowl of wood shavings and come out like a blazing ball of hot, wet thumbtacks the very perfect breakfast.
What makes this far more annoying is that she can cook crap that's a lot damn worse than anything on tap at Golden Corral or any of those other sterile, depressing places where arteriosclerosis is king and think that she's prepared a healthy meal because her hands make greaseburgers and tuna cardiac-arrest casseroles not fatty messes. This inability to see that just because she makes stuff by hand doesn't make it healthy and good once collided with her inability to see that her elderly father simply could not eat the foods he was used to eating if he wanted to live. This is why I think that Elly straight-up murdered Chinnuts with her lovely cooking. She'll deny it forever (or until she pitches forward dead into her plate of Cheapie Weenie Casserole) but she did kill him with kindness.