Ask Dr. Salvo
August 24, 1993
Dear Doctor Salvo,
I've noticed a bitter edge creeping into your column recently as your readers try desperately to fend off the intellectual suppositories thrust upon them by Hankie from Grand Bay and his ilk. What happened to the wit, the irrelevance, the faux nommes, the sarcastic prodding of our collective psyche? Since religious debate portends to go on forever, rising to ever higher pitches of falsetto as one pointy headed pseudo intellectual after another argues for his (her? its?) brand of cosmology it is time to shed some good down home illogic on the matter.
But first, a few questions. 1) Why the hell would Pete be sad that you, an entirely fictional character, would defend others whom he deems fictional. 2) Who really made up the "Hank Shiver" persona? (And why would anybody waste so much time building such a distasteful one. Sure, I know Jack Nicholson made millions doing the same thing but that was the movies, not Mobile.) 3) If red jelly beans cost $.79 per pound, blue ones cost $1.00 and black ones cost $1.29, how many orange slices can you buy with five quarters?
The third question is rhetorical. Its reason is is that my friend Bill (probably no kin to your friend Bill) tells me I must stop trying to infuriate people just to see their reactions. Hopefully it will give our mutual friends Pete and Hankie something neutral but obsessive to take their minds off ideas meant for adults.
Where was I? Oh yes, illogic. I'm sorry, I really tried, but I just can't outdo some of the garbage your readers have sent in recently. Religion is just too subjective a matter to debate with toads, even given such a kind and gentle referee as yourself. I would share a miracle or two but even J.C. saw that was pointless after a time.
If you will carefully peruse the latest Harbinger you will be happy to see that Salvo is back to his sweet old pre-eschatological (or Paris-scatological?) self. In a lightsome fantasy he assumes the persona of carefree Tim (by White Fang out of Lassie), noblest of oyster hounds and protector of la dolce vita and the makers of boudin sausage.
As for Hank Shiver, she is a fat little bag lady who flourishes on chufahs and silverfish at the Grand Bay Public Library. In fact were it not for her steady and tremendous consumption of silverfish (and earwigs) there would be no G.B.P.L. The chufahs provide roughage.
I suggest you continue to make people mad, but watch where you point that thing: Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
Thanks for the repousse copper -- it feels old.
My Dear Dr. Salvo,
Mr. X's letter on sex was interesting, but I wonder just how much sexual experience he's really had. I don't think sex outside of marriage is always wrong. It can be destructive if it's abused or taken too lightly, but that's why we have brains: so we can make those decisions.
He is right about one thing though. Too many men base their expectations of women on the perfect figures they see in Playboy Magazine.
My sister Suzanne is only 15 months older than me. When we were growing up in Lexington, Kentucky, we went to the same high school and then the same junior college, and knew many of the same men.
My sister and I could not be more different in physical appearance. She has gorgeous blonde hair, she's tall and shapely and has brilliant blue eyes. I have mouse-brown hair and brown eyes, and I'm thin and flat-chested. (I don't think I'm unattractive, but I'm plain compared to Suzanne.)
But our personalities are different too. (She won't see this since she now lives in Minnesota, so I can be honest.) Suzanne is shallow, vain, and hung up on herself. I think I am sensitive, intelligent and giving.
But throughout our lives, who do you think has gotten more dates? I can remember many weekends in Lexington when I would stay home with a book or go out with a girlfriend while Suzanne was on a date. She would get asked out several times a week, while I was lucky to get one offer in months. And I had it all over her in character. But these guys had constantly been told that a pretty girl is worth more than a plain one.
This attitude has had some pretty serious consequences. Suzanne married a man who only wanted her for sex. He became abusive and they divorced a year later. She's now remarried again, and this one seems to be a little better. (I only met the man once, at her wedding, so I don't really know what he's like. She thinks he's wonderful -- because he's a successful surgeon and bought her an expensive car.)
I, on the other hand, am finally engaged at age 31. My fiancee is not great looking, rich or especially skillful in bed. But he loves me for who I am, and I love him.
I don't know what we can do about this attitude. Playboy is certainly not the cause, only a symptom (though it does nothing to help). Mr. Bailey of Birmingham is wrong; it isn't just religious zealots who don't like pornography. Feminists are against it too, because it perpetuates the idea that women should be judged solely for their looks or sexual performance.
Anyway, that was the reason I wrote. I think X is off-base on some things, but he's dead-on right to say that these idealized images of women make it harder for average-looking women to compete.
I took the liberty of camouflaging your name because your tender, honest, and thoughtful letter evoked protective responses in me. I hesitate even to criticize your message for fear of damaging its unique qualities. However there are some things I must examine in print to assist you in attacking what you have too much accepted in submission like a P.O.W. who finally takes side with the oppressor and becomes like the prison guards, admiring them and their ways.
Let us first attack the Great Tit Culture, or Western Mammocracy: You may not notice it but the Twiggies, tomboys and androgynes of the world have come to preside over the dissolution of the Dolly Parton empire (personally I admire Dolly -- it is not her fault she's become the world's wet nurse, or the subliminal pusher of the dying dairy industry). A recent TV study revealed that over 50% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies. Although at least half of them were underweight, more than half longed to lose weight. If their fondest wish were granted, what would they choose? To lose weight!
This above love, money, fame, etc. It gives one to think: In a way it seems an overdue riposte to the years of tit (in England a tit is a bird, a teat is a nipple) (I know) tyranny in the United States. Specifically, it gives me to think of my deprived youth when the only glimpses I got of naked femininity were in the National Geographic, and the subjects were entirely unclothed, often emaciated (due to a scarcity of missionaries) and adorned with elongated breasts the nipples of which hung companionably next to their navels. That is, those of the young matrons. The older ones "dangled down amongst their knees," as the old song goes.
Well, when feminism flared up in transient revolt a few years ago, a major object of anti-chauvinist fury was the hated "BRA," presumably because it held the wild natural breast in serfdom to please the domineering male. The girls for awhile forgot that the brassiere also warded off the ravages of gravity.
That one big splurge -- the bungie jump of the bosom -- must have made at least a few slim girls appreciate their own modest endowments: By age 40 or 50 they had developed busts of an adolescent quality and quantity, pleasing to the eye and inviting to the touch -- at least from a man's viewpoint. By the same age the earthmother whose jugs they had once so blindly envied -- were now struggling to confine and redistribute a mass of flesh that momentarily threatened to tip them over on their noses. Think about it. You and your shapely slender friends must take over the feminine ideal, first wresting it from curvophobic photographers and fashion czars who now threaten a catastrophic flight from Rubens to Giacometti.
It may be true that your childhood deprivation made you a better person. I doubt it. I fear you will some day be a prig if you continue in that vein of thought. I like better, and trust more, your earthy enjoyment of your man -- who also is not Robert Redford. Enjoy your trim figgah!
And the small sizes you can wear!
Thanks for your recent letter with some more thoughts about happiness. I'm afraid you and I will be repeating ourselves if we persist in that line, and make ourselves unhappy!
If you will read carefully the letter I just wrote to W,S., you may see that I was happy all the way through, though I doubt that God's sense of humor descends to this level.
Don't worry, be happy.
Dear Dr. Salvo,
It was good to see and greet you last Monday afternoon. I'm sure my mail box has enjoyed the honor of guarding Salvo's column every other week for the past seven or eight years, until the sage advice is retrieved, encoded on a magnetic tape, and finally shared with all the Harbinger readers.
You asked me during our brief chat "Why some parents of students don't band together and file a class-action suit to get rid of the white majority on the school board?" Indeed, why? How about a medium Brazilian analysis?
Just time to pen a brief reply to your note, time before Northern Exposure carries me away gladly to Alaska.
In the 25 year old Wyatt suit, the Court held that we could not deprive people of their liberty for the purpose of treating their presumed mental illness, then not treat them, but simply warehouse them. If you offer adequate treatment as the reason for the incarceration and in a sense the recompense for loss of freedom -- then by God you had to provide this treatment. And for the treatment to have a reasonable chance to be effective, it must be conducted under psychological and physical conditions of a humane and decent quality. The patient's privacy and dignity must be fostered, as well as his physical health. These are only a handful of issues addressed by Judge Frank M. Johnson in his decree. Others even specified the room temperature, air conditioning, wash water temperature, cleanliness of setting, freedom from vermin, safety from cruelty -- and on, and on.
Now pause for a moment and think of the public schools in Mobile County -- what pig sties they are, about half of them -- and how well they could pass the requirements of the order regulating the minimal standard for adequate care of the mentally ill. What are our minimal standards for adequate housing and education of our children? We must, some of us know what they are, because that is what we provide, minimum and below.
And, remember, we not only promised them an adequate education under decent living conditions. Using police authority, we deprived them of their precious liberty from age six to eighteen -- those joyous years to be spent in boring drudgery like that of an indentured servant in the 18th Century. We promised, but we did not deliver -- so whom shall we sue? Ultimately ourselves, but some are more guilty than others -- I speak of those who profit by stealing money meant for education. Now is an excellent time for a class action suit against the Board of Education and the Industrial Development Boards. The grounds are the same: What we do to children in the name of education is unholy and unconstitutional. Surely there are lawyers in Mobile, with children enduring Mobile schools, who can take some time pro bono publico and right the wrongs the children still suffer in our lamentable school slums.
--August 24, 1993