Cary Tennis: Blame the Dad

August 13th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The online magazine has for years featured an advice to the lovelorn column.  People write in with their problems, not all of which involve romantic issues, and they get advice about how to see and deal with them. If you read these things very much, over time you get a feel for what the advice giver is like as a person, and in the case of‘s writers, that’s not good.

Years ago, Garrison Keillor wrote the column entitled “Mr. Blue,” and was it ever a stinker.  To this day he’s written the single nuttiest, most unhinged and misandric piece I’ve ever read.  It was like he had gotten into some bad LSD.  Not only did the readers take him down, but a year or so later, the woman who’d written the original letter asking his advice wrote again to say that (a) she’d rejected his advice and (b) things were working out well.

Now the Salon column is written by novelist Cary Tennis.  A fair number of his readers seem to like Tennis, but I confess, he gives me the creeps.  Always has.  My take on him is that if Uriah Heep had written a “Miss Lonelyhearts” column, this would be it.

So a couple of days ago, Salon put up a letter by a woman, who signed herself “Enough is Enough,” asking Tennis what to do about a female acquaintance of hers she calls “N.”  Here it is (, 8/10/12).  It’s a long letter mostly describing the many awful qualities of N whom she and her husband have known for years.  It seems that N was brought up in a wealthy household.  Her father was a successful businessman, but apparently not successful enough.  The woman doesn’t explain, likely because she doesn’t know, but N’s father, after providing bountifully for his family over the years, was convicted of some sort of fraud and sentenced to prison where he still resides.

That of course changed the family’s finances, but the main point of the letter is that N, many years into adulthood, is a basket case.  She’s had children with two separate men whom she was trying to “hook” into marriage.  It didn’t work and they fled, but they’re not the only ones.  N’s mother and brother pulled up stakes and moved to a southern state from their home in the Northeast apparently just to get away from N.  They gave her no contact information and make no effort to maintain a relationship with her.

Given Enough is Enough’s description of N, that’s no surprise.  N never holds a job because she’s rude and abusive to people at work.  She never has any money and frequently can’t put food on the table for her kids, or gasoline in the car.  Her sole aim in life is to trick a wealthy man into marrying her.  Failing that, her hopes are pinned on her 10 year old son whom she believes will care for her as soon as he’s able.

Enough is Enough’s husband has known N longer than she has and says N has always been like this; she’s a user, a manipulator; she’s dishonest with herself and everyone she knows.  Enough is Enough wants to help N out some, but not enough to get ensnared in her life of dsyfunction and abuse, so she asks Cary Tennis how to accomplish those things.

His “advice?”  It’s all the dad’s fault.  Yep, that’s right; his somewhat lengthy reply includes a grand total of two sentences of actual advice to Enough is Enough, and they amount to “Keep doing what you’re doing.”  All the rest of his response is blaming N’s father.  Tennis knows two facts about N’s father – that he gave the family an affluent lifestyle and that he’s in prison as a “con man.”  According to Tennis, 100% of N’s awful, destructive behavior stems from Dad’s having been a con man.  The fact that, maybe two decades later, N is still behaving in the outrageous ways described is all down to Dad.  Indeed,

It’s not her fault she was raised by a con man.

Now, let’s just imagine N’s family when she was growing up.  Her dad’s a businessman.  That means he spends most of his days at the office working, earning money for his family.  So who raises N?  Like most families, Mom does most of the childcare.  So who’s responsible for the little terror growing up to become an adult terror?  According to Tennis, it’s Dad.  Mom never gets a mention.  Strange how that works.

Speaking of Mom, why’d she take her son and move far away from N and leave no contact information?  It sounds to me like N was a terror long before Dad went inside, but Tennis wouldn’t notice that.

Now, as I said, we have scant information about N’s father, only that he produced lots of money for the family but in the end went to prison.  He’s called a con man, and to Tennis, that’s all he ever was.  But is that really true?  We don’t know, but frankly the guy could have gone to prison for a lifetime of crime or one major incident.  He may have been the worst of mafiosi all of N’s life or he may have been a legitimate businessman who got into financial trouble, chose some legally shaky ways to try to get out of it and got popped.  I don’t know, Enough is Enough doesn’t know and neither does Cary Tennis.  But to Tennis, the man was nothing but a con man and that tells him all he needs to know about the man and all he needs to know about N and that her adult behavior is not her fault, but Dad’s.

That’s a lot of logical leaps to make all in the service of condemning a man he’s never met and knows almost nothing about, and absolving a woman of her own dreadful behavior.  But those are the times we live in.  It’s like Pin the Tail on the Donkey; if there’s a father around to be blamed, someone will be happy to oblige.

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