Friday, December 19, 2014

Frere Jacques

On the page opposite the morning comics in the Baltimore SUN (a page I never read anymore because they stopped carrying "Marmaduke") I always work the Jumble ("That Scrambled Word Game") and I never miss reading "Ask Amy," the advice column for the loveworn and confused.  Always down for a prank, I often muse upon ways to send in a letter to Amy with some totally-made-up scenario, to see how she replies.

Someone else once came up with something more clever!  On March 15, 2004, Amy's predecessor, "Dear Abby," ran a column with a letter from a heartbroken wife that read like this:

Dear Abby: I am 34 and have three children. My husband, "Gene," and I have been married for 10 years. He is greedy, selfish, inconsiderate and rude. I don't know why I married him, nor why our marriage has lasted this long.
Gene put off getting me a birthday gift for as long as he could; then he bought me a bowling ball. It was the last straw. Not only do I not bowl -- he had the holes drilled for his fingers and his name was on it.
The next day I went to the bowling alley determined to keep the ball and learn to bowl. It was there that I met "Franco." Franco is kind, considerate and loving -- the polar opposite of Gene.
Franco and I began bowling together, and he bought me a glove in my size with my name on it. Shortly thereafter, our affair began. (I didn't mention that I was married.)
When Gene saw the bowling glove on our dresser, he became depressed because he realized that I'd met someone. I feel sorry for Gene, but the last time I saw Franco, he proposed.
I no longer love Gene. I want to divorce him and marry Franco. At the same time, I'm worried that Gene won't be able to move on with his life. I also think our kids would be devastated.
What should I do?
-- Stuck In A Love Triangle

Well, sir or ma'am, if you're a fan of The Simpsons, you recognize this plot, because that show has discussed every single possible thing that people can do to each other in the 25 years it has blessed us with its presence.  It came directly from a 1990 episode called "Life on the Fast Lane," which featured Albert Brooks as smooth French bowling coach Jacques. "Franco" - get it?

The people who distribute the column, Universal Press Syndicate, pulled it from their pages once it dawned on them that Abby had been duped, but some papers went ahead and ran the letter and Abby's advice, which was to admit to her husband that she had cheated on him: "To save the marriage, he might be willing to change back to the man who bowled you over in the first place." 

When TV re-runs this episode of the Simpsons, the TV Guide synopsis says, "Homer's birthday present 'for Marge' is a bowling ball, prompting Marge to teach him a lesson by taking up the sport — and maybe also a handsome instructor." 

The Dear Abby column was actually written by Abby's daughter Jeanne Phillips, who should watch more TV.  Meanwhile, I am busy working on my fakeola letter:  "Dear Amy, My husband is a highly important man in the film industry. Recently, he had the brilliant idea to produce a comedy, the plot of which involves killing the leader of a sovereign foreign nation. For some reason, the people of that nation have now turned against us and have hacked his firm's computer system, exposing all manner of private information. What sort of apology should we send?  Would a box of chocolates be sufficient, or should we telephone them as well?"

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