Drinking Game (So far):
- The word “bitter” is used
- Every time I bang my head against the book in frustration
- Jenny and Carol behave in a way that is not age appropriate (99% of all SDA authors can not write believable children.)
- The Book goes on and on for pages about Bible Study
- Sybil acts like a Bible Worker/Sabbath School teacher
Her Majesty demands to know why I am petting the keyboard instead of her.
Chapter 2, In Which Meg Meets a Woman in an Elevator
Chapter 2 begins with Jared moaning about how no one in the surrounding churches is reaching out to Meg. Then he says something strange happened. Meg met a woman in an elevator.
Get your minds out of the gutter. There is, of course, no sex in these books, ever.
Instead, Meg and Sybil are going to have one of the weirdest, most stilted conversations I’ve ever read.
Woman: Aren’t you my neighbor in 721?
Sunlight: I guess I am, though I’m afraid I don’t know a soul in the building. When you work you know… my name’s Meg Adams. I’m glad to know you.
Woman: I’m Sybil Noris, Meg, and I have a confession to make too.
Meg didn’t confess anything. Also, I did not leave anything out. the ellipses are there in the original text. I’m not leaving anything out in the following paragraph, either:
Sybil: I’ve been keeping my eye out for someone in this building who is alone.
This is creepy. How is this not creepy. Keep in mind this is happening in an elevator, an enclosed space. Some strange woman in an enclosed space (who happens to know where you live) is telling you she’s been looking for someone in the building who is “alone.” How is this not creepy?
Sybil: Sometimes I get so bored and fed up with everything that I wish for one of those gas stoves… it’s awful to get out of bed in the morning and not have a thing to look forward to.
Again, I did not leave anything out here. The ellipses is in the text itself. All of what I’m writing now is one continuous paragraph.
I am not 100% sure what Sybil means by “one of those gas stoves.” This may be one of those instances where readers in the 1980s would know what this meant, but the it is sailing right over my 21st century head. I mean, my family, off and on, have owned gas stoves, and I have no idea how they would cure boredom. Unless, perhaps, you are of the opinion that it would be fun to set the house on fire.
Maybe she’s talking about using it to kill herself? Because she’s bored? In which case, Sybil is confessing to a stranger in an elevator that she is suicidal. Suicidal and looking for someone in the building who is alone. Meg should be having all kinds of alarm bells going off in her head at this moment.
Meg asks Sybil if her husband is dead, and it seems like a random question to ask. Maybe she’s trying to keep Sybil talking until she can get away from her, off the elevator?
Sybil: No, he’s very much alive. Alive and prosperous and too busy piling up money to even wonder what I do with myself all day. Most of the time he’s traveling, and he thinks as long as he keeps my checking account current that he has fulfilled his obligation. So I sit around thinking up new ways to spend money.
This is a really long elevator ride. How tall is this building?
In any case, Meg is obviously poor. Sybil is supposed to be rich. Why the hell are they living in the same apartment building? This makes NO SENSE!
What also doesn’t make sense is why Sybil isn’t divorced. If she is that unhappy in her marriage, there is no real reason to stay. Her husband is always traveling, and clearly unsympathetic to the fact that his wife is bored and lonely.
Sybil is not, at this point, a Christian. Yet there is no stated reason that she will not seek a divorce.
And why doesn’t Sybil have a job? Yes she’s rich, but rich people can have jobs too. She’s bored and rich, why isn’t she in grad school? Traveling to Europe? Taking classes at the local arts center? She sure isn’t very good at thinking up new ways to spend money. I’d have been around the world 3 times by now.
Theory: Sybil’s husband is dead. She lives a lonely life in an apartment pretending he still exists and sends her money, which is actually money she has inherited.
On top of all this, she is a closeted SDA. She is one of those Bible Workers who seeks out vulnerable people, then tries to rope those people into doing Bible studies and going to church with her. She considers herself a plant, and to be doing the Lord’s work.
Lest you think there’s no real in text support for this, just wait until we hit the next chapter.
Sunlight: Well, I’m alone lot too, but I guess that’s about the extent of our mutual problems. I spend a lot of my spare time trying to figure out how to make ends meet.
Question: why is Michael her only friend? I get that friends can leave you during divorces, and I get that she spends too much time working to really socialize, but she still goes out with Michael on the weekends, so she does still have some time for such things. So why does she seem to have no friends except for Michael? I’m an introverted people hater and even I have more than one friend.
Anyway, Sybil and Meg have finally left the elevator and are walking down the hall.
Sybil: that would be a challenge, though no doubt an unnerving one at times.
NO SHIT Sybil, that is a challenge. I have it a lot better than most, and even I lie awake scared some nights because I have no idea how I’m going to pay my rent and that other bill I don’t talk about.
Sybil here is so callous. I could see if she just kept the first part of the sentence, maybe, but she has to add that last part. It almost seems like Sybil is delighted at the prospect of the challenge of “making ends meet.”
(They reach Sunlight’s door)
Sunlight: (Casually, not really meaning it:)I’ve enjoyed meeting you. Maybe we should get together for coffee sometime
No Sunlight, no no no no no. When a creepy creep meets you in the elevator, you do not give them hope of a future meeting.
Sybil: I’d love that. In fact, why don’t you run down to the end my hall tonight after the children are in bed? I’m in the suite at the end.
Sunlight: I’ve always wondered who the lucky lady was that lived there. But I don’t like to leave the children alone, even to go down the hall.
Good, good. Make up an excuse, that’s right, good job, Meg.
Sunlight: So why don’t you come to my place? It’s certainly no luxury suite, but I make a good coffee
This is not how you deal with a crazy person you met in an elevator.
Also, note that she says she doesn’t like to leave her children alone, even though she did just last chapter. This doesn’t ring true for 1979(ish). There’s no reason you can’t leave your kids alone to go visit the neighbor, as long as the kid knows where to find you in case of an emergency. Or how to dial 911.
Sybil says she’s already looking forward to it, and she’ll see Meg in a few hours.
Sybil is a slightly scary and absolutely creepy character. So of course, Jared likes her.
I knew….she[Meg] was a little impatient with what she had gotten herself into, but somehow I have a good feeling about this new friendship. Sybil has an openness and honesty that I like.
If this is what Angels actually think like, then it’s no wonder our guardian angels do an absolutely shitty job of protecting us half the time. This, right here, is why good Christian women get hurt. The angels are too stupid to see the red flags.
On the surface, this scene was creepy. A more likely explanation, however, is that this is a result of the severe isolation of Seventh Day Adventism. You see, Adventists often do not know how to make friends. We spend our lives inside our little SDA bubbles, and friendships just happen because you’ve all got a lot in common with each other. This is why Adventists often have a hard time making friends with non SDAs. They don’t know how to relate.
And because SDAs don’t know how to make friends with non SDA people, they can’t imagine how non SDAs do it either. So, the author has Sybil coming across as creepy, because this is how SDAs think Non SDAs work.
That is the more charitable explanation, at least. The less compassionate option is that the author is also a bit of a creep.
Later that evening, Jenny and Carol are watching The Flintstones. Another unrealistic detail: they’re not fighting over the TV set. The 6 year old and the 10 year old want to watch the same thing. In case anyone was wondering, this almost never happens in real life.
Meg asks Jenny to help with supper, and for Carol to straighten the living room.
Jenny:(quietly) I’m not doing very well in school, mom.
Meg: What do you mean you’re not doing well in school? You’ve always been a top student
Jenny: I can’t seem to concentrate anymore. My mind just wanders around. Mrs. Morrison scolded me today. She said it was just plain careless of me to get a 65 on a math test.
I don’t know much about ADD (or whatever the hell they’re calling it these days) but to me, this sounds like a good description. Jenny needs testing and assistance.
Or it could be a symptom of depression. She’s practically stepped into the role of Carol’s second mother, and it is very stressful watching your parents fight.
Sunlight: Jen, what happened? Are you getting careless?
Jenny: I don’t know, mom. I look at the tests, and I just don’t know the answers like I used to. Sometimes, when Mrs. Morrison is talking, I realize all of a sudden that I haven’t heard a word she’s said for 5 minutes.
Either Jenny is suddenly encountering work that she actually finds difficult, or there’s something there that needs to be looked at.
In a few pages, Meg will tell Sybil that psychologists/psychiatrists are not in her budget. Fair enough. It’s difficult enough to get insurance companies in the 21st century to pay for that sort of thing, and I could believe it would be downright impossible in the 1970s, if Meg and her kids even have insurance.
Meg and the children sit down to eat. Carol gloats over her sister’s downfall.
Sunlight: …. your father expects both of you to keep your grades up. I think you’re watching too much television. All those old movies after school aren’t meant for children.
Sigh. Of course the TV is the problem. Just ask any conspiracy theory Seventh Day Adventist nutcase. A friend of Conspiracy Bob’s seriously believes that just so much as having a TV in the house can affect kids’ personalities, even if it is never turned on and stashed in a closet half the time.
As the girls go to bed, we get a description of them. Carol is “tiny and dark, like her parents.” I’m not sure what that means… is she black? Is she just really tanned? Hispanic? The picture on the front of the cover is of a white woman, so I just kind of assumed all the characters where white?
Jennifer must resemble some more distant ancestor, for she’s tall for her age and with hair the color of ripe wheat.
So, it’s official, then: Jim divorced Meg because she had an affair with the milkman.
Jared tells us that Jennifer isn’t handling her parents’ separation well. Well no shit. Meg and Jim fight like children, someone’s gotta be the adult here, and Jenny figures it may as well be her.
After Jenny and Carol go to bed, Meg starts monologing.
Sunlight: Jim and I were married young. Too young…he was two years ahead of me… we’d been high school sweethearts…The first years of our marriage were perfect. I worked so he could finish school. Because there was no money, we lived simply. When Jim graduated (college) and Jenny was born, we thought that the struggles were behind us all and only joy lay ahead. Jim was hired as a science teacher in the same suburban high school where he’s teaching now…. we lived together for 8 years…..
Then one night, after the girls were in bed and Jim was wiping the dishes for me
That right there should have clued you in that something was up. I’ve never known a man to actually help his wife do the dishes unless he wanted something. Or he wanted me to take pictures so he could boast about it on his blog.
He said, “Meg, I’ve fallen in love with someone else.” Just like that. That’s when my life ended…. I tried to fit what he was saying into the surroundings, and I thought I was losing my mind. Numbly I waited for him to tell me it was a joke, but I saw pity in his eyes, pity for me, and I knew he was not playing games….
Just the old soap opera of the high school sweetheart who puts her man through college and then loses him because she’s more interested in wallpapering the living room than discussing the nation’s economy. So the girls and I have been without him for nearly two years (emphasis mine) and I should be used to it, but I guess I never will be.
Meg has been divorced for about two years, and Jenny is just now beginning to show signs of stress in school. I’m not buying it.
Sybil, instead of saying something sympathetic, tells her that that’s just like how she lost her husband to work. Even when he’s home, he’s not always emotionally available.
No, Sybil, you don’t do this. You don’t listen to someone’s struggles and say, “yup, that’s just like how my life is.” Because it’s not. You may have similarities, but your situations are different. The proper response here is to nod along and say something like, “wow, that really sucks. I’m sorry that happened to you.”
Meg tells Sybil about Jenny’s grades, which, seriously? Jenny probably doesn’t want everyone you talk to knowing about that. Bitch. Do parents actually think their children don’t mind when they tell everyone and the milkman about what their kids are going through? And my parents seriously wonder why I never felt I could talk to them!
Meg tells Sybil that proper help for Jenny is not in her budget.
She is talking about needing psychiatric help for her child and not being able to afford it… in the presence of a lady who is literally so rich she spends all day sitting around thinking up ways to spend money. I get that Meg would probably feel uncomfortable accepting, but why isn’t Sybil at least offering? Offering to help out would be my kneejerk reaction, though I would have to think carefully about exactly how I did it. SDA authors aren’t known for subtlety, so, why does the author not have Sybil offer to help?
And why isn’t money more of an awkward topic between these two? I have been at both ends of the spectrum. As a child, I was better off financially than practically everyone at school. Money was an awkward subject then, and it is an awkward subject now that I am a poor adult and most of my peers make decent money. Sybil and Meg just met, why the hell are they so comfortable talking finances?
Sybil tells Meg that she was so bored one day that she went to church. It was a charismatic church, though, and they were a bit too “noisy and informal.” There was stack of bibles with a sign saying “please steal me,” so Sybil takes one, then sticks down $10 even though the sign said “free to a good home.”
…. I hardly know what it’s talking about half the time, but the Old Testament seems to be full of hair raising and earthy stories, and the New Testament an endless love song to this man Christ….
Do you hear that sound? That sound is the sound of me banging my head against the book (drink!). This is not the way a human being talks about the bible. This is the way someone imagines human beings talk about the bible.
This feeds my theory that Sybil is totally a closet SDA bible worker. She already knows how to speak Adventist.
I know that it is a common thing in Christian books for authors not to know how people outside their bubble actually talk about things, and this is probably the more realistic explanation, but let me keep my fantasy. Besides, I think this fits in well with how creepy Sybil was being earlier.
Meg tells Sybil that she used to go to church as a girl, but then as she got into her teens because there were too many things competing for her attention. Which doesn’t sound right to me. This is not on the usual list of explanations I hear for quitting church. The words, “boring,” “irrelevant,” and “God is a dick” spring to mind.
Sybil says she believes there’s a God, because she can feel it, though she’s not 100% positive.
Bill tells me that civilized people believe in evolution, and that I’m living in the Dark Ages. But all those planets and suns out there. I can’t believe it all goes on without any supervision. Even our little planet is so busy with life, how could it all just happen?
Not a very nice person, is he? I mean, I happen to agree with him, but telling his wife that she is living in the dark ages for believing in God isn’t exactly kind. Also, who said anything about evolution? Lots of Christians believe in evolution. Why is Bill (and by extension, the author) not thinking about that?
And “All those planets and suns” out there aren’t exactly “unsupervised.” I’m not familiar with everything about the process, but there are these unchangeable things called “the laws of physics” that govern it all. None of these just happened, they evolved slowly over time as they reacted to these weird “laws of physics.” Sybil is absolutely a closeted SDA bible worker. She’s already using straw man arguments against evolution.
Meg tells Sybil she’s not sure she’s interested, but she’s willing to “go a few rounds” as an experiment. She says she thinks Jenny has a bible that Jim sent her for Christmas. Seriously? Meg is an American. I absolutely can not believe that she, or Sybil for that matter, do not own a bible. Nearly every single American has one, even if they never read it. Meg especially should have one, as she just told Sybil she used to go to Sunday School until she was a teenager. She should have a special childhood keepsake bible given to her by a relative tucked away somewhere.
Sybil tells Meg to read the book of Matthew, then leaves.
Instead of waiting till morning to ask Jenny’s permission, or, you know, going to a fucking church, bookstore, or library, Meg goes through her daughter’s drawer and finds the bible. Meg is already half an Adventist. She has no respect for her child’s property whatsoever.
Jared is extremely happy about the events of this chapter.
I rejoice this night. Finding no Christian in the city willing to search out Sunlight, Earth Friend has used someone outside the church.
Jared goes on for another few sentences praising God, and the chapter closes with
How will Sunlight respond to the teachings of the Prince?
And I’m sorry, but every time I read “The Prince,” I can’t not think of The Prince of This World/Darkness/The Powers of the Air.
Yup. Sunlight is totally worshiping Satan.