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True but Sad


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What exactly was the Reader's intention in publishing "Whatever Happened to Patsy Desmond?" [January 28] Was it outrage, compassion, or sheer fatigue Tori Marlan hoped to evoke? The story she tells of Patsy Desmond is meant to be inspiring, I suppose, based on the life's-simple-pleasures conclusion, but I do not find myself moved. Instead, I wonder why, exactly, I am being asked from the beginning of the piece to be especially interested in the fate of Ms. Desmond because she: (a) used to get drunk at a bar some people think is cool; (b) knew a couple of half-famous local musicians; (c) was pretty hot. It's almost as if Marlan is attempting to establish the heroic aspects of Desmond's story so she can go on to fill in the tragic part. But it doesn't work. So Desmond drank a lot, was into little-known bands, and had a magnetic personality? Yeah, she and everyone else I know. The only thing that really distinguishes Desmond is the unrelenting abuse she inflicted on herself and others and her continual refusals to accept any of the many forms of help offered to her. She has displayed a seemingly unlimited capacity for inventing and engaging in reckless behaviors, even after her suicide attempt and subsequent diagnosis with bipolar disorder--getting high and OD'ing on drugs stolen from her nursing home, "compulsive sipping" and aspirating, pouring beer into her tube and developing an eating disorder consisting of "obsessive tasting." Desmond's ongoing irresponsibility and mistreatment of herself and those around her is more than an uncontrollable symptom of a mental illness. While it's commendable that Patsy Desmond is sober now and in therapy, it's clear from the piece that many things haven't changed--for example, her desperate, seemingly insatiable need to be the center of attention. The Reader's cover story has surely given her more of what she wants.

E. Myers


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