Discussion for Episode 10: Other People's Mothers

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
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Natasha (candygirl)
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Discussion for Episode 10: Other People's Mothers

Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Mar 17th 2003, 3:14 am

Welcome to our tenth MSCL.com episode discussion! We are now at the halfway point of the series - does that deserve a :D or a :( ?

If you haven't already done so, please read the info about the weekly discussions here.

I highly recommend reading theAngela's World essay that pertains to this episode.

Other threads related to Other People's Mothers (alternately known at Other People's Daughters) that may be of interest are:
Amber: good or bad mother?
Angela, Rayanne, and Rickie
Patty and Graham suck
why do we love Graham
food
Other People's Mothers
What do you think Rusty was like?
Patty's parents
recurring clothes
math references

Some threads about recurring themes:
hair as a metaphor
the contradiction that we call Rayanne
plaid
colors
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Mar 17th 2003, 4:27 am

Before I start the weekly discussion, a little disclaimer: YES, we are aware that the title on the DVD menu is incorrectly shown as Other People's Mother, and YES, we know that the sound is out of sync (as opposed to *Nsync - hee hee!). If you want to discuss/complain about those particular issues, please direct your comments to the DVD forum. This thread is to discuss the actual episode.

I love the opening scene with Rayanne's assessment of the food in the refrigerator and Graham's mustard. Rayanne studies human nature, and food seems to be one of many outward symbols that she associates with personality traits. Very astute (and correct) analysis of Patty!

The look between Rickie and Angela when Rayanne takes an MGD out of the refrigerator is very telling. Although I don't believe that Rickie and Angela have ever discussed their feelings about Rayanne's drinking, there is an unspoken understanding between them, namely that they don't like it but haven't said so to each other or to Rayanne. When Patty comes home and catches Rickie with the beer, he takes the blame (knowing that it will make Patty hate him) to protect Rayanne. While this seems noble, it's also known as enabling. His heart was in the right place, but as anyone who is familiar with any type of abusive patterns knows, he wasn't really helping Rayanne with this behavior.

Angela says that she has been friends with Rayanne for half a year, but we know that this episode takes place some time after Halloween but before Christmas, which means that the pilot (when Angela began "hanging out with Rayanne Graff just for fun") took place around April. Doesn't it seem weird that if Angela and Rayanne became friends in the spring we didn't see any of their summer together? Just nitpicking again.

Rayanne's birthday card from her dad - I mentioned in the last episode discussion that one of the things I liked seeing was Patty telling Danielle not to let Angela catch her in her room because it showed that Patty and Graham respect Angela's privacy and personal space. Amber, on the other hand, opens Rayanne's card which I find to be rude and invasive. After all, it's Rayanne's birthday, not Amber's, and the card is presumably addressed to Rayanne. "Happy birthday and maybe more" - talk about a Fredian slip! Why would her dad send $270? I realize I have more than demonstrated my anal retentive nature, which explains why I would assume that a birthday check would be $250 or $300 or even $275, but $270? On a more practical note, is $270 really enough to throw a party? I guess if all the money was spent on alcohol, yes.

Vivian is SUCH a drama queen! Knowing what we have seen of Chuck in Father Figures, can you imagine the two of them getting along? No wonder Vivian later says, "I can never really enjoy myself when he's around." They must drive each other crazy! I find it interesting that both Patty and Vivian refer to Chuck as "daddy." Maybe it's because I'm from a different generation, but I haven't called my dad "daddy" since I was a little girl. Then again, maybe the choice of title illustrates the relationship between Patty and Chuck. Amber's assessment of Patty is also very accurate - although Angela sees Patty as her mom, Patty reverts to her "annoyed with mom" attitude when Vivan is around - a good parallel to the way that Angela behaves around Patty. When Patty saves Rayanne and then tells Angela about her college roommate, Angela sees her mother as a person for the first time, rather than "just mom." Despite Angela's immature behavior in this episode, she takes a step towards maturity when she realizes that her mother had a life full of parties and friends and fun prior to being "Angela's mom."

One of the things I love about this show is the way the actors portray the characters doing every day things, like applying lip balm while they are talking with others. In this episode we see Patty stick her finger in the little lip balm pot and apply it smoothly and evenly across her lips. As a contrast, in an earlier episode, we saw Rayanne apply her lip balm by touching her finger to the top of the tube and then dabbing it on her lips. Perhaps indicative of their approaches to life? One smooth motion as opposed to a staccato rhythm?

I find it amusing that Graham advises Patty to be upfront with Vivian ("You go down there and you say 'Mom, I love you but you're driving me to an early grave. Do not touch my candlesticks, ever.' That's what you do."), but we don't hear Graham yell, "Vivian, get out of my kitchen!" In Graham's defense, he does later admonish her (and I have to agree with Graham that you do not put oregano in a curry sauce!). It seems Chase family general knowledge that Vivian can be a huge pain in the butt (or as Danielle says, "Is Grandma goanna drive everyone crazy like she did on Thanksgiving?"). I guess every family has at least one relative like that - my friend has a theory that EVERYONE has either a crazy aunt or a drunk uncle. Some of us are "fortunate" enough to have more than the requisite one.

Why does Amber look for the tarot book in the bathroom? Easy reading while she's on the toilet? Sorry to be so crass, but why else would she even be looking in the bathroom for a tarot book? Also of note in this scene (as mentioned in the mom thread referenced above), Amber completely ignores Rayanne's comment about not wanting her birthday money. Terrible parenting skills, despite Angela saying that Amber is "amazing."

Graham is dressed in a suit and coat in the morning - where is he going?

Although Sharon and Rayanne still won't admit that they're friends, Sharon is obviously concerned about Rayanne's drinking. In the bathroom, she asks Rickie, "She's been drinking?" and later she stands in the parking lot with Rickie and watches Rayanne hand out party invitations. Rayanne, on the other hand, offers some of her birthday money to Rickie and Sharon, so I like to interpret that as Rayanne sort of admitting that she is friends with Sharon. In that bathroom scene, Rayanne says that she doesn't deserve her birthday money. Why does she feel this way? Is it general self loathing? Or is it because of her relationship with her father? Does she not want the money because it's from him? Remember Rickie's conversation with Angela in Father Figures - "I mean, if he gives me something, and I'm mad at him, I can't open it." Rayanne's description of what she wants her party to be like is telling as well - "Where so much is going on at every second that there's no possibility for uh..for your mind to wander and you become this prisoner of like, happiness." I laughed when I saw the "pharmaceuticals" guy's beeper go off - such a 90s cliche! Remember in the first season of the Real World when Julie asked Heather, "Why do you have a beeper? Are you a drug dealer?" Hee hee!

Another nitpick - Rayanne says to Rickie, "I thought you said you were never again gonna hang in the girls' room." Rickie DID say that in the Zit, but we have seen him in the girls' bathroom since then (like in Halloween when Angela was changing into her costume).

Double standards - Angela clearly does not want to hang streamers or move furniture for her grandparents' anniversary party, but she offers to move furniture for Rayanne's party and then hangs streamers for her too. I'm guilty of the same thing, so I understand, but it's funny to see it from an outside point of view. :oops:

Seeing Rayanne drink some of Amber's margarita bothered me. It wasn't just the foreshadowing or the obvious contrast with Patty's reaction to underage drinking in her house. I know that we have different attitudes about drinking here in America (and there is something to be said for some of the countries in Europe and how they deal with drinking so that it is about appreciating wine, not getting drunk), but I do have a problem with that particular moment.

I like seeing Danielle imitating Angela with the tarot cards. Despite Danielle's claim in Halloween that she hates her, she really adores Angela and looks up to her. What I dislike about that scene is the obvious double standard that Patty has for her two daughters. Just as she didn't consider asking Danielle to be in the mother daughter fashion show in the Zit, she doesn't consider having Danielle put up streamers or polish silver. Instead, she bitches about Angela not doing it. Even when Graham suggests having Danielle help, she lets Danielle get away with saying, "I can't - I'm predicting the future."

Patty mocking Angela's speech when she says, "LIKE, this birthday party?" is hilarious. I have done the same to my sister :D

Angela's assessment of the household karma ("You know, the karma in this house is like ridiculous. It's really low...or dark...whatever it is that happens to karma.") reveals just how little Angela knows about karma. As someone who lived through the 60s and 70s, Patty probably knows more about karma than she lets on, but she doesn't bother to elucidate. Hence the irony that Angela believes that Patty doesn't know about karma and Amber's advice that Angela should teach her about it.

Rickie asks Rayanne, "Who are these people?" at the party. Rayanne doesn't know and she doesn't care. She invited half the school - why? Interestingly, Jordan is not at the party (and Tino is somewhere inside but we don't see him - again!). Anyway, why does Rayanne want a bunch of strangers at her birthday party? Maybe because she is searching for away not to feel numb and forget how she doesn't deserve that money. Rickie doesn't fit in even at his best friend's party. He tries dancing and looking friendly, but no one else talks to him.

Angela says that Patty would be happier if she wasn't always pretending to be happy. As she says this, we see Patty's party face and fake smile. Later at Rayanne's party, we see Angela do the same thing.

I love seeing Angela pull up her skirt/tights with a snap - very realistic. She tries to be assertive when she tells Patty she is going to Rayanne's but she becomes apologetic as soon as she sees how upset Patty is. Nevertheless, she stands her ground downstairs in the kitchen when they argue about it. Most true to life moment in this episode: when Angela sasses back in a very little kid kind of way, "She is SO my best friend!" Ironically, Rickie later explains to Angela that "she's always like this. And she's always okay by the time it's over," indicating that Angela doesn't already know this. She thinks that she is Rayanne's best friend, but she knows very little about Rayanne's evening activities. Rickie, on the other hand, has had to deal with this often (in the pilot, he tells Angela that Rayanne blacks out when she drinks so he has been dealing with Rayanne's drinking for at least six months) so he knows a side of her that Angela does not.

I know I have mentioned this before, but Amber dousing herself with perfume while she yells at Rayanne about moderation is priceless.

I love seeing the girl in the red dress at the Chase house completely ignoring the grownups and playing with her Gameboy - I still have mine! Tetris rules.

Aunt Libby's anecdote about the waiter ("So I turn to the waiter, and by this time the entire restaurant is listening, and I turn to the waiter and I put down my chopsticks and I said, 'well if it smells like MSG, and tastes like MSG, it probably is MSG.'") is a typical older relative story, especially because MSG doesn't really have a particular taste. It is slightly salty if eaten alone, but it doesn't have food a specific, original MSG taste.

When Angela and Patty attempt to revive Rayanne, Rayanne pushes them away and says, "I don't like you." Is this a moment of lucidity or is she just saying that she doesn't like whoever is trying to wake her up?

There is a moment of poor editing in the scene where Rickie brings Patty the bag of barbeque chips in the hospital. On the DVD, it's right around 39 minutes - you see Rickie walking down the hallway and then there's an edit to him sitting down with Patty that is very jumpy. As you can see, I know all the technical terms.

Angela wants to believe that she is becoming an independent mature adult, but when she doesn't know what to do, she turns to Patty, calling her "mommy" and holding hands with her. Her question, "How did you know what to do?" reveals her innocence in two ways - she admits that she didn't know what to do, and she is willing to ask Patty how she knew what to do.

Rayanne and Amber, on the other hand, seem to have almost reversed roles. Amber reacts to Rayanne's overdose with "me" statements, telling Patty how scared she is. She ignores Patty's pleas to let Rayanne rest, and ultimately only Rayanne can comfort Amber as she murmurs, "I'm okay mom."

When Angela lists the different cards, most of the corresponding characters shown make sense (Patty as strength), but why is Graham the magician? Is his cooking a form of alchemy?

I love seeing Rickie looking on wistfully as Patty and Graham kiss. Poor Rickie probably doesn't see loving relationships like that very often in his abusive household.

At the end of this episode, the first screen of credits is white rather than black. Any ideas why?
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Mar 17th 2003, 4:36 am

Just wanted to add that I love the perfect casting of Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn as Amber. She was a total hippie groupie in real life (Cat Stevens wrote "Lady D'Arbanville" for her) so this was a great role for her. Amber's apartment was realistic down to the smallest detail - the beaded curtains, the parasol, the pagoda wind chime, everything. Hard to believe that she only appeared in three episodes!
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Post by TomSpeed » Mar 18th 2003, 12:56 am

OK. I'm going to start off by saying the fact that Angela only gives Rayanne a "look" when she takes a beer from the fridge is very strange. I can understand a very good friend being allowed to grab a drink from the fridge. But a beer is very different from a Coke. However, most people get things for their friends. Or their friends ask for permission to get something. I know I did both when I was younger. I still do so today. These seem like proper actions. You would think that Angela would say, "Hey, what are you doing getting a beer?" Of course, Rayanne would probably give the same response she does to Angela's look of disapproval. However, Angela should say something. Her silence and suggestion that they go upstairs seem to condone Rayanne's actions. This scene just rubs me the wrong way.
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Mar 18th 2003, 1:00 am

I find it interesting that Angela has previously shown herself to be very assertive (the first example that comes to mind is the way she pushes Jordan away in Dancing in the Dark), but in this particular situation she and Rickie merely exchange looks. I think that this is due to the fact that Angela is still seeking Rayanne's approval at this point, so she is reluctant to speak up. In addition, as I said earlier, this is classic enabling behavior which is very common with friends/family of alcoholics.
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Post by Sammi » Mar 18th 2003, 1:24 am

I agree with Candygirl on this one. Based on my own experience as a teenager, I remember when my sister and her friend, both under the age of 16 decided to take one of my parents cars out for a joy ride in the middle of the night. They planned this out in advanced and one of my friends thought it would be the coolest thing ever to go with them. I went along with my friend and said okay, but I truely hated every moment of it and felt guilty enough that I eventually told my mom and dad (my sister had already been caught--they ended up hitting another car after she had dropped me and my friend off-- but she didn't implicate me or my friend). At the time though I didn't say anything about it being a bad idea or that we shouldn't get in the car because I wanted this person to like me so bad, and think that I was just as cool and fun as my older sister. Eventually like Angela I wised up to what this friend was like and decided to do things my own way.

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Post by Nostradamus » Mar 18th 2003, 10:31 am

I find it cute that Rickie advises Rayanne to buy new makeup: "Makeup goes bad, you know, it does. It spoils." :P
candygirl wrote:At the end of this episode, the first screen of credits is white rather than black. Any ideas why?
Well, it matches Angela's last line: "And out of darkness, hope is born." It also serves to conclude Rayanne's earlier mention of the death card.
When Angela lists the different cards, most of the corresponding characters shown make sense (Patty as strength), but why is Graham the magician? Is his cooking a form of alchemy?
The Magician is a symbol of the male creative power; Graham is a father and a skilled cook. This card can also indicate the potential to create or to be anything desired; at this point Graham is in transition from his old job to starting a new business.
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Post by Nostradamus » Mar 18th 2003, 10:37 am

If you're curious, I found a good introductory Tarot site:

http://www.aeclectic.net/basics/index.html

(Don't worry, there are no Miss Cleo ads. :wink: )
I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.
-- Clarence Darrow

I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.
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Post by SanDeE* » Mar 18th 2003, 5:10 pm

candygirl wrote:Angela says that she has been friends with Rayanne for half a year, but we know that this episode takes place some time after Halloween but before Christmas, which means that the pilot (when Angela began "hanging out with Rayanne Graff just for fun") took place around April. Doesn't it seem weird that if Angela and Rayanne became friends in the spring we didn't see any of their summer together?
I haven't had the time to re-watch this episode yet, so forgive me, but what exactly does Angela in VO say? Does she say, "six months" or "half a year?" If she said "half a year," she could very well mean half the school year, making her relationship with Rayanne start at the beginning of their sophomore year of HS in late August/early Sept and not the April before.

When you are in school, September to June is a year. For example, say you get your ears pierced in April of 2003. The school year ends in June 2003. You see a relative for the first time in a while in November 2003. They ask, "When did you get your ears pierced?" 99% of the time a kid/pre-college student will say "last year," even though it was actually the same calendar year. I know I have. I'm trying really hard to say "last school year" instead so it makes more sense. Okay, now I'm rambling and nitpicking!
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Post by TomSpeed » Mar 18th 2003, 6:38 pm

Rayanne's Mail

The fact that Amber reads Rayanne's mail bothers me, too. Mail is a private thing. I would get bent out of shape if anyone read my mail. The birthday wish Rayanne's father writes in the card, "...and maybe more," is chilling. I would get spooked if somone wrote this to me. If you buy cheap beer, $270 is plenty of money for a party.

Vivian

Boy, you can really see from whom Patty gets her controlling streak. Vivian seems to make rubbing people the wrong way look so easy. Her moving the candlesticks around is a subtle but still powerful device. It's the little things that get under a person's skin. I agree that Vivian and Chuck are probably one of those couples that people just shake their heads wondering how they can still be married.

I love Graham's reaction to the turkey Vivian brings for the party. How long does he stand in front of the open door of the fridge? I can see Vivian's putting a turkey in their fridge as a type of invasion.

It's funny when Vivian and Patty both put on smile masks to greet guests for the party. Patty learned the art of appearing to be happy from Vivian. Angela hits a bullseye when she says that it's hard to be genuinely happy when you are so concerned with appearing to be happy.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by TomSpeed » Mar 18th 2003, 6:59 pm

candygirl wrote:Although Sharon and Rayanne still won't admit that they're friends, Sharon is obviously concerned about Rayanne's drinking. In the bathroom, she asks Rickie, "She's been drinking?" and later she stands in the parking lot with Rickie and watches Rayanne hand out party invitations. Rayanne, on the other hand, offers some of her birthday money to Rickie and Sharon, so I like to interpret that as Rayanne sort of admitting that she is friends with Sharon. In that bathroom scene, Rayanne says that she doesn't deserve her birthday money. Why does she feel this way? Is it general self loathing? Or is it because of her relationship with her father? Does she not want the money because it's from him? Remember Rickie's conversation with Angela in Father Figures - "I mean, if he gives me something, and I'm mad at him, I can't open it." Rayanne's description of what she wants her party to be like is telling as well - "Where so much is going on at every second that there's no possibility for uh..for your mind to wander and you become this prisoner of like, happiness." I laughed when I saw the "pharmaceuticals" guy's beeper go off - such a 90s cliche! Remember in the first season of the Real World when Julie asked Heather, "Why do you have a beeper? Are you a drug dealer?" Hee hee!
Sharon seems to have a caring side to her that she tries to hide. She seems genuinely concerned for Rayanne. However, what can Sharon do to help Rayanne? She can only watch Rayanne implode. The fact that Sharon doesn't attend Rayanne's party is significant.

Rayanne seems to be developing a strong sense of self-loathing. She knows that her drinking is getting out of control, but she cannot stop. She probably doesn't believe that she deserves getting money from her father. Also, on one level she knows getting the money could be bad for her. The money is like a gun she puts to her head. Alcohol and drugs are bullets.

It's funny how long ago 1994 seems today. Almost no one had a home computer, cell phone, or beeper. Back in the day, only doctors and drug dealers had cell phones and beepers. It seems like everyone has a beeper or cell phone today.
TomSpeed

Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
http://www.last.fm/user/TomSpeed/

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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Mar 18th 2003, 7:20 pm

Kristin wrote:I haven't had the time to re-watch this episode yet, so forgive me, but what exactly does Angela in VO say? Does she say, "six months" or "half a year?" If she said "half a year," she could very well mean half the school year, making her relationship with Rayanne start at the beginning of their sophomore year of HS in late August/early Sept and not the April before.

When you are in school, September to June is a year. For example, say you get your ears pierced in April of 2003. The school year ends in June 2003. You see a relative for the first time in a while in November 2003. They ask, "When did you get your ears pierced?" 99% of the time a kid/pre-college student will say "last year," even though it was actually the same calendar year. I know I have. I'm trying really hard to say "last school year" instead so it makes more sense. Okay, now I'm rambling and nitpicking!
Angela says "half a year," and I totally see what you're saying, but we know that this episode takes place shortly after Halloween, and even when the school year started in August I didn't consider the "half year" mark until around Christmas. The latest it could possibly be is November and I just can't believe that Angela would believe that the period from August/September through November was the equivalent of half a year. I think the writers goofed, kinda like the basement thing.
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Mar 18th 2003, 7:21 pm

TomSpeed wrote:If you buy cheap beer, $270 is plenty of money for a party.
I was basing my calculation on the fact that we see Rayanne buying hard liquor out of some guy's trunk in the parking lot, plus the pharmaceuticals that she bought. Maybe it was a BYOB :wink:
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Mar 18th 2003, 7:23 pm

When Rickie lists all the things that Rayanne could spend her birthday money on (instead of giving it to him and Sharon), Rayanne blurts out, "A party!" Is this because Rayanne was not listening at all and totally off in her own world OR is this because she's totally drunk? For the most part, Rayanne does seem to listen to Rickie and Angela when they are having conversations (even if she interrupts them to talk about something else), so this seems a little out of character for her and I blame it on the alcohol!
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You could have sex with me if you really want to help...I guess that's a "no"?

shorty

Post by shorty » Mar 18th 2003, 8:10 pm

I was trying to think of an answer to Candygirl's question about why Rayanne's dad gave her $270 instead of a rounded amount like $250 or $300, and I always envisaged him remembering her birthday at the very last minute, and then running around like a headless chicken searching for bits of cash under his matress or for whatever he had scattered around his house, then just cramming it into a card and scrwaling some message on it after he'd just smoked a spliff![/quote][/b]

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