But let's leave the sepia-toned memories of whip-wielding nuns for a moment and flash forward to today.
These days, on a near-weekly basis, we're confronted with pop musicians, athletes and movie stars who do Very Bad Things and then apologize. But they don't really apologize. Instead, they go into damage-control mode as orchestrated by well-paid advisors - advisors who are desperate to rehabilitate the image of their meal ticket. And these advisors are all singing from the same songbook. It doesn't matter if it's Britney, Lindsay, Michael Vick or any of dozens of others - the refrain is similar:
"I made a wrong choice. I hope to make better choices going forward.*"
Isn't. That. Special.
They made a wrong choice. They would like us to believe it could happen to anyone. If only they had chosen Door #1 because behind it was Reasonable Behaviour! Oh, and look! Behind the curtain that the lovely Doreen is now parting...it's...it's a Heaping Helping of Personal Responsibility coupled with a Smidge of Social Conscience!
But Nooooooooooooo! They had to choose Door #3 and got How To Drive Drunk, Flash Your Crotch, Insult Gays and Kill Dogs. What a bummer.
Woe is them. They made a wrong choice.
Nuh-uh. No sale here. They were selfish, inconsiderate a**holes, at the very least. But I'll admit they didn't get that way by themselves. The wrong choices were made years earlier. By parents. By indifferent schools. By substituting money for caring, presents for companionship. By being raised in a society which values celebrity over all.
As much as their behaviour appalls, I honestly feel sorry for most of these people, many of whom are little more than kids. Values like respect, honesty, dignity and compassion, instead of being ingrained by the time they hit their teens, remain abstract concepts. They can mouth the words, as taught by their agents, managers and lawyers, and they can learn that downcast eyes and a tremulous voice mimics contrition -- but in their heart of hearts, I think most of them just don't get it and probably never will. As long as they have money and flashbulbs going off in their faces, they'll have simpering sycophants whispering about how wonderful they are. And they'll believe them.
Because to do otherwise is to admit there's an emptiness inside that can't be filled with money, red carpets, screaming fans and high-fives. And then what do they have to turn to?
Oh yeah. Drugs, alcohol and brushes with the law.
And so it goes.
* This is my nominee for the phrase of the year that MUST be obliterated, expunged, erased from the lexicon. If you hear or read it, you can be reasonably sure the user is trying to sell you a line of something that is better spread on farmer's fields.
More nice cottage pics at Hilary's blog.