Ever heard this expression? It came up this morning over breakfast. Bill and I were talking about a recent news story and he said, “I think those people are ‘grasping at straws’, trying to save themselves.”
I thought about that for a moment, then decided to look up the etymology of where that phrase came from. It turns out the expression “grasping at straws” has a number of claimed sources ranging from works published in the 1300s until the 1700s. Prior to the mid 1800s, we didn’t “clutch” at straws or “grasp” at straws. Instead, we’d “catch” at straws.
“Grasping at straws” refers to a person who is drowning and grasping at anything, including flimsy reeds, to try to rescue him or herself. It’s generally inferred that a person who is “grasping at straws” is acting in desperation and futility and will be unable to save his or herself from destruction. Below is a video prepared by an erudite British gentleman who describes what “grasping at straws” means.
I think of Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, both of whom are currently in legal hot water because they’ve been accused of money laundering and fraud. Unlike other people involved in the so-called “Varsity Blues” case, Loughlin and Giannulli elected not to make a deal with prosecutors. They decided they didn’t want to make a deal because they were certain they would be able to convince a jury of their innocence. Lori Loughlin, after all, memorably played the ever perky “Aunt Becky” on Full House and Fuller House for years. She’s made a lot of money playing sweet, wholesome, girl next door types. It’s hard to conceive of her as a criminal.
Making a deal with the prosecutors meant Loughlin and her husband would almost definitely have to go to jail. It might have only been for a short time, given their somewhat clean legal histories. But, because they couldn’t bear the idea of going to jail, Loughlin and Giannulli have decided to take their chances with a jury trial. Now, it appears that they could do some hard time. Their situation may soon become desperate and they might now be “grasping at straws” to try to save themselves from prison.
Naturally, Hollywood has also taken an interest in this case. A made for TV movie is planned for the Lifetime network about “Varsity Blues”. I’m not surprised this is happening, given that another high profile star, Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives fame, is also involved in the scandal. It’s perfect fodder for the “television for women” network. Huffman and Loughlin won’t be playing themselves, though, because there’s a chance one or both of them might be behind bars.
When I think of someone who is about to become very desperate, Lori Loughlin and her husband both come to mind. While I don’t condone what they did, I do have some compassion for their situation. I’m sure being in an A list crowd like theirs is makes them believe that their daughters can’t succeed unless they go to an A list school like the University of Southern California. Loughlin has claimed it’s what any “caring mom” would do for her child, given the means. Huffman, on the other hand, was smart enough to see the writing on the wall, admit guilt, and take a deal.
Actually, I think caring moms would encourage their children to succeed on their own and make their own way. Loughin and Giannulli have two gorgeous daughters who were already succeeding in creating brands for themselves. Olivia Jade Giannulli has been particularly successful in her ad campaigns with major brands, although she’s lost business since her parents got caught in the scandal. One could argue that they didn’t even need to go to college. Olivia Jade has outright said she doesn’t care about school and is mainly there to appease her parents, who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college.
It’s tragic to me that this very beautiful young woman who already has a career was taking a coveted spot at a top university that a truly deserving student could have had. She doesn’t care about school, so she should drop out and let someone else take her place. I feel kind of sad for her, personally, too. It’s likely her parents are about to go to the big house, and they could be there for a very long time. That is sure to be a source of embarrassment and humiliation for her, especially since going to the university was her parents’ dream, not Olivia’s.
People tend to grasp at straws when they are faced with certain disaster. They look for anything and everything that might work to help them get out of whatever fine mess they’ve gotten themselves into. The vast majority of the time, grasping at straws is ineffective and leads to a swift drowning by the facts. It’s usually better to just face the music and work toward settling issues, rather than conjuring up harebrained schemes that aren’t likely to work. Lori Loughlin and her husband probably should have just bitten the bullet and taken a deal. On the other hand, who knows? Maybe this situation will end like O.J. Simpson’s first trial did. Maybe they’ll get away with bribing an official to get their daughters into prestigious USC. Maybe they’ll just get a slap on the wrist. But the odds are, this is not going to be pretty for them… and grasping at straws is going to get them nowhere.