Gene, How did you discuss religion with your children, if that's not too personal a question? This past Sunday, my three-year-old asked me why people were dressed up and going into the church across the street from our local playground. Before she was born, I imagined I'd encourage my religious friends to expose her to a variety of beliefs, give her the chance to come to her own decision. On the other hand, it's all mythology, so why waste her time? Believers don't seem to have any ambivalence about bringing babies to church.
I'm against proselytizing in all matters except two: the virtues of a standard transmission, and the evils of clearcutting pubic hair. Therefore, when the kids were young, I mostly avoided the subject. If asked, I said that some people believe in God and go to church, but mom and I don't happen to. (And tried to avoid the arch, stigmatizing "some people" tone of voice, as in, "some people like to have sex with animals, but..."
If wife and I were trying to create openminded and non-judgmental kids, I think we succeeded: By the time she got to college at UPenn, Molly actually decided to co-major in religion. She'd been denied religion, and was curious.
I don't want to speak for her, but I think her curiosity was more than satisfied; when you examine religion comparatively and historically and respectfully , you understand why it came to be, the purpose it serves, and how certain familiar myths -- say, a divine prophet who died for your sins -- keep recurring, century after century in slightly altered forms.
In the online 11/28 Barney & Clyde strip, my eyes were burned by seeing the word "asendancy". The crowd asks for a culprit!
Sometimes a man says "good morning" and you say "hi, good morning" - and sometimes a guy says "good morning" and you look down to check if your blouse is still buttoned. It's a subtle thing, but to women, who are attuned to the non-verbal and count on our instincts to inform us, it's unmistakable.
I do understand this and I like your example. As I said, my position on sexual harassment has evolved over the years. With some minor exceptions, I am inclined to believe almost anything can genuinely be harassment, depending on tone and circumstance and history.
A guy who once worked for me seemed to me to be a perfect gentlemen who didn't use bad language, didn't proposition women or say inappropriate things. I got several complains from women, though, that he was creepy. It was all about his eyes. They wandered. He was unaware he was doing this. I had to talk to him about it; he was a good guy, and painfully reprogrammed himself.
Meanwhile, this is from The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life And Death, which I wrote 15 years ago:
"The other day I was talking to a colleague of mine, a talented and accomplished profession who, in less enlightened times, might have been described as having excellent hooters. She is one of those women who make it necessary for decent men in the workplace to learn an unnatural method of communication, in which one focuses the entirety of one's apparent attention on the eyes and chin, as though the person to whom you are speaking were a severed head attached to life-sustaining devices.
This method of communcation was first developed by men in the 1970s, when women began breast-feeding as a political act, florping out their personal apparatuses in the middle of restaurants, management training seminars, etc. Fortunately, this practice is on the decline. Now, when women wish to make male coworkers uncomfortable, they weep: copious, rolling torrents of lachrymation, loosed at ludicrously inopportune moments, such as during performance evaluations. Unlike the Breast Florp, the Sudden Weep is not easily countered by a man. There are several strategies, none of them foolproof. You have to do something dramatic to recapture the moment. Some men will wildly applaud. I start speaking in German.
I don't mind being asked if I intend to get pregnant or not. Yes, I fully intend to get pregnant, and I fully intend to use a future employer's health benefits. I will say it proudly to any job interviewer. Although, I will admit, I do fear it may be a good part of why I have never been hired. Oh, does it matter that I am male?
Did you see The Fact Checker picked apart your neighbor's arguments in an intellectual way...and then the commenters savaged him with personal attacks? You have said in the past that he's a nice guy despite his political stances. I'm wondering how you feel about this, and how you can separate the two when he has such odious political views. Obviously he inspires a lot of animus from us liberals.
Okay, I'm not sure I ever said Grover Norquist is a nice guy. I don't know him well enough to say that, and I do find his politics odious. What I said, and is true, is that he is a funny guy. Genuinely witty. This does not necessarily mean nice. When I asked Grover to say something genuinely nice about liberals -- something both true and complimentary -- he said "They make good organ donors."
Gene, do you (or Pat) know the grammatical term for the "he said" or "she exclaimed" part of a sentence? My toddler twins, when playing with dolls, talk like this. "'It's my birthday,' Strawberry Shortcake exclaimed.'" "'Mine too,' said GI Joe.'" Aside from "my kids are nerding out," I'd like to know how to describe this narrative phenomenon-- speaking as if reading. Any ideas?
Uh, it's a pronoun and a verb. But you know that. I'm not sure i even understand the question. Pat, are you there? (I suppose a BJ is STILL out of the question, eh?)
As the owner of a black-and-tan coonhound (whose description would be the same as that of a Plott, except to sub in "dumb as a post"), I have two questions: 1: Does Murphy "talk" to you? My dog is the most vocal I've ever had with an assortment of barks, low and high howls, grumbles, sighs, whines that express his every mood. 2: How's Murphy getting along with the kitten?
2. We have no kitten.
1. Yes, Murphy is the most eloquent dog I've ever had. She has yowls and yowps and, most delicious, "roo's" which she uses when things in her world are not oderly. Dogs love order. When Murphy sees something that does not compute -- say, a jogger doing aerobics against a building, or, as in yesterday, a guy carring a huge poster -- she let's them have it with an indignant ROOO.
I love this dog.
Gene, would the behavior described by the participants in the experiment summarized in the article below qualify as harassment, or at the very least, inappropriate behavior that makes for a toxic work environment? Link
I have only read the headline, but it sure sounds like it to me. This reminds me: In my column on Sunday, I will describe my recent experience in which I was sexually harassed by two beautiful young women. I did not complain.
According to the WaPo Breaking News, it seems He-man Cain is thinking about wimping out of the race, just because the world found out he had a slice on the side.
Wow. Well, he will turn it into an indictment of the media.
Tha'ts not the standard for sexual harrassment: if you meant it. The standard is if it creates an uncomfortable workplace. Many men have said "I didn't mean it!" That doesn't matter: (a) how am I supposed to know if you mean it or not? (b) even if I know you don't mean it, it still is unprofessional and creates an uncomfortable disrespectful intimidating work environment.
Well, right. That's my point. I said I thought The Post handled it fine.
After looking at the poll results...it appears my female colleagues are humorless ninnies. I have to hope that people found who found most of these scenarios offensive and worthy of telling management only felt that way in the context of a question specifically allowing you to be offended, but wouldn't think twice about most of those things in the real working world. 17% think you should complain to management because your boss teased you about being short? Really? Yesterday I told my (slighly older, superior, and male ) lawyer coworker how I was watching a youtube video on Haynesworth stomping Gurode and was amused that (1) it randomly linked to a video of a woman having her nipples pierced and (2) all the comments were either expressing confusion that this was linked from a sports video or disappointment that they never showed her boobs. I should probably have to spend a day in the box.
I basically disagree with you, I think. The problem is that the workplace has been historically hostile to women, and women have different degrees of sensitivity to things, and, logically, you have to behave in a way that accommodates the most sensitive (within reason). I actually don't have a problem with that.
I do also believe that most things -- not all-- can be resolved by conversation, not complaint.
Hi Gene, Like anyone who has read your piece on children being left in cars, I have a clear understanding of the horrific stages of dying that they go through. I was thus VIOLENTLY disturbed to read Iris Johansen's recent novel, "Bonnie", in which the reader finds out that Bonnie died after being locked in the trunk of a car on a hot day. What horrified me is Johansen describing the death as "peaceful, like going to sleep." I can't believe that an editor or a researcher let that by. I assume we can't force Johansen to re-write the book, but she should KNOW better.
A few months ago, MAD Magazine had a one-page cartoon with the following script: A woman notices a car in a parking lot with a baby sweltering to death in the back seat. She grabs a tire iron and smashes in a window, then reaches into the car. Here's the joke: She steals the car radio and runs away! Har har!
Sometimes known as a dialogue tag, for which "said" is almost always better than any alternative.
Yes, as an editor I tended always to counsel "said," which disappears, and doesn't get in the way of what you are trying to say.
The worst such alternative verb, ever: "chuckled."
What would have been your reaction is PtP had sent you an IM that read "I suppose that [complement to a BJ] is out of the question."?
I'm also a nonbeliever, but I took a different tack from you: I send my kids to parochial school. If they are going to make an informed decision later in life, they need to have an educated basis on which to make it. I trust them to make reach their own conclusion when confronted with it in the future, and accept that it may be different than the one I (also a product of parochial school & Catholic high school) reached.
Wow. It's gutsy. I would not have done that, because of the element of indoctrination. Of course, indoctrination can backfire. The Rib is a nonbeliever largely because she was K-12 in Catholic school.
I have mentioned this before, but it wasn't until she got to college that she learned it was called The Protestant Reformation, not The Protestant Revolt.
Gene, I have a question about neighbor responsibility. My husband and I live in a tiny rowhouse on the Hill, and the walls between us and the couple next door are thin. VERY THIN. Since we moved in about a year and a half ago, we've been privy to approximately 3 of their very loud, very unpleasant arguments a week. The first two sounded so terrible that I actually called the cops because I thought there was abuse going on. The wife sought me out after that and said that her husband is "a yeller" and not to be worried. FWIW, I don't think there is physical abuse going on now- just horribly vulgar and offensive things being screamed back and forth. It's pure vitriol, and it sucks to listen to it all.the.time. When we see them on the street, they are cordial to us, but it's definitely not a friendship. I'm wary of approaching either of them because of what I've heard through the walls- especially the husband. They both seem dangerous and quick to anger, and as both of them outweigh me by over 100 lbs I'm reluctant to bring up such a sensitive situation. My husband HATES conflict and thinks we should just ignore it. By the by, these are people who put up signs every Halloween saying "No F-----g Trick-or-Treaters." Is there anything we can do? Have sex really loudly so they understand how thin the walls are? Call the cops every time, which seems a waste of resources? Drop off an anonymous letter, that they'll surely know is from us? Sign them up to receive anger management literature in the mail? Or is this just a price to pay for city living?
I don't think there is much you can do. They sound like bad people to rile.
As a trusted authority on the English language, I come to you with a question. Squirrel: one syllable or two? I can see merits to both answers. In favor of one, the sounds swirl together so much that it's hard to separate them like you normally can with multi-syllable words ("nor-ma-ly", "hu-mor", etc). On the other hand, saying it definitely requires two distinct mouth movements -- you start at the front of the mouth, and then go to the back -- and isn't that a definition of a syllable? What say you?
Dictionaries say two syllables. I say two syllables. Tongue-palate communication says two syllables.
In deep Brooklyn, it is one: "Squoil." And this is the term I use with Murphy. I say squoil, and she looks around for one.
I have a similar religion question. Did you celebrate the holidays with the kids? I was raised Jewish and my husband Christian. He's an agnostic and I'm an athiest. We don't want the kids not to have warm holiday memories so we put up a tree and light candles. my son is now 3 and asking a lot of questions. We are not sure what to tell him.
We always celebrated Christmas. Tree and everything. It's pagan.
Actually, they're the subject and the verb of the sentence. The rest, the quote, is just part of the predicate. And Gene, I think I probably was smiling not really at the Only Gene Would method of trying to make up, but that you cared enough to try.
Well, I did. I do.
Hi Gene! So who do you like in the Republican primary? I started out a Romney fan but Gingrich is impressing me more each day. I know you're a hard-left Liberal, but I am curious: If you had to pick one, which Republican primary candidate do you despise least?
Gingrich is amoral and a complete megalomaniac.
The two plausible candidates are the two Mormons. I would not fear for the Republic if either Romney or Huntsman were president. The rest of the field is completely ridiculous, and the reason is that most reasonable people took themselves out early when it became obvious they would have to pander to the Tea Party lunacy.
I humbly urge you to re-read my column from a few weeks ago. A surprising number of readers told me that even after the elaborate set-up, they didn't realize that the main body of the column was written, literally, in words of one syllable.
Kudos to Post copy editor Jennifer Abella, by the way, who -- after I had meticulously policed the copy for accidental breaches of the one-syllable rule -- at the last minute found an "about," an "into," a "faces." and an "any."
I struggled in today's polls with the (general) absence of a middle ground. Offended employees have a choice besides keeping their mouths shut and complaining to management, and it is direct conversation with the offending employee. I know it may not have fit what you were trying to do with the poll, but this is a particularly sensitive subject for me because I was once accused of harassment because an employee interpreted certain behaviors (i.e. asking about her weekend) in a threatening way and never once said to me, 'These questions make me uncomfortable. Please don't do that.' Instead, she went straight to management and there was a lot of collateral damage, mostly to me. My hope is this: people should be able to say, "Please don't do this," and other people should be able to say, "Okay, I won't," without it turning into a big thing.
I completely agree, but if I had put in "Talk it over" in most answers, everyone would have chosen that. I needed to create a starker choice.
Here's the thing about sexual harassment...sometimes a man says, "hey, I just noticed that that you are the same height as my wife!" and it means that they just noticed that you are the same height as their wife - and another guy says it and you KNOW it means, "I know exactly how far you have to bend to give me a b***-j**." We just know. I've had conversations with men that are insanely inappropriate and taken no offense - and had conversations with others that were perfectly appropriate and walked away feeling like I needed a shower. It's not about how attractive the men are, or what position they hold (snort), married, single, black, white, etc. Ask the women in your life. There is nothing to point to, no one thing, not a tone or a wink or a pose or a look. We just know. The overt harassment is easy to deal with. It's the sneeringly subtle not-technically-doing-anything-wrong guys that are the worst.
Whoa. You just answered my big old puzzlement. I completely disbelieved Cain's explanation of the first alleged harassment offense -- the seemingly innocuous observation about height -- because it seemed bizarre and far-fetched that such a thing would engender a complaint. Then, the following day, Kathleen Parker gave it some credence. Made no sense to me.
So, you are saying the evil subtext might be BJ?? Is that possible?
I tell my children there was a God, but because they've been bad, the Easter Bunny killed Him. Is that good parenting?
it's okay, but you need details of the execution. It has to be better than crucifixion.
Q: What's it called if the whole Jesus story is made up?
This is a true story, and I can supply the blog reference if you need: A problem with thin walls is that sometimes noises are misunderstood. I am against violence. Yet, I have friends, and I respect their rights to seek what they like, who mutually enjoy a BDSM relationship. A problem is: someone once called the police thinking there was domestic violence going on. They had to show the originally disbelieving cops their equipment, videos, etc. to convince them that it was all consensual. Still, I don't blame the person who called. I would rather act and be wrong and not act and be right. I fear all too often people see things and look the other way.
Wow. Good story.
Hi Gene - What's your idea for the next book?
I am not at liberty to say.
Be funny at home. You're not paid to be funny at work, you're paid to make/sell/design the widgets. Do your job, be professional and tell jokes at open mike night at the bar.
Humor is valuable in the creative process.
Speaking of kids in cars, three students in my college program recently broke into a car to "rescue" a chihuahua. Later, the head of the program sent out an email reprimanding the students and reminding everyone it is against the law to break into someone's car and the first thing that should be done is call the police or campus security. After talking with some other students we mostly agreed that we couldn't see ourselves breaking into someone's car even if we were really worried about the dog. But if we saw it as a group, maybe we would do it. So, would you break into a car on a sweltering day to save a dog?
Absolutely. But I'd need to be sure the animal was in extremis. Otherwise, cops.
Listen, if you'd break in to save a child, why on earth would you not to save a dog?
Hey, that save-a-life teaser from earlier? It's about dogs. Can anyone guess what I am going to say at the end of the chat? If you nail it, you get Fiddler in the Subway. But you have to totally nail it.
Didn't you once say you brought a cat home and Murph adopted it?
Ah, yes, briefly. Can went elsewhere.
I've recently noticed a pea-sized (in diameter) bump just under my skin on my left forearm. It seems to be on my radius almost exactly in between my elbow and wrist. I can see it because there's a slight discoloration there, like it appears like it's a bruise that's mostly healed, yet it never fully bruised. It's not a very big bump, height wise. Should I be concerned about this?
It is probably a lipoma -- a fat pimple, basically. But it is always smart to get lumps looked at, particularly if they change dimensions.
is it rude to gift some dog training sessions to my sister before my son is born this winter? My kid sister is my only close family member, geographically and emotionally. But she comes with a 60 lb lab/pit/boxer mix, who while very loving is a bundle of energy and bad behavior. You name the Marmaduke-like bad deed, and he's done it. He unknowingly boxes strangers in the face and knocks over people on the sidewalk. We've had success in training our pup, a bird dog who would happily knock over a small child to get to a juicy pigeon but knows that if he's good, a yummy treat will come his way. From one dog lover to another, would it be beyond rude to get my sister the gift of some one-on-one dog training sessions? My thought is that she won't be able to visit with the pup after our son is born for some time unless the pup is under control, because as much as I love my sister, I will go a little batty if her dog turns my kid into a punching bag. I'd ask this question of Hax or someone, but I'm more interested in your perspective as a dog person.
Hm. I like this question.
Yeah, it's rude. But I'd do it if I were you, and you can do it with some poignancy and humor. It really IS about your loving your sister and wanting her around, while not having to worry about the simultaneous survival of your baby.
Make that clear.
Gene, There is one aspect of the spousal abuse issue that I didn't see addressed in your update. A few years ago while walking through my kitchen I tripped over a pair of shoes and fell forward, breaking a bone in my hand. I explained to the doctor what had happened and was surprised when he not only x-rayed and examined my hand but carefully examined my arms and legs for other injuries. I realized he was looking for corroborating evidence (bruises on my knees) that the fall happened as I described. It is possible your wife's only injury was to her face, but I suspect she also had scrapes or bruising on her knees or elbows and abrasions from the leash on her hand or wrist. Did the doctor look for those at all? I think any reputable medical professional would do just that.
This is in reference to my chat update item about having a wife with a black eye, and the suspicion you must live under. Haley, can you link to that?
I suspect you misunderstand what the doctor was looking for, kid.
I think he was looking to see if there were any old scars or bruises. Signs of battery.
I find it interesting that the polls results are so similar between the genders. That is a good thing, right?
Yeah. Actually, the guys are mostly a little more outraged. A good thing.
Here's harassment of a different sort -- maybe. Given all the issues protected by Title VII, what do you think of Christmas decorations in a corporate office? One hallway is covered in a "Merry Christmas" streamer, a cardboard Christmas ornament that reads "Merry Christmas," a poster of Santa Claus, and a poster of a Christmas tree. I get it -- they're jovial. But I'm Jewish, and I feel like it reinforces the sense that anyone else is an outsider. (Imagine posters that read "Girl power!" or "Being married rocks!") Are they exclusionary, or am I a Grinch?
Well, I am a militant, obnoxious atheist, and I don't much care about this stuff. Christmas is not about Jesus. It's about people being seasonally happy. I have never been offended when ordered to have a merry Christmas.
On the one hand, I can't see how Newt can be a serious contender for the White House, after having already worn out his welcome once and wandered off into the sunset. Then again, history tells us that after 1962 we thought we wouldn't "have Nixon to kick around any more". And yet...
Hm. That is frightening, but true.
What's going to kill Newt, if he remains viable, are the details of his personal finances over the years he was out of politics.
Republicans are not some monolithic, right-wing, uptight coalition. Your constant stereotyping is actually fear-mongering for liberals to scare those of lower economic strata into voting for Democrats. And while I'm at it - very sexist of you to have nothing but male supervisors and female underlings in all your poll questions.
I am not stereotyping anyone. I am describing your candidates, the persons who are competing for the GOP nomination, chosen by constituencies that find them appealing.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not always but most often men harassing women.
Is it the Washington SPCA's Champagne Soiree on Dec. 2?
How does that save a life?
You want us to donate to the Shelter Pet Project?
No, it is much more exciting! It is bloodcurdling!
I would not have interpreted the remark as BJ-specific, but definitely involving physical contact (hugging, dancing, sexing). We all know how awkward it is to do these things with someone who is disproportionately tall or short. I would take it as "we would fit together really well." Creep.
I believe you, but wow. It would never occur to me that there is anything wrong with that observation.
A friend mentioned to me a couple of days ago that his wife, who's from California, says "THANKS-giving" rather than "Thanks-GIV-ing." I had never heard of such a thing -- except that since then, I have heard three other people say it. Do a lot of people there say THANKS-giving? It IS more logical: I'm giving thanks -- i'm thanks-giving. -- Pthep
This I never hoid. Ever.
A question for GENE on PRONUNCIATION? Hahahahahahahaha. Ha. Sniff. Gene thinks the word "what" rhymes with "squat."
And I still do! This is a total mystery to me.
Can anyone find that column I wrote about this?
Someone wrote into a Hax a couple weeks ago asking if a friend was committing animal abuse by making fun of how dumb her dog is. So, assuming this equals abuse, just how guilty are you of animal abuse?
Gene, Any advice on how to explain to your 3 or 4 year old about who Jesus is in the manger. I'm an atheist (former believer) and am having a hard time figuring out what to say to my girls when they ask who is the baby in the manger. I really don't want to have a conversation explaining why he is a myth (and wasn't born on 12/25, etc., etc.) and at the same time tell her that Santa is fake as well. So how do you tell them that one is make believe and not feel like a hypocrite b/c you're also reassuring them that Santa will not forget our house. Or do I just tell them that one is responsible for starting a religion responsible for millions of deaths throughout the years and his father was a geonocidal nutjob too, and the other one brings you gifts.
You might need some anger management.
I would explain that the baby is Jesus, whom Christians believe to be the son of God.
Will you be reminding people to rescue older dogs from shelters? If not, would you anyway?
No, that is not it, but I do so remind y'all. The best dog I've ever had, Murphy, was a shelter dog. The worst dog I ever had -- the insane Annie -- was from a breeder.
Of course we guys don't get the pregnancy question. But we do get out own version of that question. On several job interviews I have been asked about my marital status, or if I have a serious girlfriend. I'm not sure if that's just the interviewer just being friendly or if the interviewer is trying to determine if I'm gay.
This is a tricky area. Apparently it is also not permissible to ask the age of the person.
From Ogden Nash: A virile young squirrel named Cyril In an argument over a girl Was lambasted from here to the Tyrol By a churl of a squirrel named Earl.
Is still two syllables. And this comes from the heart of Brooklyn. However, more accurately squirrel here is pronounced "bastard get out of my garden!"
Hm. You might be right. It is sort of SQUOY-IL, isn't it?
You didn't address this in your opening, so I'm wondering where you came down on the potty mouth at work? I'm of the mind that you're professional adults and if you can't handle the occasional f-bomb or other colorful language, then you need a new line of work.
Yeah, I agree with you. Sorry, meant to mention it. But to me the issue is whether he is belittling people, or being hostile. If it is just part of his adjectival lexicon, just grow up. It's no different from a coworker with an accent you don't like, or who says "axe" instead of ask. Live with it.
"Just think if you'd want some middle aged guy saying that to your daughter at work." He said it helped him get it.
Yep, I totally get that.
Your comment "It would never occur to me that there is anything wrong with that observation" is part of the point to me. I know that we need to make sure that no one is subjected to a hostile work environment, but it seems like we have lost the ability to interpret what a person MEANT with their comment and are solely working on how it was PERCEIVED. That is very scary. I think that if someone is a well meaning person and it seems likely based on their history that they didn't mean to create the environment, that should matter. But often the answer is that it made someone uncomfortable so the person must be punished. This stuff is so tough to balance. But I think a lot of the female commenters here have hinted at the same thing, they often know whether it was intended to be lewd or not. But I don't think justice should be not only blind but stupid.
See the next answer.
Seriously? I might notice that someone is just as tall as my friend Mark because he's 6'5" but it's not because I'm imagining how our bodies would fit together, because Mark and I have never fit together. It's just because they're the same height. Do most people really have constant thoughts about sex in that manner?
I think it depends on the leer, the attitude, the context. Reasonable people in this chat are saying that can see how it could seem sleazy, and I accept that. I thought Kathleen Parker was nuts, but I am hearing otherwise.