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Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Jul 31, 2012

Join Gene Weingarten Tuesday, July 31 during his monthly chat with readers.

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Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

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On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

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Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

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Good afternoon.

Dear God: Would it be asking too much to get Mitt to refer to the Poles as "Polacks"?  Feel free to take my left one in payment.  Thanks!

So, I got into the middle of a journalistic brouhaha last week over whether it is okay to show your story to a source before it is published.  I said no, as ferociously as possible, and I am going to explain why with a true-life anecdote that is so persuasive and interesting it will give each and every one of you an orgasm right at your desk.
I realize, though, that this might bore the one or two of you who, for reasons related to your inadequacy as humans, might have no interest in the endless umbilicus contemplation by journalists.   So before giving you leave to skip over the rest of the introduction, I want to tell you something that happened in my house just this last weekend. It’s very accessible and non-journalistic, about groceries.  The key is that what follows is verbatim, and occurred in complete seriousness.   It illustrates Life With Me. 
I was heading out to the market to pick up some items, and as I left the house, because I am not famous for feats of memory, The Rib interrogated me.
The Rib:  Okay, what are you getting?
Me:  Eggs.  Corn.   Butter.   Cottage cheese.
The Rib:  Very good!    Do you want to write it down?
Me:  (deeply indignant) No!
The Rib:  Fine.
Me:  (struggling for a mnemonic)  Uh,  E, C, B, C.     C B E C.    Uh.   Damn.
The Rib:  What?
Me:  I could remember “Becca,” but there is no A.
The Rib:  Okay.  Get aluminum foil.
Me:  Good.
Okay, so the journalistic contretemps and foofaraw arose after a somewhat embarrassing story appeared in The Texas Observer, which got hold of an email exchange between a Washington Post reporter and officials of the University of Texas.  The emails disclosed that the reporter had shown his finished story (about standardized testing) to University officials before publication, inviting their comments and criticisms, offering to negotiate any disputed wording, etc.    The Observer thought this was craven behavior, letting a source in effect help edit a story about itself.
Erik Wemple, the excellent, conscientious media blogger for The Washington Post, disagreed.  Wemple felt that the reporter was merely being thorough in his fact-checking, and should be congratulate, not condemned, for that.   
In the comments to his blog post, I told Wemple, respectfully, that he was a wussbag of the first water, an apologist for a seriously wimpy practice in which a reporter is ceding undue editorial influence to the person least likely to be objective about that story; I said I’m all for getting a story right, but that this represents a ridiculous level of reportorial insecurity; that that in subtle ways, the reporter who shares his story is opening himself up to coercion, and that the result would tend to be a story overly sympathetic to the source.   Other journos joined in the discussion spiritedly, on various nuanced sides of this important issue.
HEY!! WAKE UP!   Good stuff is about to happen.
In thinking more about this, I realized that I had a personal experience that illustrated this problem quite nicely.   It involves Fatal Distraction, my 2009 story about parents who accidentally leave their babies to die in hot cars.
(No, you don’t have to read it again.)
A few days before deadline, the story had been written and edited, and it had the perfect end: A deeply moving declaration by Lyn Balfour that she would offer to carry a baby for the Carol and Miles Harrison if they could not have one on their own. It brought everything together in a way that allowed this dreadfully sad story to end on a note of hope and love and generosity.  It was also thematically satisfying.   The story simply HAD to end that way. 
The problem was, I didn’t have permission to use it.  Lyn had told it to me weeks before, entirely on background.   And although I had confirmed the truth of it with the Harrisons (Lyn had actually already broached the offer to them), that didn’t matter.  Without Lyn’s permission, I was ethically prohibited from using it.  There was no moral wiggle room, no convenient re-reading of the rules of journalism.   And Lyn had been adamant: She was deeply worried how this declaration would make her look: Attention-hungry?  Bossy?  Just plain weird?
So a few days before deadline, I went to see Lyn in Charlottesville.  I brought a copy of the story with me.    I told her why I wanted to put her quote on the record, and how I would use it, and what I meant it to say about her and the Harrisons, and about the powerful, almost mystical connections felt by all parents who had endured this tragedy.   I explained to her that the story presented her as a complicated character -- in some ways hard to like, in others very admirable.  This complex characterization of the central figure in the story was one of its strongest points.
Lyn still wasn't sure.   I still didn’t have her okay.
So I took out my copy of the piece, and sat there in her living room for an excruciating hour, summarizing it, paragraph by paragraph, top to bottom.  It was as close as I’ve ever come to showing a story to a source.   I gave no details -- just accurate, adjectivally starved summaries:  "In this paragraph, I say you are blunt," etc.    In that way she could really understand the story in complete context.  And after hearing that, she gave her okay.
Now, had I given Lyn the entire story to read, she would have seen some specific phrasing that would have bothered her.   I had come to like and respect her a great deal, but my portrayal of her was unsparing and, at times, judgmental. One line in particular: "She has a weak chin but a strong mouth, which she uses without much self-editing."    
Lynn is a intelligent and canny and headstrong, and not at all bashful about making her views known.  She knows how to press an advantage.  Had I shown her this story in its entirety, one of two things would have happened.   The less likely is that she would have directly or subtly negotiated that line out of the piece in return for giving me what I wanted.   More likely, though, she wouldn’t have had to:  I am pretty sure that with this much at stake, I would have preemptively taken that line out – and maybe others – rather than risk offending her and losing the kicker.   The fact is, as a private person, under rules of  privacy, she probably had the right to retract anything she said, right up  time of publication.
Had I shown her the story, the story would have changed.  It would have been less ambivalent about her, presenting a more benign, and less accurate, portrait. It would have moved further from my subjective truth.  
Why should a reporter set himself up for that?  I discharged my responsibilities honestly to Lyn. I suspect she didn’t love that line, and maybe she was uncomfortable with other parts of the piece, but I know that on balance she liked the story and felt it was fair.
She’d had no ability to negotiate a less judgmental tone, because I hadn’t ceded her that ability.
I am absolutely certain that things like this happen routinely – usually on a less dramatic scale – whenever sources are shown stories.   A story thus negotiated can only get shaped in one direction: Soft-serve.
In his Ombudsman’s column the other day, Patrick Pexton agreed, as did executive editor Marcus Brauchli, who is tightening rules about source-sharing.   

Okay, good then.   Please take today’s poll, also about journalism!
We start answering questions at noon.

I was pretty luke-warm about the column, both in terms of appropriateness for a "family" newspaper and in it actually being humor. But then you got to the notioniial Dr. Ophelia W. It then become both laugh-out-loud funny and wildly inappropriate. Seriously Gene, did you really think you could use a woman whose name was "I will play with a man's private parts"? How do you think the Post would handle this if it was a real woman's name?

The editors in Buffalo and elsewhere didn't seem to have a problem with that!   But I officially take your point., 

By the way, I invited Lynn Medford, the editor of the magazine, to join the conversation; she may do so later.   She may have some thoughts about Ms. Ophelia Wiener that she might share.  

I have a theory that I have articulated before about the nature of editing controversial things.   It's called It’s the Law of Diminishing Investment. (LDI)   Here’s what happens:  A decision must be made about whether something is Appropriate.  Each time the decision is punted upstairs, because nobody wants to take responsibility for it,  the new person making the decision is less invested in the story.  The first person, your direct editor, has an important working relationship with you and is a partner in the story.  He's spent time on it.  It's going into his section.  If he kills it, he needs to replace it.  His decision will be made more on the basis of objective views of the product: Is it creative?  Funny?  Etc.  He will be less invested than YOU in it, but still pretty invested.

At each successive level, it becomes less about the objective quality of the product and more about The House Rules.   Precedent.   Dignity.    The Integrity of the Institution.  

So, to me, the first editor on the spot has to take on a big reponsibility.   The "cover your butt" instinct needs to be weighed hard against the knowledge that the higher I kick this, the more likely it's going to be thrown away.     

The initial editor is also kicking it upstairs with a figurative Post-It note on it, saying he has reservations.  Maybe he doesn't really have reservations, he just wants his tail covered.  That may be so, but that's not the signal that's being sent.   What's being sent is not a  neutral signal. 

Gene, I was born in an election year -- 1968 -- and have voted in all presidential races since 1988. After November, I hope to have the opportunity to vote in another 10. This will put me at 84 years old. What is interesting is that there is no idea what the changes in politics will be in the next 40 years. Did folks in 1912 forsee the rise of FDR liberalism? It is also interesting to see how shadows of influential presidents impact politics for many years even for the opposition party: Ike and Nixon were moderates in response to FDR, Clinton and Obama were/are moderate in response to Reagan. I hope that there is one more hefty dose of liberialism before my voting time ends. I fear, however, that the well-monied interests will never allow this to occur.

You wrote "Liberialism."   I hope we never get there.  Liberia is not a good model. 

You know, Obie was supposed to be a classic liberal.   But he's had some feet of clay. 

Speaking of Obama, I just absolutely loved this piece in Outlook this weekend.  Just a brilliant exegesis by Drew Westen  on the vast political mistakes Obama has made, putting him in jeopardy of losing to a totally inept candidate and disagreeable man. 


Of course, if you HAD let Lyn Balfour read the story, you might have written that she earned a bronze star rather than won it.

Exactly.  I would have corrected that egregious error. 

The Urology Team needs a first-rate public relations person. Could you persuade your colleague Dan Balz to take a buyout and become the spokesman for The Urology Team? It would be a match made in aptonym heaven.

Indeed.  They have a pretty good one: They give out t-shirts that say "I got Chopped by the Urology Team."

.....and I'll tell you why. Yes, I see why WaPo collectively felt the sweat on the back of the neck while deciding whether this was too vulgar (in the Latin sense) for the Sunday paper, but two things make me love it. 1. You've run aptonyms before and this is the PERFECT STORM of them. How can one hold back. More seriously, 2. Dr. Chopp was a witty and sporting fellow about the whole thing. One of the things I love most about your humor is when it profiles someone in that situation who hasn't taken life too seriously and formed a protective crust of "grumpitude" in defense. He was funny! (So funny I initially thought you made him up, like I thought you made up Gina Barreca.) The world needs more people like Dick Chopp, who can laugh at life and join in the joke. Keep finding them and profiling them to the world!

Thanks. Actually a chatter just sent me a link to a man with a name so amazing I am going to call him for a column.  I'm not running the question because I don't want to tip off the rest of the American Weird Name Press. 

What elevates the column from a little funny to hilarious is the doctor's acknowledgement of the phenomenon. So much better than him taking offense or pretending not to know what you were talking about.

In my years of interviewing people with odd names, only one was completely unfunny and stuffy about it:  A Mr. Richard Head.   I wrote about him, and his stuffiness worked. 

Sigh....I know you've answered this many times in the past. Sorry, but my (admittedly desultory) search of the archives didn't answer my question. What is the technique YOU (not Nero Wolfe) use to prepare sweet corn? Having broken my Rex Morgan habit, I am now trying desparately to be a recovering corn boiler. Help me. 'Tis the season, after all. As as side note, still related to your various themes, for the first time in 38 years, I am the human to a dog. Yes, it's been a lot of fun. She seems to like me. Colorado Springs

Cook only corn in the husk.  Do not buy any that have been raped open, even slightly, by that disgusting genre of shopper who arrogates unto him or herself the right of inspection for god knows what reason. 

Cook in an oven (or grill outside) at high heat until the husks are brown, even black in places, turning a few times.  This will be somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes.   

Unhusk right before eating. 

It's the only truly great corn.  

Gene - Re your first, it's not asking too much, and I've been asking the same thing for days. Just would wind up the trip fabulously.

He'll probably come up with something better, though. 

Do we all know that many years ago, when she was a young city official in New York, in charge of civil rights, Eleanor Holmes (pre-Norton) accidentally used the Polack word instead of Pole?  I was a teenager, and remember it. 

That's all.

He has now visited two countries and farted in both.  This is exciting. 

You know, what I found most interesting about his speeches in Israel was how ridiculously cold-blooded-businessman they were.   Giving the Israelis lectures about comparative Gross Domestic Products and whatnot. 

He is a funny candidate.  The funniest, maybe, since Perot.  Maybe funnier.   He might be in Dukakis territory.  

So there's an outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis going on in Greece right now. A Greek triple jumper tweeted, "With so many Americans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of St. Louis will eat homemade food!!!" I thought it was a funny joke, although I confess there is a little "Yankee Go Home" subtext to it. But apparently the Greek Olympic committee found the joke racist, and banned the triple jumper from the Olympic team. Oh wait, oops, that's what happened in an alternate universe. What actually happened in our universe is that there's an outbreak of West Nile virus going on in Greece right now. So the Greek triple jumper tweet was really "With so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food!!!" The part about the Greek Olympic committee banning her is true, though. I celebrate diversity, I oppose xenophobia, and I agree that there's a bit of a xenophobic subtext to the joke. I'm not wild about the Greek triple jumper's association with far-right ultranationalism. I realize that mocking powerful American tourists is different from mocking less powerful African immigrants. I realize that covert racism and overt racism are both problems in parts of our society's humor and parts of our society at large. But... I don't think that particularly tweet was actually racist, and I find the joke at least a little funny and at least a little clever. Am I crazy?

Yeah, I don't know why the athlete was banned.   I don't see overt racism.  The thinking was probably that a group of people were defined as "food," possibly, in a stretch, sort of marginalizing them as subhuman.   But boy that takes extreme sensitivity to nuance.   I'm with you on this. 

In my life I have been quoted in quite a number of news articles (probably over 20), and I have never demanded to review my quotes or to review the story. However, I don't do that because of something else I usually do demand: when I know a reported intends to quote me, I first insist on a completely off-the-record-not-for-quotation-in-any-way discussion with notebook closed. During this preliminary discussion, I have a conversation with the reporter like I would with a normal person. I exaggerate for emphasis, I ask some questions myself to make sure the reporter is understanding or where they're coming from, I discuss tangentally related topics about which I lack expertise to provide context. Then once I have a sense of how well the reporter really "gets" what's going on (and usually they do, but sometimes they just don't) I go on the record for the reporter to ask whatever they want. In this way I know that I have served both (competing) purposes of a journalistic interview: 1) to give the reporter and reader a true understanding of what is really happening, and 2) to give the reporter actual quotations they can use to illustrate the story. This two-step interview process is more work for both of us, but I think it winds up better for both the source and the reader.

I think that is great.  The main danger is to you: That you'll initially say something provocative, and then be put in the position of seeming like a weaselly wuss.   But if you have the strenth to withstand that, I think your sytem is exceptional and would lead to greater ultimate Truth. 

To be completely clear -- you don't soak the corn in the husk first? You just put dry corn in the husk right on the grill?

Agh!  Thank you!!! 

Yes, I soak em.  It's vital.  For at least ten minutes!  

Whew.  I owe you one. 

I love it when I look up the origin of the word and the result is a big "who knows? Nobody." It's more fun to make it up. Like the Italians who always wore oversized galoshes that went "wopwopwopwop" while they walked.

I do believe there is an answer to the origin of "wop," though.  Isn't it "WithOut papers?"   I seem to remember reading this authoritatively.   

I also recall that many people were given the middle name of Nmi at Ellis Island.    A confusion over the abbreviation for "no middle Initial"

In your opinion, what killed the Polack joke? Was it the Solidarity movement, which made people outside Poland uneasily aware of the gallant spirits there, thus making teh jokes suddenly seem a LOT less funny, or had the phenomenom simply run its course?

I think in general, society has grown uncomfortable with ethnic jokes, which is not a bad thing.  But yes, I remember someone saying -- it might have been me -- when the Solidarnosc thing started, "Polish jokes don't seem so funny anymore, do they?"

Do you choose the headlines of your columns? Specifically, I had to explain to my foreign born wife where the term "Sloppy Firsts" came from.

That was sort of a daring one.   It bore the advantage of sailing right over the head of those who didn't know the reference, doing no harm.  

Rape is not a neutral word in my family. When I hear the word "rape," I hear "that horrifying thing that happened to my sister." When I hear that word, I think of my outgoing, effervescent sister becoming withdrawn and timid. I think of her subsequent issues with depression and substance abuse. I think of her moving back in with my parents because she was afraid to live alone. I think of her sleeping with a night light because she was afraid of the dark. I think of a terribly damaged, fragile person who has had to work extremely hard in therapy to recover the semblance of a normal life. And for that reason, I cannot find it "funny" or even just "immature" to suggest it would be acceptable for someone else to have to experience the horror that is rape. There are good rape jokes. Jokes that empower victims, that point out the inadequacies of a person who rapes, or that make important social commentary on an issue that is difficult for us as a society to speak about openly. But what Daniel Tosh did was none of those things. What he said was not even a joke. He wished a heckler would shut up and instead of responding intelligently or humorously, he threw out a word that, statistically speaking, is an emotional grenade for 1 in 5 women in that audience - and who knows how many friends and family of victims were there as well. People who have been raped or love someone who has been raped cannot treat that word casually. Daniel Tosh has a Constitutional right to say anything he wants, but if he wants to use that word successfully, he needs to understand its power and consequences.

Thank you.   I agree with all of this.   I think people who are defending Tosh are mostly doing so in support of a comic's generalized license to offend.   The specifics in this case are awful.  It wasn't funny, and it was weirdly personal.  He said he thought if would be funny if a particular women in the audience was raped.   

I also agree that you can be funny on this subject, as Louis CK was here. 

a) he looks like you b) he clearly understands that farts are funny. Link

I don't see how every woman in this chat could fail to fall in love with him. 

Gene - if the Post really wanted to serve its readers, it would spike those awful columns where you literally phone it in and call the 800 numbers on products, har har har. And I say that as a fan of 90 percent of your work.

I get equal numbers of emails saying that those are the worst columns of mine as I do saying they are my best.   The single most polarizing genre. 

Of course it is possible to be pro-choice and genuinely antiabortion, Gene. Do this thought experiment: What do you think of neo-Nazi protests? Don't like 'em, huh? You condemn them in every instance, right? And you make no apologies for morally judging the participants? But....should the government ban them? When the commenter wrote in "I'm pro-choice by anti-abortion," you interpreted "pro-choice" to mean something like "unwilling to be sanctimonious and judge people's choice to have an abortion." But one can favor letting people be free to make a choice and still judge people who make a choice we disagree with. I bet you make just such judgments every day. Personally, I don't judge women who have abortions, but I understand people who do, and it's not necessarily a sexist view, and can be readily reconciled with believing that abortion should be legal. One can simultaneously believe that a fetus is a form of human life with moral standing and that ending that life (for reasons other than protecting one's own life) is the wrong moral choice, AND believe that a pregnant woman's interest in bodily autonomy is so strong that she nonetheless has the right to be the one to make that choice.

Don't disagree with any of this.  The point I was making, I think, is that no one is pro-abortion. Everyone is anti-abortion, in the sense of wishing there were fewer of them.   The term pro-choice is a very precise one.   

Actually, I suppose I am pro-abortion in certain cases.  I personally favor abortion as an alternative to certain births.  But even THERE I am pro-choice.   Choice overrides almost everything.  In most cases. 

Hey, just FYI, I think we are on a pace to set the record for the most questions asked and answered in a chat.   Good work, peeps. 

Can you think of any cases that justify saying "utilize" instead of "use"? I can't, and am trying to figure out why the word even exists.

I've written utilize.   It's got a slightly wonky / tech connotation, sort of mild self-parody.   I defend it. 

This is from an article about the cop who was fired for slurring Carl Crawford of the Red Sox. "Perrault has been on paid leave since he called Crawford a "Monday" before a July 5 minor league game in Manchester, N.H. The word is considered a racial slur when associated with the phrase, "I hate Mondays."" I though I hate Mondays was just a stereotypical office grumble. Please explain to this sheltered (obviously white) suburbanite what the bleep they are talking about. If the cop made a racial slur than by all means fire his a$$ but I have never heard of this.

Neither had I.  Every online reference to this phrase that I've found is related to this specific incident!  

I'm inclined to think there's something to it, though, for two reasons:

1. The cop, apparently, has been accused of other slurs before. 

2. Uh, why did he call him a "Monday"?  I'd like to hear him explain what he meant.  I bet there's no good answer, meaning there might be a bad one. 

Long time reader, first time writer. I even hired the Great Zuchinni for my kids birthday party because of your article on him from a few years ago. But I digress.... Regarding the whole Chik Fil A controversy, which may change over the next week since I am writing to you 6 days early, I am torn on what to do about it. I'm a big fan of Chik Fil A, as are my kids, but I am also the daughter of a lesbian who will celebrate her one year anniversary with her Partner in September. I support their marriage and believe anyone should be able to marry whomever they want to. So, because of this, am I a hyprocrite if I continue to eat there? I'm sure there are many other establishments that I frequent that share the same beliefs as the Chik Fil A President, but who just haven't said them out loud. Should I ask my mom her opinion on the matter? There have been many businesses who have done similar, idiotic things in the past, and I still have purchased items from them, but this time seems different; a little to close to home. Anyway, I would love to hear your opinion as you and I agree on a lot of other matters.

I think this has been somewhat overblown.  The CEO is revolting.  His views are noxious.  But the stores hire gay people and there is no sign they discriminate against gay clientele.     I think you can patronize the place without shame.  My only reservation is how Palin and others have publicly embraced this company, making the issue revolting.  BECAUSE they have done that, endorsing its hate with their presence, it sort of raises the bar.  Are YOU endorsing it with your presence?

Follow your heart, guided by your brain. 

Me, I wouldn't go.  But I'm not into fast chicken.   If this were, like, Sushi King, I might have a problem. 


Did you see the picture of him at the Wailing Wall that was on the front page yesterday. He has a smarmy smile on his face, like "I'm touching your little wall, playing along with you folks. Now let's cut out all of your weird little 'customs' and get on with this crap." Like a CEO at a secretary's birthday party.

Good analogy. 

Hey, is there anyone out there who would like to stand up for Romney, personally?  Not politically, but is there anyone out there who thinks they'd like him in person?  I promise we won't make fun of you.  Please explain. 

I am Facebook friends with some of my partner's cousins, mainly so that they can see the pictures I post of our kids. While they have accepted our relationship (two women), it does not seem to have influenced them any further. They were Cain and Santorum supporters during the primary and frequently post along the lines of "Now, he was a real president" with a picture of W. I can't even begin to comprehend the mental olympics they're performing.


Cain was a clown and Santorum a very weird candidate.  

And W.  

I don't understand W nostalgia at all. 

Last week, when I think I had heard Romney talking about how bad it would be to cut defense spending, and was also thinking about all of the otherwise deficit-hawk sounding noise he makes, I had this distinct and very visceral thought: he sounds like Ronald Reagan. Everything about what he was saying and how he sounded saying it -- you know how his his affect is a little off and he sounds a little bit like he is reading words for the first time. My next thought was, ruh roh, we are in trouble. I can't shake that feeling.

Reagan sounded to me, always, as though he was acting.  Not reading a script, but acting.   Romney doesn;t sound like that to me: He sounds like he is painfully, barely putting up with having to talk to little people. 

I do exactly as you, Gene, except for one thing: I don't soak them. It's not needed. They turn out great. You still get that wonderful steamy effect without wasting your time.

Wow!  Okay I will try one or two.   I am Suspicious. 

Chatting with some friends about the post, which I only receive on Sunday, they said they stopped their daily subscription because the papers were piling up. However, they realized that it was far cheaper to renew their subscription instead of buying poop bags, especially since the washingtonpost bags are far superior then the ones they were buying.

I once proposed an Onion headline suggesting that newspaper revenue decline had bottomed out due to the strong poop-bag market. 

Okay, so can you think of a good reason for me not to beam at my brother and his new (third) wife and say, "You know, it's so special that you two got together the way you did – and you learned something really significant about each other, even before you married: Neither one of you find an existing marriage to be any kind of bar to finding and developing a new romantic relationship." I was actually quite glad when he sent an announcement saying that the family wasn't going to be invited to the wedding -- not that it's any of my business what sort of train wreck he turns his life into, but I'm not at all eager to watch the crash.

I'm trying to decipher this.   You are appalled that your brother is on a third marriage, begun as a joint affair?

Okay.  You do seem to be riding a major wave of self-righteousness here.   Seems to me it's his business, and some third marriages work out fine.  But I have mellowed with age. 

Why is he inviting no family?  Your post leaves much out. 

You don't sound very judgmental.  I don't think I like you. 

Gene, as Car Talk is leaving the airwaves and I can't handle talking to strangers on the phone anyway, asking you this question is my only other recourse. I've been driving a sporty stick-shifting coil-over-suspension hotness coupe since 2005. I'm recently married, and my husband and I are looking to fertilize some eggs soon. What car can I transition to that won't make me cry with despair and middle-class kid-safe ennui? Logically I know I should suck it up and drive a minivan.... but oh! Oh! If you tell me I need to suck it up, hold onto my ovaries and just drive a darn van, I think I can.

Hold out, kid.  You won't need a van for at least 8 years.  

I think she was pulled out of fear of what she'd say next if she stayed.

I guess.  It seemed puzzling to me, absent a background of insensitivity.   Does she have one? 

I thought that the names mentioned in the column were funny, but probably more appropriate for this chat than the back pages of the Post magazine. You stretched a paragraph of adolescent giggling into a full page meaning which means that there was a lot of filler.


This morning on my drive to work, I came across a guy laying by the side of the road. I felt guilty just going about my business, so I pulled over to check on the guy. I kinda poked his foot with my shoe because I was scared he was a BODY, but he kinda jolted awake and rolled over. I asked if he was ok, and he mumbled that he was (he seemed really hung over). I asked a couple more times to be sure, told him I'd leave him alone if he was really ok, and left. He rolled over and seemed to go back to sleep. My question is, would you say that fulfills my obligation as a fellow human being to help another human being in potential trouble? I'm a twentysomething female, and I figured just getting out of my car to check on the guy in Baltimore was probably enough risk... I wasn't comfortable offering him a ride or anything like that. But maybe I should've offered to call someone for him. Or maybe I should've called 911 rather than checking on him myself and avoided putting myself in a sketchy situation. I dunno, you read about people getting hurt or dying and no one stopping to help, and I didn't want to be one of the people who just didn't want to be bothered.

I think you did better than most people would, and it is probably not enough.  You probably should have called 911 after you left, but I wouldn't beat myself up over it, you know?  It often comes down to a matter of intuition: Did he SEEM just sleeping one off?  Was he in physical jeopardy from cars where he was?   Were there signs he maybe was a victim of an attack, or a stroke?   Safest, unless you are pretty sure: 911. 

Ok -- I voted vulgar, childish and very funny. I didn't really think it was vulgar though. Childish and very funny would have been my vote had it been an option. If this wasn't allowed through, you should hang up your pen because the editors have finally started reading your column. Either that or there is a new editor who also works for Mitt Romney on your staff!

Yeah, several people have made this point:  Childish, but not vulgar.   But isn't it childish BECAUSE of its vulgarity? 

Anyway, yes, it is odd.  I think I've written things more childish and vulgar without complaint. 

Trying to condense these thoughts into chat size questions: 1 I think that the sexualization (sp?) of children is a separate issue from equating physical beauty with your worth as a human being. 2 Women seem as guilty as men when it comes to equating physical beauty with your worth as a human being, particularly as it applies to women. 3 This whole every woman is beautiful regardless of her shape/size/etc. seems to be counter productive. This does nothing to remove the emphasis on physical looks, all it does it try to change the standard. Best analogy I can come up with: Imagine if they put a moat, without a bridge, in front of the medical school. In order to get into the school you had to jump the moat so therefore in order to be a doctor you also have to be an excellent jumper. Obviously one skill has nothing to do with the other. The whole "all women are beautiful" movement seems to be trying to make the moat narrower so then we can all be excellent jumpers. Instead how about we get rid of the damn moat entirely.

I like your point, and I really like the analogy.  Is it yours?  

I like the point, and I really like the analogy.  Is it yours?   Sometimes I say things twice for emphasis. 

Are you watching the Olympics? Which sport is the funniest? I'm going with table tennis. If you really think about it - it's like having pinball be a olympic sport. Also, the way they serve is weirdly hilarious. Also - I thought you might like this website. It makes me laugh daily.


The main Olympic observation I'd like to make is directed at middle-aged men: 

Gentleman, it is okay to be mildly turned on by the butts of the little-girl gymnasts, because they have grown-lady butts.  It is not okay to be even mildly turned on by any other aspect of these athletes, or even their totality.  If you confine your observation to the butts, it is okay because of aforementioned factor.

Further, on gymnastics:  I have reluctantly come to accept this as an athletic event, even though it is judged and style and grace matter.  But I still cannot abide the "floor exercises," where costume, choice of music, all enters into the mix.   Not a sport.  Doesn't pass my test. 

Minor nitpick: Dick Chopp isn't quite a perfect name for vasectomies. That involves chopping the vasa deferentia, as I'm sure you know. Of course, you aren't going to find a Dr. Vasa Chopp out there. The column was funny as hell (and childish, which was WHY it was funny) even with the "error". I wouldn't be nitpicking this at all if it wasn't for the fact that we recently decided to go the vasectomy route. Friends - well educated friends who really ought to know better - where shocked that he'd "cut off his balls". Ummm, no. They weren't joking either, they really didn't understand the procedure. Turns out this view isn't exactly new, which astounded me. How do people not know? It's a really common procedure, and I think if it involved nuetering, it wouldn't be very common at all.

You are telling me that people confuse vasectomy with ... castration?  They think men are willingly being turned into castrati? 

I may have misunderstood you but you seem to believe that if you are pro-choice you also have to believe that a woman should be given a free ride for whatever she wants to do to an early fetus, because any other choice is a slippery slope. I, however, believe that for the vast majority of women getting an abortion it is a hard decision based on a number of factors that in the end they decide is the best of bad choices. For those few who decide that they just didn't want to use birth control or the sex is wrong or it would interfere with their vacation plans, I believe these people should be viewed in the same light as..............people who ride bikes on the sidewalks. If you do things simply because you feel you deserve more or others don't matter as much as what you want, then you are a vile person. I think that less than .00001% of women who have an abortion would fall under this category. I think the difference between me and the avid pro-lifers is that they believe most women fall under this category.

We don't really disagree here, except in emphasis; I think the bike rider is worse than a woman who wants to abort very early because she made a mistake, or the condom broke, or whatever.   That's because, to me, a very early abortion is not "killing." 

My main point is the slippery slope, though.  I don't want government to start asking women WHY they want an abortion.   It is none of anyone's business. 


Well, we sort of agree, but not entirely.  I am more judgmental about the lady who rides a bike on the sidewalk than the one who has a very early abortion because she made a mistake, or the condom broke, or whatnot.   That's because on a visceral level, I do not believe that very early abortion is "killing."

Well, we sort of agree, but not entirely.  I am more judgmental about the lady who rides a bike on the sidewalk than the one who has a very early abortion because she made a mistake, or the condom broke, or whatnot.   That's because on a visceral level, I do not believe that very early abortion is "killing."

It's not vulgar AND childish. It's just childish. And very funny.

Honestly, I just don't get this.  If it is childish, isn't that's because it is poking fun at penis names?  Isn't that, perforce, vulgar?

Reading my cousin's Facebook post about her pricey new pet-shop, puppy-mill purebred, I just about threw up. Came to the realization that I am completely and utterly disgusted by people who adopt pets from anywhere other than a shelter, rescue group, etc. In my mind, you must be a total obliviot to BUY a dog or cat from any other place; it is loathsome and unfathomable to me. Is it not well known enough how many worthy, adoptable pets are put down every day in this country?? In fact, I think people who buy a pet from a pet shop or even a breeder should be forced to go to an animal shelter and stick the needle of death into a dog or cat. Because in my mind, when you buy a pet, you are effectively sentencing a shelter animal to death. Now, I know this viewpoint is absolutely crazy and intolerant - and I'm pretty much a libertarian on just about everything else. And I keep this viewpoint to myself; my husband thinks I'm a loon. Then I thought about you and your opinion that you have never given voice to, at least in this forum. Any chance you and I share the same viewpoint on this subject matter?

Sort of, but I am not nearly as strident and judgmental.   Nonetheless, it does give me an opportunity to link to this wonderful PETA ad from a few years ago.  

It's just wonderfully self-righteous and I love the exagerrated melodrama of "I don't want to kill a dog..." 

So what's the all-time highest number of questions submitted and answered? EVERYONE ASK GENE SIMPLE QUESTIONS!

I'm not sure, I'm just getting a feel here.   I got to answer a whole bunch early, and am feeding them through gradually, in addition to answering many, like yours, in real time.  The numbers seem good, baby. 

I type too fast and the subject line almost said "IQ Elves". But I digress. I firmly believe you can tell someone's IQ level by where they stand on the "you didn't build that" debate. Agree/disagree?

Well, I have to say, I'm pretty sure Obama would take that line back if he could.   Of course he didn't say what the Romney people insist he said, but it was kind of inartful the way he said it.   Even in full context, it's a bit odd.   

I. M. Suspicious would be a perfect aptonym for a person of interest in a criminal case. BTW, did you know that the Post's online discussion app flags "aptonym" as a misspelled word?

Please tell me if it accepts "aptronym."  That would depress me. 

I'm a pretty hot woman who drives an almost 14-year old car. It's only got 121,000 miles on it and it runs as smooth as the day I bought it. BUT, a close male friend said I should buy a new car to increase potential suitors, as he believes most men would be turned off by my hoopty. I say let them run because the right guy for me would think hanging on to a car this cherry makes perfect sense. What say you?

Well, the hoopty makes you a lot hotter in my eyes.  And you're already steaming.  If spit on, you'd sizzle. 

Gene, I had a long screed written up about how no, farts are not universal humor, arguing that they are juvenile, puerile, and amusing only to imbeciles (mainly men). Then I saw this: Link

Congratulations, sir. You win.

Thank you. 

In this article,  author Steven Hyden points out that in the latest 500 greatest albums' list from Rolling Stone, that only 3 albums from the past 20 years made the top 100. He then writes, "That says more about the voting bloc at Rolling Stone than it does about music of the last 22 years. It also explains why we tend to carve up music history along generational lines. (People are physically incapable of accurately judging the greatness of music that was released before they turned 13 and after they turned 35) ."  Do you agree or disagree with that last part about the judging of music?

Yes, absolutely.  I have written that our musical tastes fuse at about 18. 

You asked your users who think they might like Mitt Romney if they met him in person to chime in. It's funny - I can't go so far as to say I'd like him if I met him. And I'm actually a minor elected official within the Democratic Party, currently working my tail off to defeat him this November. But I will say this: I feel like I know him. He reminds me powerfully of my dad and a lot of my parents' friends. Attributes in my Dad that I find kind of endearing: the cluelessness, the bad jokes, the weird corporatisation of everyday life (my dad used to "call a family meeting" every time my brother and I had report cards, which he would chair like a CEO - with an agenda) are there in Romney. Even, I hesitate to add, some of the things about my Dad that I dislike but understand. Like, for instance - my memory that when I was younger my dad used to tell racially insensitive jokes (he's the reason I even know that there are such things as "Pollack jokes") until he somehow gleaned that he wasn't supposed to do that anymore and now he bites his tongue and says other things that are just... not... quite... right... It's so Romney. But I love my Dad. And I think he's basically a good guy. So I don't think I'd lik Mitt Romney if I met him. But I know I could love him. Weird, that!

You know what?  That was kind of sweet. 

I told racial / ethnic jokes to my family, even when the kids were young, but they understood the context.  Dad is not a racist.  We're joking about the silliness of stereotypes.  The most frequent butt of these jokes was Jews. 

Analogy is mine. I have now probably peaked. Buying a milkshake at lunch to celebrate


Why do even pro-choice people get all dramatic calling an abortion a difficult decision and the least of bad choices? It's a valid medical procedure. Do people say having a cavity filled is a difficult decision and at best the least worst of bad choices? I had one and the decision was easy and the procedure was not as bad as a root canal.

I just had a root canal.  It was disturbing.  Not painful so much as ... savage. 

I'm middle aged, have a healthy sexual appetite, and no, it's not okay to be turned on by their butts. Admire? Maaaayybe, so long as there's nothing sexual about it. Otherwise, eeewwwwwww.


To give an honest answer of my feelings in answering today's poll question, I went with my gut instinct. That instinct was me laughing so hard I was crying. How in the world is this not humor?!?! The awesomeness of it exceeds the vastness of the Mongolian empire! I could see someone successfully arguing it's childish humor (although I disagree), but it's definitely not vulgar. You didn't make any crude references. These are people's names. I don't think they would consider them vulgar. So I say, your loss, WP!

Well, as someone else did, you could argue that "Ophelia Wiener" was crude.  That's not a real name.  

I'm delighted that so many people think this wasn't vulgar.  EYE think it was at least a little vulgar.   But I consider that beside the point. 

Gene: I voted for President Obama, and President Obama let me down. I am a member of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church has let me down. I am a graduate of Penn State, and Penn State has let me down. Gene, you are the only one I have left. (You and Bruce Springsteen) Gene, Please don't let me down. (You too, Bruce) signed: let down

So long as I am writing columns about doctors whose names sound like penises, I will not let you down. 

Do you recommend any neighborhoods in DC for a thirty-something couple who managed to pick the wrong apartment? We sincerely dislike the so-called luxury building we are in. We didn't move to DC only to miss out on the city-feeling. I know you like Eastern Market - any other recommendations?

All of Capitol Hill.   Union Station area, too.   Here's some thoughts on my nabe.   (It's the intro.)

I am not a hypochondriac. I once went three years insisting that the fact that I would occasionally go blind in one eye wasn't a big deal, and would stop (it did). But you have this throwaway line about "Hiccups can mean cancer." I'm on day 3 of the hiccupocalypse, and you've got me a nervous wreck. The doctor says I'm an idiot. I agree with him.

You will be delighted to know that "Hiccups Can Mean Cancer" is not just a "throwaway line."   It refers to a section in chapter 7, a chapter devoted entirely  to possible dire causes of seemingly benign symptoms.  Here is the pertinent quote: 

Hiccups are hamless, except when they aren't.  No other commonly reported symptom has quite so many potentially dire explanations.   Persistent hiccups cross into virtually every medical specialty.  Neurologists know hiccups can accompany the onset of a deadly stroke or an inoperable tumor in the medulla of the brain.  Cardiologists will not rule out an oncoming heart attack or an aortic aneurysm.   Nephrologists  will suspect kidney failure.   Gastroenterologists know hiccups can indicate an "irritation" of the diaphragm or of some other organ, particularly one that touches the vagus or phrenic nerves, which control the swallowing and breathing reflexes.   

On the outside of the body, an irritation is often a minor matter.  On the inside, it often isn't.  On the inside, it is often a tumor.  Hiccups have been assocated with tumors in or around the lung, in the diaphragm, the liver, the pancreas, the stomach, and even the sigmoid colon, which is down near the butt and should not, by the grace of God, have anything to do with breathing. 


So, that's that.  But it's probably nothing. 

I'm not sure Stephen King has ever written a book as scary as "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death."

about your hair and Dave Barry's. was it a stupid submission? or just too early and got buried?

No, it's somewhere in here, answered.  I'll find it by and by. 

Romney won't take back any of his verbal faux pas, not even the most notable: "Corporations are people too, my friends." How could anyone with a net worth under $20 million ever consider voting for this man?

Read that outlook piece I linked to near the top.  It explains it beautifully. 

By the way, I continue to say:  Obama in a landslide. 

How did you and your Twitter counterpart get the final answers in your column to line up so perfectly? There was no collusion there? And when does he/she fill in for you in one of these chats?

Someone else asked me this.  There was no collusion.  With the final question, I saw his answer, then went back and changed mine so they were satisfactorally congruous.   And yes, he's real.  And no, I still don't know who he is, or even if he is a he. 

Can I just say that I love that Romney's team capped off its trip by chastising a journalist for being inappropriate at a holy site by telling him to kiss their [booty] and shove it? Despite the fact that the entire trip has mortified me as an American, I'm comforted that I've been laughing convulsively since he landed.

He's been so great.   Hasn't disappointed at all. 

I don't understand why you think the chin/voice line would be particularly troubling to Lyn Balfour. As someone with the exact same personal characteristics, I can say without qualification: we are AWARE.

Well, I'd be making that observation to millions of people.  You know? 

I do not casually make references to women's looks.  it's not fair, but I know that sort of thing hurts women disproportionately, because our society sucks on that. 

Lyn is a good looking woman, and she is very appealing to be with; I came to like her a lot, and really respect how she has handled her situation.  She does happen to have a small chin.

Your left what??

My left Ophelia. 

Here is the funny Tosh rape joke and the Louis CK rape joke (not as funny, actually) Note: the Washington Post does not condone the vulgar language and humor contained in these links. Follow at your own risk.

Well, you're completely right except for:

Tosh's joke is much less funny.   It is not even a joke; it's more of a concept for a joke.  Yes, replacing pepper spray with Silly String is a funny idea.  But he went NOWHERE with it.  

Well, okay.   You are completely correct except for one important element:  Tosh's joke is not funnier.  It's not even a joke.  It's a premise for a joke:  Yes, replacing pepper spray with silly string is a funny concept.   With which he then proceeds to go nowhere. 

For the good of the nation, I herewith submit my song lyrics, "The Bain of Our Existence," to be sung to the tune of "The Wabash Cannonball." I have chosen your column, Gene, to debut my song, knowing your appreciation for contemporary poetry. Let the YouTube performances begin! "The Bain of Our Existence" by The Patriotic Cowboys Out from the wide Pacific to the broad Atlantic shore, We used to make good products, but now we don't no more. Although he's tall and handsome, and he's known quite well by all, He's the Bain of our existence, Mitt Romney fooled us all. Oh, listen to the jingle of the cash that he has made Outsourcing our vocations, and calling it free trade. He builds car elevators while our hungry babies squall. He's the Bain of our existence, Mitt Romney fooled us all. Oh, the Wall Street types are dandy, so the Romney people say. Your house is in foreclosure, that's the old American way. If you lost your job to China, that's where the chips just fall. He's the Bain of our existence, Mitt Romney fooled us all. He's all for busting unions that gave us all fair pay. He helped destroy our pensions and threw our jobs away. Across our wide wide country, our paychecks now are small. He's the Bain of our existence, Mitt Romney fooled us all. He had a health care mandate, as Massachusetts Guv, But now that he's gone national, that mandate's got no love. If you don't have insurance, that is your own downfall. He's the Bain of our existence, Mitt Romney fooled us all. Oh, here's to daddy Romney, O let his name retire, Remembered as a rich man who'd rather fire than hire. Let his candidacy falter, let the people all recall He's the Bain of our existence, Mitt Romney fooled us all.

Very good.  And it scans perfectly except for the clunky "retire-fire-hire" bit.  Just lose it.

Gene, Despite my urban lifestyle I consider myself a man's man. I've hunted and fished. I had manual labor jobs. There is one place where I must admit that I am not manly. It is at the urinal. At least once a week, sometimes more often, while standing at a urinal another man will enter the restroom, walk up to the urinal beside me and let loose with a giant loogie into the urinal. Ok, I exaggerate. But in my experience a disturbingly large number of men of all levels of society prefer to begin draining the snake with a self-satisfied spit. I am mystified. I was never taught why I should do this. I feel like my father must have hated me to withhold this important information. Do you know why men do this? Should I start?

I think I have addressed this before: One of the great mysteries of gender (Gina and I discuss this in "I'm With Stupid") is why men, and not women, spit.   One of my favorite expressions:  In New York, the term "oyster" is used for loogies on the sidewalk.  

Okay, speaking of expressions.  A few days ago, when Ichiro Suzuki arrived at the Yankees, I consulted the Web to find out if he speaks English.   I learned that he does, quite well, but prefers to use an interpreter.  But I also found a clip that made me spit my coffee onto my laptop. 

Alert:  The audio for this is probably NSFW.   Headphones: If you got em, use em.     Ichiro discloses his favorite American expression. 


My question for the anti-abortion camp who would allow abortions when the mother's life was in danger: where do you draw *that* line? What would you consider an acceptable risk? 50/50? 1 in 4? 1 in 10? Yellow fever has a 5%-10% mortality rate, and that's considered extremely high. How can you say that whatever risk you find acceptable is what everyone else should accept?

Good point.   It reminds me about John McCains second most craven act as candidate.   It came during one of the debates when he gave figurative "air quotes" around the idea of "the life of the mother."      His attitude was that everyone knows women just LOVE getting abortions and do it frivolously all the time, with whatever excuse they can grab.   Ooh, just found it.   He actually DOES the air quotes.  It's at the very end. 

I used to be like you - I said I would "never" buy a dog from a breeder and then I did. I had reasons and I sought out a very reputable breeder, which involved going to dog shows and sucking up to people who show dogs. It was important if we were going to do that, that we went to someone who truly loves the breed and their dogs. He has been a terrific dog for us. And then you know what? We loved the breed so much we went and got 2 more of the same from a breed rescue group. Both of these dogs have serious medical needs and were considered "unadoptable" - they are also terrific. So take it from someone who has been there. Get off your high horse on this issue - it's not all black and white.

Mostly, I just liked the PETA ad. 

The only dog I ever got from a breeder was criminally insane and had to be euthanized.  A major tragedy in our lives. 

Hi, everyone. Sorry I am late. I am the editor Gene referred to in his "cover your butt" entry.  I agree with Gene in the phenomenon he describes -- the  higher up you go the more you make decisions based on mass sensitivities. However, I take issue with that being the key factor in the derailment of this particular column. I had to be the mother here. That's my job. To use a horrible metaphor, your room was too dirty, Gene. 

I'll bite. (I'm a 31 year old woman, pregnant with my first, just for some background info.) I have no problem with Romney, and honestly cannot see for the life of me this "smarmy"-ness that you keep referring to. I am really thinking that you've let you dislike for him and his platform to color your perception. Like how I think Obama is an incompetent moron, and he's starting to look that way to me, too. Romney reminds me of a boss I've had, whom I liked, and just seems like an intelligent, low-key guy. He spoke at Emory's Goizueta Business School awhile back, if you have time (and can stomach it) take a look at this video,, there's nothing unlikable about him here.

Okay, thank you.   You're the only one so far, but I understand and respect this view. 

What does "op-ed page" mean? Opinion-editorial page or opposite the editorial page? Thanks.

The second. 

Would you rank this one as world-class, or just pretty good? Link

World class, because of how unusual the name is.   

Hey, just yesterday I realized that a bad first name for a baby with the last name of "Peace" is "Juana."

The names of these actors has to be a joke, right? Aching butts, ow! Link

Fabulous.  And real.  At least, the name "Buttachio" is not that uncommon. 

You have long posited that if the most beautiful quarter of the people in the world suddenly disappeared, we would shortly start finding the second quartile (today's ordinary not bad looking) to be extremely attractive. Others have referred to Washington, D.C. as "Hollywood for ugly people." We now have evidence to prove both theories correct. Here is a list (with photos) of the "Top 50" most beautiful people who work for Congress : Link

I stopped cold when I hit Michele Bachmann at No. 10.    

It's not possible to assess a person's attractiveness in total disregard of personality.  

Also, I feel a little heartache every time I encounter a young Republican.   


The world discovered this aptonym last week.  We had it in Chat Humor years ago. 

I do want to set the record straight on something: I am occasionally credited as being the father of the aptonym, as opposed to the "aptronym," as it is called, incorrectly, by others.  I am not.  I was introduced to the term in 1995 when I edited an excellent piece by Lew Diuguid, about the phenomenon.    Lew found Monica Seles's last name to be a great aptonym because of the LOOK of it: Two players facing each other across a net.  Novel, interesting.   Also Seles is a palindrom, as is "Diuguid." 

You say "I am appalled by their stance, but their stance is at least consistent: If abortion is murder, pure and simple, then murder doesn't become any more justifiable if the mother was raped, or if her life is in jeopardy. It's no excuse to assassinate a child." So it's ok to murder the mother? That's basically what you are doing if the mother will die if the fetus isn't aborted. So no, they are not consistent, they are valuing a fetus over a woman.

Again, buying into the "abortion is murder" argument, there is a 100 percent chance of the fetus being murdered if aborted, and a smaller percentage chance, presumably, of the woman dying.  If you equate the two lives, you have to risk the mom's to save the kid's. 

I work at a small company with about 100 employees. We have a nice exercise room with two unisex bathrooms with showers. Every morning there is a steady stream of men using these bathrooms to poop. This causes me two problems. I frequently have to wait 10 - 15 minutes to take a shower because both bathrooms are occupied by pooping men. The toilets in these bathrooms do not flush well and the men are NOT conscientious about flushing until it is all gone, so I frequently find a smelly mess. There are four other bathrooms in the building that they could use - 2 three stall men's rooms, 1 one stall men's room, and one other unisex bathroom. There are no other showers in the building. So, do I just suck it up and wait to use a smelly bathroom, post a sign asking that they "flush until gone", or complain to HR. I am female BTW.

Your last sentence was as unnecessary as nipples on men. 

You ask your employer to designate one of the rooms for the use of gyno-Americans.   

You seem to enjoy talking about underpants. Do you think underpants will play a key role in the November election?

I think they will prove of enormous importance, and I am not kidding. 

Your real question is whether  Romney's Mormonism will hurt him, and I think it will.   I think he has an unenthusiastic base of Evangelicals, who will not turn out in the numbers he needs.  I think that's because they distrust his religion. 

I don't like this fact, but I think it is true. 

I bet you didn't expect a real answer!  

It just struck me that neither you nor your friend Dave Barry appears to have altered his hairstyle in several decades (ever?). I wonder if this was a conscious decision or a result of inertia. This might not be as big a deal for men, but for you two, it is, seeing as how your hairstyles are not of the timeless variety. Myself, I am a 44-yr-old woman (must I mention my hotness? okay, I've still got it) with naturally curly hair that I wear long. I regularly ask my stylist if I am getting too old for this look and dread the day I may have to adopt the woman-of-a-certain-age poodle 'do. So far, my fabulous stylist assures me I'm okay. So, which is it -- you and Dave choose to be shaggy relics? Or you never really gave it any thought? Also, any feelings on age-appropriate hairstyles for women and the point after which long, flowing locks go from sexy/acceptable to ugh, clean up that mess, you ain't Beyonce?

Found it!

I have an untenable, anxiety-drenched  relationship with my hair.  I am personally embarrassed that it is such a mess, but would be more embarrassed to be considered the sort of person who cared what his hair looks like.   My barber, Sheila, is under strict instructions not to  let my eyes fall on a mirror while getting a haircut.   To find out if I want it shorter, I feel it.  

Agh.  I am getting tense just talking about this. 

Referring to the "he golfs" question in an update, what is it about some (sport) nouns that allow you to treat them as verbs like that? Sticking with sports, whenever I tell someone what I play, I usually say: "I fence and play cricket," not "I fence and cricket," even though "I fence and golf" works. Sports like baseball, basketball, football, and so on seem to have the same issue. Is it because the act of playing golf is, in essence, golfing, whereas in these other sports you're doing a disparate combination of verbs that together make up the sport?

Yes, that is exactly right.  Well analyzed. 

Gene, on the last chat, which I just missed, you defended Pres. Jackson's prosecuting the Mexican War because "it got us Texas". A) Lincoln was right and B) I don't see any reason that we want Texas. I'd be willing to give it back to Mexico and toss in Mississippi as a sweetener. Of course, I'd be happy to give those people who want to leave Texas time to get out. Except Gov. Perry. Texas is the state that most resembles the undeveloped nations in education, jobs, and corruption.

I'm still getting posts savaging me for saying that Jackson was a near great president.    The truth is, there is a certain bloodlessness required to evaluate history.  A case could be made that Lincoln's decision to prosecute the war was savagery. 

What would have happened if he let the south secede?  Probably 30 years of tense coexistence, with border skirmishes, until slavery would fall apart as it did everywhere else in the world, dead  by its own poison.  Economic accommodations reached.    Seven hundred thousand lives saved! 

It's a nonsense argument, of course.  There was a huge moral imperative at work; an evil had to be defeated at the cost of blood for the lesson to be learned.   But still.   History remembers results, not means.  

Woodrow Wilson saw the original version, in which Gus, after a "fair trial", is castrated--with a sword, no less. Popular outrage forced re-editing of this scene. I learned this by reading A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, by David Friedman, which I recommend (a section describing a circumcision performed by the Apostle Paul, however, made me blanch).

I'll add this: Toward the end of his life, Thom Jefferson tried to relieve the symptoms of a swollen prostate by catheterizing himself.  

A woman who had hip and rear end enhancements done that went beyond absurd. Here is the link.

It is bad to laugh at this woman.  We will not do so. 

Two elderly people of the Hebraic persuasion were in Miami Beach, a single gentleman and a lady. The gentlemen noticed a large diamond ring on the lady's finger. "That's a beautiful ring," he said. "It's the Klopman Diamond," she said. "It's like the Hope Diamond. It's got a curse." "What's the curse?" "Mr. Klopman."

I would argue that's not really an ethnic joke.  You could substitute "McCarthy" for Klopman.  

It's also as telegraphed as a telegraph. 

Costello: Well, then who got raped? Abbott: Yes. Costello: I mean the girl's name. Abbott: Who. Costello: The rape victim. Abbott: Who. Costello: The woman who got sexually assaulted. Abbott: Who. Costello: The lady that... Abbott: Who got raped! Costello: I'm asking YOU who got raped. Abbott: That's the woman's name. Costello: That's who's name? Abbott: Yes. Costello: Well, go ahead and tell me. Abbott: That's it. Costello: That's who? Abbott: Yes.”

Well, okay.  This is funny!  I simply cannot deny that this is funny.   

I'll bet that if you could talk to him personally, you might just get along ok. I offer three areas of support for this, his family, his religion, and the empathy he's demonstrated. First, by all of what we've been told, he has excellent relationships across an expansive family. That takes heart as well as skill, and quite probably is evidence of a sense of humor and forgiveness. Second, he held a position of trust and leadership, not limited by class, to serve people in his church. That and the required training his faith requires he earn in evangelism would have given him experience in relating to others, not just those in his socioeconomic grouping, but from a wide range. Third, he's actually demonstrated the empathy in his character on multiple occasions; he donates a large amount of money to charity on a regular basis, he shut down Bain at one point to help search for a missing child of a worker, and on another occasion he and his sons helped search for and rescue swimmers in danger while on vacation; while we might not have much in common, I'd feel a certain predisposition towards liking someone who had demonstrated the ability to put others first.

Well put.  The Mormon service is ordained and prescribed, though, no?  But I won't nitpick. 

I don't know if you noticed, but Quinnipiac's latest poll in Virginia shows Obama's lead among women shrinking from 13 points to only 5. It may be time for to start to wonder whether your efforts to turn women off from Romney are actually counter-productive.

Hi, everyone. Sorry I am late. I am the editor Gene referred to in the "cover your butt" comments. I agree with him on that phenomenon -- the higher up you go the  more you  make decisions on mass sensitivity. However, I disagree on his explanation of the derailing of the column in question. I had to be the mother. That's my job. And to extend the horrid metaphor, I had to tell Gene his room was too dirty.  The column was indeed hilarious, but too protracted -- pun intended -- a play on the body part.

Hold your ears shut with your thumbs, your nostrils with your pointer fingers and either take a big drink of water through a straw or pick up a glass of water and drink it with your pinkies. Besides looking silly, it works.

Okay, we will end with this one, though I have to say that at one point during research with the Hypochondria book, I talked to more than one gastroenterologist who said that persistent hiccups is susceptible to no known cure.   These little remedies help little cases.   

Thank you all.  Excellent spirited chat.  See you in the updates. 

In This Chat
Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

Click here for links to Gene's past chats and updates.
Lynn Medford
Medford is the editor of Sunday Style and The Washington Post Magazine.
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