Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Nov 15, 2011

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

Gene's lastest chat.

Gene's next chat

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. 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.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

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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Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them.

Good morning update readers.

As promised, today we'll be talking entirely about last week's update, in which I discussed the universal state of squirmy suspicion under which men tend to find themselves when their wives have black eyes.   I got hundreds of emails about this from both husbands and wives who have lived through the same uncomfortable experience.   Wives tended to be less charitable toward the suspicious masses ("they should know that my Bernie would never hurt me, but that if he did I'd never be the sort of doormat to stay with him") than were husbands ("if it were my daughter, I'd WANT her husband to be considered a suspect until proved otherwise.")

A few people mentioned something I'd left out of the original piece:  The husband finds himself behaving like a phony.

From a friend of mine:

"Wife was carrying a basket of laundry and went face-first down the stairs.   Black eye and lacerations.   So there we were in the ER.  I'm babbling on:  Yup!  She fell down the stairs, all right!  Damnedest thing!  I knew the landlord should have done something about the tread on those stairs ...."


Yep, me too.   I was the one who elaborately explained the accident to the painter guy.

And, from the Rib and me, thanks for all the well wishes.    She's doing fine -- the shiner's almost all gone.  

This whole discussion reminded me of one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen.    It's hard to remember it without regret, or a sense of failure, even though I'm not sure what I could have done.

The Rib and I were newly dating, so this must have been around 1977.   We were in a kind of sleazy bar in Michigan.   A trashy-looking young couple was at the bar, drinking sullenly.    The woman  left to use the bathroom.   The man poked around in front of him on the bar, looked at the ground, and then strode off to the ladies room, a one seater.  He kicked the door in, grabbed the woman off the seat, and dragged her out of the bathroom, as she was frantically trying to pull her pants up.   You could see a large bruise on a thigh.

He shouted at her, accusing her of stealing twenty bucks from him -- she had, as I recall; I think he found it in her purse, and then they left the bar, him pushing her in front of him.  I don't think she was even crying; she seemed beaten, and resigned to this.    The whole thing took maybe 45 seconds; no one took any action.    I'm not sure what action we could have taken.  The guy was somewhere between evil and psychotic, and might well have been armed.   This was well before the days of cell phones, where "911" is always five seconds away.   And they were in their car and gone before any help could arrive.  

I probably should have followed them and tried to get a license tag, at least.   

Bothers me, still.

Gene, my wife bruises easily too, sometimes from banging against a wall, or being jostled in a crowd. Once she went to the gyno with some black and blue marks on her arm. The (female) doctor asked her a couple of times how she got the bruises and if there were problems at home. I am glad that this is not ignored, even if I am suspected of something I could never do. Contrast this with the Penn State scandal where a graduate assistant walked in on a rape, and did *not* call the police, but kept it in-house.

I don't know how that guy lived with himself.   He walked out on the rape of a child. 

The Rib was discussing this from an even more disturbing perspective.   She said, "Imagine the poor child, thinking, 'An adult is here!  I'm saved!'  only to see the adult walk away."

My husband and I got these injuries the same evening. First, my husband got kicked in the face by someone trying to dunk someone else in the pool. Later, I had an unfortunate chicken-fighting accident. We thought we looked pretty cool, and joked about how everyone probably thought we did it to each other. I guess it's not that funny to joke about, but it was funny to us, because it would be very out of character for us to be violent. The lesson here is: don't drink and swim during a full moon in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Well, you have me laughing.   And I LOVE the idea of a "chicken-fighting accident."

I am an attractive, well-educated woman in my 30s. Last year, I had 2 black eyes for about a week as the result of a soccer injury. My friends and I (and even my boyfriend at the time) joked about it having been at my boyfriend's hand, but I'm fully convinced that no one actually believed that. I'm torn on how I feel about people immediately suspecting abuse in these instances (except for doctors, who ABSOLUTELY must ask the question). While increased vigilance and disdain for domestic violence is a positive trend, the fact that that is the first thing that comes to mind--but only when it is a woman who has the black eye--smacks of the antiquated notion of women being fragile, helpless little things, at least physically. Yes, women tend not to be as physically aggressive as men, but we are now just as active as they are, which creates more opportunity for injury. I am both athletic (sometimes fiercely competitively so) and feminine; this is not a paradox. All of this is not to diminish the very real problem of domestic abuse (I know very smart, independent women who have fallen victim to such abuse), but why is it that no one assumes a man sporting a black eye has an abusive wife or girlfriend? Because women are still perceived as the "weaker" sex, requiring the protection of, and sometimes from, men

I know there are physically abused men, and I do not want to make light of that, but I really suspect they are, statistically, an aberration.   So I think the numbers alone explain why men are naturally suspected, and women aren't.   Beyond that, I don't think it's because women are perceived to be weaker -- I think it's because women are perceived to be less violent and more emotionally dependent -- more  concerned with keeping the family together -- so more likely to remain in an abusive relationship.   

Just over four months ago, I fainted while bending over to put the leash on our dog for her last evening walk. (Maybe the dogs should be in trouble.) I hit the wall in our entryway so hard with my head that I knocked a hole in the dry wall. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I was treated for a concussion and released. The wound started out as a huge bump on my forehead and then the blood started draining in to my eyes and cheeks. I literally looked like I had been beaten to a pulp! I couldn't leave the house for days because I was actually disgusting to look at. Our first outing, to a local favorite eatery where we are well known took a bad turn when the waitress took one look at me and then turned with a horrified look at my husband. He was shocked when it dawned on him what she was thinking. It really didn't get much better after that...neighbors, friends and folks on the street kept looking at him like he was a serial killer. This is a man who would never hurt anyone...least of all me. I kept trying to make jokes about it, but it really did't help him feel better. The only person who didn't question the situation was our family doctor. He knows us both so well that I don't believe it even crossed his mind. When I told my husband about the Rib's doctor he said, "She should get a new one!" He sends his sympathy along with mine.

The Rib's doctor WAS a new doctor, which might explain the quick suspicion, but I bet not.   I hope not.   I also hope it was not because the doctor is a woman.   I'd hope even an old avuncular long-time family doctor would be ready to assume nothing and ask the question.    

I just have no complaints with how the doctor behaved. 

My wife participated in karate and judo clubs in university. She went in to the clinic for some minor health complaint and had to answer questions about the bruises on her chest and arms. I know that she was a bit annoyed at how insistent the questioner was, but I think it was probably a good thing. For what it's worth, we're both women and I believe she had disclosed that to the clinic worker--but lesbian relationships are not immune to domestic violence.

Interesting.   I wonder if lesbians are more likely to get the benefit of the doubt because, you know, girls don't do this sort of thing.... 

"before victims were encouraged to come forward, there must have been a time when the default position was denial. There must have been a time where a man's prosperousness or prominence would have conferred benefit of the doubt." inre above: The public may be aware, but you are wrong in thinking/writing that denial is gone. I know this wasn't written in humor and I know that you know better, so I'm confused as to why you would publish this. Yes, you tried to make your point through various other view points. But that one quote kinda blows the whole thing out of the water.

Whoa.  Well, the whole point of my piece was that I was feeling no benefit of the doubt from anyone.  I am a fairly prominent person, and I think am known to be a nonviolent person still in love with my wife.   It conferred zero presumption of innocence. 

I think the hemorrhage of emails here -- dozens of similar stories from innocent but still suspected husbands and rueful clumsy,  wives -- suggest that suspicion is now the rule, not the exception.    

And it's good.   I'm glad we're all suspects. 

Hi Gene, I had a bad experience years ago with this. I am a nail biter and as such had used a pair of scissors while wrapping gifts as an impromptu back scratcher. I was unaware it left scratch marks on my back when I went in to the infirmary (at a local university where I attended law school) for a routine exam. The doctor didn't believe my story and called in another one to have a chat with me. They both grilled me, telling me that anyone who is a victim of spousal abuse would say it wasn't abuse, just as I was saying. I felt very uncomfortable. I think they picked up on that discomfort and used it as reason to continue. Now I realize I could just have gotten up and left, but at the time it was just awful. The irony is, I worked in the field of stopping violence against women at the time.

This reminds me of something funny. 

When my son Dan was in middle school, there was a circumstance where he had to take his shirt off -- in gym class, I think.    On his back were a series of horizontal welts; they were just part of his anatomy -- they came and went in a few years, possible an artifact of a growth spurt.     When a teacher asked him what it was, being Dan he replied with a straight face:  "I was caned in Singapore."      And stuck to that story.   Said he'd been convicted of littering and vandalism.  

It did look exactly like whip marks.   We got a phone call from the school. 

This was an interesting essay last week. Yet I have a criticism. It may be an unfair criticism; for the flaw is no fault of your own. Yet as an experienced and good reporter and writer, I think you could have found a way to address what, to me, weakened what was awfully close to a perfectly poignant powerful perspective. This story was related in your voice. I wanted to hear from her.

She only speaks when I damn well tell her to speak. 




Yeah, as many of you know, my wife -- whom I love and cherish and respect -- makes it a habit not to be publicly identified as  "Gene's wife."    This is true to the point that her name -- she keeps her own surname -- is almost unfindable on Google.   (You have to know where to look.)   

I think this is wise.   She keeps her privacy, and her separate identity as a professional.    I did ask her if she felt as though she'd be viewed as a victim by strangers, and she said not really: She just felt she'd be viewed as stupid and clumsy.    She was pretty shocked when the doctor initially didn't believe her.  

(When the doctor asked her if I had hit her, she said "Nope, believe me if he had, I'd never have given him a second chance,"  meaning that she'd already have left me.   But the doctor misunderstood and  said:  "You mean he has done this BEFORE?"

This may not be a light-hearted occasion for either of you, but during the healing time when you are both out in public, you might get "Rib" to wear a T-shirt with the word "CLUMSY" on it while you wear one with an arrow pointing toward her with the words "I'M WITH CLUMSY". Or, maybe not.

I LOVE this idea.   It's brilliant.   I'd love watching people's faces as they get it.  

That's it.    There will probably be no update next week;  I'll see you all in the next chat on the 29th, when we will feature a fascinating poll on sexual harassment.   Please submit questions for that chat here.

Note -- Late Tuesday, there were credible reports that the guy in question had taken steps to stop the attack.   If this is true, well then -- never mind. 

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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 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
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