Chatological Humor (Dec. 4)

Dec 04, 2018

Two polls today.
For men.
For women.
You asked for it and you got it. Gene will now be holding weekly mini-chats, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country — and anything else you want to discuss.

Good afternoon.  

Hey, the president of the United States is an imbecile.  I'd just thought I'd lead with that.  

Also, I think you all want to look at this dog & cat video.  It probably is the greatest visual exegisis ever on the difference between dogs and cats.  I do not see it as an indictment of dogs.  This little Bichon is using a tool of his that has likely been of great effectiveness in the past.  

Finally, I've missed the last couple of chats for two reasons.  The first is the final, overwhelming, crushing deadline on my book.  But the second was having been pole-axed by what I believe was the romaine-lettuce disease.   (Tom The Butcher commented that if I had actually died of eating poop, it would have been the greatest humor event in histor.)

Have you ever had poop-borne food poisoning?  It is very odd.  There is no fever.  There are no cold symptoms.  You don't feel "sick," exactly, except for two things: 

You have diarrhoeia.  I spell it like that, because in this form, a mere "diarrhea" does not do it justice.  It's way more creepy and altoghter rrhoei than that.  For several days you cannot risk leaving the house. 

But that is not the most overwhelming symptom.  The most overwhelming system is, in medical terminology, what is called "malaise," which by the way anagrams to "e-salami."

Here is how malaise works.   You wake up in the morning but do not wish to move, at all.   You and your brain have certain discussions. 

Your brain: You need to take Murphy out. 

You:  Don't.  Physiologically, dogs can go 72 hours between walks, if need be. 

Your brain: You just made that up. 

You: I have won the Pulitzer Prize.  I don't "make things up."

Your brain: Take the dog out. 

You: YOU take the dog out. 

Your brain: Now you know I can't do that.  

You: What is the worst thing that will happen?  She will poop on the floor. 

Your brain:  No, the worst thing that will happen is that she will poop on your bed.  And will have diarrhoeia, too. 

You: (getting up).  F.U., brain. 

Anyway, I am better now.   PSA: Don't eat poop. 

Okay, we start at noon sharp.  If you haven't taken the poll, please do it now.  I am prepared to be completely obliterated by thrown shade. 

Please don't go down this road of chatting about the fat ladies, Gene. We know you like 'em skinny. It's not helpful for you to insert yourself into this conversation. Just don't.

But I can't not.   I have a job to do.  It is my solemn duty.  It is for Journalism.

Clearly, women feel more accepting of the idea that "Plus Size Women" are in some way "Beautiful." In the first place, I think you do a disservice by limiting this to women; Morbid Obesity, which is what we are looking at in the righthand photo is a severe health hazard on a par with smoking. It is in my view both counterproductive and misguided to instill this condition with allure by referring to such a photo as "beautiful." Mind you, I am not claiming the woman on the right is to be shamed or implying blame; she has a dangerous medical condition, and it is, in my opinion, doing her a disservice -- enabling her, just as one would with an alcoholic or anyone else with a problem. Medical statistics make it clear that she need a cure, not enabling. This type of political correctness is misplaced.

Well, you know.  I was going to write this but you said it better. 

Would be interested in your view of the mother who named her child Abdce. The estimable Carolyn Hax is of the view that it's none of our business. From Friday's chat, "[t]he Abcde issue is not one of naming (ir)responsibility. It just isn't. It's about the arrogance of bystanders." I agree that the bystanders in question should not have done what they did. I also don't think legal authorities should be interfering in child-naming decisions, as they are apparently entitled to do in some countries. But I still worry about the child and I question the mom's judgment in branding the child with a name like that. I haven't yet been persuaded that I should feel guilty for feeling that way.

I think you know my answer to this.  I disagree with Carolyn but only in the sense in that I believe there is an issue of responsibility in naming children.  And Abcde is a stupid name.   It will never be NOT a stupid name, however many Abcde's are so named.   If you have an Abcde who is hard of hearing, is she Abcdef?  

However.  It was wrong of the airline employee to make fun of the name, publicly, in any way.  Just rude as hell.  He or she should be disciplined for that.

In full Space Shuttle Mode on the commode?

I was Captain Kirk, on the Bridge. 

Women respondents to the poll think that the picture on the right represents fashion?!?!? The woman represents beauty??!?! You have GOT to be kidding me. If the picture was of a middle-aged man of similar heft in his underwear, we'd call him a BUFF (Big Ugly Fat F.....) and not think anything more of it.

I agree with everything you write, except the anger an contempt.  This is a very difficult subject.  I can see in several directions. 

Gene, you've always been willing to critique your employer within reason, so I am interested in your reaction to Mary Jordan's article on the cold case mob (?) killing. While fairly compelling, I wasn't sure what kind of article it intended to be. There's so much journo proceduralism that it's not just investigative. There's no real resolution, etc. I also wonder about your reaaction to how it was presented on-line: the forced scroll down at the beginning with lots of blank space to (I asuume) ratchet up the tension. Anyway, thanks for the chats? Oh, and is VPL no longer a topic? If not, due to fashion or #meToo?

VPL will always be a topic. Have you an observation you wish to share?

I read with interest anything Mary Jordan has to write.  And I found this story fascinating until the end.  I think I would have counseled a different way to present the end, which came off, as you say, disappointing. You can't make up facts you don't have, of course.  But in my humble opinion, it needed some rethinking about its exit lines.  That's just me.

The layout of the top didn't bother me.


Why is it when (most) people die we collectively forget the bad things they did? Why aren't we talking about GHWB's disgraceful treatment of the LGBTQ community? Or the fact that the liked to make inappropriate comments (and grabs) at women? Or that some believe he was a war criminal for activities during Desert Storm? GHWB spent many years in public service and I don't want to take his achievements away....but there are also things that shouldn't be brushed aside. Shouldn't honoring the dead include being honest?

Yes.  I do think we need to fight the temptation to seek out negatives, for the purpose of showing "balance."  If the negatives are there, and an important part of the whole, you mention them.   If they are not an important part of the whole, a few days' respite won't hurt. 

Hi, Gene. Chrissy Metz is a star of the hit NBC series "This is Us," as the extremely overweight daughter of the main couple. Metz has become a star and magazine cover model. I cringe when I see her -- potentially pretty face but obese! Yet I feel like I can't say that because of all those heart emojis Robin Givhan mentioned in her article. BTW, I'm a liberal female and feel like I should be more accepting but....

It's a real issue.  I don't think people need to feel guilty about their views, on either side.  I get the "inner beauty" thing.  I also wouldn't judge people who find the actual avoirdupois attractive on its own. 

I have many many thoughts on this topic and article and on your choice to wade into it. But I don't have the mental/emotional energy to share those thoughts right now so I'll leave it with this one: as a gal who has been a 24 and spent many years an 18-20, better clothes options were much needed. As a gal who is currently a 4-6, it flabbergasted me how "easy" finding clothes i didn't hate became at 10 & below. I will also say I don't think 18 is or should be a "medium". PS please don't "congratulate" me or comment positively on my sizes. It's gross and I mentioned it only for context and reference.

FWIW, I don't think it's "gross."  

Is your book fiction, nonfiction, or crucifixion?

MY crucifixion, maybe. 

It's nonfiction.  The true story of a day in American history, chosen at random. 

I'd have been more interested in this question if the rightmost model had been a man. I wonder if the women would have been as inclined to find beauty in an obese man as in an obese woman....

That's an interesting question. the poll questions are bigots. : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

I don't understand your point(s).   Who shows bigotry against whom, by answering no to what?  I'm happy to address your point, once I know what it is. 

Here's a difference between men and women. Men have malaise. Women have that same discussion with their brains, and but it goes like this: Your brain: You need to take Murphy out. You: I know. Because no one else will do it if I don't. Count of 3. Okay, brain? Your brain: I hate us. You: Yep.


... is it because management thinks they already have enough kickers? How is it that Daniel Snyder, whose business skills have something to do with marketing, can continue to make/allow such stunningly awful decisions for this franchise??

Kickers?  He is a running back, no?

It is because Daniel Snyder, shanda for the goyim, is one of the worst owners ever in pro sports. 

I used to work for a food service provider that prepared meals for hundreds of thousands of people every day. We'd get complaints all the time about food poisoning. In a very, very large majority of cases, the symptoms had nothing to do with what they ate. It was due to a bug they caught from someone else.

I'm sure.  The only reason I suspect this is that the symptoms were spot on.  Intestinal bugs usually have more ancillary symptoms. 

I had a colonoscopy last week (thanks for the lidocaine tip BTW it was very helpful). The prep was unpleasant but not quite as bad as I had feared. Afterwards when I'd woken up from the anesthesia and was looking at the color photos of my innards, I had what I thought was a fabulous idea -why not just keep them like this, all clean and free of smells, poop etc? It seemed perfectly reasonable and appealing. A very small voice in my head (my weak at the moment rational brain) said that would be impossible as it would soon result in your death. It didn't have much effect on the appeal of the idea, however as I recovered I have gone back to eating.

Thank you. 

Yes. It is an issue. However, fat shaming is not at all helpful. By ostracizing people, the issue is made worse. Time and time again, studies have shown that making people feel worse about themselves is detrimental and causes more issues. You don’t have to be attracted to them, but saying that they are ugly because of their size is not only cruel, it’s inaccurate.

But ... IS it inaccurate?

Okay, I have a provocative question, maybe even an objectionable one.  Here goes: 

I imagine the woman on the right weighs something like 320 pounds.   Would those of you who find her representing a certain kind of physical beauty still make that argument if she weighed 600 pounds?  Is there ANY point at which the argument doesn't apply?

Will you get some author endorsements/blurbs from Dave Barry, or Carl Hiaasen -- call in those chits ?

Publishers make you do it.  It's horrible. 

The woman on the right has a "this is who I am, and I don't care what you think of me" confidence. That is undeniably a "certain kind of beauty". Although I am not attracted to her physically, to deny her that realization is obtuse.

Interesting.  I don't discredit that. 

...I buy my clothes from a couple of websites that also feature clothes for women of comparable stature. These companies have a broad (get it? get it?) range of women in their photos, but they are universally presented as pretty and stylish in contrast to the typical bag-o-bones model. The photo on the left is a fine example of that kind of marketing, in which the aspirations of the customer are cultivated and flattered. The photo on the right is an act of aggression, from the scowl on the model's face to the attractive-to-almost-no-one pose.


We shouldn’t stop talking about the health risks of someone who is the size of the lady in the picture on the right. She may be beautiful, but she is likely shortening her life. Just as we speak about the risks of smoking, excessive alcohol and speeding, we need to talk about the health risks of fat.

"She may be beautiful..."

You are begging the question, understandably.  Is she?

Both pictures are of WOMEN, not LADIES!

Okay.  But I know several modern feminist women who call women ladies.  

My reaction to this article (which I admit I didn't do more than glance at) was given a good response by a physician in Sunday's (?) Post. Morbid obesity kills- why should we glorify it or make it acceptable any more than killing yourself with drug or alcohol abuse? My first reaction however was why can't designers and fashionistas just use healthy sized people? Some countries now are forbidding anorexic models so now we go to the opposite extreme? How about clothes for those of use who are just average, healthy-sized? Like a BMI of 20-25 or so?

I feel this chat is angering a lot of people, and I don't feel great about that.  

from the dreaded intestinal troubles, yeah. Living 15 steps or closer to a toilet at all times is awful.

Yeah.  Really makes you feel ... old. 

Wasn't e-Salami a failed late-90's deli-delivery service? I'm sure I remember the eSalami hero sandwich mascot as a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon in about '98.

Yes.  The business model failed, though, because they should have offered other meats.  An all-salami deli was a bad idea. 

was interesting.

Everything Birnholz does is interesting.  I found it a little too tedious.  Wasn't enjoying it enough to finish. 

Can I, as a longtime reader, fan, and follower, provide a blurb for you? If it helps, I have a publishing background and know the language well.

Thanks.  If your name is not well known, the publisher won't be interested.  Sorry, that is the bleak central truth of publishing. 

You can review it online!  

At least Southwest is trying to make things right -- they've told the family that they're going to start labeling their seating structure after the little girl to honor her.

Haha. a running back. But in the video, he does a little kicking, too.

Ah, okay. 

My wife and I both used to be fit and good looking. As we've aged we've gained weight. Neither of us would characterize our current appearance as a form of beauty. We know we need to lose weight, as well as how difficult it is to lose weight when your metabolism slows. While we accept our current bodies, we are nor proud of them. We are what we are. We view other peoples' appearance similarly to the way we perceive our own. If that is bigoted or obtuse, so be it.

I think it's normal, but it is not Univerally Accepted. 

...has to endure the damning judgement of everyone she meets, every day, as well as the invectives of strangers. She has a right to the 'good feeling' that comes from wearing well designed and constructed clothing that everyone else does. She does not need anyone's permission to feel good about herself, even temporarily. 57 y.o. w/guy.


I said yes, the picture on the right represents fashion (am a woman) only because if it's a fashion ad,'s a fashion ad. Just because I don't think Trump represents the U.S.A. doesn't mean he actually doesn't. I do agree with the other poster that it is unhealthy though. I'm ok with the left picture but the right picture is as bad as glorifying smoking in all of the old time movies all the time. I feel like in another generation, we're going to look back and say, "what were we thinking?"



Whenever someone speaks of the dead I think of TONY KORNHEISER writing "Billy Martin always brought out the worst in me. He still does. Whenever I think of him, I remember sportswriter John Schulian's description of Billy: "a mouse studying to become a rat." And Lee Atwater calling many people before he died to apologize. jf martin

I love that Billy Martin quote. 

Did you see that some folks want to ban Rudolph from TV because it features bullying? I always thought the message was a pretty clear anti-bullying message. I imagine those folks would not be happy with your views on the morbidly obese woman showing way too much skin.

Isn't that the whole POINT of Rudolph?  The bullies learn their lesson. 

Of course, it is not what would happen.  Once he became Santa's favorite, the bullying would get worse. 

while everyone gushes about his "honor" no one is pointing out that he was a classic moderate Republican until he got the presidential bug and then he went back on all his principles and sold his soul to the right wing of the party to get on the ticket and eventually into the White House. That and Desert Storm, I can't forgive him for.

Hm.  Your thoughts on Desert Storm, please?  Not sure why that is a negative, except inasmuch as we didn't finish the job.

My girlfriend is the size of the woman on the right, and hot damn she is gorgeous. If you don't think she's beautiful, that's fine. But I'm the one who gets to love her, and I can't get enough.

Noted, and congratulations. 

First - I had every symptom you had this summer. Turned out to be a kidney stone. And I know that doesn't make sense, but doctors told me kidney stones often have strange symptoms, like diarrhea. And second, as someone that isn't all that pretty, I look at the woman on the right and see that she has beautiful skin, teeth, hair, face - everything I don't have - and think she looks great.

Thank you. 

The problem with the "every woman is beautiful" campaigns is that they miss the point entirely. Every woman wants to be beautiful because for millenia women were told that their beauty was the sum total of their worth as a human being. If a law was passed today that required everyone to call everyone regardless of her appearance "beautiful," it wouldn't really change the way people feel towards her, and as a consequence it wouldn't change the way she feels about herself. Instead of pretending objectively-less-attractive people are beautiful, we should acknowledge that they are not -- it's okay, almost nobody is, that's why we call it "beautiful" and not "average" -- but stress that they are still people, they matter, and they deserve to be judged according to their abilities and talents just like everyone else.

Exactly.  If the woman on the right were my boss, or coworker, or doctor, and she was great at what she did, I would unreservedly appreciate her, and her appearance would mean nothing in my regard for her. 

I had it once way back when. It is weird, not feeling sick but the first day I must've been on the john 20 times. I came downstairs and lied on the couch because the downstairs toilet is only 10 feet away instead of about 25 feet from my bed. If I ate or drank anything, I'd be in the john within 60 seconds. I didn't go to the doctor until about the 4th day because I didn't think I'd make. Lost 12 pounds over about 7 days of "malaise".

It's amazing, isn't it?

I am a morbidly obese middle-aged woman. I'm not as fat as the woman on the right, but I'm much closer to her body type than the woman on the left. I am very conflicted about this poll, the photographs, and fatness itself. As a very fat person, I don't like looking at other very fat people. I am ashamed of that feeling. However, I also wish finding clothes that fit me, let alone look good, were easier. To all the people who are concern-trolling over fat people's health and feel that shaming us will somehow make us change, you're assholes. There's absolutely nothing you can say to me that I haven't thought about myself. Do you seriously think that the mere existence of a photograph of a fat woman is somehow glorifying obesity? If shame worked, I'd be rail-thin, because no one is more ashamed and embarrassed of me than I myself am. I am already acutely aware of how society sees me. I live with the impact my weight has on my overall health. I know it's probably shortening my life. I hate that I'm fat.I have also tried every diet on the planet. They all worked for a while, then I wound up gaining back everything I lost and more. Less than 5 percent of people successfully loose weight and keep it off. Recently, I've decided I'm never going to be in that 5 percent. All I'm asking from the world is to be able to leave the house not naked, in clothes that fit comfortably. If a photo of a fat woman in a bra and panties gets me that, I'm all for it.

Thank you.  I really appreciate your sharing this. 

we wouldn't even be having this conversation or this poll.


How long has it taken you to write this book? I ask because, as a fellow writer embarking upon my second (hopefully) published book, I'm trying to feel better about how long writing takes me. Do you subscribe to the view that it takes as long as it takes?

I do.  Unfortunately, in my case, it was ... six years.  (The contract called for two years.  The publisher was great about it.)

I have a weird question that seems perfect for you and your readers. I have a few superficial traits in common with you: in my 60s, good SAT scores (740 on both math and language), and a rich interior life. So here's my question: Do you hum? I hum when I'm not listening to music or doing anything else--such as when I'm walking to the Metro, walking into the ladies' room at the office. Most of the time it's just in my head (I think), but sometimes I am actually humming where other people can hear. The first time it was pointed out to me was when I was in college, and someone referred to me as "my friend who hums." I had to ask her what she meant because I had no awareness before that! Now I am aware, and I'm notice that what I hum varies very little. Sometimes I'm humming a song that I just heard--that seems fairly normal to get an earwormy tune stuck in one's head. But for several years now I have become aware that the default song in my head is the tune from the Mickey Mouse Club TV show from the 1960s! "Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me? M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!" Does anyone else out there hum? I'm not really worried; I view humming as just another aspect of the active interior life I lead in my head. But I'm just curious as to whether there are other hummers out there.

I don't hum.  I have music in my head all the time.  The most revolting thing I have done -- I think I broke myself of this habit years ago -- is keep the time by swishing saliva around in my mouth. 

I had to put my kitty down last night. He was 19.

There is pain in this, of course, but reason to celebrate as well.  Nineteen.  This cat lived a long healthy life. 

So how much are you regretting this book right about now? lol.

Less than I was about a year ago!  It's basically done. 

"I hate writing.  I love having written." -- commonly misattributed to Hemingway, Welty, Parker, Twain, etc. 

I guess what you're trying to achieve here is the notion that shaming overweight people gives them an incentive to lose weight so we end up with a collectively healthier society? But maybe fashion should just be more about the clothes and less about the models. Are store mannequins exemplars of a certain kind of beauty?

I don't think most people here are intending to shame anyone.  

Full disclosure, I am a plus-size woman. I am more in the range of the woman on the left than the woman on the right, but deep enough into the plus-sizes to notice a lack of clothing options compared to when I was in the straight sizes, even the very small straight sizes. I really have a hard time with that. When I was a size 4 adult, well away from the average American woman, I had no difficulty finding clothes. Once I started straddling the line between straight sizes and plus sizes, which is more in line with average, I was left with fewer options. It makes no kind of business sense. One thing Givhan is not addressing in her article is that the photo of the woman in her underwear is a direct advertisement for a specific store and brand, while the woman on the left is more of a glamour, runway type shot. What that picture on the right is saying is "This brand/store has clothes that fit me, and thus you. Come find us." That's different than selling a fantasy, like you get with more fashion-oriented shots. Torrid, a store that specializes in plus-size clothing, does this well by using a range of models in a range of shots. They are flattering shots, but also clearly show a curvy body wearing the clothes they sell. Other than in contrast with stick-thin models, it's hard to tell that the model on the left is plus size wearing a dress designed for plus size because of the way it is lit. From the shot, I cannot determine how that dress will look on me even though the model is roughly my size, so I don't have any incentive to buy it. Reading the article left me with a little disquiet and it took me a discussion with another plus-size woman to figure out why. I can't shake the feeling that Givhan is actually disgusted by the woman on the right and looking for an excuse to be disgusted.

Do we all agree it is wrong to be disgusted by the woman on the right?

Look, I get that everyone would like to flip the script and point out the hypocrisy of people (and women) who wouldn't be as accepting of obese men as women, but that's a false equivalency and everyone knows it. Men are not nearly as hampered by being overweight or unattractive. Exhibit A is our current First Couple.

Absolutely correct. 

Desert Storm left Saddam in power, birthed Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, led to 9/11, leading to more quagmire and ISIS. Kinda tarnishes the gold medal don't you think?

But were we supposed to let the invasion stand?

Did you see that pic of President Bush's service dog, Sully, in front of his casket? Do you think that Sully knew that President Bush's body was in there? (There is some sweet footage of Sully in the Rotunda today.)

Oh, I definitely do.  Of course he did. 

I'm thinking either Kaiser Wilhelm II -- the bombastic and impetuous emperor who wanted every day to be his birthday, or John Gotti -- the spotlight-loving crime boss called the "teflon" don because charges against him didn't stick (until the did).

Trump's tweet congratulating Cohen on not ratting him out was definitely Gotti territory.  And obstruction of justice. 

Hi Gene- I have followed this chat for 15+ years. I am fairly certain that the air of arrogance you personify in this chat is an act. However, I've noticed in recent years that you seem to have become much more of a curmudgeon. Is this an act too are are you just settling into your role as a grumpy, old man?

I think I have remained fairly uniformly grumpy, no?

I always thought that when I hit 65, I'd start a column called The Grumpy Old Fart.  

Gene, I'm a 44 year old woman, and a size 6 in most mainstream brands. The problem is, I was a size 6 in high school, too. I am 2 inches taller and 10 lbs heavier (130 lbs and 5'8) today. Numeric sizing for women is ridiculous, and pretty well meaningless. That said, I am not a fan of glorifying obesity. I have been "skinny shamed" more times than I can count. If I eat a salad, well, no wonder I'm thin, it's because that is all I eat. Eat a burger "wow, I wish I could eat that". I work out 5 days a week -- mostly because i make the time for it, and it's also a social activity for me. 3/4 of my grandparents died of heart attacks, and both of my parents are morbidly obese. I do not want that as my fate, so I work to avoid it. But hey, fat is beautiful, right? and to point out that the woman on the right is NOT the picture of health is wrong and hating?

To many, yes. 

I LOVE her writing. I would never read about the fashion world and I still don't care about it but for her.



Perhaps the woman on the right has an inner beauty, but we wouldn't know that by just looking at a picture. So asking if she is an example of any type of beauty is unanswerable. Your question is defining beauty as something that can be seen, which is way too limiting.

Noted.  Except I think the context of the question is clear: We are defining beauty in a limited sense, for the purpose of the question.  We can't know about the inner beauty of the woman on the left, either, right?  Are you comfortable saying she is beautiful?

It's kinda like know it when you see it. I can't really explain the point better, though I wish I could. The woman in the picture on the left is fine. But the woman on the right is veering into that almost "see how forward thinking we are!" I dk. I'm a liberal, young woman and it still bothers me because as someone who had an eating disorder, I look at the picture on the right and think "well I'm not THAT fat, so of course I can keep eating this junk food and I'll be fine." The woman on the left makes me feel more comfortable with my body and that there's beauty in different shapes. Like I said earlier, you know it when you see it.


I answered honestly and said that I didn't think the picture on the right equals fashion and that I didn't see any beauty in in her. I feel terrible about these answers, because I feel like I should be able to see the beauty in her. But I can't. I just can't. Am I a terrible person?


I don't think the issue is being disgusted, but rather it's expressing that disgust. I am disgusted by her, but I'm only willing to share that here because it's anonymous.

It's like you never said it at all, then!

I know she's an excellent writer, but I find her to be very judgy. I remember one of the first articles (the first?) she wrote for the Post in the late 80s was to shame all the women who wore tennis shoes during their commute on the metro. I ruined one too many leather shoes on the escalators, so I always wore tennies and changed once I got to work. I'm not trying to be a fashion plate on metro - I'm just trying to get to work without ruining a $100 pair of pumps.

This reminds me of a favorite Style Invitational entry.  The contest was to come up with extremely bad advice to give tourists to D.C.  The winner was: You can reliably tell a prostitute on the street: they are dressed in business attire, but are wearing sneakers.  It is perfectly okay to go up to them and negotiate prices. 

Mussolini and Trump. Il Duce and Il Douchebag.


There are two problems here and they are conflated weirdly by American capitalism. First, the fashion industry is guilty, by designing only for the size 0-8 set, of restricting options for the size 10+ set and condemning them to ugly clothes. This effectively accelerates the problems of the social beauty standard: not only is a size 18 "too big" for the beauty standard, but she "dresses ugly" too. The fashion industry has thus become the battleground for two problems: our notions of physical beauty and our notions of good clothing (and face it, everyone deserves clothing that maximizes their appearance and comfort and confidence). You are trying to address the former under cover of the latter, but so far you're generating more heat than light.

A friend of mine swears by a company called (I think I got that right.)  They actually create your dress (not outrageously high prices) from your measurments. 

Semi-calling BS on that one. Yes - a dude can absolutely get away with being heavier than a woman - provided he's over age 40. Experience tells me there's no mercy for a young fat guy. AND - while a dude can get away with being heavy more than a woman can, he CANNOT get away with being morbidly obese. And-And: For the Trump-Truck: I'm pretty sure that it helps that he's at least a multi-millionaire. Which also helped Oprah (who is gorgeous by the way).


When do we get to learn about your fnorph or whatever you're calling Gina?

You are making the term too hoity-toity.  Fnorf. 

Dogs' olfactory senses are far more sensitive than humans', so I'm sure he could smell that Bush and a set of his clothes were in the casket.

Exactly.  And he was being a good boy. 

Sorry to lighten up the chat, but since you asked: One doesn't see it much anymore, even with the spread (ha) of tight fitting pants. I assume, based on what I see advertised, that there has been a technological development that has made the leg holes smoother. Alternative explanations are thongs and more women going commando. I am not in a position to test the validity of these alternatives. On the whole, however, yoga pants replacing VPL is a net win. Thank god for anonymous chats.

I am reliably informed that the thong is the answer. 

Your cat was a great pet and a wonderful companion. Your grief is proof of how special s/he was. And the age to which the cat lived is proof that you are a wonderful pet owner. Peace.


John Scalzi wrote his NYT bestseller "The Consuming Fire" in 2 weeks.

F--- him. 

Gene, I am a morbidly obese longtime reader of yours (and therefore, by definition, hot). I get tested for my health insurance every year. and my numbers are fine. Great, even. Blood sugar, cholesterol (good and bad), blood pressure, all fantastic. I get 5-6 hours each week of cardio. In other words, except for my weight, I am the picture of health. Except you and your readers would look at my picture and declare me on death's doorstep. You tell yourselves you're worried about my health, but you're not, really. You just think I'm unattractive and it offends you.

Well, you sound more healthy than I am. 

I don't mean to challenge you, but: Your doctor says you don't need to lose weight, health-wise?  I'd reall like to know. 

No fat person moves through this world without experiencing a regular, unending onslaught of challenges and indignities that stem from their weight and other people's reactions to it. Choosing to treat them with dignity and respect and allowing that it is possible to be beautiful while not conforming to typical western beauty standards is a kindness, but it's not one that is going to suddenly alleviate their burdens and blind them to the difficulties and risks of being fat. The idea that widening beauty standards and allowing everyone to have at least some experience of feeling beautiful will simultaneously encourage or fool people into maintaining a lifestyle that might be unhealthful is paternalistic and weird. I would also add that you have no idea what everyone's full health history is and what their level of risks are, so it is presumptuous to assume that you know how healthful or unhealthful anyone else's lifestyle may be.

Okay.  Understood. 

My regularly-scheduled participation in this chat has been cancelled.

Okay.  Because of the subject matter of this chat?

Installing Clarence "Long Dong" Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall is a pretty big negative. See also: "Horton, Willie".

Agreed.  Thomas was a giant raised middle finger to the country.  "You want a black guy?  Fine! Try this one...."

Is the word funnier when you pronounce it like Moe Howard, i.e. im-buh-SILE?


It seems to me that many people who appear to not care about their bodies, their weights, their sizes are responding to trauma of many decades standing. Would you argue about appearance with a solider who lost limbs? a person scarred by a terrible fire? Let's have some compassion.

I feel most of us HAVE compassion.  

Gene: “Is there ANY point at which the argument doesn't apply?” This where-do-you-draw-the-line argument is useful in many discussions. The “where” is strictly subjective.

I suspect we each have a "where," even if we won't express it. 

Used to kill people by the droves, particularly in the 19th century when cities were becoming more populated. If you read family histories from that time, any one who made to an old age had likely been widowed more than once and lost several children at all different ages. I don't know how anyone made it through that time. It's funny (har har) that sewers are the lowliest of topics when they have saved countless lives. I hope your feeling better!

I am pretty much normal again, thanks.  

You and all the people commenting -- shaming is exactly what you've intended to do. Otherwise why has this discussion never come up with a bones protruding skinny model to ask if that was attractive? You can justify with your "I'm a journalist, I can ask these questions" or you can own your bigotry. You're really not that different from the rest of society on this issue.

Well, I have no "problem" with the woman on the right.  As I said, I could respect her enormously if I knew her in another context, and she deserved respect.   I think we are all reacting -- in various ways -- to her presentation as a "fashion" model. 

It's funnier when the Capitol Steps do their "Hugh Jim Bissell" skits.

Never saw that but I like it.  I also love this. 

At the talk you and Eric Shansby gave a few weeks ago, the lady who introduced you said your forthcoming book concerned the events of a specific day in 1896. You didn't correct her, so does this mean you ditched the 1986 book and started over in a different era?

No, she got it wrong and I didn't want to embarrass her.  Told her later. 

I'm a size 20 woman. Fat, but not morbidly obese. Fat women can be beautiful. Morbidly obese women can be beautiful. The woman in this picture is not -- in my eyes -- beautiful, and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I do not see her as an exemplar of beauty at all. And I don't feel guilty about that.


as one of the people who voted yes, it does represent a type of beauty, I have to confess I wasn't referring to whole bodily beauty, but rather she as a person is beautiful, just as we all are. I would have to change the answer to no if I I was just looking from the neck down.

I don't think we are all beautiful.  Sorry.  That's woo-woo dumbness.  There are some very, very ugly people, through and through.  I can think of one offhand. 

But that brings us back to the top of the chat, which means we have cycled, and it is time to go.  See you next week. 

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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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