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Jan 18, 2018

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Did you watch? Not a very big payoff when she was "reunited with the crown." She just kinda sat there staring and said "yes. There it is. That's the crown, all right. Pearls and all." Not sure what everyone was expecting, but she just regarded it as I would regard my winter coat from last year.

I didn't see it. But really, should we have expected anything different? She's got crowns and tiaras for every occasion. It basically is your winter coat. And she hardly ever gets emotional about anything, really. (The Guardian seemed to think it was delightful)

As an employee of the Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, I'm probably only allowed to say that Mr. Bezos, in his deep and infinite wisdom, will surely choose the best location possible for his next Amazon outpost. What do you think?

...looks really bad. On the one hand, he's 96 years old so what did I expect, but on the other it was sad to see him like that. I'm certainly no expert but he didn't even look well enough to travel. I hope he's not in pain.

Yet travel he did, and that alone is an impressive feat.

My periodic reminder that I have minimal actual control over my life. This time, even more dread -inducing as I have two kids.

You're a federal employee, I presume? The "non-essential kind," who would be sent home for  the shutdown, or the "essential" kind, who would have to come in and work anyway but not be paid? What was it like last time?

I'm amused to see the Wawa ad on your chat today. I'm from the southwest and my husband is from Jersey. I never realized how big of a deal Wawa was until my husband recently started talking about the lack of buttered rolls at Wawas outside of the NJ/PA area and then everyone was going crazy over the one that just opened downtown. It makes me laugh because I rarely pay any attention to the ads that appear in the middle of the page in the Post online.

Having attended college in Pennsylvania, I am pretty excited about the new addition of a WaWa to DC. Now if only we could get Steak 'n' Shakes, and drastically increase our Dairy Queen numbers.

So having read both "American Fire" (fantastic!) and "Hillbilly Elegy" (good but not great) it struck me that having a book club read both of them to compare and contrast them would be very interesting. I actually felt like I got more of a feeling for "Trump Country" from your book than from J.D. Vance's because you were able to report on them as an outside observer instead of being a central character in the narrative. I found that in Elegy he reached conclusions that fit his story and his situation but ignored the overall picture. Do you see overlaps and intersections between the books?

Thanks for the lovely compliment. I haven't really thought about overlaps. I would have written a book about those arsons whether they'd taken place in rural Virginia, as they did, or in Minneapolis, or in Spokane. I was deeply concerned about getting the sense of place "right," because any place with that many arsons was going to end up being a character itself. But I didn't set out to tell a story about "Trump Country" in particular. It just happened to be that the fires were set in a rural, red place, so that's what I wrote about. If that makes sense.

(Also, I should add: The fires happened in 2013, and I reported them in 2014 and 2015. That's way before "Trump Country" was a phrase. So I didn't have to feel burdened by it; I could just write about the people).

As a non-essential fed, the shutdown was super easy for me last time. It was timed so that I didn't even miss a paycheck. It was wasteful, stupid, but kinda lovely break. And if we have one now, it'll be even better because this time, both of my kids are in school full time.

OTOH, Betty White just turned 96 this week, and for her age she looks and sounds great!

OTOH, Betty White is a movie star. 

It's old news now, but mere moments after the last chat ended I saw an article about all the froo-fraw over the royal brasserier (I'm making it a word if it's not) getting canned (heh) after writing a memoir that acknowledged the existence of the Queen and other royals having boobs, basically. Clearly you were the first person I thought of, and it bugged me for days that we could not discuss this in real time.

I appreciate you bringing this to all of our attention.

I got excited and forgot the question. So, I had been unaware that there is a registry of all the businesses the royals endorse, almost 900 names long. For Important Journalistic Reasons, please get a copy of this full registry and tell us about it. What is the weirdest vendor on there? The oldest? I am full of curiosity but without enough get-up-and-go to actually look into it myself so please curate it for us all. GSTQ

Oh! I actually had a copy of this at some point, back when Prince William got married. I went to a party for the royal vendors. I don't remember anything about this party.

It's astounding that sex would even cross his mind after she went out with him, went home with him, got naked, and blew him. What was he thinking?? Men are the worst.

Gene Weingarten's chat, on Tuesday, was mostly about Aziz Ansari. There were thoughtful and diverse perspectives; I highly recommend reading back.

I'm technically non-essential, but work for an agency that usually gets allowed to work (and paid) through general shutdowns due to some budgetary uniqueness. But it's not guaranteed. So, my situation doesn't usually actually change that much. It just tends to brings on a minor existential crisis as I'm the sole breadwinner, I have zero control over this whole mess, and my skill set (developed over the past 17 years as a fed) is not very transferable to the corporate/non-profit world.

I assume (yes, I know the joke) you would just go there for the Shakes part, right?

The skinny fries. With cheese. Also brownie sundaes. 

I'm so annoyed that opponents of "Metoo" are seizing upon this single event as though it entirely negates the entire anti-harassment movement. To my mind, Aziz is clearly a rhymes-with-glassbowl, and probably so is the woman, end of story.

Did you watch the first episode of season 2 of "Victoria" on PBS this past Sunday? Didn't realize that there were so many assassination attempts on her: GSTQ, indeed!

I can't get into the Victoria era. A moderate interest in the current monarch seems fine. Going back  more than a generation seems like more of a hobby than I'm looking for.

Down boy. I would understand your sarcastic take if people were calling for him to lose his career, but the general consensus seems to agree with you.

The general consensus actually seems all over the place, which is probably a good thing. There's assault. There's healthy sexual interaction. And then there's all sorts of behaviors that maybe men thought were healthy and fine, but women are saying, "actually, not." It's good to have those conversations.

Husband attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (when did they get switched???), and recalls the Steak 'n' Shake there in the early 1960s. Also Spudnuts, for doughnuts. Do you recall either of those from your time in east-central Illinois?

I'm from central-central Illinois, smack in the middle of the state, the town that originated the first Steak 'n' Shake in the country. So we went to that one, not the ones in Champaign :)

Can we all please be spared the godawful, dismissive, "what was she expecting" hot takes on Aziz Ansari? At no point does anyone somehow automatically consent to sex, it doesn't matter if you bought her dinner, she went to your apartment, she blew you, you blew her, she wore a short skirt, the moon is in the seventh house, or Jupiter aligns with Mars. To me, the entire point of MeToo is that the way our culture approaches sex is whacked. We have this awful men are pursuers-women are gatekeepers model, and men are supposed to push past reluctance and wheedle and coerce, and women are supposed to, I don't know, either lie back and think of England, or knee them in the groin. All of it is gross, and all of it needs to change. It gives men the idea that they're entitled to women's bodies, and it can rob women of mutually enjoyable sex.

Completely agree with you on Steak n Shake and Dairy Queen. I grew up with Sonic and was a huge fan, but I've been to the one in Frederick on more than one occasion only to be disappointed in everything but their tater tots and Cherry Limeade. I now worry about anything that I thought was great is going to disappoint.

We're all Proust, trying to recapture the tastes of our youth.

It sounds like you maybe don’t want to get into the Aziz discussion here, so feel free not to post obviously. But the first Aziz poster of the day made me really sad. Even if you don’t believe that Aziz acted criminally and even if you believe that he acted in a way that he thought was consistent with the signals he was getting (or perhaps more accurately, the subset of signals he was looking for), does that have to mean there’s no value in the discussion? A consensus seems to be forming that this was a bad sex experience that lots of women (and perhaps some men) have dealt with before—not feeling into something, not feeling able or willing to articulate that, not wanting to be considered a killjoy, and therefore having an experience that wasn’t enjoyable at all. But isn’t that, in itself, a problem (culturally and not legally)? What kind of society have we set up where it’s considered par for the course that women don’t feel comfortable being direct about their feelings in these circumstances and men aren’t focused on really trying to discern whether their partner is actually enjoying themselves??

These are the larger questions, and the next wave of questions, that I think we'll be asking. I heard a lot of women say things, like, "That description sounds like 20 dates I have been on." And so the follow up is, How did you feel about those dates? Do we, as a society, think those kinds of experiences should be normal? If not, then why are they, in fact, so normal? Is it because men think they're supposed to push for sex until they get a "yes," and even if that "yes" is strained and reluctant, it still counts as consent? Is it because women are afraid of what will happen if they say no? These are all valid conversational topics. It's also valid to wonder whether this particular accusation, and this particular incident, are the idea lens through which to be having these conversations.

You think it would be OK. Stay home. Clean all the closets. Take a walk. Go to the gym. Get a good night's sleep. Organize all the financial papers that crawled into a box and never got sorted. Make long simmering soup from scraps and a stone, like that book. What really happens is you stress out reading/listening to the news all day and not starting any projects because they can call you back with 12 hours warning. I might be a little calmer this time, but I wouldn't count on it. If they could promise me two weeks and we definitely get back pay, I would do some annoying doctor's appointments and the previously mentioned projects. But that isn't a shut down. That is a vacation when you don't have any travel or other stuff planned.


"It gives men the idea that they're entitled to women's bodies, and it can rob women of mutually enjoyable sex." perfectly put. I have often been in the situation of wanting to spend time with a guy, get a little physical and flirty, but never really feel 'safe' to enjoy it because of the fear that he will push and I'll have to 'sober up' and stop him. I mean, I've even explicitly said "I don't want to have sex tonight, I just want to make out" only to have the guy bother me over and over to change my mind a bit later. Its hard to enjoy yourself if you are always playing defense.

Years before that, I was sexually assaulted by a college professor. Oddly enough, what physically happened (being held too tightly and having my face licked as an attempt to initiate a session of tonsil hockey) was very similar. The incident with the professor was traumatizing because of the power difference and the fact that I didn't see a way to get away from him permanently (professor had a reputation for being able to open doors in all sorts of jobs and grad schools). At the end of the day, I was kind of grateful for the bad kiss at the end of the date because he gave me all the information I needed to decline a second date - who the heck wants either a relationship or even a fling with someone who is physically selfish?

Which one? I went to college in PA, too, and as a native of Silver Spring, when I first heard someone speak of Wawa I thought it was a jokey nickname for an establishment that maybe was really called Walters (a la "Baba Wawa") or some such. I've been living in Philly for years now and I still don't get the attraction, or the name. (But shhh, don't tell my neighbors.)

I went to Bryn Mawr. I'll be honest, if I'm going to choose for the bread, I'm choosing Jimmy Johns over WaWa (Jimmy Johns also being born in central Illinois). But WaWa has many fun and exciting toppings, so there's that.

Yes. I'm a woman, I've talked this thing over with a decent number of women, and the number of times we've given in to a man who pressured us for sex is significantly higher than zero. Partially, "ugh, maybe if I [perform oral sex on him] he'll stop whining," and also because forcefully saying no to a man can be a very dangerous thing. Been there, changed the locks, circulated the description to landlady and employer.

I must apologize for bracketing in a clinical term for a sex act. The one you used was a lot better. I wasn't sure I was allowed to use it in the Post.

to harry's wedding?

I don't know! I doubt it. We have a reporter based in London -- I just went to William's because he's the heir to the throne, etc. etc. Harry's will be a big deal, but not so big that the Post needs an extra set of high heels on the ground.

After "s---hole," I thought just about any term was acceptable in the Post.

And see, now you make me go bleep out s---hole, which, even though it was used by the president, we still have to get permission to use in our articles.

I'm a homemaker who very well might have my spouse in my hair for however long a shutdown lasts. Last shutdown was during warmer weather and was much more manageable. Send help.

Might I interest you in this article I wrote at the time of the last shutdown, in which many, many spouses of federal employees were really ready for the shutdown to end? 

Combine "s---hole" and [perform oral sex] into "blowhole." Bonus: it's an actual word.

Oh, good point. Yes, let's just insert that for any words we can't type.

How I hope that Trump isn't invited, because Harry hates the way Trump talked about trying to pursue Harry's mother once she was single. Then there's Trump's dog-whistle racism, which has got to offend Harry down to his very core. Then again, I hope Harry and Meghan are able to invite the Obamas. Also, does it seem to you that Harry's actually starting to become mature (as opposed to putting on an act)? Let's hope so.

No heads of state were invited to Prince William's wedding. Several ambassadors were, including the American ambassador to the UK. And since Harry isn't even an heir, I'd be really surprised if Trump, as head of state, got an invite. If the Obamas did, it would be a personal invitation, not one based on protocol.

I am truly asking what someone is supposed to do if they are in a romantic situation which seems to be progressing, they get no verbal "no" or "stop, and so they continue on to [completion] if the other party was only not saying anything out of a generalized fear (in other words not anything the person they are with has done)? I understand the fear factor but this seems something of a problem. I guess everyone should only proceed if affirmative responses are received but man does that seem tough to implement in real life. And if the other person is still scared of physical violence and give the consent then there can still be the accusation after the fact.

I don't mean to answer glibly, but...I think most people can tell when a partner is into something.

I.I. If you kiss someone and they don't say no -- but they're also not really kissing back because they're looking around the room, or their posture has stiffened, or their mouths are not moving -- wouldn't you stop then? And if you ask someone if they want to have sex, and they say, "let's watch a movie instead!" -- wouldn't you know that you should maybe take them at their word, and not spend the movie trying to get them to change their minds?

Some of this is complicated. But...a lot of it isn't. A lot of it just comes down to, "Just because I want this, I am not going to try to steamroller my partner into agreeing, so that I can get what I want and feel like everything's cool."

I work from home, and if you think a shutdown is bad, just wait until your spouse retires, and drives you crazy. There's an old saying that I'm now understanding more fully: "I married him for better or for worse, but not for lunch."

Flashing back to the tearful phone calls we used to get from my grandmother, post-grandpa retirement. "He's...just...watching...me...cook. Why...won't...he...leave...the...house." 

A very large percentage of men are not aware of this. In fact, many have no clue about what is running through a woman's head when the subject of sex comes up (yes, haha). It's discussions that #MeToo is sparking that are making a lot of men aware of it (yes, male here FWIW).

The "blowhole" post made my day. Thanks!

Mine too.

Dolphin here. Offended.


According to something I read a few days ago, his courtiers presented William with a list of over 700 guests to the wedding, none of whom were known to him or to Kate. He told the Queen and asked what he could do. She said to just make up his own list. Therefore, Trump will not be invited to Harry's wedding.

Oh, there were plenty of obligatory invitations issued to that wedding. I have a hard time thinking that he and Kate cared about all the obscure lord 'n' ladies at their wedding. But a concerted decision was made to not invite foreign heads of state, and I have to imagine that will hold for this wedding, too.

Not only is Bob Dole not a movie/TV star like Betty White, I believe he has been in poor health recently. Not sure if he is also in pain from his wartime injury.

Ugh, look up his hunting exploits!

Yeah, I know about them. He doesn't hunt big game anymore, and as a vegetarian of 20 years, who also doesn't wear fur, leather, or other animal products, who also adopts rescues, I feel like I'm allowed to have the moral high ground in decided whether or not to occasionally eat at Jimmy Johns. And...I occasionally eat at Jimmy Johns. 

Have you tried "really asking"...her? "You don't seem into this, would you rather we put our clothes back on and hang out?" This stuff really isn't that difficult.

I mean no offense to dolphins. After all, dolphins are what got my mom to accept my sister's sexuality. "There are gay dolphins, so why not gay people?" Really.

This makes me feel very tender toward your sister and your mother.

It's basically exactly this. We've all been someone not really into something in a non-sexual setting (someone wants to show you their favorite film/TV show but you really don't want to watch it, someone wants you to go bowling/sing karaoke and you keep trying to get out of it without being a spoilsport) and we had the body language/lack of affirmative language to show it. And you've had that person keep pressing you until you had to be forceful or even rude. It isn't fun. It's not a shared experience. If you're as happy to accept grudging participation as eagar participation, you're really just using the other person as a prop. And that's not criminal (and exactly zero people are saying it is!) but it does make you a jerk and something of a bully. Coercion isn't illegal it's just gross. And you expect someone as 'woke' as Ansari to already know that.

This is a great post.

I like to think I'm open-minded, but it would really bother me if my daughter went out with a dolphin.

Also started in Illinois (Chicago IIRC).

Also a fan of Potbelly's.

Not always as easy to tell as OP seems to think. Probably easier with someone you've known for a long time, but not necessarily someone you've just met.

If, in the course of making out, you realize you don't know your makeout partner well enough to tell if they are having a good time, there is nothing wrong with saying, "Hey, I just want to make sure you're into this. Because if you're not, that's cool, and there's a good fro-yo place around the corner that we can go to instead." 


Because, "I couldn't tell if they liked it because I don't know them, really, so I just kept going" -- is not a sentence that makes you look that great from any angle.

OP here, I didn't take your answer as being too glib and I thank you for actually taking the time to respond. There is so much nuance here that easily gets lost in chats (much less Twitter) but I think I understand what you are saying. I'd say that it is tough in the "throes of passion" to always count on the reading of unspoken signals but maybe that is exactly what we need to work on. Mainly we need to work on being a culture where no one is scared of physical violence for saying "no."

Yeah, but marrying and American makes things a little different, no?

You think Meghan Markle is going to demand that Donald Trump be allowed to come to her wedding? (Protocol question -- I assume her marriage means she'll be renouncing her American citizenship. Can't imagine you can be a core member of the royal family and not be British)

Here's an easy way: Back off for a few seconds. Do they keep the action going? Yay. Follow their lead. Do they smile and move on to something else? Yay! You did the right thing by backing off.

Well, if one dolphin coerced another dolphin into sex, then the dolphin's a blowhole.

Is this a good question to end on? Probably, right? Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you next week same time and place.

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Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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