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Jun 14, 2018

See you at 2!

Hello, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. I bring sad tidings: since I'm transitioning to a new role as a columnist soon, the powers have decided that this chat won't continue. June 28 will be our VERY LAST FINAL CHAT.


It's a bummer, but an understandable turn of events, and I don't think this means we'll lose touch forever. [Insert something something about how energy doesn't disappear; it's just transformed]. You can still reach me via email, or we can chat in the comments, or you can friend me on Facebook (I accept all requests from people who say they're from the chat), or we can talk to each other on Twitter.


Until then: Next week I'm on vacation and won't be near a computer. So come on Thursday for THE VERY LAST FINAL CHAT, and we'll have virtual cupcakes then.

1. The Redskins. 2. Who has been sneaking free coffee from the community coffee pot.

How does your community coffee pot work? Are you supposed to put in a dollar or something on the honor system? Is someone measuring when there are only seven dollars in the bucket, but the coffeemaker technically holds eight cups? Is someone just using a bigger mug than is allowed? I am surprisingly confused and intrigued by this confusion.

I am going to miss these chats incredibly. It's my favorite chat at the Post and one of my favorite things on the web. It has always felt big enough to be anonymous and surprising, but small enough that there is an understood culture of frankness without meanness. It has been a place where I can bring problems, both silly and serious, and get good feedback. Thank you for it.

I have loved it, too, and for the reasons you lay out: With rare exception (so rare, I can't even think of any off the top of my head), everyone who comes to this chat is a good person who is doing their best to understand the world around them. The chat has been a place of kindness and curiosity -- in short, it's how I would design the world, if I were the world-designer.

How do I get home? Luckily, they now have wifi. Signed, A. Muggle.

The more important question is how you can bring us all there with you.

Has made my week and also reminded me fondly of WaPo's #oldbae moment last year. If any chatter don't know what I'm talking about, you're welcome and go read all of @timnelson_mpr 's tweets for the last two days then click this link. 

As a person who lived through Old Bae, let me tell you, it was incredibly stressful and sad and *did not get the happy ending bestowed upon the Minneapolis raccoon.* Please do not re-traumatize me.

A standard work coffee club has the regulars pay a fixed amount per month or 50 cents per cup for visitors. I don't belong so I don't know how much the monthly cost is. Totally on the honor system.

And the coffee is running out faster than it should? And this is a scandal now? I love petty scandals. They are my favorite.

I will turn 50 on that day. Thanks for the gift of abandonment.


Would you like to combine the last chat with a birthday party?

10 years? Eight?

That we've been doing the chat? Long enough that when I asked my editors whether it should continue in my new role, I'm pretty sure at least a few of them weren't aware it was still continuing now. That's the real triumph -- not how long the chat continued, but how long we were able to totally fly under the radar.

On the plus side, your new picture is the best one yet

You know what I learned? We can request a new photo any time we want. I'd gone a good five years without knowing this. I could have had a new photo aaages ago! Also, I think the new one is terrible, too, but I've decided there's something very liberating in just not caring if your photos are bad. When people meet you in person, they're surprised and weirdly complimentary.

Wait, what is the logic in that? Does the Post have some special definition of "columnist" that applies just to you? Gene Weingarten and Alex Petri and Carolyn Hax are all columnists and they have chats.

I think it's more that, right now I essentially write about everything and this chat is essentially about everything. As a columnist I'll be focusing primarily on gender and identity and feminism. That's a broad topic (ba-dum-bum), but probably not enough to sustain a weekly chat. Besides, chats as a business don't do great traffic (Carolyn is an exception). They're valuable to us as humans, but not so valuable to the Post as a business.

Have you found a satisfactory solution for your dark circles?

APPARENTLY NOT (see: the new photo, which is positively vampirical)

Finally... freezing your jeans will be done after that.

Those of us who were around in 2009 or whenever will never recover from that topic.

Fed here (I'm on a conference call). We are supposed to ONLY use our monthly commuting benefits to go to work and home from work. If you don't use it all up, the rest reverts to your agency. You can't use the card attached to this account for personal travel. So, sometimes, I use the card to go to the first place I am going after work. And sometimes I use it to go home after being someplace else (that I walked to or got to some other way). Most of the time, this saves money because I am travelling later, but in very limited circumstances I might use up an extra $0.20 to $0.80. I think this technically violates the rules. But I do it anyway.

This is the tiniest act of rebellion I have ever heard of in my life, and I challenge anyone to beat it.

But it's related to what a colleague and I were discussing the other day, related to Scott Pruitt's abundant bungles at the EPA: many people would be pretty surprised at how strict federal employees have to be with their expenses. Donuts at meetings? Forget about it. Accepting a cheapo tote bag from a conference? Nope.

Well, I disagree with the bean-counter that decided that the chats are not valuable to the Post as a business. It's the best way to participate with your readers and engage them. Once Gene stopped doing regular chats, I stopped reading his columns and pretty much lost interest in him. Even now that he does "updates", it's still not the same.

But his updates are literally chats! He does a chat every week!

With me, it's more the realization that my pictures are never going to have the energy that real me has, and invariably my mouth will be open in a weird way, but people still love me. Or don't mind me. And the ones that actively dislike me dislike me for reasons other than my looks.

Yes, that. I've come to the decision that either 

A) Photos don't look like me, I take terrible photos, and there's nothing I can do about it (short of enrolling in a modeling course? Which, ick).

B) Photos do look like me, I'm weirder looking than I thought, but I'd prefer to just live in ignorance on this matter.

It's not a reflection on you, but the idea of "hostessing" the web just isn't working these days.

Other WaPo columnists (Robinson, Singletary, Sietsema) do chats that more or less focus on the topics of their columns. Can you do that? More generally, some years back, there were more chats (a politics column every day, for instance). I miss them. Tell your managers we want more, not fewer, chats.

Eh, will see. Nothing is permanent; there's always a chance we could decide to bring something back.

That is kind of absurd on the face of it. Also, having a group of safe feeling (because of being very anonymous) people who can throw out ideas about gender issues to talk to could be a great place to get ideas thrown out.

Well, that was partly my assumption -- it was nothing my editors said. And to be fair, whenever we do wade into more serious topics on that subject, there are plenty of folks privately messaging me that it's not what they came here for.

Oh nooooo! I had seriously already done the math as to how I was going to work out getting to the chats once I moved to the UAE. Hint: it was going to involve staying up late, but there's no work on Friday so it wasn't going to be doable!

Now I'm sad only because I would have really liked to follow your adventures in late-night chatting from the UAE.

For me, I have just accepted that my voice sounds wayyyy different in a recording/over the phone than in person. Everytime I leave a message or hear myself in a recording, I sound SO TIRED. But I'm not (well, not always)! People here it to - I will be on the phone and someone will say "did you just wake up?" And I haven't! And I thought I was being peppy! I have tried everything...smiling while talking, talking faster, but, nope, I just sound like a zombie on recordings. Anyway, I will really miss these chats. I loved that you really took all comers and entertained even the goofiest/strangest things. I wrote in once on my birthday and it made my day!

Ask any journalist; they will tell you there is no torture greater than having to transcribe a long interview in which you inevitably sound like a Munchkin and ask terrible questions.

I think the rule is actually no more than $20 per day and no more than $50 per year. It is basically set up to let you drink coffee all day and maybe accept a snack. But that is it. If you drank coffee and had a snack during the day, you can't have a drink after the meeting is done. And they can't take you out to lunch.

Basically you just have to sit in a dark corner for the remainder of the year, sewing a shirt of your own hair.

Oh, I know his new "updates" are now more like regular chats, but I meant that once we broke up (he stopped chatting regularly), I lost interest and found that I didn't want to get back together. And, he's not as funny these days. I blame Trump.

A few months ago I wrote about an extended family member that was posting a lot of Alt-Right stuff on social media and asking how I should handle it. I was a little slow coming to understand that not saying anything in response was a failure on my part. You and the chatters got me to a better place about it. (At the very end of the chat, you called me a "good egg." It made me cry. Thank you.) Since then, I talked with him in person about his stuff and I got the impression that a lot of his viewpoints were coming from a lack of empathy. I tried to give him some things to think about. I don't really know if it made a difference. But I have drastically changed how I interact with social media based on what the chatters told me. I don't let racist/misogynistic/hateful things go without calling it out. I see it as a responsibility to publicly espouse the things I believe. Thank you to everyone that helped me that day.

Hey, what an amazing update! Here's a link to the original chat.

Your interactions might not have made a difference to him. But they made a difference to you. That's important. 

Many, many years ago, I was an Admin Officer in Immigration NHQ here in Canada. We had a fellow who was kind of funny looking who was leaving and going elsewhere. He came to me to hand in his photo ID, among other things, and he ask what would happen to the ID Card because that was the best picture that had ever been taken of him. Could we perhaps just cut his photro off the card and give it to him? I told him I didn't know and suggested he take the Card to Security and ask them. He did. The Security secretary said it couldn't be done. The Chief of Security, who was stanfding near by, got out his security file and handed him the original photo, while the scretary was agast. Anything is possible.


Lordy, I can think of nothing that needs a chat more than your new beat. I've been discussing TERFs with a friend all day! But man, I must say how sad this day is and how much sadder it'll be in 2 weeks. Not only to lose a brilliant feature writer to what will surely be brilliant column work, but to lose one of the best chats. Can we start a white house petition?

TERFs = "Trans-exclusionary radical feminists."

Look at me, dipping a toe into my new beat by explaining an acronym I've seen more than one person get confused by. Invite me to this discussion next time!

In more recent times, I scanned onto my computer a flattering photo of myself from an ID card.

...which is great to have, but since ID cards have you staring at the camera in a particular way, you should probably never send this photo to, like, a potential date. For serial-killer reasons.

Here is my take. I know nothing has happened yet. I think that I get there is some justification for having "higher rent" in some places. Value for the businesses. It does cost them to maintain and expand their networks. It is a little like paying more to locate your store in a higher rent area because you think the foot traffic will be higher and the people walking by will be more likely to have the funds to buy your stuff. However (big however), the landlords in the areas that can support higher rent, don't have the power to make the other areas completely useless by permanently digging up the street in the lower rent areas. If people are willing to go to a slightly cheaper area to buy stuff they can. I've flogged this metaphor to death, but I think that I'm saying that some difference is probably OK, but it sure as heck isn't if the net voices that don't pay more are made functionally inaccessible.

Look at you, trying to have a reasonable discussion on substantive issues today!

In my fantasy life, the chatter is the one stealing the coffee and doesn't want to talk about it for fear s/he will break down under the pressure and confess to the crime. Either that, or s/he is being falsely accused of it and that's getting old.

You think the chatter is having a Sixth Sense-like experience, wherein he thinks he is investigating the coffee stealers, but he is in fact a coffee stealer? 

Not to worry, as I quit dating after I got married 51 years ago.


It can only be for a couple of days because of the $50 per year rule. If you go someplace often, you can accept stuff that is essentially negligible - tap water, use of the rest room. I think you even have to pay for parking unless their regular policy is that visitors don't pay for parking. You would get reimbursed for the parking, but the government has to pay, not the people you are meeting with.

Feds don't mess around.

To punish you for your heartlessness, I will refuse to ask a question today.

I will refuse to answer it.

Could you do a column on a certain POTUS who seems to protest his virility too much, methinks?

Weirdly, I've spent the past two weeks writing practice columns (never to be seen by the world; just to help my new editor and me get in the groove) and the one I'm working on today is very much about Donald Trump and masculinity. But you won't read it. Because it's practice.


Once at my church a group of us took an assessment to gain insight into our "spiritual gifts." For instance, healing, mercy, knowledge, etc. Because I hadn't dated in a long time, my gift turned out to be my "celibacy." The way the description read was like I had purposefully decided not to have sex in order to be more holy. lol

Aaahahahahaha. My gift would be "obstinacy." Or maybe, "dorknicity."

As a longtime chat (and Twitter friend) participant, I will miss this chat and the interactions with you. This chat often felt like the backstage of a high school drama production, where all the uncool kids get to nerd out in a safe space, and even the jocks and homecoming queens are invited.

Well, now I'm getting all misty-eyed. 

I'll see you in two weeks, where we'll celebrate somehow, even if I haven't figured out how. (Everyone bring a cookie to their desk? Cookie and brownie). See you on June 28. GSTQ.

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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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