Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Jun 28, 2018

See you at 2!

Welcome, welcome, to THE LAST AND FINAL CHAT.

I hardly know what to say. I've looked forward to Thursday afternoons for half a decade now, and your IP addresses have become familiar and beloved. I hope it's not the last time we'll all cross paths. Some of you have already friended me on Facebook or followed me on Twitter (if you friend me, just include a secret phrase -- GSTQ? so I know I know you). 

Now. Let's not be maudlin. Most of the questions waiting in the queue are goodbyes, but we must also make sure to use this final hour for any last bits of absurdity we need to get out of our systems.

Thanks for chatting with us all these years. You helped get me mildly interested in things I formerly distained 'wasting' time & energy on (like social media & the British royal family), which may sound like a back handed compliment but I mean it sincerely- you helped open my mind & reduce my snark.

You know what? I've been plenty snarky, plenty of times in my life. But somehow this backhanded compliment warms my dead heart back to life. Kindness and thoughtfulness are so much harder than snark. I think we've tried to be kind here. That's meant a great deal to me.

I was trying to describe this chat to a friend, and this is where I ended up: "So I go to Petri or Weingarten for laughs, Hank for smart TV and snark, Boswell for sports, Alyssa to feel smart about what I read and watch, Hax because other people's problems make me feel alternately helpful and smug, and Amber for state politics and tacos. But I go to Hesse's chat just to hang out. I never know what people are going to talk about, it's funny, and if I'm not careful I learn something too." And that's why I'll miss it. But I hope this means we'll see your byline more often. (How often will your column appear, and when will it start?)

It will appear two  days a week, approximately. And start the week after the 4th of July. I'm on vacation now in preparation (I rented a rug doctor. I whitened the grout in my shower. I hired someone to clean the gutters. Please, someone save me from this vacation; it is terrible.)

...on your well-deserved column! I knew it was only a matter of time before your beautiful mind found a larger audience. Best wishes.

Thanks. I don't know if it will be a bigger audience, actually. But it will be a different kind of writing and thinking, and it's good to try new things, even when (especially when?) they terrify you. Right?

Do you have particular favorite moments that stick out from chats (whether planned, like Father Cupcake's holiday missives, or an unplanned comment/topic that spawned something)? Things you will miss? Things you won't miss? [both curious about these things, and also trying to add in topics so that we can avoid talking about yesterday/scotus/etc please I need this to be a space to spend an hour not thinking about that please]

I always liked when Father Cupcake would be called upon to mediate an obscure grammatical question. Mostly because it gave me an excuse to call my dad on a weekday afternoon and count it as Official Washington Post Business.

Feel like we have to discuss everything we ever have discussed and everything we ever would discuss. Got to go very meta with this. What is the best topic we've gotten into as a group? What is the most important lesson you've ever learned from doing this chat? What should we avoid at all costs? My most important moment with you was discovering the Gangnum Style video. So profound. On.so.many.levels. :-)

The most amazing topic we ever got into was the topic that I protected all of you from. There was a period of about six months where someone wrote in every week asking to talk about spanking as a sexual kink.


The weird thing is, I didn't feel harassed, and it didn't feel gross. It felt like a clueless dude who really didn't know that there were a thousand websites he could have gone to in order to explore this topic more fully. He came here because he felt like he could trust all of us. Which I found really pretty moving. Even though I didn't post his questions. Because I enjoyed, you know, not being fired.

I guess you get the blame, but you’re the reason I joined Twitter. You were giving away your book and had a twitter contest. I lost. And now I’m stuck with twitter.

You and me both, buddy. 

With the announced retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a great defender of same-sex and reproductive rights, Trump looks primed to nominate a replacement for him who might well be inclined to roll back a great deal of progress in the past half-century -- legalization of same-sex marriage, same-sex sexual activity, Roe v. Wade et seq., heck maybe even Griswold v. Connecticut (right to birth control). How will fallout from Kennedy's retirement affect your upcoming columns?

I  imagine that every news event and ensuing fallout for the forseeable future will affect my columns. I was talking to an acquaintance who said they'd never want the gig, because it seemed boring to only write about one topic (gender). I said that I didn't see it that way. I saw it as a way to write about endless topics, but through a particular lens.


Kennedy's retirement is both astonishing and not. The man is in his 80s.

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease convert this to a chat about gender issues and feminism. So many things we talk about here fit into that realm, like the British royal family, books, how to navigate jerky relatives, etc. It'd be great to have a nicely moderated place to talk about these subjects, instead of just yelling into the wind on Facebook. Much love and thanks for all your time over the years!

I'll bring this idea up, because several folks have suggested it. We'll wait and see how the column goes, eh? And make sure, a couple of months in, that I haven't failed miserably.

England's playing Belgium right now in World Cup.

I'm trying desperately hard to come up with an informed response to this, but the best I can do is, "Yes. Those are two countries I have heard of, playing a sport I have heard of. I am aware the World Cup is a thing. Soccer balls are black and white."

I really wish the powers that be would reconsider. I have loved this chat from the very start. It's such a lovely community of smart, interesting, and funny people. It always cheers me up and gives me a little hope while everything else in the world is going so horribly. Anyway - thank you Monica, for establishing this chat and for hosting the Web so delightfully. I'll miss this. I'm going to go eat a donut now.

If it's a good donut, please tell me where you acquired it. I'm forever spoiled by a donut shop on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and since it's a 4-hour drive, that means that I'm donut-less for a very large percentage of my life.

I'm sad about this. I rarely get a chance to show up when you do, but I always read the transcripts. You're my favorite one of the week! I don't know how many good books and Netflix show suggestions have come from you and your chatters. I'll miss you!

Good books: I finally read The Woman in the Window, which I think a chatter recommended a few months back? It's like Girl on the Train. But it's a Woman. And a Window, not a Train. But good vacation-reading.

Is sad to see the weekly chats go, not least for the occasional pretext to seem knowledgable from Denver. But I'm glad the Post saw fit to create the new column and to have a good and wise writer for it. GSTWH.

Wait, Dad, are you saying, "God Save the Web Hostess" or "God Save the White House"? Maybe it's both. Maybe it's everything. 

I'm probably going to miss the chat this afternoon. I just wanted to thank everyone for this place. I will really miss it. GSTQ



It's been so fun and I can't think of a forum with more respectful, insightful and just NICE participants. I've tuned in from Oregon almost every week for as long as I can remember and will miss making this chat a part of my Thursday mornings.

If you are in Oregon, could you please go be an extra on the second season of The O.A. and then report back to me with lots of spoilers? Thank you.


Some years ago I pointed out that the plural of octopus is octopuses and not octopi, since that would be putting a Latin ending on a Greek word. You replied that you loved the answer and you felt smarter for having heard it. I felt great for the rest of the day, and all weekend. Best of luck in your new endeavor!

And now I feel smarter all over again because I remembered the answer (octopuses, not octopi) but I couldn't remember the rationale behind it, and now I do.

Will spanking issues be explored more fully in the Topics In Gender column? If not I'm out.

What if...what if the whole idea of the gender column was a long, Inception-like con created by the person who wanted us to discuss spanking all those years ago?  

I can't get up from my desk because coworkers will see me crying. I didn't expect this strong emotional response!

Quick, bring some decoy onions to your desk and rapidly begin chopping them.

I can't believe it's the last chat and I have nothing interesting to discuss. (Not that that's unique to this chat. But the pressure!) I think the only one excited about this chat's demise is my husband, who will likely not miss me saying, "Well Monica and I discussed this topic today..."

Oh, keep telling him that. He's never going to know the difference. You probably know by now what my thoughts would be on issues.

Has he ever snuck into the chat and posted things? At least that you know of?

He proclaims himself every time. Unless he's so sneaky even I don't realize it's him. (Are you my father?)

Can't we still leave comments on your columns, once they start to be published?

Yes. And I hope they are off-topic and bizarre.

I hit submit tooo fast. Damn. On the off chance you connect the dots between this post and blaming you for twitter, I also wanted to thank you for these chats. They’ve been delightful. There’s no better word for them. Best of luck with the new gig and I look forward to your columns. I don’t really blame you for twitter. I’m just still bitter I didn’t win the book ;)

Send me your address. I will mail you books.

What is the proper force and frequency for spanking? Should it sound more a gunshot (loud, solitary) or a round of polite applause?

(Do you all see what I was dealing with for months?)

How did this start? Was it your idea, or did the powers that be inform you that you will be doing a weekly chat? And did you expect it to last?

There was a period of time where I was writing a lot about the Internet. Facebook was pretty new, Twitter was new, and I was interested in how they were shaping behaviors. Someone asked if I would do a chat on the topic. It turned out a chat just based on that felt boring, but it also turned out that y'all were pretty fun to talk to on a variety of subjects, so we kept going. 

Well, I'm more invested in the Web Hostess's saving, surely. For your other option, I think surely in terms of the longstanding spirit of the institution. I'll spare folks rambling on about synecdoche. After all, cephalopod plurals have already shown up in the chat. By the way, FC would always fess up in this space. Spoon!

(This is why Father Cupcake had to be brought into the chat. I am a worthless English major who can't remember what any of this means).

May we send you OUR books? I hope to have two translations I've done, both dealing in part with gender issues, published in the next twelve months!

You can send gender-related books to me, sure:


Monica Hesse

The Washington Post

1301 K Street NW

Washington, DC 20071

"Facebook was pretty new, Twitter was new, and I was interested in how they were shaping behaviors." After reading about these and their ilk on your chat, at least I knew WHY I didn't want to be on any of them (as opposed to generalized fear).

My friend Chris Richards, the pop music critic at the Post, told me that whenever he received cranky emails from people who hate the kind of music he writes about, his go-to response is, "I hope my columns have at least caused you to deepen your understanding of your own positions." I think that's lovely and am planning to steal it.

Guys, I've gotten three more spanking related posts, which I am not publishing, I'm just letting you know about.

It's 1:30 p.m. where I am and I still haven't eaten lunch so I don't miss the rest of this chat. Thanks for providing a safe haven to talk about all the big and small of the world. Let me also add, that I really hope your bosses reconsider the need for a chat on gender issues.

I haven't eaten either, and it's 2:30 here. Can you plan a vegetarian menu please? Thank you.

I read this and little question marks popped out above my head. Inside joke between you you and him?

Yes. "Spoon,"  "Buffalo!" and "Welcome to The Rock," are all appropriate greetings, salutations, and expressions of approval in my family, and I could not begin to tell you why or how they started.

Naw, just kidding. Will miss this chat. There are a lot on Thursdays, but this is my fave. I whole heartedly advocate for us shifting to the comments section of your columns. It won't be as much a place for like minds to meet, as a gender issues column will certainly attract troll, but I bet we can make it fun or at least interesting. I know a lot of columnists don't read the comments, but switching to "most liked first" mode and reading down a bit might even help with topics for future columns. My favorite way to read comments to the extent that I do it.

I do try to read the comments, until they make my head explode, at least.

Can you believe the latest kerfuffle over Duchess Meghan crossing her legs in public? Why, I'm clutching at my pearls just typing this outrage! (Never mind that images have been found of Duchess Kate doing likewise, but I sense the Meghan is being unfairly held to a higher standard). Perhaps you can write a column re the intersection of perceptions of gender and race.

Oh man. I missed this kerfuffle (been on vacation, as I said). But it sounds like precisely the kind of thing I'd be interested in. i.e. "seems small and unimportant. Actually symbolic of larger universal debates."

Hi Monica, I've loved your chats, but am also so very excited about your new WaPo job -- congratulations! Will you be accepting suggestions for column topics? Also, WHEN will your first column be published??

The week after the 4th of July (I think I said that earlier?) And yes. I'd love your suggestions: hessem@washpost.com is the best place to mail them.

So for the next few Thursdays, do you expect you will see that it's almost 2 PM and will think Chat Time! before you realize the chat is no more?

Yes. And I will have a pang of fear, like, "I forgot, and they're going to be mad at me AGAIN," before I take a walk to the vending machines to get a Snickers bar and calm down.

You could develop a veritable cottage industry just writing columns about the gender roles in the current First Family.

Melania is a dissertation or three. I can't believe we didn't get to chat last week, when the whole "I don't care, do u?" kerfuffle popped up.

Can I mail you ones that have nothing to do with your new column too? And you mail me... Whatever you want, really but I never say no to books.

You cannot mail me any books that are unrelated to my column because my book situation is already completely out of control and I have put  myself on a strict Kindle-only diet until I get my shelves sorted out.

What you need to do is get the comment option that Hax has, where chatters can mark an "Off Topic" comment as such. Check with Teddy Amenabar re this.

Will miss hanging out with you and the team here, but we'll always have FB (I'm the one who's probably related in some fashion to your sister-in-law). This has always been one of my favorite chats, because we go so many places. GSTQ!

OK, it was rather a long time ago, but at my high school graduation, I was in the first row on the stage (short and female, we alternated rows boys and girls because the caps and gowns were different colors - not even going to get into THAT). I knew that my grandmother would be exceptionally pleased if I sat with my knees together and ankles (but no more than the ankles) crossed. So I did because I loved grandma. My mother was sitting with the school committee, and one of the other members, leaned over to her and said, "There is only one young LADY on that stage." Presumably everyone else was sitting with legs crossed or at least not glued together. Yeah, the judgment was that strict. This was 1983.

Every time I have tried to do the "sitting with only ankles crossed" thing, it feels weird and completely awkward. Am convinced that no human  has ever willingly sat like this, and that it is a seating position invented solely for the purposes of looking demure. 

I know you've not always done your chat from the Post or, even, from DC. Duty has called when you're on the road, but it seems like you've generally kept up the appearances. What have been your unusual locations? Did you ever chat from a donut shop? I remember, for example, you chatting from a lodge outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Oh sure. I've done chats in Amsterdam. Nicaragua. Norway. Turkey. Lots of Starbucks, a few Corner Bakeries, once from the narthex of a church.


I still love this and will forever.

I remember you once talked about some of the messages you got after not appearing for the chat... lecturing you on your responsibilities, addressing you as Ms. Hesse, etc. Hilarious.

I think most of those people really WERE mad at me, so they left and didn't come back again, and that's how we were left with only nice people here, for so long.

Even as a long-time dead-tree subscriber (still in my 30s), I usually don't notice a writer's byline, but I always know when I'm reading one of your articles. Looking forward to the column. Also, I don't think we would see eye to eye on much politically, but you have always dealt with a huge variety of perspectives and arguments intelligently and graciously. We could use so much more of that.

One of the tenets of my job that I hold most dear and sacred is the mission to try to understand other people. Why do they believe what they do? What does it feel like to be them? Nobody is the villain of their own story. Everyone is the hero of their own story. So when somebody is doing something that you believe is wrong, I think it helps to remember that they think it's right. They're not trying to be a jerk. They're trying, deeply, to do what they think is right.

I think (now that we're running out of time and I'm getting weepy), that's the plea that I would leave with all of us: Approach people from the perspective that they are trying to be right. Try to understand them from that perspective.

I'm a man. I just tried sitting here with my knees pressed together and my ankles crossed. (Where no one could see me, obv.) It's unnatural! It's like I'm trying to bend my legs in two directions at once! Nobody should have to do that.

Thank you.

The 2048 game, which allows my brain to rest from whatever work I'm doing, so I can then return to working with new ideas.

I lost a really crazy amount of time to that came back a few years ago, and then completely forgot it existed. And now i have remembered. And now I sense I'm going to go lost a bunch of time again.

Teared up with your final post. Let's be heroes of better stories for ourselves.

Posted earlier that I didn't think I'd make it. I did. Even had time to grab a tiny airplane bottle of whiskey. Cheers to the chat!

Thanks for stopping by.


And finally, to all of you: Thanks for stopping by, week after week and year after you're. You've been kind and curious and funny, and really, I couldn't ask for any better people to wile away a Thursday afternoon.


In This Chat
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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