From a Submariner's Perspective is a weekly column, written in response to the letters sent in to advice columnist "Prudie" at Slate.com. Each week, The Submariner responds to the letter writers in a way that Slate.com author, Emily Yoffe, probably can't (but perhaps would like to...). Each entry is headed with a link to the orginal questions and Yoffe's answers. Enjoy!

Also, if you have questions that you'd like answered by The Submariner, or anyone here at "The Fly", just write to me at smagboy1@gmail.com and I'll forward to the appropriate party/parties for an answer (or you can write to them directly via the e-mail addresses on their pages)! Once the answers are published, I'll drop you a note letting you know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

...on Loving Thy Sister


http://www.slate.com/id/2233031/ (orig. 10/22/09) <---Original Prudie Questions Can Be Found There


Hey there shippers! How in the heck are ya?! I hope that you’ve found your way here easily and that the extra effort to arrive doesn’t take away from the enjoyment? These are calm and pleasant waters and the snark fish are very active here (have a look around at all of them!).  And that’s just the way I like it. If you like it, too, please spread the word as there’s plenty of room for us all! The water’s fine here at “The Fly”, trust me. :-) But, that aside, let’s get to the letters, shall we?

LW#1: I’m engaged to my boyfriend of four years and our wedding is scheduled for next year. Everything is peachy keen except for one thing: his relationship with his sister, which is, frankly, creepy! They giggle like schoolgirls when together, they share intimate secrets with one another, and, they actually touch one another’s feet! There’s something so not right about it all. I mean, I would never, ever, ever act that way with my brother. What can I do? Is it normal for siblings to act that way? Hot dog! I love opportunities like this to point out something very fundamental in life: you don’t have to marry the person you’re engaged to! I don’t care if the announcements have been printed, the cake has been made, and the guests are on their way to the wedding site; you don’t have to marry someone if there are issues! You don’t even have to stay with them another day! I’m not saying you should leave this guy. Far from it. But, the idea that you’ve got to suffer through something that angers you, something that doesn’t seem like it’ll change, is just silly. And yet so many people go into marriage thinking that things will magically change once the vows are spoken. I’ve got news for you, sister. They don’t. So, before you get married and have kids and invest anything else into this tragic E.A. Poe story, figure out what I’ve said about the fact that you can leave. Understand it. Digest it. Live it.

Then, absolutely talk to your boyfriend about his relationship with his sister! How hard is that? If he’s more attached to his sister than you, and unwilling to change, you can leave him. Easy as that. If you’re a bitch about his relationship with her and it’s all actually perfectly normal and you’re the one with the problems, hopefully he’ll get angry with you and send you packing. Eithere way, win-win for both of you. Or, if what’s going on is just friendly sibling affection, maybe he can explain it to you in a way that you can live with. But I doubt that because, let’s face it, you’re completely and entirely jealous of his sister, right or wrong. You’re thinking, “Why be part of a secret threesome when I can be part of a committed relationship with someone else?” So go on ahead and act on that. You’ll both be better off for it.

LW#2: I have a wonderful nude painting of myself (from the neck down) that I’d like to hang in my house. Unfortunately, I can’t stand the thought of hanging it anywhere that anyone could see it due to the inevitable questions it’d inspire. Conversely, I feel terribly about keeping such a beautiful work of art hidden away, collecting dust. What can I do? Wow, this is a tough one. Let’s see. Okay, I thought about it for all of one-tenth of one second. Hang that painting! Proudly! Listen, if you want to hang it, hang it! If you want to tell someone who it’s of, you can, that’s your choice. And do so proudly!  But, if you don’t want to (i.e. if you’re uncomfortable with telling them), have a most excellent story handy about your wonderful great-great second cousin (twice-removed), Cleopatra (tell them, “yes, that most certainly is her real name!”), and how she was painted by a friend of hers. Say in hushed tones how it was “very scandalous at the time”, but be sure to state, too, “how wonderful it is that we now live in an enlightened society that understands that things such as nudity and boobies are nothing to be ashamed of.” At all (regardless of what Alberto Gonzales thinks). Got it? Good. :-)

LW#3: I am a single mother of the bestest best 4-year-old ever! She’s so wonderful that I figured lying to her would be the best way to just cement our relationship and make her grow up with good moral fiber. I’m so ashamed of/angry at/completely over her father that I like to pretend he doesn’t exist (except for my acceptance of the monthly checks he sends). As such, when she asked about him (and, holy smokes, I just never imagined in a million years that she would, so I was, like, completely unprepared for such a crazy and off-the-wall question as who her daddy is--I mean, who’d ever ask that?!), I instinctively lied and told her that her father is dead. He’s not. Now what? Listen up, chicky doodle. This is the first in a long line of questions that you’re going to get from her that you’re uncomfortable with. And the more you lie, the more you shut down, the more you keep from her, the less she’s going to trust you, the less she’s going to come to you, the less she’s going feel like you’re a haven in a storm. Do you understand that? Kids are not stupid. She already knows that you’re wildly uncomfortable about this subject and naturally that piques her interest. She’s four, for crying out loud. Curiosity is like oxygen when you’re four. You need to steel yourself for life’s questions and promise yourself you’ll never lie to her again. You can always say, as Prudie suggested, that he lives far away because you two don’t get along any more, and that you’d like to talk about it more later. You can give her info little by little as you’re comfortable, but don’t lie. Ever. And don’t bad mouth her father. Neither practice will endear you to her in the long run. Now go hug your daughter and apologize for lying. Explain to her that we all make mistakes sometimes, even those of us old enough to be adults...

LW#4: Prudie, my 80-year-old mother-in-law is a thief! I take her on a weekly grocery shopping trip as she can no longer safely drive. As we go through the store, though, she just eats candy from the bulk bins and fruit from the produce section like it’s nothing! Like it’s her own personal smorgasbord! Of course she doesn’t pay for this snacking, and she even has the gall to accuse me of harshing her mellow by calling her out on the behavior. What should I do? Wow. At 80, she’s clearly not an adult, and, at 40 to 60-something, you’re clearly not either. How hard is this? You tell her that what she’s doing is stealing and that if she doesn’t stop it, you’re not going to take her shopping anymore. Period. Hell, if she steals enough, it’ll be a felony and you’ll be the getaway driver! Okay, just kidding on that part, but still. She’s not going to stop without you putting your foot down. And she still may not stop. But you don’t have to be a party to it. Are you worried about what your husband will say? Tell him that he can take his thieving mom shopping himself if he doesn’t like it. If he balks, so what. You’ve got the power sister, as you own the wrench in that relationship. And you know what wrench I mean. Good luck, as you’re gonna need it.

****
Well shippers, that’s about it. I can’t believe that we didn’t get any penises or diapers or masturbation in this week’s letters. How depressing is that? But, such is life. We take the good with the bad and we move on, right? I hope that you all have a wonderful week. Fair winds and following seas to you all...

44 comments:

  1. "And don’t bad mouth her father. Neither practice will endear you to her in the long run. Now go hug your daughter and apologize for lying. Explain to her that we all make mistakes sometimes..."

    Well said, Smag! especially the part about making mistakes, kids need to hear that and will be much more willing to tell that honest a parent about theirs. Yep, even at four they can absorb it.

    Also, badmouthing the other parent always backfires. The kid will grow up and learn what a loser dad/mom is for themselves. Or, if the other 'rent is great to the kids, badmouther looks like the hating asshole.

    Smooth sailing to you!

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  2. Hey imbroglio! Thanks for the kind words. Fair winds and smooth sailing to you, too! :-)

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  3. Ahoy Smagster!

    I completely agree with your statement about the engagement period - people forget it was created/meant to make sure one chose the right person, to get to know each other better, and not necessarily to allow for the time to get the wedding details right.
    On the other hand, the LW strikes me as a single child. Otherwise she would understand that there are ways in which siblings relate to each other that are singularly belonging to each family. What she takes as "playing footsie" (by the way, only in English there is a word for this!) might be just a reminder of the days they used to horse around the house – I do that with my brother all the time! We do it verbally, by exchanging witty remarks about/with each other and we do it physically in many ways, maybe trying to see who gets first at the table (and yeah, we push each other and laugh running to the table), who gets the comfy armchair when we watch TV, who gets to read first the newest book mom bought, etc. etc. etc. It makes us feel like kids again, and it feels darn good. Oh, and I am my brother’s confident in many issues, as he is mine – this started long ago, when I was telling him secrets about girls and girly behaviour and he was protecting me against the undesirable boys, letting me know who to trust. In our more mature days, it evolved to the point that he was able to confide in me that he had problems in bed – at which I kicked his couch potato ass to the gym, going with him and training him for 6 months till he lost the weight that was actually at the root of his problem. Would anyone find this weird? Maybe, but I’m telling you, if I cannot confide in my brother, the closest person in the world for me, the only one that has the same genes that I have (yes, not even parents are this close) then who can I confide in?

    The rest of the letters are as usual the ones for which people should just use common sense:

    If she doesn't have the head on the painting why make such a fuss - just say it's some painting you enjoyed and hanged, as simple as that.

    I agree completely with your answer for the mom.

    Has anyone thought that the 80 year old might be senile and she has no idea what she's doing? Or that maybe she isn't, and she has an idea what she's doing but she is just trying to give a hard time to her daughter in law, like any "good" mother in law would do?! Whatever the reason, there is no use trying to discipline an 80 years old by taking away the only pleasure in life she might still have - just ask the cashier to put a couple of bucks more on your receipt that’ll pay for whatever candy she ate.

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  4. Okay, so one little quibble with the advice.

    If there is any man out there that does not want to have a kid, WRAP IT UP. If you fail to WRAP IT UP and end up with a pregnant ex, you have lost control of what happens to your life and wallet (at least a little bit) at that point.

    Just because the mother has nothing to do with the dad (who apparently has nothing to do with the daughter) does not mean she should not accept the support for her, ahem, their child.

    That is why it is called "child support." Raising them critters is expensive!

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  5. Hey Flyingroom. My brother and I cut up a lot, too! We don't play footsies, but otherwise, sure. :-) So I agree with you in your thoughts on her only-childness. And, too, I think she's probably over-reacting a bit due a little touch of the green bitchiness. ;-)

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  6. Oh, I have no issues with that, Spacey! At all. What gets my goat is that she's claiming the guy's dead, yet still taking the cash! That's not right. I was trying to demonstrate a point, not make a moral stand, as I'm with you 100% on this one. ;-)

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  7. Permission to come aboard?

    I have to say, that may have been the best piece of advice that LW#1 could ever get:
    "And yet so many people go into marriage thinking that things will magically change once the vows are spoken. I’ve got news for you, sister. They don’t."

    Well done, as usual, Smaggy!

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  8. stateoflove_N_trustOctober 22, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    Moral of the story for the Mom; Don't take money from dead people.

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  9. *sigh* Ok, Blogspot kinda hates me. Im going to try commenting one last time and see if it works *grumble grumble*

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  10. Huzzah! Blogspot has decided it no longer wishes to smite me. Now I just have to re-type out that entire response. Crap.

    Anyways.

    Good to see you back, Smag! Funny as always!

    Although, I must ask...is anyone else thrown off by the mental image of a decapitated nude? What, does the canvas stop at her collar bone, did they paint a towel over her head? WTF?

    Personally, for me, the creepy factor of a headless maiden prancing around the apartment would be a bigger deterrent than anything else.

    ....and as an aside, I agree she should hang it if she wants. People are probably much less likely to care than she thinks. I inadvertently ran into a similar situation when the University paper ran highlights from the years studio art programs...my nude self portrait among them. Published without consent, I might add (thanks again for lending that out and forgetting to ask, Prof. Shall Not Be Named!). I'll give you a moment to imagine the sheer panic involved stumbling upon that image whilst perusing the paper.

    Anyways, the bottom line is, my panic was unwarranted. Most people didn't notice, or still assumed it was a model. And the people that did realize it was me (with the exception of a few hound dogs who had their asses swiftly kicked) didn't care. Which brings me to my point: Most peoples simply don't give a damn if you got a nekkid you around, and that's that. Our nude selves just aint as fascinating to others as we might like to think. So hang those nudes up, by God! Just..you know, maybe put them away when Aunt Bessie and the Baptists come by...

    Whew, sorry to be so long winded!
    Glad you're back Smag!

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  11. Wait, what about wills and trust funds,SNT?

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  12. Hey Libby and Lama Glama! Thanks Libby, I hope she hears me. She needs to. And Lama, I love it! As for putting the picture away around Aunt Bessie and the Baptists, that's when I like to most put them out! :-P Glad y'all found it here, and thanks again.

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  13. Hey Smag thanks for the chart to smoother waters here at The Fly - my Thursdays are complete again. Good advice as always!

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  14. Hey there queenofmean! Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and please come again. The waters are always warm (no, not from pee, I promise!) and refreshing! :-)

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  15. The advice to LW 1 about not having to go through with it was some of the best ever! Such an incredibly simple thing and yet one people really don't stop to think about.

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  16. Greetings Smagman...on the money once again! So glad I found out everyone was moving due to the dreaded Jeremy. I had thoughts of your sub moving into "BIG" waters and you being busy with all those things I have no understanding of....although I have been inside a Submarine.

    May I add that LW1 doesn't sound old enough to survive family dinners let alone marriage. For all she knew the footsie incident could have easily been an inside joke, and if you can't ask the guy you are dating what's up with that...how are you going to ask him all those other pesky things marriage brings forth?

    As for the headless nude...much to ponder! Can I own a headless nude and profess it to be of myself? Could I possibly get away with telling all my friends...yes, I was lovely wasn't I? I could go miles and miles on this storytelling adventure. If I only could tell lies...tsk, tsk.

    Which leads me to agree with your take Smag on the lying Mother. Tell the truth! Unless you wish your child to leave behind your relationship in the coming years as she becomes an adult. I believe we all know when something huge is hidden and...this is huge! I am stunned she has not given major issues any forethought. Dead...how very rude!

    After reading Prudie this morning I headed to the grocery store ever watchful for the Snackster's lying in wait at the Bulk Food bins...they have this sneaky, full cheeked look about them. Keep an eye out! My grocery store does charge people for snacking through the store. I always wondered what was up with my girlfriends husband that he always wanted to go grocery shopping. Finally she told me it was his celebratory time to eat his way down all the aisles as embarrassing as it was...until one day at the register she was told she had an additional charge for her husband and all he ate. His game was over, having to pay took all the fun out of it. My thoughts...how unsanitary. Yuk.

    Happy Trails to You....until next week...

    Debbie

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  17. I think dead people's money is at least as good as live people's money, and pretend-dead-people's money is probably even better than both.

    Also, I am now thinking about getting a no-head sexy nude painting to hang. Or one that's a little abstract with a head.

    At any rate, a nude actually sounds pretty effing classy to me. Sign me up.

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  18. Hey Susan, Debbie and Spacey! Glad you all made it. :-) Thanks for the kudos, Susan. Debbie, if you want more on the submarine life, with no snark, aim your browser over to SmagBoy's Musings here: http://smagboy1.blogspot.com/ Or click the link at the top right of this blog. Let me know what you think. :-) And Spacey, I think a nude spices up any decor. And if it's of the current occupant and is done classily, it's a GREAT conversation piece! :-)

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  19. Hehe, well Smag, you are more than welcome to greet Aunt Bessie and the Baptists with nothen but a smile, but only if you want to get cornered into hearen about Jesus not liken your new decor. Unless of course they get so offended they leave...hey, wait a minute!

    The letter writer may have inadvertently stumbled upon a new and exciting way to get rid of door-to-door religious salesmen! "Yes, I'd love to talk about Jesus! Just come inside, and we can talk in the parlor––that's where I store my collection of surprisingly life-like nude self portraits. What, leaving so soon?"

    Smells like a winner to me! Truly, this is an angle Prudy ought to have considered. Nudes for everyone! Huzzah!

    PS Is anyone else finding that they can't post when using Firefox?

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  20. Excellent job Smags!

    The nude story cracked me up. My freshman year in college, I spent Thanksgiving with my boyfriend's family. What made this awkward was that his parents had a nude portrait of my boyfriend's aunt (drawn by her late husband) hanging in their living room -- and that aunt was happily sitting on the couch immediately below the portrait, sipping tea. I was a very sheltered kid and spent most of the evening trying to figure out how to avoid blushing when I had to speak with the woman. After I got to know the whole family better I realized that they were having a good laugh watching me try to look nonplussed. The LW should go ahead and have some fun with it!

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  21. I always wanted to put these up in my living room:

    http://www.fairyvillage.com/Ivy-by-Nene-Thomas-p940.html

    not necessarily posters but the paintings they are of.

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  22. Hey Shazta! Thank you! And thanks for the story. See, I knew that I wasn't the only nut in the bush. No, wait, that came out wrong. The only cuckoo in the nest? :-)

    Very cool, Susan. If that's how all fairies dress, I say, "bring on the fairies!" :-)

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  23. Great work as always Smag! The nav map worked just fine.

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  24. I completely agree with you on the little girl/father senario. I was shocked that this woman said he was dead. You dont have to have to tell a 4 year old every detail of their parents break up to be honest with them. I don't see why she had to flat out lie.

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  25. Hey there Beckaroo and Diva, too! :-) Beckaroo, glad you found the lagoon. Enjoy, look around "The Fly". You are always welcome here!

    Diva, I'm sure what she was thinking, either. I mean, surely she knew this question would come up? Anyone who can thing well enough to write a cogent letter could have predicted *that* question. Dang!

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  26. Smagboy1,

    You are just hilarious! I think you're better than Prudie, who could sometimes be, you know, a prude.
    Thanks for directing me to this site, and I'll check out the other sections too.

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  27. Hey there anonymous! Glad you found it. Please come back often, comment anytime, and feel free to spread the word. We don't bite! :-)

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  28. I love the comments and I was upset about the stupid editing issue. Do you guys comment on Dear Abby, she's issues out a lot of horrible advice.

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  29. Anonymous, I don't think anyone here *specifically* comments on Dear Abby, but, I do know that all of us have offered to answer reader letters and publish the results. So, if you want to send letters to us for our take, by all means, send 'em in! From anywhere, or even your own! Everyone here's got their e-mail published and I'm sure we'd all love some fresh queries! :-)

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  30. In general, I agree with not bad mouthing an absent parent, but sometimes the child says or thinks "There must be somethng wrong with me or my parent would want to be here." If that happens, as it did with one of mine, I'm all for saying "There is NOTHING wrong with you. Your parent is just too messed up/immature/stupid to know what a great kid you are."

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  31. Sure, or you could say, "Honey, you are wonderful! And even though it's hard to understand, this isn't about you at all. It's between me and your other parent. Sometimes adults love each other a lot. But sometimes they then stop. It's a part of life, but it's in no way your fault. It's ours. And it happens sometimes. But you have all sorts of people in your life who love and cherish you."

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  32. Is anybody else hearing Will Smith here? "things didn't work out between me and your mom but push come to shove you were conceived in love" :P

    Not that it actually applies here but that is what springs to mind with these comments.

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  33. Hey Ho Captain Smags!
    Great advice as usual.
    yes people who get married shouldn't have the delusion that they'll change their future spouse (though my interpretation of the letter was that the siblings were kicking each other under the table because they were mad at each other...)

    and of course parents should tell as much of the truth to their kids as they can, and grandma should be taken to a grocery store where there are generous spreads of things for customers to taste... (though I'll always miss the old Italy where when you went to market and wanted to buy a watermelon, the vendor would cut up a small piece for you to taste before you made your decision --how many lousy tasting melons have you bought in your life time!?

    As for the painting of a headless nude, I suspect it's not only creepy but also pretty lousy. A real artist would have painted the head and a real art lover (or artist lover) would have displayed it right above the couch.

    PS: do you have a microwave oven in the sub? And when you use it do you also say you nuked something?

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  34. Greetings Susan and Kati. Susan, that song fits perfectly!

    Kati, I'm so glad to see you! Thank you for stopping by. As for the microwave in the submarine question, yes, we do have a couple, and yes, we still calling it nuking. However, for a more complete description of nuking, submarine-style, please peruse my non-fiction at SmagBoy's Musings: http://smagboy1.blogspot.com/ where I will answer any and all submarine-related questions (and anything else you'd like to throw my way).

    Fair winds! :-)

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  35. Hi Smag! Love reading the snarkvice!

    I'll check out the sub stuff too, my brother was on the USS George Bancroft early on in his service!

    -skoorbza

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  36. Hey skoorbza! Greetings and salutations! :-) Please do check out the sub stuff. Hopefully it'll inform you a bit of his times. I'd like his take on it, too, if he's willing! :-) The Bancroft was an earlier model than the Ohio. Much smaller, but, same idea. Go hide and be a strategic deterrent. That's it.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by! Fair winds to you! ;-)

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  37. Smag, it's your Mermaid here. Your advice, as always, has the piquant and salty flavor I've come to crave each week. How is it then, that it should taste so different yet follow so closely with that of my own? *sigh* One of the eternal Mysteries of the Deep I suppose.

    You up for a game of Marco Polo later?

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  38. Greetings, MM! I think that all good advice has a wisdom at its base that is like a good broth. It is a base, but the dish can be flavored to taste however you'd like. You use a gentle compassion that is rarer than rare in dispensing your advice. It makes for a wonderful dish, leaving the reader smiling and happy. I use a sledgehammer. ;-)

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  39. Love your advice, as always, Smaggy! Especially for the liar, liar, pants on fire mom.

    And I'm with Lama - I'm more disturbed by the lack of face than I am with the naked boobies & hoo-hoo.

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  40. Hey SS! Yepper, the pants on fire mom needed more than I gave her, but, I was trying to be kinder and gentler. It didn't work much. :-) And yeah, boobies and hoo-hoos with no head to go with are just boobies and hoo-hoos. It's what above the neck that makes someone special. I say to hang that thing! :-)

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  41. Is there some sort of "untersee" equivalent of fair winds for a submarine? Fair currents, perhaps? Wind isn't going to do a sub much good...then again, it's not like you can just stick a sail on a dreadnought if it's becalmed by dead engines or something...

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  42. Hey Fox! There is! It's not exactly an equivalent, but it shares the same sentiment. It is this: Remember to keep your dive to surface ratio at one! Good advice in our world. :-)

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