From a Submariner's Perspective is a weekly column, written in response to the letters sent in to advice columnist "Prudie" at Each week, The Submariner responds to the letter writers in a way that 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 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 15, 2009

...on Not Laughing at Jokes (orig. 6/4/09) <---Original Prudie Questions Can Be Found There

Greetings and salutations, shippers! Looks like we have another batch of fine, fine letters to address. While some of them don’t really represent much of a problem (in my book), I’ll try to give ‘em the once over anyway, just because I try to be fair like that. But you know the ones where you want to just smack the letter writer on the head? There are a couple here. Oh well. Anyway, without further ado...

LW#1: I don’t laugh at the jokes that my colleagues or our clients tell. It’s getting tense. What should I do? The way I see it, there are all sorts of people in the world. And that’s fine! If you’re gloomy or not easily tickled, that’s okay! The trick is that you have to figure out if what you’re doing/not doing is going to cost you your job or a chance at a promotion. I personally have several friends who don’t laugh at my jokes (actually, most people don’t...). Some people don’t laugh easily. Some people aren’t funny. However, it takes an effort or sitting in judgment to not even smile when everyone else around you is laughing. I mean, it’s almost a reflex to at least smile when everyone is laughing. If for no other reason than because they look like idiots.

My guess is that you’re sort of judging them. Maybe a little? Thinking that maybe they’re a little adolescent? Or silly? Or just immature? Or, oh, wait for it, you think your colleagues are being tools and laughing at a client’s joke just to make the client feel good! That’s it, isn’t it? Whatever the reason, I have a feeling that it shows through. A blank face isn’t offensive. A judgmental one, however, is.

If you worked with me, I’d appreciate your professionalism. I wouldn’t care if you thought my underwear jokes were unfunny (they are funny, though, damnit). But I like underwear jokes, so, I don’t care how they’re told, they make me laugh. Unfortunately, not everyone works under the ocean where professionalism is paramount and underwear are funny. As Prudie says, “getting along” is something worthwhile. I’m not suggesting changing your ways, but, maybe analyzing what’s behind your ways will help you. Here’s hoping.

LW#2: I cheated on my husband and he’s forgiven me, but, actually, he hasn’t forgiven me and is holding this over my head like an anvil. Did you read that description that I wrote just there? Hubby hasn’t forgiven you. At all. I know you said that he has. He hasn’t. He’s just marinating in the memories of your dalliance. He showers in them. Every day. And in his mind, they're a lot worse than they actually were. I guarantee you. And all of that needs to be addressed. But, too, you have to realize something: the reasons that you cheated are important! You’re all like, “There were contributing situations that led me to cheat, but I understand that there's no excuse...” Well, okay, you shouldn’t have cheated. Fine. But you also have to address those contributing situations. They may not be an “excuse”, but they aren’t invalid, either.

A lot of people will write in on the Fray and just lose their minds over Prudie’s incredible mean and nasty attitude toward your husband. Don’t listen to them! You made a mistake, yes, but, either you guys have to move on from it or you have to split. The option of him lording your past over you is unhealthy for you both. Don’t let it happen! Prudie’s right, he’s not treating you right. At all.

I realize this answer has nothing directly to do with your question about your friend. I don’t care. There are more important things going on with you right now and the forbidden friend is merely a symptom.

LW#3: I had late-term pregnancy complications that led to my pregnancy ending and I don’t know how best to address questions about how things are going (especially since most people will assume the baby was born happy and healthy). First of all, my condolences to you and your family. As Prudie says, a direct answer to queries is always best. And a direct end to the conversation is best for anyone more nosey for information than what you’re willing to share. I can’t add anything else to Prudie’s response. It was excellent.

LW#4: I don’t like how my boyfriend’s daughter acted in a social setting (oh, and by the way, it was a fancy schmantsy shin dig in a corporate suite, aren't I special?) and I don’t know what to do about it! Okay, unlike Prudie, I actually understand what you’re getting at--if and only if the daughter left the bun-less dogs on the tray to dry up and look horribly orphaned (if not, if she put the uneaten dogs in the trash, just skip to the last paragraph now because the rest of this paragraph is for normal people). However, just like Prudie says, I think you’re worrying far too much about it! What you’re getting at is that the items there were for everyone, not just you boyfriend’s foraging daughter. And she should be taught to get a plate, put the food on there that she wants, and then discard what she doesn’t eat. That’s just basic manners. And teaching by example is a wonderful thing! Did you? Even gently and kindly and nonchalantly mentioning, “Oh, Sally, if you put everything on a plate and then throw away what you don't eat, it’ll keep the tray looking nice for everyone” is fine. Past that, there’s nothing you can do that is in bounds. At all. Nothing. No.

Let me put it another way in case the above paragraph didn’t make sense: stop it! No! Stop! Bad, bad, bad girl! You cannot run your boyfriend’s daughter’s life. Lead by example, but not snarkily. Not with no eyes on your business and two eyes on hers. She’ll be fine. I promise. I eat in a mess hall full of maturity-arrested boys in men’s bodies. What the boat’s cooks call veal parmesan, we call “elephant scabs”. And kielbasa? We say “puss rockets”. Yet, even we can behave ourselves when we’re out in public. It may have taken a few years for us to get there, but we have. And so will she. I promise.

Alright shippers. That’s it for another installment. I’ve got some bilges to pump and some decks to clean, so, see ya next week...

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