Greetings All! And happy anniversary! Woo-hoo! This special anniversary edition is written for you guys, by you guys, and in appreciation of you guys! I’ve put the letters in here, in no particular order (please don’t take anything by the ordering!) and have only done minor editing, removing any details that I thought might allow for too-easy identification of the writer, etc. In some cases, if that information couldn’t be edited out without completely changing the point of the letter, I left it in, because, well, we’re all adults here! :-)
Anyway, I’m going to issue one more disclaimer, then it’s on to the letters! I want everyone here to feel free to comment on these and enjoy them, but, remember that these letters are from us! Regular readers and commenters. So, though I don’t want you to edit or hold your comments, I would like to encourage you to play nice! ;-) And, while I’ll try to keep down the snark a bit in my responses for the same reasons, I hope that I’ll maintain enough to keep you entertained. If I’ve gone too light, or too hard, call me out! I can take it. ;-)
That said, thank you all for a really enjoyable year! Now, let’s get a’crackin’!
I have a neighbor who is really just a hillbilly. I mean REALLY. The family reminds me of a cross between the Waltons and Rosanne's family. They have some weird quirks, like not looking you in the eye and piling crap in their front lawn and having bonfires in their front lawn. Thank God we live in the front part of the neighborhood so I don't have to drive by this guy's house! (And I know and kind of wince at myself because of how snobby that sounds.) And they are all mostly nice, if a little quirky. They are also not so rich. The "man of the house" is the sort of not so successful son of a woman who still lives in the house with this family.
So anyway. The guy who lives there (said man of the house) does things like cut lawns, etc. for a living. And this summer, my husband and I decided to hire him to take care of our lawn because he gives a good price and does a good job for other neighbors.
So the problem is...he does my lawn without his shirt on. Ewww. I just can't stand it, and neither can my 12 year old daughter. There is nothing really wrong with this guy (although he is definitely too hairy for my taste....much too hairy), but I REALLY wish he would wear even an undershirt.
So what do I do? I told my daughter we had to suck it up, let him do the lawn this year, and then just....somehow get someone else to do it next year? It's a long story why we are having it done rather than my husband or son doing it....just trust me we have a good reason.
What to do, Smagster? Is there a "nice" way to ask a guy to keep his shirt on?
Signed, Grossed Out
Dear Grossed Out,
Okay, I’m really sorry about the shirt thing. I’ll start wearing one from now on, okay? And I’m not that hairy, geez! I mean, you think I’m hairy, you should see my grandma! Badum-ching! I keed, I keed! Listen, I sense something else at work here, and I want you to ponder what it might be (he seems too comfortable out there on your lawn? he’s affecting the property values? you’re afraid he’s one step away from sauntering over and peeing in the bushes?). We hire people for the work they can do, not their fashion sense, right (unless we’re hiring a fashion designer, of course)? And, being as he’s outside, all hairy and sweaty, and you and your daughter are inside, all appropriately-haired and air-conditioned, I’d say that, if he does a good job for a reasonable price, simply don’t look at him when he’s out there. Problem solved. Now, if he does a subpar job, takes too long, doesn’t complete the work, or his prices aren’t competitive, that’s another story. But, in the end, I understand the desire for professionalism, too. It’s a weighted value. If you want more professionalism (e.g. a uniform, or, at the very least, a shirt), you may have to pay for it. And if you come to that decision, that’s okay! There are lawn services that pride themselves on their professionalism, but they’re proud on their bill, too. As for a nice way to ask Mr. Hairy to keep on his shirt...other than just asking him to do so, which seems reasonable on the surface, I’d say there’s not much else to say. The problem comes when he asks you why. What’s your answer? What’s your true answer? That’s the $6 million question. And unfortunately, it’s one that I can’t answer for you. Good luck!
Dear Captain Smag:
I like to entertain but I live in fairly cramped quarters. I do have a dining room table but it is loaded with papers and other junk and has to be positioned against the wall in the dining room niche, and share the space with a desk and a treadmill which both are piled up with boxes and papers that had to be sorted 3 years ago, plus a few other odds and ends.
When my friends, who are all on low cholesterol diets, come to enjoy my world-famous meals and desserts, they have to be served buffet style from the kitchen counter and then bring their plates to the living room. I’m careful to spray the couch and armchairs with plenty of air freshener to hide the doggy odor (they do live on the couch most of the time) and, to be safe, the air itself (I think that this sort of air freshener has been banned in the EU because of potential toxicity, but nothing’s too good for my guests!).
I would like to make up for the informality of these gatherings by at least doing something proper in the bathroom. So here’s my question: when I put in a new roll of toilet paper, should the lose end face inward or outward? Even though outward is more convenient, I wonder if inward might be more sophisticated in spite of the contortions it requires for the user to get hold of it?
Signed: Concerned Hostess
Greetings Concerned Hostess,
I am so glad that you’ve come to me with this question as I can answer it more definitively than it’s ever before been answered in print. Like you, for years I was unsure of the proper etiquette regarding toilet paper placement. Because of this, I frequently placed the roll on the holder in random fashion. Sometimes over, sometimes under. Had I known then what I know now, it would never have faced in any other direction other than...over the top! Here’s why: exactly as you point out, allowing the roll to face away from the user, under, against the wall or cabinet, causes having to reach under to get the end. This could lead to, gasp, contamination of the wall or cabinet. Even at microscopic levels, this is problematic. And what if it’s not at microscopic levels! Who needs that?! So, always, always, always, face it out, over the top. There is really no other reasonable choice. Sophisticated or not.
P.S. I have a feeling that your dinner parties, the whole of the experience, is absolutely exceptional and that the food, conversation and camaraderie (or, “gemütlich”, as the Germans would say) are all wonderful beyond compare, even if the TP faces in.
I don't know how I fall into these messes where, after the fact, I have many questions, but, it happens more often than not, as I am a playful person. I was so glad to be able to join in on a blog a few months ago that I gave no thought to blog protocol. I've been chatting away, adding in whatever ramblings that come to mind, and bada-bing, it now occurs to me maybe I have not been following whatever rules there may be. So tell me, are there rules to chatting / commenting / blogging on someone else's blog page, and, if so, how do I make amends for my ramblings?
All Wrapped Up in My Own Wonderful Self
Greetings All Wrapped Up,
I’m aware of no blog etiquette other than whatever is dictated by the specific blog community where you are commenting! Some are very proper and any comments outside the accepted norm are instantly deleted. Some are filled with spambots and advertisements to the point I don’t know if any actual commenters read them! So it just depends. My only real experience is here on “The Fly”, and all of the writers here seem to not only welcome, but encourage participation and involvement. So, if I were to only use us as a model, I’d say that you’re doing it correctly! :-) But, in the end, I think the best answer is how your posts are treated. If you feel snubbed, you’re probably doing it wrong. Otherwise, I’d say that you’re right on track. So, keep on keepin’ on!
I am a professor. I teach English Composition and English Literature courses of various genres.
I have a confession to make. I HATE teaching. I really do. I don't like it at all. See, I went to grad school and all, and decided while I was there that I did not really dig the teaching gig. After I got my degree, I even got a job doing something else. But what happened was, I got married, and then after a few years...I got pregnant. And I knew that being a professor was a great Mommy job soooo....I made it my mission to get back into the teaching aspect of my field. I published, yadda yadda yadda. I went for it, and I got it.
So now, here I am, I have this FUCKING CAREER. I am 42 years old. I work 8 months out of the year and I can tailor my schedule and I am the envy of my friends. And I make good money and the money is only getting better.
The problem is I HATE dealing with the students. I don't have the patience for it and it is only getting worse each year (they are getting worse...and I am getting worse too---I mean patience-wise!). I feel bad about it. I try to fake it. I try to be nice. The good students all love me actually, and I love them. I get decent student reviews overall. If only they were all good students. I just don't have the patience for the ASSHOLES that make up 60% of the student body at my (so very NOT IVY league) college.
I have tenure, and my college really values me and the work that I do. I have an enviable lifre. What to do? I sometimes even dream of dying (not killing myself, just getting into a car accident or something) because it seems the only way I can get out of this.
Signed, Not Happy Professionally Even Though I Should Be
Greetings Professor Unhappy Pants,
This is a tough one. I think there are some important points in your letter that show you’ve already made some progress. You know already that you don’t like teaching (or at least all of the crud that comes with it), and that’s important to know, but, you also know that you’re good at your job, and that the job is pretty good, too. Also, you find that you actually do like teaching, just that you enjoy teaching the non-asshole students. I can understand all of that! And I can provide some advice based on that. But, I have to say, your last paragraph has me a little concerned. Not a lot concerned, but a little. You were careful to quantify your statement as non-suicidal, but, it definitely puts this issue into a higher notch than what I might have thought it was in. So, first things first: can you live without this job. I mean, can you and your family get by if you are jobless for awhile? If so, it might be time to ask for a semester-long sabbatical and explore other employment opportunities, or even outright quit if just can’t take another semester. But, maybe better, if you can’t do without the income, what about this summer? Will you have off enough time to look around for other work? There may be something that pays a comparable wage, but minus the assholes? Editing, perhaps? Various types of program analysis that require superior language skills, etc.? The other thing is that perhaps there are some choices within your current job! What if you taught only night courses (if that’s even a possibility)? Non-traditional students typically attend those, and I’ve found the asshole quotient to be considerably lower with non-traditional students.
But, if you have to stay, I have some two-fold advice that might help? It surely can’t hurt!
Fold one of the two-fold advice is to give the appearance of lowered expectations. Not exactly lower them as in lowering your actual standards, but, do the whole tricky thing where you publish and publicize one set of expectations and standards, but really, secretly, in the back of your mind, really and sincerely and honestly be okay with something else less stringent (time-wise and quality-wise). I find this is a great stress reducer when stuff comes in "late", but actually on time by my real, private due date. And, it makes me look good when I can say, "Okay, fine, you can have two more days for this. But, only this once! I'm not supposed to do this, you know?"
The other fold of the two-fold advice is to fake it. And you don't even have to fake it well! I'm talking like, for example, when someone turns in their journal after grades have been issued, if it is that your administration says you should accept that sort of thing, well, just fake happiness at actually receiving the assignment! You can even go so far as to have fun. You could come to see being totally disingenuously happy as a challenge. Like, "Oh my, George, I'm so glad that you turned this in! I was so worried about your grade, but now I can read this when I would be on vaction, grade it while preparing for next semester, AND file a grade change request! It really makes me feel good as an instructor to be able to do this for you. Thank you for taking the time to turn it in!" Without the slightest hint of irony or snark in your voice. If you truly challenge yourself to this, you may find the exercise so much fun that you find yourself hoping for chances to use it (maybe you could duel with other instructors on most absurd speech given for late assignments)! ;-) And, too, one of the things that I think is important and that you seem to be finding is that it’s okay to dislike your students. It’s even okay to hate teaching! You’re allowed. The only thing you’re not allowed is to do a crappy job. And clearly, you’re not! Good luck!
How is it that men in general can be left to their own devices in the kitchen for almost two weeks and not have touched The Kitchen Sponge? Do men have some hidden ability to clean the counter without using the provided sponge? Is there a wind that blows when the woman is not around? What is the deal?
Curious about the Tidy Man in my Kitchen
I can’t answer your question, of course, unless I then killed you. It’s a secret man-thing! Do you think I’m going to drop the rest of us under the bus for this one answer?! Okay, fine, you’ve talked me into at least discussing it a little further. I ask you this: was the countertop clean after two weeks? If no, there’s your answer. Your man is a slob. But, if the countertop was clean, I offer for your consideration the heretofore unknown 409-and-paper-towel method of cleaning the countertops! It’s more expensive, but, pretty effective. There’s also the more gross, but certainly workable using-the-dish-towel method of cleaning the countertops. A man (or any human, really) can do this for a few days until the towel becomes crusty, then place the towel in the wash. Boom! Done. Just that easy. (Some men have even been known to substitute in the using-the-t-shirt-front method. Hey, it works!). It sounds to me like you want your man to clean like you like to clean, and that’s not really fair, is it? Isn’t it the result of cleanliness that you’re after? Remember what some famous somebody once said: don’t tell your people how to do the job, just tell them what needs to be done--their ingenuity will surprise you!
Dear Captain Smag,
I had a kinda shocking realization today...I'm a bit of a heinous cock tease. I took great pleasure in wearing my "I'm the best sex you'll never have" t-shirt as I wandered around a coastal town without a jacket on. It was breezy and 52, so the lack of jacket pretty much ensured that people were gonna look more closely at my shirt. Is it wrong that I enjoyed that so much?
Signed, Color Me Teasy
Greetings Teasy-Colored Questioner,
First off, no, it’s not wrong to enjoy attention...well, okay, I guess that all depends on intent, you know? I mean, did you wake up, notice it was cool out, rub ice cubes on your nipples, throw on that specific tee-shirt (with no bra) and immediately head to the most populated section of town (preferably where there were prisoners working on chain gangs), with a concealed bag of ice in tow (just in case), purposefully arching your back at all passing strangers? Or, alternately, did you just, in the course of normal everyday life, find yourself slightly underdressed for the weather and enjoying the extra, but completely unplanned for, attention? One of those two would be a little wrong, yes.
I got together with 'Bob' when I was twenty-one and he was twenty-nine (after we'd been friends for a couple of years.) It's all fine that we have different taste in books, movies, and music; we're both enjoying learning new things. But (and here's the 'but') he has a couple of friends I really can't stand. Bob goes back a decade with 'Lucrezia' and 'Attila', (they spent the Blizzard of '98 together!) and they still treat him like their wing-man. As in, they roll by the house to grab a beer and see what he's up to at ten-thirty at night.
You know the scene in ‘Terms of Endearment’ where somebody says, "I don't think I said anything so wrong," to which the reply is, "Then you must be from New York"? That's where they're from, and I'm from the South, where openly mocking and insulting people is just not done. We may be just as mean or hostile at heart, but it's extremely bad form to express it openly, as Lu and Attila do to me. She (Lucrezia) has openly mocked my religion, my schooling, my job, my family, and the way I talk, all with a 'just-kidding' smirk that makes me want to punch her lights out. And he (Attila) considers my manners to be a straight line set up. Like, if I answer the phone, or say, 'who's there?' at the door, he’s gotta have a snappy comeback, as if saying 'Hi, Mag, it's Attila' would be a ridiculous thing to expect, and unutterably uncool.
Of course, Bob is very loyal. He can't ditch his old friends just because they give me hives, but am I right in thinking that some of this is his to deal with? If it were up to me I'd never see them again, problem solved; that's not going to happen. Have I simply overlearned the rules of hospitality that say you can't call someone a flaming asshole when they're a guest in your house, even if somebody else invited them? I really feel like, if they drive me to that, I will lose something I value.
Not only that, when the insults fly in real time, I feel so punched in the stomach that I am actually struck dumb, and wind up crying, to Bob's bewilderment, three hours later. "Toughen up," he says, "Give it right back to them." Um, dude? SO much easier said than done.
How do I keep my sense of dignity without being Margaret Dumont?
In the end, there are two solutions. First of all, it is Bob’s place set them straight by either insisting they not treat you like they do, or by not allowing them to come by any more. Regardless of what he chooses, once you’ve expressed your concerns, it’s up to him to deal with Tweedle Dee Rude and Tweedle Dum Ruder. The second choice is you have to figure out if this is a deal breaker with Bob or not. If not, if he’s that special in other ways (and I have to say, I see his not understanding your hurt in this as a pretty significant strike against him), you’ve got to remove yourself from the situation. For your own sake. I realize you shouldn’t have to! I realize that, in your own house, you ought to not have to leave, but, if Bob isn’t going to do it, and if you can’t (which is not an accusation, it’s understandable), then leaving is the best option. You can go to another room. You can go to the bedroom and watch the tube or surf the ‘net or read a book, but don’t give them the satisfaction of fucking with you anymore. And when Bob asks what’s up (and he will), tell him! By all means, tell him! And, too, one day, if you’re feeling particularly fortified (and one day you will), go right back at the Tweedle Twins with both barrels, loaded fully with snark. They deserve it! And they might even back down.
I am a woman who has survived my families need to be toxic, they have over time proved that they have a constant need for drama to feel alive. I on the other hand had my fill of drama while sharing the same roof and work very hard to avoid drama to the point that I am now learning about good anger and how that serves a purpose. Avoiding anger was a learned behavior over dealing with what sadly became my understanding that they had no concept of changing any behavior, or outlook, nothing. Anger became a worthless emotion as their goal was never any good outcome, they like anger simply for the drama and release, the fighting, yelling, breaking things, the police, took me many years to fully understand their need to abuse and be abused.
I understood that living well meant I needed to set goals and achieve them, then set more and achieve them, I am now perceived as judgmental, having high standards (that no one would live up to), and an assortment of other attributes, only my family says them as if they are dirty words. My favorite of all time is my Rich Bitch moniker, coming from my Mother who I do not have a relationship with. She has from the time of being a teenager had this Rich issue as she cleaned out the fishing boats and stocked old refrigerators with ice blocks at The Resort for The Rich People from The City to enjoy. This Rich thing is her issue and anyone with a home and running car falls under this label. I now ponder what delight it gave my sister to deliver this moniker to me, for without her I would have never known about it.
Since my family has never respected their own money I was unwilling to give them mine to disrespect as well. So after many years of saving, and being a goal setter, I own my home, I own my cars, I am debt free. I gave thought to my old age needs at a very young age, I was never going to worry about if I could pay the rent, I was after security, peace and harmony. I am not rich, but I can afford the things I want or need. My overall goal was fully understanding that even though I may not have as much money as everyone else, that given a long enough run at anything, in time I could have whatever I wanted, this has served me well over time above all other goals.
I haven't been to the Bahamas' or on a Cruise, no Las Vegas, paper towels were a luxury in the very beginning, although I did have a huge garage sale and went to Europe years ago, saved up cash and worth every penny. I buy the most reliable car I can and drive them until they die, I turn off the lights when not in use, I'll save an extra year to buy my dream version of anything and do without until then. When it's time to spend money I buy the best quality that suits my needs, not the guy next door's.
So my question is...is it normal for families addicted to drama, addicted to abuse, to be fully threatened when their sibling's or offspring do not follow suit? Do those of us that survive also have this to deal with more often than not? How many of us choose to be alone and healthy over the drama and abuse by so called loved ones?
Savvy Survivor aka Rich Bitch, The Goal Setter
First of all, congratulations! You’ve done extremely well and even though you’re showing a tough outer shell, it’s clear that you still doubt your status sometimes. Like when you look in the mirror, do you sometimes wonder if it’s just a dream and you’re going to wake up and be right back in that mess? I can understand that. But, just so you know, you’re doing great, and it’s not a dream!!! Now, to answer your questions, yes, it is normal for families addicted to asshattery to be fully threatened by someone breaking free from it. It plays on every one of their insecurities and inflates their self-hatred and the only solution is either to be introspective and self-aware, or to lash out. You’ve grown up seeing which choice they make every time. But it is a choice. And yes, sadly, it is the most common reaction. The answer to second question is a lot more difficult. How many of us choose to be alone and healthy over the drama and abuse? In other words, how many of us “get out”? The real answer is that I have no clue because some truly, truly get out! They move across the country or half way around the world and never look back! And I think it happens a lot. The most important thing is to remember to keep tend your own boat and keep it well repaired. Others can tend their own boats. If I were to guess, I’d say that one in three make it out, but that may be way too generous. I doubt the number’s any higher and likely quite a bit lower. You’ve done well, though! Keep your eyes on the prize: yours and your new family’s happiness and you’ll be fine.
Hey there Smagboy:
I will be getting married soon. I've been able to organize the guest list, ceremony, reception, and after-party with a surprising minimum of drama given that I'm not wearing a white dress, the groom is not wearing a tux (he's wearing a kilt), we are writing our own vows, and we're not doin' it in a church. Add to that explicit advice that we'll be having a water-gun fight after the ceremony, and I'm pretty amazed my family hasn't given me up for a heathen yet.
Which is kind of the problem. I AM a Heathen -- a specific kind, the neo-pagan, celebrating the wheel of the year, polytheistic, taking-vows-seriously kind. My wedding ceremony will have three gods in it, ancestors, land spirits, and custom vows. I'm trying to down-play the ceremony part, but my Heathen priest friend, who's officiating -- we call him a gothi -- says we have to do some stereotypical things or the ritual won't 'take.' Like the 'by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife' thing. I was hoping to skip that part. So part of my problem is that I want to have a Heathen ceremony, but I don't want to offend my Christian family.
Which is the second half of the problem -- my family are Christians -- extremely conservative, fundamentalist, don't even think about being a liberal Christians. I have considered having two ceremonies, but then I thought, what is the point? I won't consider the "extra" ceremony effective or even remotely interesting, AT ALL, and I'm having a wedding so I can throw a huge party for my friends and family. I'm not having a wedding to please them, because I decided a long time ago that I would not be able to do that. Also, I'm paying for everything, so it's not like I'm offending them on their own dime.
So what do I do? Have a flyer explaining the Heathen aspects of the ritual? Or just jump in and hope people don't storm out halfway through? I suppose it would help to point out that at no time will anyone be required to worship, honor, or otherwise acknowledge any deities with which the do not agree. They're present to be witnesses and share the joy.
Also, I'm throwing a huge after-party, complete with bonfire and latin dance band on a private farm. Knowing my friends, there are some things that will be optional. Like clothes. I want to make sure my conservative family knows they are welcome, but I don't want them to feel required to attend an event that I KNOW will get their panties in a twist. So, to invite, or not to invite? I've told them that I'm having friends over to the farm after the wedding, but I have not explained the extent to which wild partying will be had by all at this event.
Any advice is appreciated,
Greetings Soon-to-be-Bride! Ahoy! Listen, I’m going to start with something that you didn’t even ask me! I know that’s wrong and perhaps presumptuous, and definitely not very “advice columnist” of me, but, HA!, I’m a submariner, not an advice columnist, so, I’m allowed! I want to start with your Heathen priest friend, gothi. Please forgive me for saying this, but, gothi is wrong. In holding this ceremony you’re celebrating your union with your mate. No religion, and especially Paganism, should get between that union. The ritual that you’re undertaking is the union itself, not the other way around! If the religion gets in the way of the union, where’s the worth of the religion (and I can ask that, comfortable that you know full well that the religion is larger than all of us and capable of flexion, it’s gothi that’s failing to see that!). If you’re uncomfortable with words or a passage, or if you want to include something that’s not currently there, you should be allowed to make those changes! If gothi won’t perform the ceremony under the circumstances you’ve requested, I’d suggest that there are other Pagan priests who can and will, under your terms, and happily, and celebrating Paganism the entire time! Religion is a tool that serves us and our needs to understand the Greater Good (in whatever form we see that Good), we don’t serve the religion. To do so would be pointless. Again, my apologies, but, had I not said that, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep.
As for a flyer or explanation, I think that you’re worrying too much, unless you’ve hidden your entire life from your family? If they know who you are and what you believe, and they want to celebrate your union with you, then they’ll come and you need not apologize in the least for who you and your mate are. If they don’t want to celebrate your union, or if they leave midway, that’s their choice, but, as I mentioned to the LW above, you can’t live your life for them. I would suggest being very frank if anyone has any questions, though. When someone asks about the reception, you can say just as you’ve said above, “Well, we’re throwing a huge after-party, complete with bonfire and latin dance band on a private farm. Knowing my friends, there are some things that will be optional. Likely clothes will be the first thing to go!” But there’s no need to offer this. Your family has eyes. If they get uncomfortable, they’ll leave. But, if they get naked, you’re not allowed to freak out! :-) If someone asks about the ceremony, you can say, very plainly, “I am a Heathen--a specific kind, the neo-pagan, celebrating the wheel of the year, polytheistic, taking-vows-seriously kind. My wedding ceremony will have three gods in it, ancestors, land spirits, and custom vows. It will also end in a water gun fight!” That last part is something that concerns me a little. I hope that the water is mention on the invitations, or that whoever is officiating the water fight allows for those who didn’t know about it to leave (or move out of range) prior to the water works. Someone who attends who didn’t know they were going to be getting wet might not be prepared, and could be legitimately miffed. Otherwise, I say that you should enjoy your wedding! Treat it as something for you and your partner, a celebration of your union, on your terms. Not gothi’s terms, not your parent’s or family’s terms, and not anyone else’s! If we could all start our lives together that way, what a wonderful thing it would be! Good luck and best wishes on your journey!
Well Shippers, that’s it! Thank you all again for a great year! This has a thrilling and wonderful exploration and I've genuinely enjoyed getting to you know guys! We've had a lot of good back and forth and a lot of excellent discussions! I'm sad that we've lost a commenter or two along the way, but, so thrilled that we've gained so many! Again, thanks again for a great year! Here’s hoping for an even better Year 2!