Chatological Humor* (Updated 9.30.05)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 27, 2005; 12:00 PM

* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask ."

DAILY UPDATES: 9.28.05 | 9.29.05 | 9.30.05

Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway , appears every Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.

He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.

He'll chat about anything... except your mama.

This Week's Poll (please take one only): Men | Women

Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group .


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

This will be an unusual intro; I ask you to bear with me. When the explanation for it is given, all will be clear and I promise that you will be entertained, especially all you female-type people. That is because, though the intro APPEARS to be about baseball, it is really about love and hate and relationships between men and women, just like that godawful Kostner move "For the Love of the Game". Specifically, it is about the complex and intensely emotional relationship between me and Chatwoman, Ms. Elizabeth Kelly. (Needless to say, this intro is a surprise to Chatwoman. She is reading it for the first time right now, just as you are.)

And so it is that we begin with an examination of the question: What if the Yankees got The Flash? The following argument was developed by me after consultation with my son, Daniel, and with David Von Drehle of the Washington Post. The copyright is held jointly by me, Dan, David, and The Washington Post and may not be reprinted, reproduced or otherwise used without the express written consent of Major-League Baseball.

First of all, once they sign The Flash, the Yankees would be wise to restructure their team entirely around him. To do anything less would be foolish and counterproductive, as I shall demonstrate below.

By way of review, the Flash is a man of ordinary dimensions, but possessing one important superpower. He can run at the speed of light. To a baseball team, this is a huge advantage, but only if managed prudently.

To begin with, when the Yanks are in the field, all other position players (except the pitcher and catcher) must congregate along the baseline, and step out of play the instant the pitch is delivered. This is to avoid death or serious injury via collision with The Flash once the ball is in play. The Flash can handle all fielding himself. It doesn't matter much where he positions himself, but short center field would do nicely.

Obviously, his speed will permit him to field any fly balls, and most ground balls, before they hit the ground. Because we can assume that he has only normal amateur catching abilities, it is presumed that he will drop some of these balls, at which point he merely needs to pick them up and run to first base. At the speed of light, this should eliminate the likelihood of ANY hits by the opposing team, other than balls that leave the stadium. (Unlike Superman, the Flash cannot fly, so the Yanks will be vulnerable to home runs. As a strategic move to counteract this, the Yanks would intentionally walk most power hitters. Virtually all of them will remain on base through three outs obtained by the Flash's amazing fielding abilities; most will be doubled off base as The Flash fields the ball, and races to second then first. )

This overall strategy would probably mean that the average number of runs against the Yankees would be less than one. A two-run game would be a rarity.

But what about when the Yanks are batting? The Flash is only one of nine men in a lineup. How much damage can he do?

Overwhelming damage, as you will see, though his value will be limited so long as the opposing managers did the appropriate strategic maneuvers.

Obviously, if he is pitched to with the bases empty, the Flash hits a home run nearly every time he gets up. Why? Because all he needs to do is lay down a bunt, and he will be around the bases before the ball even hits the ground. (This is even allowing for a slight but necessary voluntary diminution of speed; at the speed of light, the Flash's trip around the bases would not be visible to the umps, so he would have to slow himself to the point where he was a visible blur. This is not a problem; a one-second trip around the bases would suffice in most all situations.)

So the canny opposing manager (Lou Piniella, for example) will walk The Flash whenever he comes to bat with the bases empty. Moreover, by walking the batter in FRONT of the Flash when necessary, the opposing manager can make sure the Flash very seldom gets up with the bases empty. (Obviously, Joe Torre would bat the Flash first in the lineup, so that every game he gets at least one bases-empty at bat. Even if he is walked, he will score any time a Yankee batting behind him hits into fair territory - he will score on a ground ball, and he will "tag up" and score on a caught fly ball. The Yanks start almost every game 1-0.)

But let's say in midgame you have The Flash at bat with no out and a runner on first, via a strategic walk. The Flash's speed is diminished as a weapon, since rules say that if he passes another baserunner on the basepaths, he is out. Suddenly, for all intents and purposes, The Flash is forced to run at human speed, should he get on base.

Now, if I were Joe Torre, if there was one out or less, I would instruct the baserunner to simply attempt to steal, and if he were successful, to keep running, until he was tagged out. Then the Flash can do his thing, and there is a certain run.

In addition to this huge advantage (pretty much guaranteeing at least four or five runs a game, even if no other Yankee gets a hit) I think we should remember that with The Flash handling all fielding chores, the Yanks do not have to worry at all about the fielding competency of its other players. Torre can simply stack the lineup with guys who can hit.

The average Yankees win, with the Flash, would be by a score of roughly 7-0, sometimes 7-1. It would be a big story when they lost a game; it would probably lead the network news.

Now, here is the reason I have discussed this. Over the last few weeks, Ms. Kelly has seen fit to hide lines in the intro to my chat, suggesting that I will not answer questions of certain types. Those types coincide with the sorts of questions I favor but that she finds tiresome: Questions about The Flash, about Visible Panty Lines, about clocks, about potty etiquette and, this very week, about "your mama." She thinks I haven't noticed.

I have.

Now, it will be instructive for me to explain something about my relationship to Ms. Kelly. I love Ms. Kelly. And I fear Ms. Kelly. She is my boss in this chat thing. She pays me and disciplines me. And she is tireless and indefatigable and mammothly competent, having built Post chatdom into something that is the envy of the online journalistic world. Despite being some 20-odd years my junior, she wields enormous chat power over me, including the ability to restrict the postings that I see. Also, to comment acerbically and quite publicly about answers I may make. Also, to sneak stuff into my intro, things I have not authorized. Obviously, these are powers she deploys at time with great relish, and to great impact, and, frankly, with commendable humor.

Some men would meekly accept such things, and even be a little excited by them, for, as I can attest, Ms. Kelly is an exciting woman. I am not, however, that sort of man. And so it is that for this chat, today, I shall change the rules. Ahem. From this moment forward, for this chat, I SHALL ACCEPT ONLY QUESTIONS PERTAINING TO 1) VISIBLE PANTY LINES, 2) THE FLASH 3) CLOCKS 4) POTTY ETIQUETTE and 5) YOUR MAMA.

I will note that prior to the start of the chat, I received about 20 posts that I have already answered. I will intersperse these questions, and my answers, throughout the chat. But for any question received from this point onward, the rule above applies and is inviolate.

Now, you might say: Well, if Chatwoman has the power not to send you questions she does not wish to send you, can't she simply refuse to pass any more questions on? This is a good question is, yes, she could do that. But, above all, Ms. Kelly is a professional, and it is her job to make these chats as good as possible. She simply will not do that; it would be self-sabotage, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is something way beneath her.


I am in receipt of a photo taken by my friend Rachel Manteuffel at Saturday's march against Bush. It is remarkable because it has someone wearing a t-shirt with an apostrophic illiteracy unlike I have ever seen. And I look for these things and catalogue them. It is a historic misuse of an apostrophe, a grandiose misuse, a heroic misuse. The sign reads: "Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing I'ts Idiot."

Back on baseball, last night Marc Fisher and I went to the Yanks-O's game, a thorough drubbing of a very bad team. What a delight. The stands were filled with Yankees fans. When the Yanks took the field, there was a roar from the crowd. When the O's took the field, there was silence. ("They might as well be the Minnesota Twins," Marc said.) When ARod doubled with the bases loaded, there was chanting for "MVP! MVP!"

At one point, a guy behind us cheered for the O's and I turned around and yelled at him to be quiet and show some respect.

It was just great.

Meanwhile, the last three games I have been at, the team I wanted to win, did. The first time I went with Jeremy Weiss, breaking my Nats curse. The second time I went with Jeremy Fisher. This time I went with Marc Fisher. Now I worry that I must go with someone named Jeremy and/or Fisher to absolutely guarantee a win.

Good comics week. The CPOW is Sunday's Opus. First Runner Up is Friday's Candorville. Honorable Mentions: Thursday's Pearls Before Swine and today's Nonsequitur.

Let's go. Yo Mama. Clocks. VPL. Potty Etiquette. The Flash.

_______________________ Comic Pick of the Week: Opus (Sept. 25)

First Runner Up: Candorville (Sept. 23)

Honorable Mentions: Pearls Before Swine (Sept. 22), Non Sequitur (Sept. 27)


Raleigh, N.C.: Loved your article about Kevin Trudeau. My favorite claim in the book is that sunscreen actually causes cancer. The sad thing is there will be somebody out at the beach next July looking like a lobster because of him.

Watch your back, Gene. "They" might be after you. Below the Beltway: It's Enough to Make You Sick , ( Post Magazine, Sept. 25 )

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I've no doubt they are. Now.


Yoma, MA: How much were you paid to plug "Natural Cures?"

"...the No. 1 national best-selling advice book in America," proclaims Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten. " standards may be a little high", says Weingarten, '...defining a "good book."' "Follow these simple steps, and remain disease-free for the rest of your life." "My favorite... book" " is not the ordinary... person to whom this book is addressed" "I was outraged that I had not thought of it first." "Kevin, I'm merely doing my altruistic part for the nation's health, just like you."

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha. You may well see this.


Bowie, Md: Gene, this week's column has touched on something that has bothered me for some time: Why is it that as people get older, they fall for outrageous pitches from snake-oil salesman? I've noticed this in my parents' generation. People who seemed perfectly normal throughout their lives become more gullible as they approach retirement. They seem content to rationalize away hundreds of years of scientific and medical discovery as bunk. They develop the mindset that if something is from the mainstream, it must be wrong. The truth is being hidden from them and people like Mr. Trudeau are heroes for exposing the truth.

My question is: Is this going to happen to me?

Gene Weingarten: I have not noticed that this afflicts older people.

I think we all have a sense they "they" are out to get us. Trudeau is preying on this, and on something else: We have a medical insurance crisis in this country. So isn't it wonderful to think that you might be able to cure yourself for pennies.

This is a bad, bad book. It is preying on the helpless.


Washington, D.C.: : Am I just really terrible since I have done five things listed in the poll?! I am a 20-something non-married woman, though.

1. Shares a passionate kiss with acquaintance

2. Undresses with eyes

3. Has lunch with a male friend, eating off each others' plates, unbidden

4. Carries on a long, somewhat flirtatious email correspondence with a man, sharing secrets and deeply personal observations. No physical contact at all

5. Confides to a close friend some serious disappointments with s.o., and longings for a change in their relationship

Admittedly, the first one is terrible, but the others seem perfectly normal, though most poll responders (as of late Monday night) only said they had done one or maybe two. Tell me Gene, is something wrong with me? Is it skewed because I've never been married?

Gene Weingarten: I have done six.

Gene Weingarten: And one of them is number six!

Gene Weingarten: Number Six, however, is a fraud. I did it for a story, with full awareness of a significant other. However, it does qualify, technically, as the question is worded.

So, my real answer is five, like you. But bear in mind that I am an old man, with a long life history and several significant others. Still, I appear to be an anomaly. A slut, like you.


Richmond, Va.: Hello Mr. Weingarten,

I'm a huge fan of your column and have been since I was a freshman in high school (I'm now a sophomore at VCU). After being involved in journalism since that freshman year, I have understood that your work as a columnist is simply unequaled among your contemporaries. It came as a shock when I found this in the Commonwealth Times at VCU:

"Poorly written but highly amusing articles can be a drug. They provide an odd fix that an article about socioeconomic issues could never satiate. Unimportant, silly and egocentric topics are bruises that run along the arms of bad columnists. If the bad columnist's soul could be personified, they would look scrawny, pale, bloodshot and happily high while they prostitute journalistic guidelines for enjoyable writing. Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten are the Courtney Love and Robert Downing Jr. in this world of unprofessional columns, and they're loved by their fellow addicts."

This writer then goes on to explain that your kind of writing has no place in any newspaper. My first reaction was to respond to her in your defense, but I'd rather see what you have to say. Do you think your soul really looks the way she describes it? Do you think her e-mail address ( reveals why she is so humorless?

The full text is here . If only she'd gotten Robert Downey Jr.'s name right, she would have persuaded me.

Gene Weingarten: This is great!

Well, just this paragraph, a screed on poor writing, contains one significant error of fact, one serious error in grammar, and appears to be making the argument that "enjoyable" writing is bad.

I bet this babe is a hoot at parties.


Nowhere, USA: I have a question for Pat the Perfect. I was reading a couple of stories on The Post Web site yesterday about evolution and intelligent design. Occasionally, but not always, Intelligent Design was capitalized, but evolution never was. Why?

Gene Weingarten: Good question! Pat?


Washington, DC: Somebody call Tom the Butcher. From today's Health section article on vascectomies, regarding the author's surgery:

"While I was dreaming about fish and bananas, Laurent was a busy man, as I later learned."

Holy Freud, Batboy!

Gene Weingarten: A truly excellent line. I suspect it might have slipped past the editor, as it were. But possibly not.


Nashville, Tenn.: Hi Gene,

I'm sure you'll get a million posts pointing this out, but you didn't give "none" as an option for the last question on the poll. I have never done any of those things with a guy while I was romantically involved with someone else. I'm certain it was an oversight, as I don't believe you're cynical enough to say that everyone has crossed that line at one time or another.

And speaking of that line (and I'd imagine this is part of the point of the poll), let me point out that while I found that about the last half of the options weren't significant marital infidelities, that doesn't mean I think they're okay. There's a matter of degree here, and while it wouldn't be a dealbreaker for my boyfriend to, say, get a backrub from another woman, it would almost certainly inspire a discussion about boundaries and respect.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I should have had a "none." You never checked out a hunky guy, while in a committed relationship? Wow.


Chicago, Ill.: This will probably be mentioned in the opening monologue, but Buzz Mclain's article on vasectomies is worth the read.

They should get him to replace that Jean Wittgenstein in the Post Magazine.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent piece. Good sense of humor. I particularly liked the second vasectomy joke. But boy, wasn't that a jarringly gratuitous mention of the physical appearance of the anesthesiologist?


Arlington, Va.: Why not have the Flash pitch? Or at the very least be the closer. The torque behind his arm would make every pitch unhittable and, as there would be no baserunners, passed balls would not be a problem.

Gene Weingarten: Dan and I had a serious debate about this. I contend that you cannot presume the Flash can pitch, that all his muscles move the way his legs do. He has one talent. Foot speed.


Houghton, Mich.: Okay, da Yanks have the Flash. What's to prevent the BoSox from getting the Mighty Thor? He's a friggin god, for pete's sake Gene, and would certainly nullify any Flash advantage. Other than Thor, I guess I'd take Green Lantern. And probably master strategist Bruce Wayne to helm my team. This hour is going to do me in. I just know it.

Gene Weingarten: Please. The Mighty Thor has no athletic ability. He is pure brawn.


Washington, D.C.: Who are your closest friends at The Post? Pick the top five or six.

Gene Weingarten: No surprises here. The names you know. Achenbach, Fisher, Kelly, Myers, Shroder, Von Drehle. I am probably forgetting someone obvious, who will now hate me. There are plenty more people I like a lot and consider friends.


Rockville, Md.: So Gene, you wrote a lovely tribute to your now-defunct Mazda. What lovely new vehicle did you find to replace it? Maybe a Hummer?

Gene Weingarten: I delayed and delayed for a month on junking the car and then caved. I KEPT IT. I could not euthanize it. Spent $600 to fix it. Then, when it came time for the inspection, was told I had to spend another $350 for a new catalytic converter. I did.

I was going to write an ironic "correction," but couldn't figure out how.


Bethesda, Md.: I know the new poll on Survey Monkey must be easier for Ms. Squirmy Legs but I like to old ones better. The main problem is that there is no way to veiw the answers without taking the poll. Is there any way we pay MSL a little more and have her create the polls without survey monkey?

Thanks. Link Monkey is not, alas, a code monkey, so she has to use tools like Survey Monkey to make the increasingly complex polls for the Evil Genius Monkey.

Gene Weingarten: Ook.


Alexandria, Va.: Have you ever noticed VPL on any baseball players? For those that still wear the old school short pants should be easy to see whether they're wearing boxers or briefs. I miss Brady Anderson a little.

Gene Weingarten: This is a good question. You know, I should put this out to the ladies in the chatdience, since I don't check out their butts very much. Chatwoman, for example: Have you noticed any baseball player VPL?


Olney, Md.: You Flash tutorial is entertaining, but contains one glaring error. Super-human speed will not assist The Flash in bunting, which requires considerable baseball skill; many major-league players are not particularly good at it. No, your best bet is to bat him ninth. Like Guzman, he'll help you on offense occasionally. Unlike Guzman, he will be a holy terror on defense.

Gene Weingarten: That's totally ridiculous. He can bunt. He sees things in slomo, for crying out loud. Remember, he doesn't have to lay down a GOOD bunt, he merely has to get the ball in fair territory.


New York, N.Y.: Does staring at VPL count as "undressing with the eyes?"

Gene Weingarten: Oh, DEFINITELY.


Annapolis, Md.: Let's say The Flash is a woman and has VPL. Could said female Flash run fast enough around the world to catch a glimpse of the VPL and change underwear before leaving for her day?

Gene Weingarten: You mean, could she run fast enough to see her own backside. This is an excellent question, but I think the answer is no?

Do we have any theoretical physicists out there who can address this question more authoritatively?


Fairfax, Va.: I must point out Gene, that the Flash, in his current incarnation of Wally West (formerly Kid Flash of the Teen Titans) is not capable of running faster than the speed of sound.

Shortly before Barry Allen, Wally's uncle (and the Flash most people are familiar with) died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally discovered that he was having heart palpitations when he tried to run faster than mach 1.

Gene Weingarten: He can't run faster than Mach one! Holy crap.

Well, mach one ought to be able to get around the bases in one second, right? That's only a distance of 360 feet.


Kevin Trudeau: Did you know he has had a felony conviciton for fraud? I saw it on the Smoking Gun site.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it was in the column. I believe he did two years in the can.


Geek City, USA: Wow! Chatwoman rules! That is one swanky looking poll. Nice work. And look at the thanks I get.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, this is not about any of the acceptable topics.


Cats in Sin, KS: Well, now, THIS is a useful site. Somehow, the fact that there are over 2000 pictures on this site is deeply weird...

Gene Weingarten: This is delightfully stupid! I especially like that there is a CatsInSinksNews.


Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: Gene,

You weren't evil enough about Kevin Trudeau, who I believe is evil incarnate. He is such a con artist, and people swallow his bull hook, line and sinker. He's the #1 non-fiction book on the New York Times list. How is that possible?

How can we get rid of him? That's the real question.

(Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. He is at the top of my pet peeve list, right up there with men who spit in public -- what's that about, anyway?)

Gene Weingarten: You think I WASN'T TOUGH ENOUGH on Kevin? Wow. I will save this post for the lawsuit.

I get this men-spitting question from time to time, and have no answer. I don't spit. I don't know any men who do. Apparenty, when it occurs it bothers women hugely more than it bothers men, because you guys are obsessed by it. You notice it everywhere; the world seems a cold and hostile environment characterized by large men hawking loogies everywhere you go. There are loogie cooties hovering in the air at all times. I don't get it.


Facetio, US: In one of last week's updates, you wrote, while defining irony and satire and so forth, "Someone as brilliant as you are knows what sarcasm is, obviously." This is a lovely example of sarcasm, but I thought it might be worth pointing out that many people don't know exactly what sarcasm means. If you are sarcastic, your remark is cutting -- the intent is to wound the person you are addressing. But many people say they are being sarcastic when they say something like "I just love going to Washington outdoor events in August and roasting in the heat all day" or "Isn't it wonderful for us that George Bush, a man with the intellect and subtly of a styrofoam cup, is going to shape the direction of the country for decades with his Supreme Court appointees" or whatever. Such remarks are better described as facetious.

Although I guess if George Bush reads this, his feelings might be hurt.

Gene Weingarten: In checking the dic, I find, to my astonishment, that you are correct. The main definition of sarcasm is the use of "a cutting or caustic remark." Irony is only a secondary characteristic of it. I never knew this. AND THIS IS MY BUSINESS. So aren't I the genius?

(Why isn't it AMN'T I the genius? I still have never received an adequate explanation. Pthep?)


The Fla, SH: There have actually been several Flashes over the years as previous ones passed away. The second Flash was a man named Barry Allen, who gained his powers when a lighting bolt smashed through a window and hit a bookshelf full of chemicals which subsequently spilled on him making him the fastest man alive... or almost. The Silver-Age Flash had two races with Superman to see who was the fastest. Both races ended up in ties. Therefore I propose that immediately upon signing the Flash, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein would sign Superman to a multi-year deal and the current stalemate would continue. The "Silver Age" Flash? See, your plan is going to backfire, Gene. This will go down in history as the most boring chat. Ever... except for the 2 percent of your audience at the gaming convention.

Gene Weingarten: No, the Sox would have an advantage. Superman can leap to catch homers before they enter the stands.

Steinbrenner would have no choice but to sign Plastic Man.


Sexy, OR...: So, we all know where you stand on VPL, but what about just VP? As in, the woman in front of me on a Metro escalator yesterday wearing white pants and floral undies. Is this as gauche-seeming to men as it is to women, or do you guys like this too?

Gene Weingarten: We like ANYTHING that assists the imaginating with concrete imagery. Women simply do not GET this.


Arlington, Va.: This question is posed by a woman who (of course) spent years trying to avoid VPL only to find out men actually like it. How has the increasing prevalence of thong underwear among young(er) women affected the VPL phenomenon? Are you guys disappointed? Or do the low slung pants with visible thong strap still work for you?

Gene Weingarten: It's a demonic development. A disaster.


Pitching Flash: Yes, he may only have foot speed. But his foot speed is so amazingly fast that by sheer force of physics it would have to, in a pitching motion, give him tremendous arm speed as well.

Otherwise, when his feet took off for first base, his arms would be ripped off at the shoulders. Because they're not, then the speed of his foot stride toward the plate should enable his arm to fly toward the plate fast enough to throw 200 mph.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, granted. But you have to assume he could also control the pitch. I am not prepared to make that assumption.


Outati, ME: So if the Flash carried one of your beloved mechanical clocks, he'd never need to worry about tightening the springs, because of the relativistic effects, right?

Gene Weingarten: So long as he remained above the speed of light, yes.


Orgas, MS: Did you catch this: 9 Chickweed Lane , ( Sept. 18 )?

This is definitely a first for the funny pages!

Gene Weingarten: The cartoonist, despite his name, is male, and he really, really really likes drawing the attractive human female. However, I don't think this really works. I don't' think the setup is quite right. For one thing, she is obviously clothed. And the body language doesn't seem quite right, either, does it?


Speakin'o'yerma, Ma: I have a genuine question about humor and meanness. When writing a humor piece that skewers a person or his work (like Sunday's, which I quite enjoyed), how do you avoid crossing the line into ad hominem meanness? Or, if the person is an obvious flimflam artist who needs a good smack, should you even worry about crossing that line?

My sense of humor leans to the acerbic/satirical end of the spectrum. Much of what I find humorous on TV or in the paper seems to involve, on some level, being mean to someone: talking smack about celebs, casting aspersions on a politician's intelligence, etc.

This bothers me, because I don't like to think of myself as a gratuitously mean person, although I certainly have a mean streak. I worry that if I were to write something devastatingly witty and cruel about someone -- even if he deserved it -- I would, on some level, feel bad about hurting his feelings in a cheap attempt to get a laugh.

You don't strike me as a mean person, but I do find you wickedly funny. Do you worry about this sort of thing? Have you ever lampooned someone and then regretted it? How do you draw the line? Is the answer thick skin, equal amounts of self-deprecation, or just a good legal team?

Should I stick to fart jokes, which I find hilarious in a good-natured way?

(If you haven't guessed, I am in fact a girl.)

Gene Weingarten: Dave Barry has a very good rule, which I try to follow. If you are going to be mean to someone, make sure it is someone with more power than you.

In other words, being mean to GW Bush is fine. He can take it. He has to expect it. Because he is so public, and has so much power over us, anything within reason that we say about him, of a critical nature, even a humiliating nature, is fair game. Same goes for some guy who is making a fortune on a phony best-selling book. He has placed himself in the kitchen, and has to expect some heat.

Because so much of what I write is critical and/or lampooning and/or vicious character assassinatin, I am occasionally exploring the boundaries of this rule. If the person I am making fun of is less powerful than I, I try to make myself at least an equal part of the butt of the joke.

I have screwed this up in the past, and usually felt bad about it. Good example: A couple of years ago, I did a column about an inquiry I got from a book publisher, suggesting I interview the author of a new book of cartoons. The book was kind of New-Agey dorky, but the inquiry was completely idiotic -- suggesting the actual questions I should ask the woman. I did a column about this, a deeply sarcastic column in which I said that if the publisher was going to do my work for me (coming up with questions) I would do their work for them, and come up with answers.

So I used their questions, but made up answers in the voice of the poor, hapless cartoonist, whom I had never spoken with. Now, I made it CLEAR I had never spoken with her, and that my answers were made up. But the answers were incredibly vicious, and made her look like a moron. My theory was that I would be giving her book way more publicity than it ever was going to get otherwise, and this is a cynical business, so I was probably doing her a favor.

Afterwards, it became clear to me that the young woman was realy hurt. I regretted it. I had more power than she did. She had done nothing wrong, other than employ a jerky publicist.


The Flash would Ru, IN: Baseball. How BORING! I can't even imagine why anyone would want to consider that version of baseball!

As far as your winning streak, maybe it's just a chain...Jeremy Weiss, Jeremy Fisher, Marc Fisher, Marc ???, and so on--the possibilities are limitless (especially if the spellings don't have to be identical, there are a lot more Marks than Marcs).

Oh, and on apostrophes--we have a bottle of cranberry drink mix that says "perfect for Cosmo's"...Cosmo's what???

Gene Weingarten: Very, very good. I need a Marc.

Now, the Cosmo's thing is interesting. I see why they did it. Otherwise, you would read it as "cosmos," as in the universe.

Patsy? You around?


Baltimore, Md.: Gene,

Excellent points on the Flash. I think the only thing you have forgotten to mention is the infield fly rule, in which Flash-on-first would be automatically out regardless of his ability to tag up. Although... since the Flash could steal second, third, and home on the first pitch after he reaches base, all the next Yankee batter would have to do would be to take the first pitch every time.

But his best sport would be football.

Gene Weingarten: Good point, on football. He would score on every punt or kickoff. The team would LITERALLY be unbeatable. You could tie them, theoretically, and lose in overtime if you won the coin toss, but that would never happen.


Flash baseball theory: OK, I don't much care about baseball or the Flash, but in keeping with the spirit of Gene's coup (sorry, Chatwoman), I must ask, is there a flaw in your plan for the Yankees? You acknowledge that the Flash would have only average catching abilities, so wouldn't his batting abilities also be average? And it seems to me, most of us average types couldn't hit a major-league-pitched baseball ever. Gene?

Gene Weingarten: Having actually had an at bat against a major league pitcher, and having real spazzo abilities athletically, I can safely say that the Flash could bunt almost any pitch in the strike zone, with just limited abilities. So long as that is all he has to do, and he only needs to bunt it fair.


Veal Fattening Pen, Suburban Md.: Hi Gene -- This question is more for my fellow Gene Chatizens, in hopes that they can help a guy out. But if you've got any suggestions, bring 'em on.

Next week, my company is moving to a new building. New building means no more private offices -- I'll be relocating to a cube (aka Veal Pen), configurated so that my back will be to the door opening, and everyone under the sun will be able to see the computer screen as they walk by.

Now look, I work hard. But I also enjoy some downtime here and there. The Web beckons...

So I'm in search of tips and tricks from cubicle dwellers. I need to make sure The Man doesn't catch me taking your latest poll and checking out the CPOW.

Moo. I keep a small rearview mirror on the upper right corner of my monitor. You can find them online. Works like a charm.

Gene Weingarten: A PSA.


Washington, D.C.: So Gene, I am wondering why the puritans at The Post decided to excise today's "B.C." Was it done to protect my delicate sensibilities? I felt ever so grateful, nevertheless out of curiosity I went to to check out the offending strip. I am still scratching my head as to what are the "content issues" that led to the puritans' decision. In case you haven't seen it, Gene, it's one of those two-panel Wiley's Dictionary comics. Panel one shows the word to be defined: euthanasia. Panel two shows the "definition": "Not much for a youth in Asia to look forward to." So it's a stupid pun and a political statement against euthanasia. So what? Doonesbury, Boondox, Candorville, not to mention the vile and unfunny Pricklytown (or whatever it's called) have political statements all the time. What gives? B.C. , ( Sept. 27 )

Gene Weingarten: Pricklytown!

I have zero idea why The Post killed this. I would have killed it too, but because it is an old, stupid joke, not particularly well told. I see no offense here, to anyone.

Interestingly, it WAS in the paper edition of the paper. It appears to have been killed from the website only.


Centreville, Va.: One thing I found interesting about the poll was that while I apparently have a fairly lenient scale of what constitutes infidelity, I would find myself extremely uncomfortable doing things that I classified as not being an act of infidelity.

I'm not sure if I'm just an excellent model of cognitive dissonance, or still not awake yet.

Gene Weingarten: You sound like a particularly ethical/moral person, actually. That sort of defines it, no?


Alexandria, Va.: So I'm sitting here watching this Bob Dylan documentary. And the only thing it's making me feel is jealous. Very very jealous. Your generation and the one before you lived in idyllic times and bled the great things in the world dry. We're left with nothing but a happy life. No blues, no folk, just suburbs everywhere.

Gene Weingarten: Suburbs make you happy? Suburbs make me sad.

So, yes, it is true. We had all the music and angst. If it is any consolation, our clothes, furniture and architecture really stank. Particularly the 60s architecture. It is still stinking up the joint.


Dave Barry's Rule: Wow, I like that rule! By Dave's rule, I can be mean to just about anyone I meet on a given day. Actually, even to our cats and dog.

No, I don't think you were too hard on Kevin Trudeau. Trudeau deserves nothing more than what John D. MacDonald described (in a Travis McGee novel) as something like "great braying hoots of derisive laughter." That's not an exact quote, but you get the point.

Gene Weingarten: My guess: Trudeau liked the column. Three million more mentions of his book.


Pat the Perfect: I'm not sure how the capitalization of "intelligent design" fits within the categories of Yo Mama. Clocks. VPL. Potty Etiquette. The Flash, but you did ask:

The Post doesn't capitalize the term. It did appear like that once in the last eight (or more) recent stories, but that was an aberration. A more difficult issue is whether to use quotation marks around it on first reference, since many people see that not as a purely descriptive term (design is after all by definition intelligent, or done with a purpose), but one that masks a actual meaning of supernatural design.

I see we've gone back and forth on this, and would guess that the quotes will disappear as the term becomes more familiar even if people find it untrue (as in "reality TV"). There was also a reference to "so-called intelligent design," which I think reflects too much bias for a story that's not an opinion piece.

Gene Weingarten: Gotcha. Thanks. The link is to VPL. I am thinking about yours, see? So the whole answer dovetails.


Here Not There: Interesting thing with Flash playing football is that by having him play both sides of the ball, the opposing offense would be absolutely REQUIRED to only call running plays, as he would be able to at least knock down any pass, almost as soon as it left the QB's arm. (Though we cannot suppose his ability to bring down the interception or get the sack...he's kinda scrawny).

Gene Weingarten: Very, very true. You wouln't even need a backfield. Everyone could be packed at the line!


Cubela, ND: What does Trudeau say about autoimmune diseases like diabetes? I like the evil medical empire. Without them, I would be dead several times over.

Gene Weingarten: I am glad you asked. Trudeau defines as the number one cause of diabetes: Prescription drugs.

Also: artificial sweeteners and overuse of white flour and white sugar.

His cure involves eliminating all nonprescription and prescription drugs, and getting a "candida cleanse." He also prescribes raw apple cider vinegar and a secret herb he doesn't reveal because he has been prohibited to by the horrible FTC.

This is one bad, bad, dangerous book.


Saline, Mich.: Gene,

The Discover reader and the subsequent posters on XX and XY genius inheritance missed the central point of the Discover article which was that genetic mutation impacts men more than women. To quote the article "When an X-linked gene mutates in a woman, a backup gene on the second X chromosome can fill the gap. But when an X-linked gene mutation occurs in a man, his Y stands idly by, like an onlooker at a train wreck." The theory proposed was that genetic mutations in the X chromosome survive intact in the first generation males, but become diluted with subsequent generations due to female children inheriting one mutated X and one good X from the parents. Male children only get the good X from the mother. One of the researchers hypothesized that this mutation inheritance system is the cause of men clustering at both ends of the intelligence scale (i.e., more super-geniuses AND half-wits are men.) By the way, none of the researchers was named Larry Summers.

Gene Weingarten: Now, finally, this all makes sense.


D.C. Oriented: Gene, I remember seeing a situation on Daytime TV where a man and woman who were co-workers (each with a spouse) would find a secluded location, and manually satisfied themselves while looking at each other. No phyisical contact whatsoever (so they say).

Somehow they rationalized that this was not a Marital Violation. Not surprisingly, their spouses disagreed.

Your opinion?

Gene Weingarten: I disagree. It is childish to argue otherwise. If you are going there, go all the way; they are the same thing.


Eating off someone's plate: Gene, why did the "eating off someone's plate" question bother me the most?? I almost decided that it WAS infidelity. Its just so creepy! With a co-worker? Ack! Why does this bother me so much?? It made me pause way more than any other part of the survey...

Gene Weingarten: It bothered Gina, too! She declared it a serious infidelity, even though she did it. With me.


VPL: Gene,

VPL is trashy. It will always be trashy. I'm a young female and I suffer through thongs to prevent VPL. I'm sorry if you guys like it, but you'll just have to get your jollies elsewhere. It's trashy, no other way to say it.

Gene Weingarten: See, this gets to the nub of the issue. Who are women dressing for -- men, or other women? The answer seems to be other women. I accept that and respect you for it, but it doesn't have to make me happy.


Alexandria, Va.: Gene, I sent my parents a link to today's (9/26) "Get Fuzzy." My father grew up around harness racing and responded:

In harness racing, when horses move both right legs together and both left legs together, they are called pacers. When they move opposite legs together, they are called trotters. Pacers are generally faster than trotters. Thoroughbreds gallop.

I thought it was bizzare he would challenge that, not that Isaac Newton invented the cat flap or that cats can't describe ultrasonic frequencies.

Anyway, in case Darby checks in this week, I thought he should know he got that one wrong. Poop. Get Fuzzy , ( Sept. 26 )

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Ashburn, Va.: Who are these people who think having weekly sex with a co-worker does not constitute a marital infidelity? If that doesn't do it, what does?

The mind boggles...

Gene Weingarten: I think they are people who didn't read the question right. Or, if they are women, they are people I want to meet.


Blacksburg, Va.: What exactly does "Driving Manu,AL" think the Car Talk guys opinion on engine braking is? Constant use, such as long mountain downhills will wear your breaks out REAL fast. To avoid this, you engine brake. (Yes, engine braking in the city and other flat places is stupid. I'm city born and raised, but I learned engine braking and used it quite a bit in the mountains this summer) But I'm just an idiot, right? Maybe there are experts on this topic?

Ray: When going downhill, Laurence, you have to specifically take action to get engine braking. If you're going down a long, steep hill, and you want to use engine braking to avoid riding the brakes (which is absolutely the right thing to do), then you have to downshift into Third, Second or even First gear until you get enough engine braking to keep your speed under control. (December 1999,

or maybe this:

Ray: In fact, it's not a bad idea to keep the car in a lower gear than normal in the snow. First, it'll help keep you from accidentally driving too fast. But also, you can slow the car by simply letting up on the accelerator, using the engine braking to reduce your reliance on the brakes. (February 2003)

and then there's this:

Ray: My brother has a brilliant answer for everything, doesn't he? Actually you CAN go down the mountains and use your brakes a lot less. Here's how: When you start a long descent, downshift into a lower gear... Start by dropping it into 3rd gear, and go to second or first if need be. You want to find a gear that allows you to coast down the hill at a reasonable speed, letting the natural engine braking keep you from going too fast. You can use the accelerator to speed up a bit between curves, and then simply take your foot off the gas to slow down going into the curves.

Tom: Now, a lot of people who do this for the first time write back to us in horror and say, "The engine was screaming!" And we say, "Yeah, but don't worry about it." The engine is turning faster than you're used to, but it's not being overworked because it's acting as the brake. And as long as you don't accelerate to, say, 80 mph in 2nd gear and grossly over-rev it, you're not hurting the engine. (See your owner's manual for the maximum speed in each gear on your particular car.) (February 1999)

Gene Weingarten: Aha. Well, perhaps we all stand corrected. Though some of this is not really using the engine to break, IMHO, it is using the appropriate lower gear to go downhill, which I do.


Air Force O, NE: Remember that weird, um, game you showcased in your chat a few weeks ago involving a naked, apparently dead lady falling in a fathomless landscape of bouncy balls?

This is better .

Gene Weingarten: It is! It is!


Dear Chatwoman:: This chat is the Lamest. Thing. Ever. Please do something! He's out of control. I'm sorry and I suggest you come back next week.

Gene Weingarten: Nonsense. This is a rollicking party of wit and wisdom.


Washington, D.C.: Does The Flash work for The Post Web site? "B.C." has been reinstated.

Gene Weingarten: Apparently, the Post realized we ran it in the dead tree edition, so figured, what the heck


Desert Southwest: I found it interesting that "none" was not among the possible answers for question four. Do you figure "none" is beyond the realm of possibility, or only possible for someone who hasn't been married that long? I realized looking through those options that, while there are one or two on the list that I would not consider outside the realm of possibility, I haven't actually done even one of them. This surprised me, since I've been rather free-thinking on such things in the past -- but then, I've never felt like this about someone and it turns out that makes an enormous difference in what I want to do. My beliefs about what's okay haven't changed, but my feelings about what I personally want to do have. I've only been married a year, so perhaps all you loyal long-married persons would tell me that will change.

Now I will have to ponder this new data about myself.

Gene, would your answers to this poll have been different when you'd only been married a year?

Gene Weingarten: I once noticed my father, at 75 years old, looking at a young woman. I called him on it. He said, "I may be old, but I'm not dead."

I am just stunned that anyone says a state of marriage or significant otherhood should prevent them from ogling someone.


Gene Weingarten: Okay. The poll. The results surprised me a little. I expected men to find behind-the-back criticism by a spouse to friends to be a much worse sin than women did. I, personally, consider it a betrayal. But the numbers were similar, and no one seems to be bothered by it all that much.

I think, predictably, men were generally less likely to define things as a marital infidelity than women were, particularly in those gray areas like hand-holding, back rubbing and whatnot. But the differences were not as sharp as I expected, particularly on the issue of a single passionate kiss. In talks I have given with Gina, there tends to be a real gender divide on this one, but not here. (Men see such a thing as romantic, more than sexual - the sort of way a man and women might acknowledge both their feeling for each other, ,and the fact that nothing is going to come of this relationship; let's say goodbye this way and think about what might have been. Women, um, do not.

Most interestingly, in this poll, there wasn't all that much different in actual BEHAVIOR. So either men are lying, or they are more liberal thinking, but equally moral in their personal behavior.

As I said, interesting.


Nashville again: Ah, I think I read the question about mental undressing differently than you did. The phrase "mentally undress" to me implies a degree of lasciviousness, much more than just checking out a hot guy as he walks by.

And on that note, a word on sports and VPL: one of the highlights of my college career was getting seats four rows up from the players' benches at a University of Tennessee football game. My best friend and I spent the entire game speculating as to whether they wore anything under their -very- tight pants. We concluded that the answer was probably no, between the cup, the padding, and the, er, control provided by the pants. And yes, there was definite mental undressing going on, but I was unattached at the time.

Gene Weingarten: And ifyou had been attached, such ogling would be impermissible?



Washington, D.C.: Gene - While I have never cheated on a boyfriend (no illicit hand holding, kissing, other), I have - as Jimmy Carter said - lusted in my heart. Does this constitute a significant moral infidelity even though I have made a conscious decision not to act? And yo mama's so stupid she thought she saw Flash's vpl.

Gene Weingarten: I think it constitutes no moral infidelity whatsoever.


Salary Cap, WI: Assuming the Flash is the player you believe he would be, he would clearly command a monstrous salary, dwarfing even A-Rod's. They would probably not be able to keep Randy Johnson, Mussina, Jeter, or Rivera if the Flash signs a $12 or $13 million/per year contract. And does the Flash bat righty or lefty, which could impact his ability to bunt?

Gene Weingarten: The Flash throws right, bats left.


Momma, MIa,: Your mamma is so large, when she modeled and they put her photo on a billboard, they printed underneath her picture "acutal size". This is high quality stuff.

Gene Weingarten: It certainly is.


Simpso, NS: Gene,

A few weeks ago someone submitted that the Simpsons lived in Kentucky and someone else said that they did not. I was watching the Simpsons last week (a rerun), the episode where Marge has all sugar banned from Springfield. Mr. Burns and the president of the sugar factory ask Homer to go "south of the border" for sugar. Homer asks Tenessee? I didn't know if this gave any more information that the Simpsons could in fact live in Kentucky, or in Southern Virginia as these are the only two states that border Tenessee to the north. Just my two cents! But that totally doesn't matter. From episode to episode, the surrounding territories change. Springfield has a port and beaches -- so you'd think it borders the ocean. But it has also had Alpine-like mountains close-by, desert terrain... it's like the villian's castle in "Krull" -- it seems to rise at a new site every episode.

Gene Weingarten: Whatever, Nerdos.


Silver Spring, Md.: Question 13 Clearly, this poll is all about question 13. Many of us think that marital infidelity equals having some kind of romantic/sexual activity outside the marriage. But question 13 highlights for us that there are other ways to betray our vows. This is a very good poll.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

I answered yes on question 13. I have never done this, and never would. To me it signifies a far greater betrayal of a spouse than MANY of the things above it.

Clearly, I am in the huge minority here, with you. (I expected a significant male-female split here, but no.)


Weeke, ND: I spent the past weekend with my girlfriend and her parents. At one point, my girlfriend's father (after a few beers) tells a crass joke about bars which suggest "liquor" in the front and "poker" in the back. He finds this funny, and the Father and I laugh. However, my girlfriend and her mother both sternly note the inappropriateness of the joke, especially in my company. I respond that I thought it was very funny, and get an approval nod from the father -- but slight head shaking from both the girlfriend and mother.

Was my approval of the joke a good decision or bad decision?

Gene Weingarten: A very good decision, even if you were offended. There is nothing to be gained by creating strain over something that is over and done with. What you said was classy, whether or not you meant it.


College Park, Md.: I have a girl's name that has been taken over by boys. Kyle. My friend (a 30 something girl) is named Kyle. Now there are quite a few little Kyle's running around... all boys. Yes it is still the rarity.

Gene Weingarten: No no no no. You are too young to understand this. Kyle was always a boy's name. Your parents stole it.

Gene Weingarten: In fact, you are not too old, considering the Kyle character in South Park.

Boy's name. Usurped. Usurper.


Pat the Perfect: Re: "Cosmo's," as in drinks that may be imbibed by someone with VPL: Obviously the apostrophe didn't help the poster to read it more easily. I'd either figure it's safe, since it's not preceded by "the," to assume people will not conjure up Carl Sagan; or spell the thing out.

Our style at The Post is to add an apostrophe to designate a plural only for the plurals of single letters (e.g., I got two A's on my report card). C'mon, Liz, even the Flash is more interesting than punctuation! Maybe you can satisfy both camps and call him the Dash.

Gene Weingarten: We also say the O's, right? I got that right in the intro, yes? Otherwise it looks like Os, god of bones, or whatever.


To the poster who thinks VPL is trashy: Hey if you have switched to thongs to avoid trashy VPL, wait until you reach a certain age and the junk in your trunk gets a little dimply, if you know what I mean. Now thats trashy.

(Did Chatwoman just resign on having to read that?)

Gene Weingarten: Junk in your trunk! Wow.


Yankee Flash: I think the best part about having the Flash on the roster would be the potential for deviant suddenly Johnny Damon finds a chunk of his man-mane missing, or Millar's uniform mysteriously changes to the Red Sux...

Gene Weingarten: True, true.


Au Contraire: Gene: "time travel does not permit anything but the corporeal body."

Wrongo. In "Back to the Future," Marty brought a video recorder and landed in his down vest. In "Kate & Leopold," the boyfriend brings a camera.

I think the rules of time travel are: whatever you can shove in your pockets, carry in a backpack, or fit in your deLorean can go with you.

The same rules do not apply to death, in which case you do arrive naked.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you for sharing this important information.


OKC, OK: Last week you fantasized about going back in time to somehow stop the 9/11 attacks. Be careful what you wish for! These headlines would probably have followed:

Student Pilots Nabbed, Claim 'Racial Profiling';

ACLU Readies Massive Suit Against Weingarten

Liberal Bloggers, Publications Launch

Anti-Weingarten Campaign; Civil Rights Suit

Seeks $500 Million in Damages from Humorist

OJ Defense Team Rallies to Student Pilot Cause;

'Little Bitty Knives Won't Take No Lives'

PLO Calls Weingarten 'Zionist Stooge,'

Threatens Rushdie Fate - Columnist in Hiding

Liberal Judge Frees Student Pilots, Returns Knives;

All Will Get Free Air Tickets and Apology

Michael Moore Stalking Weingarten with Camera;

Jesse Jackson Denounces Post Writer As 'Racist'

Weingarten Once Told Camel, Brassiere, Mucous Jokes, Probe Reveals;

Chatwoman Will Testify for State in Looming Criminal Libel Trial

Under Increasing Pressure, Post Fires Humor Writer;

Requires Diversity Training As Demonstrators Ring Building

NY Times Editorial: It's All Bush's Fault

Gene Weingarten: Laughing here.


Poll: I would be interested in knowing how both sexes would have responded to another item in the first list: pornography. As in, is browsing porno on the net-buying adult magazines-going to strip clubs-etc "cheating?"

An article in the new PSYCHOLOGY TODAY stated that most women think it IS cheating, while most men don't.

What do you think?

P.S. This was a major issue in the breakup of my own marriage.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, yes. I should have included this. Hax has dealt with this many, many times in her chats.

I think it is a problem if it is interfering with the intimacy between the man and woman. And I suppose the mere fact that it is really bothering the woman suggests it is interfering with the intimacy. So, I would say if it has become an issue, it is a legitimate issue. If you see what I am saying.

I do not see it, however, as a "marital infidelity."


onemoreti, me: Gene:

I find it interesting that you took umbrage (PtheP, why does one "take" umbrage) at this millionaire moron in BtB. You of all people should know the idiot quotient in this country. Why did HE get you going?

Gene Weingarten: Because his book, in my opinion, is hurting particularly vulnerable people.

Also, I believe you misused umbrage. I think that implies taking PERSONAL offense.


Cabin John, Md.: Gene, I am a 43-year-old male, and for reasons that I cannot explain, I just about always take off my glasses when I poop. Even if I have something to read. What is wrong with me?

Gene Weingarten: I do, too. But that is because I read better with my glasses off. What you are describing is plainly weird.


New York, N.Y.: Did I hallucinate this, or did Mutts have an actual joke on Sunday? Mutts , ( Sept. 25 )

Gene Weingarten: No.


Diabetes: I'm surprised you didn't catch this Gene. Diabetes is certainly not an autoimmune disease.

Gene Weingarten: Right, right. Hey, I do this fast.


Washington, D.C.: Re: ogling = infidelity.

My wife's opinion on this is that ogling = desire and that desire is cheating. An impure thought is just as bad as an unfaithful act. Of course she also believes that nearly all men would cheat if there was a 100 percent chance that they could get away with it.

And yet she ogles. Go figure!

Gene Weingarten: I believe, that for most men, the fear of not getting away with it is not the reason they don't cheat. It may be why most people don't steal. But not cheating is, I believe, rooted in a central morality, and in love.



Boys names: My Aunt and Uncle tried 4 times to have a son. Result: 4 daughters, Robin, Chris, Mike and Dana.

Gene Weingarten: That's funny!


VPL: I've been polling my male friends about VPL since reading about it here. Not one of them finds VPL alluring. We are all late 20s - late 30s; I guess they'd be classified as yuppies if it matters. One guy said the main reason he finds VPL unattractive is because most of the women who HAVE VPL tend to be of the dumpier type. I have to agree. In general, attractive, fit women wear thongs. IN GENERAL! I know many of the self-proclaimed hot women who post here will disagree and say they are the exception.

Gene Weingarten: For the umpty umpth time, we are discussing VPL in the context of a woman who is otherwise attractive to the ogler. Okay? Woman you find hot: VPL or no VPL? I contend most men opt for the former.


Mojave, Calif.: My answer for number 13 does change if the confiding spouse is female, and after mulling it over I still don't know whether my reason is legitimate or not. I have close friends of both genders; in fact, I've had more close male friends than female. (I am female.) But over time I've found that guys just are not as good at respecting confidences -- you have to explicitly tell them something is not to be repeated, and even then they're prone to forgetting. They don't mean any harm, but somehow it just doesn't register. With women, you don't even need to tell them something is in confidence unless it's a thing you wouldn't normally keep quiet (like you're getting married but don't want your coworkers to know yet).

It's a stereotype that women are more aware of relationships and better at them, but it's also true as a generalization. It may be training rather than nature, and so it may change, but for right now, it's true. So it seems more safe for me if a woman is confiding in another woman. If it's a man confiding in another man, the other man is more likely to treat the confidence carelessly, and repeat it. No one wants their private pains being treated as casual banter. If my husband confides in Joe-Bob, that's uncomfortable, but if Joe-Bob then blabs to his family and his beer buddies, that's much worse.

Gene Weingarten: I think your second assumption is all wrong. I think men are more likely to hold such a secret.

I believe I have never talked to a friend about my wife in a significantly negative way. I would be more upset if my wife criticized me in a humiliating way to someone else than if she cheated on me.

There. I said it.


Falling George: I just discovered that I can use my mouse button to maneuver George. I didn't pick p on that with the falling lady, but George fell into a position where he was motionless so I tried it. So now I'm trying to shake some sense into him.

Gene Weingarten: Impossible. Sorry. Like the guy on the screen, he appears to be brain dead.


Alexandria, Va.: Why does Liz restrict what you see? What if there's a really good unprintable joke in the queue? Wouldn't you want to read it even if you couldn't share it?

Gene Weingarten: I get to look at the detritus after the chat. Liz is good that way.

She restricts what I see because if she didn't I would be overwhelmed by questions, and unable to focus. She does a good job at this.


Bethesda, Md.: The question of whether I dress for men or other women is an interesting one, but it's not really relevant to the VPL question. Yes, I like to look nice, but that doesn't mean I dress with an eye to people staring at my ass and fantasizing about its shape. Therefore, I wear thongs. BECAUSE men like VPL.

Gene Weingarten: Understood. You are punishing us for being men. Understood. We accept the punishmnt. Can I have another, ma'am?


Krull: Liz, I bow to you. That Krull reference was off the charts. thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Um.


What would Gina say?: So, if eating off an opposite-sex friend's plate is infidelity, and cheating on your partner, what on earth did Gina do after snarfing off your plate?


Have a tearful discussion about boundaries and respect with her husband?

Allow her husband to either eat off another woman's plate, or have sex with the other woman?

And what's more, would she ever do it again?

Did it ever occur to her that if she could eat off your plate, and you didn't mind, and her husband didn't mind, and your wife didn't mind, and y'all didn't rip each other's clothes off right there in the restaurant and have sexual relations on the floor in the bread crumbs, and she could still love and remain committed to her husband that, quite possibly, this Isn't Cheating?

Gene Weingarten: What we did, actually, was discuss this in the column.


Alexandria, Va.: Dissing a SO behind the back would be like dissing a family member. Even if you don't like them you're still obligated to thrash anybody who talks crap about them.

Gene Weingarten: Maybe I am like a mafioso. I think you just don't go against The Family. You don't never do that, see?


Women be gossip, IN: Seriously? This female thinks other female types keep secrets??? I want to meet her friends - I am forever telling my guy friends stuff that my female friends would not hear, b/c they can't resist the temptation of "Telling The Story." Guys could honestly not care less what Cindy said about Marsha's they're probably not listening anyway...

Gene Weingarten: Precisely. Exactly my point.


Baltimore, Md.: OK, Gene --

Now that the chat is close to wrapping up, might I suggest that you take a step back and admit that CHATWOMAN WAS RIGHT? This has been, far and away, the most boring chat on record. You've proved your point, all right (in a "nanny, nanny, boo-boo" kinda way), but in the process amply demonstrated to the world why Chatwoman cares (and is oh-so-needed) in the first place. Please, please, can we go back to normal next week? Ahem.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. Well. Let me point out that this terrible, dreadful, boring chat has now received more postings than any chat in the history of regular chats, by a factor of about 25%. The record will likely never be broken.


See you next week, same time same place. Check for updates, which will break the five-subject mold.


UPDATED 9.28.05

Gene Weingarten: Two important updates from yesterday's chat.

First, several doctors, including at least one endocrinologist, pointed out that I should not have admitted error in having accepted a definition of diabetes as an auto-immune disease. Diabetes 1 -- commonly called childhood-onset diabetes -- is, indeed, an auto-immune disease. The body prevents itself from manufacturing insulin. Adult-onset diabetes is not autoimmune.

And secondly, it was not until after the chat that I read the entirety of the column by Lisa Chun in the VCU Times, the one that appeared to be slamming me and Dave Barry as crappy columnists.

When you read the whole thing in context, it is pretty clearly satirical, and rather clever and nicely done. Ms. Chun, I think, was not seriously arguing that "enjoyable" writing is bad.

My bad.


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Belated VPL question: What is it with the tags?

With women's undies getting smaller and smaller, sometimes the tiny tag looms very large in proportion. And yet the tag stays on. Why not cut them off, girls?

Gene Weingarten: Good question. I have notice this, too. What about it, ladies?


Alexandria, Va.: With respect to mentally undressing people, I am a woman and I technically don't do that. I will check out a hot guy and think hubba, hubba, but it doesn't progress to the point of actually imagining them naked. Maybe men imagine women naked but women don't do the same to men, but the hubba hubba is there in both circumstances.

Gene Weingarten: I think, sexually, women are simply not visual. You are relational. In your sexual desires you are deep and complex and, overall, earnest and intelligent. So if you looked at, say, Derek Jeter, you guys would check him out, in general, and think "Wouldn't it be great to, like, see him across the table from me in a fancy French Restaurant, in a tuxedo, gently backlit, while he was holding my hand and telling me why I was the only woman he wanted, in a respectful fashion, yet one that clearly indicated he wanted to take me, savagely, but in a respectful-savage way."

Men might look at, say, Scarlett Johanssen, But they would look at her exactly as the director looked at her in the first five minutes of "Lost in Translation" -- as an arse, contained by panties.

You know I'm right.


Visible Supporters Line: I was once given free tickets to the Syracuse Ballet. They were in the front row. I told my friend afterwards that it was very distracting for me (a female) to be looking up at the men in their white tights with their very visible "ballet belts" (kind of a jock strap/thong underwear). He agreed with me. But he's gay. So, do guy men check out VPL's in other men?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, guys do this all the time, right after observing the precise formation that pigs fly in.


Silver Spring, Md.: HELLO?!? Flash is a HERO. Can't play for the Yankees. You want the Penguin or something.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, so we have to go for the Nemesis, eh? Well, not the penguin. He smokes cigars, waddles, and is a physical wreck.

My son advises me to go for The Phoenix from the X-Men. She clouds men's minds. She can simply see to it that the opposing team never catches a ball. Invaluable.

Gene Weingarten: Though Dan does point out that she might be hard to manage. She apparently has problems with Authority.


UPDATED 9.29.05

Gene Weingarten: We are in receipt of this important update response by Jennifer Adams:

In response to:

"With women's undies getting smaller and smaller, sometimes the tiny tag looms very large in proportion. And yet the tag stays on. Why not cut them off, girls?"

Easy! Because the evil undie manufacturing collaborative (or, the EUMC) thinks it is a great idea to attach these tags by sandwiching them right into the seam. Sometimes, they even reinforce them with heavier thread, or plasticky thread. Then, when you go to rip the tag out, you rip a nice big hole in your brand new undies. Another trick the EUMC likes to play is to make those tags out of the stiffest, most paper-like material available, so if you just cut the tag instead, you get nice crunchy, picky, itchy edges all along the tag.

Hallelujah for the companies that are starting to just print the tag information right on the fabric of the undies.


Earth II: I think for the Flash to run around the world and check out his own butt for VPL, he'd have to be running faster than the speed of light. In other words, he'd have to make it all the way around the planet minus, say, three feet in the time it takes the photons bouncing off his backside to travel the three feet to where his eyes now are. (Or, he could just spin around real quick -- why take the long route?). However he does it, to get his eyes to the right point before the photons got there would require moving faster than the photons. If he were wearing a watch when he did this, and relied on it to set other clocks, all his clocks would be wrong, due to the effects of relativity. This would cause your mama to be late for all her appointments, and she would get so mad she would poop.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but this made me laugh. So now you are reading it.


Alexandria, Va.: Re: Your momma

I once had a friend who, invariably every Monday would ask me, "So what did you do this weekend?" And my answer was always the same. "Your mom."

Never got old.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, that's really good. Unfortunately, I find that the obnoxious question usually is, "Did you have a good weekend?"

I guess I could just say, "Yes, I did. I porked your mom."

It lacks the elegant wordplay, I admit.


Question 13: Suppose my husband had bad potty etiquette, and I shared it with him and complained to a girlfriend. Is that marital infidelity?

My grandfather married us, and he said "Never say anything about your spouse that you wouldn't say in his/her presence." If I'm doing that and still confiding in a friend, is it marital infidelity?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it is.

Several posters -- all women -- have challenged me on this issue. They claim you can SAVE marriages by talking about them to your friends, getting advice on how to deal with situations, etc.

I am pretty creeped out by this. I would not want my wife to ask her friends what their advice is about how to deal with my insistence that she wear clown pants and a false mustache in bed. I would want my wife to discuss it with me. Perhaps we coud compromise; eliminate the mustache, or something.

I believe that when you are in a committed relationship, it means that you and SO are each other's closest friend and confidant.

I seem to be in a minority here.


Tired of seeing husband pee: Okay, not enough potty talk. How do I get my husband to close the bathroom door when he pees? It bother me and our two sons.

Gene Weingarten: See, now here is a good example: You TALK to him, first, which I am guessing you have done already, and he has ignored you.

That is not good, but it just means more talking is necessary. I always advise women that they have enormous power in such negotiations. Read Lysistrata.


UPDATED 9.30.05

Germantown, Md.: Here's a new word for Kevin Trudeau:

Backpfeifengesicht: a face that cries out for a fist in it. (German)

Gene Weingarten: I hope this is real, because it is a beautiful word.


Silver Spring, Md.: To Arlington, Va.: Keep hiding those VPLs. Most men do NOT like them. Gene is very ardent that they are sexy which may make it seem like he speaks for all men. He does not. Gene is an idiot and not at all manly.

Gene Weingarten: I am not an idiot.


Downtown Washington, D.C.: I would be interested to hear the male-female divide on the use of the work bathroom to, ahem, poop. I find it unseemly to subject one's coworkers to this (sitting three feet from them while pretending I'm completely alone feels bizarre), and find myself making repeated trips to the restroom in search of a complete vacancy. Or even waiting until the end of the day, when I can utilize the home toilet advantage.

As you've no doubt ascertained, I am a woman. My husband tells me I'm completely neurotic. I tell him almost all women do this (I say "almost" because there are definitely women who don't follow this rule in my workplace. They skeeve me out.)

Who's right?

Gene Weingarten: So this is not a theoretical dispute for you? You possess the requisite control?

I'm sorry, but I think you are unusually sensitive in this matter. Then again, I am not a female. Does this lady have any support out there?


Washington, D.C.: I have never noticed VPL on a baseball player, though I have looked attentively -- almost scientifically, if there weren't so much lust involved.

I have, however, observed that either (a) baseball players have by far the nicest legs and butts of all professional sportsmen or (b) baseball pants -- short or long -- are the most flattering legwear a man can don. Ever seen a guy on the field with a bad butt? I didn't think so!

Gene Weingarten: I believe my wife has made the identical observation in the past. However, I have to say there are bad butts out there. Cecil Fielder, the erstwhile Yankees DH had a butt that was larger than the rest of him. And the rest of him was plenty large.


Laurel, Md.: Somehow, you just know that, if MLB started bringing in superheroes en masse, the Orioles would wind up with Aquaman.

Gene Weingarten: Yes! Yes, I do!

_______________________ That's all folks. Next Week's Show.


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