Chatological Humor* (Updated 2.24.06)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 21, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

DAILY UPDATES: 2.22.06 | 2.23.06 | 2.24.06

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... just try to stop him.

This week's poll (please choose one): 34 and under | 35 and older

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 .

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ .


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Writers from Aristophanes to Austen to Bellow have noted that all families contain their intrigues, their secrets, and, above all, their peculiar dysfunctions. Their oddities. Their strange topologies. Their darkened corridors. Their cobwebs. Their troubled graveyards. Their strained metaphors. I have always considered my family - a wife of 25 years and two adult children - to be rather ordinary and surprisingly functional, considering that all of us have spent a great deal of time around me. But something happened recently that was so, so peculiar I just felt I needed to lay it out here, for what it is worth.

My son, Dan, is 21 years old. I consider him a person of greater than average intelligence and greater than average skepticism.

My daughter, Molly, who is 24, was visiting for a few days from vet school. And we were talking as a family, and I noted the slightly curious fact that among the four of us - my wife, my daughter, me, and Dan - only Dan had ever had a sister. I asked him what it was like, having a sister. He began to answer in some typically cynical way, and then said to me, "Well, wait, YOU had a sister."


You had a sister, Dan said, strangely quiet.

I have only a brother.

Then Dan reminded me that I had a sister who died as a teenager, in a tragic accident.

Apparently, some many years ago, when Dan was about eight or so, he and Molly were ragging me about not putting seatbelt on when I was driving. They always ragged me about that. It was irresponsible of me, and I always insisted THEY have their seatbelts on, but I was bad about putting mine on, and they always bugged me about it, and so I refused even more stubbornly, etc. making up ridiculous excuses, etc. So one day, apparently, trying to keep a straight face, and affecting an elaborate funereal tone, I told them that my kid sister had drowned because she was driving in a car that fell into a swimming pool and she couldn't get out because the buckle wouldn't unsnap, so I never want to hear them nagging me again about putting on a seat belt.

Molly was apparently old enough to know immediately that this was a big joke, because she doesn't even remember this moment. I only vaguely remember it, and mostly because it is exactly the sort of thing I WOULD say. But it was apparently SEARED in young Dan's brain.

So I had a fine laugh at Dan's expense. Only, frankly, there was something a little disturbing about it. I'm still a little disturbed.

Uh-oh. Dan won, after all.

I never ever do this, but I want to mention an intriguing psychological test I ran across on the Web. I invite answers, but please - not if you KNOW the answer. I will explain midway through:

While attending her mother's funeral, a woman meets a stranger whom she has never seen before. She is intensely attracted to him. It is love at first sight, and she decides this is the man of her dreams. But the funeral ends and he leaves before she can find out his name or who he is. No one seems to know.

Two weeks later, the woman murders her father.

The question is: WHY did she murder her father? No necessary information is being withheld.

The results of today's poll are quite interesting. I should say at the outset that I have received literally dozens of posts from people earnestly explaining that though they would be a little bothered if their children were gay or romantically involved with someone of a different race, it is NOT because they are prejudiced. It is because they'd feel their kid would have a harder life. Yes, yes, we know. That's part of the poll, okay?

It does make me wish I'd asked another question, though. I'll ask it now. Fifteen years ago, when our children were pre-adolescent, my wife and I discussed how we would feel if either was gay. We basically decided that we'd prefer they be straight, but only because the world was not hospitable enough to gay people. I am thinking, now, that I no longer feel that way. I think I would not care at all, now, because if you are gay you can pretty much live your life by your own terms, just as productively as anyone else - though you probably would be restricted to certain demographic areas. They'd be the same demographic areas I'd wind up in, anyway, though.

And THEN it occurred to me that I am not remotely qualified to make this pronouncement. So, I wished I'd segregated out gay people and asked this: Would you prefer that your own kids be gay, or straight, or do you have no preference? And why? Gay people, I'd love to hear your thoughts, in this chat.

The Comic Pick of the Week is Sunday's Frazz, which is basically perfect: Smart, funny, entertaining, erudite, unexpected, true. The first runner up is Friday's Speed Bump. Honorables: Thursday's Foxtrot, Saturday's Speed Bump.

Okay, let's go.

_______________________ Comic Pick of the Week: Frazz , ( Feb. 19 )

First Runner Up: Speed Bump ( Feb. 17 )

Honorables: Foxtrot ( Feb. 16 ), Speed Bump , ( Feb. 18 )


Alexandria, Va.: Do you use only one bar of soap at a time in the shower, or do you have a selection of bars to pick from for each shower?

Gene Weingarten: Uh. One bar. Each shower is ... different?


Chapel Hill, N.C.: We've established that VPL is hot, but what about parts of a visible bra -- visible Bra Straps? Visible edge of the cup? Darker bra than the shirt a woman is wearing (so it's pretty much completely seen)?

Is there any clothing that women wear that men don't find hot in some way?

Gene Weingarten: This is a good question. I have spent an inordinate amount of time on it.

I, personally, do not think a sweater or sweat shirt enhances a womans sexuality when worn around the waist, arms tied in the front, so as to obscure the behind. It is diabolical, and I hate it.

That's about all I could think of.

Oh, wait. Lip liner. The thing that women put on the edge of their lips, like creating a coloring-book line to paint within. When this line is prominent, ALL women look ridiculous. Scarlett Johansen would look ridiculous if she wore lip liner, which she wouldn't do. And the senseless human tragedy of her wearing a waist-sweater... well, I wouldn't even go there.


Washington, D.C.: I am in a committed relationship with a transexual woman, i.e. she used to be a man and is now legally and physically female. It has been interesting noting the ways she is typically female, but every now and then the old "guy" behavior comes out. She asks me to tell her when this happens, as she is interested in correcting her behavior to a more feminine mode. Anyway, this past weekend we had a houseguest who was also a male-to-female transsexual. After a day of being with the two of them, (and months of living with my partner) I couldn't take it anymore and exploded: "You know, women do not announce that they are "going to take a pee" they just excuse themselves." My partner explained that all guys do that.. Gene, is this true? And why this need to share TMI (too much information)? I was taught in kindergarten to use euphenisms, did the boys miss that lesson?

Gene Weingarten: My head is spinning. You are male or female? Female, right? So why are you in a relationship withs someone who changed from male to female? He changed from male to female, and then became a lesbian?

Or are you male? And if you are male why are you asking me about whether guys announce their bathroom habits (they do not)?

I need to lie down.


Cheney: So has everyone contemplated how the situation would be if Whittington had shot Cheney? For one thing, Cheney has a dicky ticker, and might have simply keeled over dead. If I remember my civics right, that would result in the Speaker of the House becoming VP, meaning that our fearless leaders would be


Boy, would we be screwed.

Gene Weingarten: Well, you are exactly right, except for two facts:

1. Boehner is not Speaker of the House; and,

2. That's not how succession works. The pres would name a new veep, as Nixon did when Agnew got his scrawny arse indicted.

But outside of that, great scenario.


Eyeb, AL: What are "eyeball scissors"?

Gene Weingarten: I made them up. But Cheney probably knows.


McLean, Va.: Your column is the first thing I look at in the Sunday paper. I almost always enjoy it, often laughing out loud and sharing parts of it with my boyfriend. This past Sunday's column was disappointing, but not because it was not funny. It was mean. It was mean-spirited and it seemed to be ridiculing people for being hopeful, or idealistic. Logically your article made sense, but it was mean. And worse, it was not funny.

Genuinely, I would like to know: What were you thinking when you wrote this? What kind of mood were you in? Below the Beltway What If? , ( Post, Feb. 19 )

Gene Weingarten: Mean?

To me, the object of ridicule was myself and by extension the enforced cynicism of all journalists. I understand your interpretation, but can't quite make it jibe with your generally liking my column. I'm ALWAYS a jerk. And in precisely this way.

The mood I was in was the mood I am always in when writing a column: Gotta write a bleepin column now.


You messed up. Aga, IN: In the question, the woman kills her sister, not her father. Killing the sister opens up a LOT more doors than the father does.

Gene Weingarten: Both versions are out there, but the father is better, for reasons you should understand.


Arlington, Va.: So Idiot British Historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for denying the Holocaust. But how can 10 European countries have laws against Holocaust denial and still talk about freedom of speech? This is really a no-brainer. I wonder what the public support is in these countries for maintaining these laws. Surely people must understand the significance of free speech by now.

Gene Weingarten: This is a good question. I don't have a good answer. It seems wrong to me, and we here can get on a high horse about it. But we have "hate crime" statutes here, too. Hate crime statutes make it a greater crime to vandalize by writing ethnic slurs than to vandalize by painting happy faces. It makes certain crimes much more serious if done for reasons of ethnic hatred. Essentially, we, too, are criminalizing thought.

I can understand the argument for hate crime statutes in this country, as well as the argument for Holocaust denial statutes in certain parts of Europe, particularly Austria, ancestral home of Hitler.

I think I disagree with both because of the slippery slope argument.


Washington, D.C.: What do you do when you get bored?

Gene Weingarten: Firebomb the Danish embassy.


Arlington, Va.: Dear Gene -

Wow. I just came from reading the over 400 comments posted to date on the site, and I need something to get the bad taste out of my mouth. Such rudeness-laced lunacy really frightens me. Why do people feel they have the right to behave this way?

I'm a liberal, but I would NEVER want any of these freaks to be associated with me or my cause. comment thread .


Gene Weingarten: They're still yammering about Deb Howell's column!

By the way, for the record, I don't think her "mistake" was even significant. It was a minor error, clearly made without political agenda, and mostly semantic.

Oboy. Now THIS chat will be inundated with raving loons.


Urban Beauty - Snow Fall: (With apologies to Edgar...)

Once upon a lunchtime hour, to the park for fueling power,

did I fly - there to devour - a meal bought from the taco store.

Then with yearning, and hope burning, did my eyes wish for sweet slurring -

slurring, blurring of my mental shore.

Alas the sunshine entered brightly, thwarting plans made not so lightly,

and the rays with movements sprightly danced a pick into my eyeballs' door.

So with sighs and groanings uttered, my gaze roamed the landscape buttered

with the gleaming flakes that fell before.

Every branch and rail was covered; benches, tables, street curbs, smothered,

all of nature there was mothered in a blanket cold as winter's core.

Then a breeze blew in so softly, barely felt and yet the lofty

branches swayed - and then - were something more.

No more just the limbs of trees, but hard, dark vessels with the keys

to fracture once again the freeze; the pieces flung out on blue to soar.

I sat in awe and watched the falling, sun and breeze together calling,

falling, squalling, lolling , toward the floor.

And so passed the lunchtime hour, in a park with fueling power,

a sort again I'd soon devour - is such a time again to be in store?


Gene Weingarten: I debated posting this. It's imperfect, but its elegances (the use of "buttered," the surehandedness of the interior rhyme) outweigh its clunks. Nice.


Lexington, Ky.: Maybe Alexandria does what I do -- uses different bars of soap for different body parts. It seems less germy that way.

Gene Weingarten: Really? Does anyone else do this? Is it only women?


Sante Fe de Bogota, Colombia: So why does the possibility of our children engaging in and enjoying group sex bother us so darn much? (For the record, I voted against my child becoming a strict vegan.) ...because it would be upsetting to you for your child to never worry about diet-related health problems?

Gene Weingarten: Oooooooooh.

We have a vegan in our midst. A committed vegan.


Ithaca, N.Y.: The sweater wearing method you describe is known as the SOFA, and yes, I agree -- diabolical.

Gene Weingarten: It's a HORROR. Something must be done. Why the "SOFA"?


Leer, IN: OK, I confess. I didn't have anything else to do (which says something about my life), and I wanted to catch some of the Olympics, so I tuned into NBC and was confronted with ice dancing. After rolling my eyes and letting out a deep sigh, I stuck with it, hoping that they'd cut to other events (by the way, NBC is terrible in its coverage of the Olympics -- you never get into the rhythm of anything). My interest increased considerably, however, when I saw some of the costumes the women skaters were (or weren't) wearing. Did you see the outfit the Ukrainian skater had on? I have socks with more material than that thing. They need to keep this up--they'll get more male viewers.

Gene Weingarten: Keep this up, indeed.


Eyeball scissors: could be eyelash curlers. You know, that scythe-like implement your wife puts right next to her eyes when she does her makeup.

Gene Weingarten: Good point. I would rather approach my eyes with a straight razor. In fact, I do.


Poll Question: Actually I have two questions regarding the poll. First, how old are our children in this poll? Are they still living with us? Are they in college, or are they living out in the real world by themselves?

Also, do you worry that, given the ages of the poll respondants, one group is almost certainly answering these questions on a purely hypothetical level, while the other has likely had some actual experience with some of the scenarios in question with their own children?

As a 25 year old guy, I can easily say that I would allow my hypothetical child to do whatever he or she wants, and that nothing they do would ever bother me. Does that make me open-minded or naive?

Gene Weingarten: Naive. We're ALL open-minded before we had children. It's like being in the minority in Congress. You can say whatever you like, because you don't actually have to put your ideas into practice.


Washington, D.C.: So I checked out Dave Barry's guest chat with Michelle Singletary last Wednesday. His brilliance put this chat to shame, as expected.

Any chance you can get him to do an online appearance with you? It would liven up your dull routine.

I suppose it would be asking too much for him to take your spot permanently.

Best wishes, you second-rate hack! Color of Money Book Club , ( Live Online, Feb. 15 )

Gene Weingarten: Dave's answer on how to tip the restroom attendant is worth the price of the whole chat.

Gene Weingarten: Also, Michelle's reaction to it.


Cutthroat Raz,OR: So Gene,

Are you still playing at manliness? Or is your straight razor sitting unused in your medicine cabinet? The time and care required would seem to conflict with your slovenly nature. I actually considered one until I realized that I have a hard enough time making myself a sandwich in the morning, and I wasn't prepared to swap that for a strop. But I did replace my overpriced cartrigs with an old-school style safety razor. It still uses disposable blades, but it's cheaper long-term, and allows me to feel like my manhood is slighly less compromised. Plus a shaving brush looks cool and is a good conversaion piece when girls use my bathroom.

Gene Weingarten: I still use the straight razor, and cannot exactly tell you why. My wife wonders, too, and I can't exactly tell her, either. I'll try, okay?

I now own one really nice badger-hair brush and five straight razors, most purchased on Ebay for $25 or less. Most are quite old, which is one reason I love 'em. Made in 1930, honed to perfection on a stone made in 1940 (also ebay), these things work like new. And will be working like new 20 years from now. So, yeah, they are probably financially sound. But I'm a guy who will also spend $5 for a cup of coffee, so it ain't really about the money. But if you happen to be my wife, it's about the money. I am prudent, okay?

And it is not about convenience. A shave takes me ten minutes, instead of two. And, bluntly speaking (haha), the shave is probably no closer than the one I'd get with a three-blade disposable Bic. And the potential for serious error is everpresent.

Part of it is that I love antiquity, and hate obsolescence, and nothing really typifies obsolescence more than modern disposable razors. But I think mostly I do this because so few people can. It's a complex, learned skill, and it took me six months to perfect, and I can do it and you cannot.

I have to say that your safety razor compromise is a pretty weenie halfway measure, dude.


Silver Spring, Md.: That bar of soap question was by far the weirdest question you have ever had. This person needs to be questioned as to why they asked, what they do, I think a goverment wiretap might be relevant in this situation... So when you brush your teeth do you use one toothbrush or two, one in the morning and one at night?

Gene Weingarten: So far only one post has seconded this behavior.


Sweater around the wai, ST: So what are women supposed to do when it was cold in the morning, they put on a sweater, and then it gets warm during the day?

Gene Weingarten: Stick it in your purse or something, for God's sake! Give it away to a homeless person! Anything but obscuring your butt with it!


Ashburn, Va.: So on Friday my partner and I got married. We've been together for four years and were opposed to marriage as a concept because it was a discriminatory, mysogynistic, and barbaric proposition that equates women with cattle and glorifies the patriarchy once again. Also, marriage currently hates gays, a matter with a personal stake for me since I have two (four?) uncles who are unable to marry their partners even though they have the most stable relationships I know while friends of mine are getting married in order to have sex with each other, then divorcing less than a year later. It's all offensive to me. At least that was my position. She just didn't want to spend the money on a wedding.

So we intended to do everything in our power to avoid it. Hire a lawyer to draw up wills, both living and otherwise. I disclosed paternity on my son. She was going to legally change her name to a hyphenate. I was going to add her to my insurance as a domestic partner. All of that. And then we estimated the costs. All of this would cost us in excess of $5,000 at least.

Getting married costs $60.

So, we went down to the courthouse, her in a paint speckled sweatshirt, me in a T-shirt for an obscure Swedish metal band, and purchased a marriage.

This is all the most bizarre concept I've ever heard of. If you're so concerned about the divorce rate, why do we make it so easy to get married?

Gene Weingarten: I read this entire thing believing you were both female. Then I had to go back and re-read. "Partner" sure seems like a loaded word these days, doesn't it?

1) There are still people who get married so they can have sex? Who are these people?

2) Our society somehow believes marriage confers stability. Maybe it does. Lets SAY it does, for the sake of argument. Then denying it to gays is completely horrifying, no?

How dare we deny marriage to gays, then continue to flog the stereotype that gay people are promiscuous and not inclined to monogamy?


Lip Liner: I once knew a woman who used lip liner that was about 10 shades darker then her lipstick. It truly looked so stupid, everyone talked about her behind her back, but she thought she was soooo HOT.

Gene Weingarten: It looks like your name should be Clarabelle.


Different bars of soap: I just use a washcloth. I DON'T rub the soap directly on my body. I mean, there are some places soap wasn't mean to go, directly. stuff might get stuck up there (and how do you rinse with your hands) and your bar of soap might get icky.


I am laughing too hard to type here. What are we talking about, people?


New York, N.Y.: Gene, last week you stated that you liked Dana Milbank's stunt of dressing up in hunting gear. Does your opinion change, now that an assistant managing editor and the paper's ombudsman have said that his behavior was inappropriate? Crossing the Line on a Cable Show? , ( Post, Feb. 19 )

Gene Weingarten: My opinion does not change.

I also think it does not matter whether the Post labels Dana's column as "opinion" or not. Dana's columns are what they are. They are opinionated, and every single sentient human reading them understand they are opinionated.

The veep accidentally shot a 78 year old man in the face while hunting captive quail. He was driven out to the site and the quail were hunted in a ridiculously unsportsmanlike manner, a fact that would not be known had this incident not occurred. The victim survived without terribly serious injury. The veep was not subjected to the degree of police inquiry such an event would usually entail. The veep's subsequent behavior was blissfully and hilariously arrogant. This is nothing to be dealt with gravely. This is a complete hoot. Even Jimmy Carter on CNN last night couldnt keep a straight face about it. I would say Dana showed restraint.

But that's just me. Apparently, Dana had his ample tushy peppered with Post buckshot. I am not calling the shots, haha, at The Post. I just happen to work for a place that lets me take exception publicly.

Do you guys have any idea what a great employer The Washington Post is?


Schaefer, Md.: There is a divide on leering and attendant commentary. Men claim they're just looking, and it's just like porn: that's the way it is, and women had better get used to it. Meanwhile, women are grossed out and uneasy because men are thinking about having sex with the women they're ogling. We look to you, Gene, to explain your species.

Gene Weingarten: As I JUST SAID, I do not believe in criminalizing thought.


Laurel, Md.: Can I give different answers to #5 depending on whether it's a son (A) or daughter (D)?

Gene Weingarten: No.


Sweater on your shoulders: why would you wrap something around your butt to make it look bigger?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, yeah. Your butt looks bigger! That's the ticket! So stop doing it! BECAUSE YOUR BUTT LOOKS BIGGER.

(This poster is a genius. A lawyer or a politician.)


Just Than, KS: Gene, months ago you shared a post from a man who'd gone to either a Nats or Orioles game with his partner -- both of them trying to act as straight as they could the whole time. I just have to thank you (and the poster) for that. I've gotten lots of mileage out of that story. Man, that was funny...

Gene Weingarten: The guy really could write.


Sisterville: I thought you never lied to your kids...?

Gene Weingarten: I never did! I never expected either of them to take that seriously. I mean, I also told them the horsie went moo...


Re: Bar of Soap: Do you allow the bar of soap that washed your butt to touch other parts of your body, for example, your face? If so I do not want to kiss you.

Gene Weingarten: Still laughing, here.

Yes. Because, um, you are in the SHOWER. There is a constant rinsing of said soap.


Record Number of Posts: So Gene, be honest. All this self-congratulation over constantly having the record number of posts in the hour is kind of phony, isn't it? I mean, clearly you spend a good amount of time before the chat begins answering questions and then just post a bunch of them rapid fire when the chat starts and throughout the hour. I mean, two minutes into the chat you're already telling us how you debated for a long time whether or not to post a certain long rambling poem. Clearly that means you were looking it over and thinking about it well before your supposed hour-long-chat began.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy that you don't confine yourself to the single hour that most hosts do. But to keep on congratulating yourself for the length of the chats and the number of questions answered is a little disingenuous. If I may -- Gene's not congratulating himself about the number of questions he actually answers or, as you put it "posts" during the chat. He's congratulating himself -- and rightfully so -- for receiving a record number of questions/comments from readers. Trust me, there's no way he could ever answer them all...

Gene Weingarten: Precisely.


soa,PY: My gynecologist told me in no uncertain terms to not use the same soap to wash my private areas as I was using to wash my body. I use Dove unscented soap for private areas and perfumed body washes for the rest of me.

I'm just following medical advice!

Gene Weingarten: This. Is. Completely. Insane.


Shower soap: I have approximately six different types of soap in the shower (not including hair products). Some days it is simple ivory soap, other days peppermint pick me ups, or a super moisturizing soap. It depends on my mood, the weather, am I shaving and what I will be doing after my shower. Yes I am a woman, I occasionally announce when I pee, and will sit on almost any toilet seat.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha. This is as good as the wiping discussion of a few weeks back.

My wife does have approximately 31 shampoo bottles. I have no idea why. I am not allowed to use them, or even ask questions.


Cincinnati, Ohio: I currently have three bars of soap going in my primary bathroom, all have different purposes (within the context of one shower). I'm female. Maybe guys use one bar. All I know is I've never known any guys who like soap on a rope.

Gene Weingarten: Soap on a rope is dangerous.


Olney, Md.: Upon reflection, do you feel it was an error to tell your sister story to eight year old Dan?

Gene Weingarten: Yes! Obviously!


Vienna, Va.: It's SOAP!!! It kills germs, and therefore one bar of soap is no less germy than another!

Gene Weingarten: Right. It's like you can't taste your tongue.


New Haven, Conn.: I've had this little lump in the folds of the cartillage of my ear for a couple of weeks now. It's painful to the touch, and it's definitely gotten larger within the past few days. I have no idea what it looks like due to its location. Is this something that will go away by itself? Should I be concerned?

Gene Weingarten: No.

You have a zit in your ear, basically.

As a general rule, by the way, cancerous lumps don't hurt. There are exceptions -- when they are pressing on a nerve, for example -- but that's not what's happening in your case. Also, cancerous lumps don't feel warm to the touch. That suggests infection.


Chapel Hill, N.C.: What is your view on stilettos? I recently divulged to a mixed group of friends that I like to wear high heels while doing housework. Both the men and women thought it was hot. Are we right, or just strange? And what does it say about me?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not a stiletto heel guy. For one thing, I like short women. For another, I tend not to like exaggerated looks. Don't like very short hair. Don't like very long hair. Don't like a lot of eye shadow. Don't like major degrees of fragrance. And thus such. Stiletto heels are in this category, plus they look uncomfortable, which tells me the women are doing something in a desperate attempt to look a certain way, which reeks of, well, desperation.

Ladies, you do not need to be desperate. We want you. Just the way you are.


Arlington, Va.: Bumper sticker on Route 50 in Arlington:

"I (heart) my German Shepherd -- Pope Benedict XVI"

Seems to me that this is equally offensive to the pope and German shepherds alike.

Gene Weingarten: I think that's kinda funny, no?


Wormylegs: I have incisors; they are good for tearing meat. My HDL and LDL are great. I don't have any health problems. I've heard that living on stewed barley causes anemia. Maybe wormy-legs, too. Heard it all before. Your critique isn't even original, much less based in reality.

Gene Weingarten: May I just say that though I love and respect Ms. Wormylegs, we may be seeing evidence of some proselytizing behavior here. My daughter is a committed vegan; no proselytizing.

Here is the thing about veganism: It's moral.


Buffalo Grove, Ill.: Have you ever considered the amazing dichotomy your chatters represent? Primarily liberal, enlightened, and tolerant, and yet they have the most amazing, ridiculous, juvenile hangups on matters of personal hygiene.

Gene Weingarten: Do you recall the chat on obsessive-compulsive behavior? It was one of my favorites.


Hayden's: In your update on Friday you wondered how someone from Columbia, S.C., knew of Hayden's. It's simple -- Hayden's is by far the best liquor store on the planet. When I first moved to D.C. in the early '80s I lived in your neighborhood. It wasn't as your critics say -- upscale -- then. Hayden's was the neighborhood meeting place, where the newly arrived "yuppies" mixed with and got to know 3rd or 4th generation neighborhood residents. The owner was the unofficial mayor of the neighborhood -- arbitrating disputes or organizing help for a neighbor down on their luck. Best of all, in those pre-ATM days Hayden's was the neighborhood bank. They'd always cash your check even if you didn't buy anything.

For the first few years I couldn't understand why they would cash checks. Why take the risk of bad checks. I finally asked the owner why he was so willing to cash checks. Being from a small town in the upper plains it never dawned on me -- "Less cash in the till when they hold me up"

I could go on and on with what a wonderful institution Hayden's is. I miss it terribly. I hope you know how lucky you are to live so close to them. I suspect that The Rib does, since she shoveled their sidewalk.

Gene Weingarten: Everyone loves Hayden's. They also accept and sign for parcels for you. I once wrote a column about the incredible adventures of the Hayden's dog. (Liz, can we link to this?)

Hayden's is intertaining in many ways. The proprietor, Tom, is the drummer in a local band called "J.P. McDermott and Western Bop," which recently performed at a Buddy Holly revue in Silver Spring attended by the rib and myself, which kept us up and bopping past one a.m., which is an achievement, sad to say.

I like living in the city.


Takoma Park, Md.: OK, I've given up expecting you to get as tired of the lame jokes in "Dilbert" as I have. But could you at least weigh in against the absurd economics and Cheneyesque political views expressed in Sunday's strip?

Adams -- views expressed by Dogbert -- would have us believe that there is no benefit to the country (and by extension the environment) when individuals choose to buy less gasoline, because "developing countries would buy the oil you save". Has he ever heard of supply and demand? Even monopolists and cartels earn less money when demand falls. And the next statement about fungibility, while (trivially) true, is a complete non sequitur.

But it's good of Adams to join our VP in assuring us that we can consume as much oil & gas as we want, with no harmful consequences! Dilbert , ( Feb. 19 )

Gene Weingarten: Dogbert is an amoral character. He might as well be talking out of the side of his mouth and shooting guys in the face. So why are you thinking that Adams wants us to ACCEPT this as truth?



She killed her father in the hope that the guy would return for the father's funeral.

This is allegedly a test used to identify sociopaths. Allegedly, all sociopaths know the right answer immediately, and normal folk do not. Because it is entirely logical, but only in an amoral world.

I do not know if this is real, but I find it intriguing.


Chantilly, Va.: The most amusing part of Dave's chat with Michelle Singletary is that after a while, in an attempt to keep up with his barrage of one-liners, she owns up to walking around her house nude in an attempt to convince her kids not to return after they've moved away for college. I suspect her kids weren't exactly thrilled to have relatives and friends clued into this.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.


Washington, D.C.: Do you think yourself arrogant? Do you think others think you are arrogant?

Gene Weingarten: I think some others think I am arrogant.

I am waaay too insecure to be arrogant.


Any Thoughts?: I think I need more opinions. I asked a coworker why lipstick was pointy and chapstick was flat, since they both go on the same place and she um'd and er'd and made an anatomical reference that clearly embarrassed her.

If that's true, it could be better than bananas!

Gene Weingarten: Does anyone know the answer here?


RE: hate crime statutes: You know Gene, I don't agree that hate crime statutes are criminalizing thought. The way that I've always understood it -- and I realize there are arguments against this, as well, but it's a whole different enchilada than policing thoughts -- is that hate crimes should be punished more severely because there are more victims of a hate crime.

If I break up with my boyfriend, go crazy, and burn a life-size rag doll of him in effigy on his front lawn, he's pretty much the only one victimized. If I join the KKK and burn a cross on the front lawn of one of the black families in my neighborhood, not only have I victimized the family, but I've also threatened and intimidated any other black families in my neighborhood, as well as any black families that might have moved here but now think it is too risky, and so on. I think you can argue that many hate crimes (spray-painting a swastika on a synagogue, beating up a random gay person on the street, and so on) are explicitly meant to serve as intimidation towards all the members of that group.

So I'm not swayed by arguments that more severe penalties for hate crimes make us into the thought police. They're just a better way of recognizing the greater harm caused by hate crime.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is a good argument in support of hate-crime statutes. It is a complex issue. I also think it criminalizes thought.


Gro, IN: Regarding the 2/15 update about women and groins...

I was once VERY STERNLY corrected by an OB-GYN when I referred to that area as the "crotch" (as in, "my crotch itches"). She told me that the proper terminology is "groin", the unspoken subtext being that "crotch" is vulgar.

Never liked that particular doc. She was very, er, crotchety.

Gene Weingarten: This reminds me of one of my favorite Style Invitational entries. The contest was to come up with Ways to Tell You Have a Problem.... as in, ways to tell your car mechanic might not know what he was doing, etc. Someone said you can know there's something wrong with your OB-GYN if he refers to the body parts using their street names.

I can imagine a hilarious movie scene where that happens.


Middle America: Last weekend, my father told a joke at the dinner table that everyone else (my mom) at the table found uproareously funny. I did not get it. When I said I did not get it, they both laughed again and said I wasn't old enough. I am 24 and female and I am divorced and I do get dirty jokes. They wouldn't explain it to me. I said if they didn't explain it I would ask you publically, in this chat, and also I would reveal their names to everyone. They laughed. They said you would know it and that I would be the one who would be embarrassed. They told me to go ahead, so now I have to. They are Allen and Phyllis Goldberg.

They said you would know it from the punchline, which is "No soap radio." It involves a polar bear, if that helps.

I can't tell you how annoying this is. Please explain.

Gene Weingarten: I wouldn''t touch this except for the fact that you have assured me you are divorced, so I know you can handle it.

The problem is that you haven't put a comma between the "no soap" and the "radio." I am sure once you do that you will understand the punchline immediately and no further explanation is necessary.


Bethesda, Md.: Gene, I am not gay, but read "Ask Amy" from yesterday, to know that one cannot be completely comfortable being gay everywhere in this country. A woman wrote in horrified that her gay neighbors -- who had fixed up the worst house on the block, and who shoveled her car out when it snowed -- dared to kiss each other goodbye when they left for work. Ask Amy , ( Feb. 20 )

Gene Weingarten: Holy crap! That is quite a letter!

Amy responded appropriately.

I love the advice of the pastor; the shepherd of the community.


Lipstick vs. Chapstick: Lipstick is pointy because it is designed for women to use. The obvious analogy applies.

Chapstick is designed for everyone to use. If it was pointy, straight men, and/or men concerned about their masculinity, would refuse to use it.

Gene Weingarten: Understood. But the real question is: Should lipstick be flat, or chapstick pointy? Which is better, sans the sexual suggestion?


Veganism is immoral: I find it morally rephrehensible and very poseur to refuse to eat or use anything that comes from an animal. Until all human beings all over the world are treated humanely, efforts to help animals are misguided, almost to the point of mocking human suffering. The only animal rights we should be concerned with are those related to making sure meat is fit for human consumption and doesn't have mad cow disease, etc. Thanks for sharing. Not everyone is vegan because of animal rights/cruelty. Some of us are actually concerned about our own life and longevity. So we're as selfish as you!

Gene Weingarten: And I disagree with both of you!


The story about Dan and the seatbelts: You really can be an incredible jerk sometimes.

Gene Weingarten: Apparently!


Columbia, Mo.: This remark from your update is fascinating: "In general, I just feel that vulgar words have lost their ability to offend. They can sound ignorant or coarse, but I don't think very many people are personally offended anymore by swear words."

If they don't offend, what is the point of using them? So you can sound ignorant or coarse?

It really seems to be an affectation by a certain social milieu to demonstrate that they are not bound by normal social conventions -- basically egotistical childishness.

It brings to mind a study many years ago that those with some college education drank more, smoked more, used more "bad" language, and were less faithful to significant others. It raised the question of what was "higher" about the education.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I said they CAN sound ignorant or coarse. And they well MIGHT sound ignorant or coarse all the time to some people. I tend to use em sparingly, and with forethought. Calling someone an idiot, and calling him a [bleeping] idiot have slightly different gradations of meaning.

Bleep is a word. No more, no less. It can be misused and it certainly can be overused. But it also can be used correctly and for effect.


Words, words, words: What is the male equivalent for the word "mistress"? Is there one? I discussed this with a couple of friends and the only things they could come up with were "adulterer," "poolboy," and "jacka-- homewrecker," none of which are quite right. It seems very sexist that there is no word for a male mistress. I think we should make one up and spread it widely, so that women (and gay men, I suppose) everywhere will have the same ability as men (and lesbians, I suppose) to name the men with whom they're having affairs... Maybe "misters"?

Gene Weingarten: I have always liked the term used in Albee's Virginia Woolf: "Houseboy."


Gene Weingarten: Today's poll: You see the results, the most predictable of which is probably that the oldies are a lot less tolerant of piercings, tattoos and the like.

I differed from many of you in my answers. I don't claim they are right. But I learned a long time ago, as a parent, not to sweat the small stuff. People grow, things change. Values you instill may seem to be hidden for years, but they aren't lost. Fads fade. Eternal truths are eternal. Your kids are good; trust them.

So I didn't give a crap about sexual promiscuity; they'll outgrow that because it's ultimately empty. (Screwing around doesn't mean taking untoward risks.) Major fundamentalism? It would really, really bother me, but it's rectifiable through reason and persuasion. You can't undo a face tattoo. That bothered me the most. Sorry, kids. (By the way, veganism is nothing. Molly is a vegan. It's barely a minor irritation.)

Very little offends me. Certainly not language or images. And though it was a popular answer, prejudice doesn't offend me, either. If people are ignorant jerks, they are ignorant jerks. That doesn't get under my skin; I just have contempt for them. What really bothers me, personally, is political hypocrisy, because it is so destructive, and because it is cynically playing to our stupidities and weaknesses.

I don't care at all about race or religion or gayness. Life is too short, you know?


Lipstick: Uhm, I'm a guy and have never used lipstick, but think it's obvious that when a women puts it on, they want to be able to control, with the pointed end, exactly where it is applied. It's not like chapstick which is almost invisible after you apply it. So you can kind of just mash it on haphazardly.

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Okay, that makes sense.


Baltimore, Md.: For the first time in my life, I feel confident I'm not a sociopath. I would have never gotten that answer. Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I didn't get it either. Yet it seems so... obvious.


Re: Razor Burn: Yes, I admit it, my safety razor is a weenie cop-out. I actually see it as a bridge to straight razor-land one day when I perhaps become slightly less lazy.

But otherwise, has anybody tried the new "Fusion" razor? 5 blades?! Where does this end? The ad says that 5 blades "reduce pressure". What if you just, oh, I don't know, didn't jab the cartridge into your face so hard in the first place? Is there anybody who thinks these new blades really give them that much better of a shave than one that was out 10 years ago?

Gene Weingarten: I remember thinking that the Trac II back in 1985 or so was actually an improvement over the one blade. The rest has been ridiculous.


Salt Lake City, Utah: Do people get married just to have sex? Out here in Mormon Land, it happens all the time! These kids get married at 21. I'm a college professor and you'd be amazed at how many of my students have two, three, even up to six children by their mid-20's. Then theyreach 30 and they realize that they don't know their spouse at all. Divorce and anti-depressant use (UT is #1 in anti-depressant use) are much higher here that you would think.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, man.

_______________________ Dog Gone , ( Post Magazine, April 3, 2005 )


Started Late: Just got here and read your opening but nothing else so I don't know if this has been covered yet, but I wanted to make a comment on gay people and kids.

I personally have absolutely no problem with gays adopting children but I don't think they should have them on their own. Why? Because they are gay and gay people can't procreate having sex with their chosen partners. This is NOT a prejudice. I do not believe anyone should have kids unless they can do so NATURALLY with their chosen partner! No in-vitro, no artificial insemination, no surrogates! I believe in nature and we already have enough humans in the world. If nature says you can't have children then please don't!

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Gene Weingarten: I see. And this is not a prejudice, eh? The WHY are you CAPITALIZING random WORDS?


Santayana was right: Gene:

Didn't you write about the psychotic sociopath in this chat about a year ago? Something to do with the killer's assumption that she would meet the man again at a funeral.

Just asking...

Gene Weingarten: I did not. Did I? Maybe someone else?


Plant, Er: Gene, you have a nose for this stuff. When I read that letter in Ask Amy, the first thing I thought was that it was a plant.

I know there are stupid people and prejudiced people in the world, and that an inordinate amount of them may write clueless letters to advice columnists, but that letter seemed no more real to me than the letters about teen "naked sleepovers" a year or two ago.

Doesn't the setup, and the writers' obvious idiocy, seem a bit too perfect?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. I suspect that might be a plant, and the reason is the part about how they fixed up the house so nicely. The writer didn't have to put that in.


Lansing, Mich.: Ah, geez. It's "poseur" to want to end aminal suffering because people are suffering, too? I'm not a vegan -- or even vegetarian -- but I just don't get that point of view. The way we treat the lowest members of our society (animals, just for the sake of argument, although I love my dog and cats and would argue that Republicans rank much lower on the list of life forms) reflects the way we're willing to treat some human members of our society. It's as simple as that.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, yeah.


No Soap Radio: Gene, tell the nice young woman to Google "no soap radio" before the end of the chat. C'mon. You've had your fun.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, okay. Nice woman. Google it.


Falls Church, Va.: My old roommate has a towel that is brown on one end, and says "BUTT" and white on the other end and says "FACE" in large, 8-inch letters. So he doesn't get confused. The trouble with this is that not only is it known as the "Buttface towel," but (haha), as I pointed out to my flabbergasted friend, unless they make several varieties, it is racist.

Gene Weingarten: I don't see how it is racist at all. I'd love one of those towels.


Male mistress: Call him a manstress.

Gene Weingarten: Good enough.


Enough humans?: So the chatter thinks gay people shouldn't procreate because "we already have enough humans in the world." Why isn't s/he advocating that thoughtful heterosexual couples also cease procreating? We can all simply adopt the kids who are already out there. Fair's fair, right?

Gene Weingarten: There are more holes in that guy's logic than in whatsizname's face.


Don'tYouPeopleHaveEdit, OR(s?): OK, so it was in the Sports section. By Arangure. Still.

"That begged the question of when Bottalico last had a major league hit." (Patterson 'Excited' To Get Started. Sunday, February 19, 2006; Page E18)

If you can't get PtfP away from her love nest with the Empress's husband, maybe you can get Tom to talk to somebody over there?

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, I have given up on "begging the question."


Arlington, Va.: A friend of mine, and regular chat participant, is on the road right now, so I feel comfortable submitting her Dan-like story, even though it is hers.

When she was 25, her 21 year old cousin called her, for the first time in months, and said only: "Triscuits are NOT made on a loom!"

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


Silver Spring, Md.: I can't believe the Goldbergs, and now you, did that to their daughter.

Unless, of course, she deserved it.

Ms. Goldberg -- google, my dear, google.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, okay. By now she knows.


Soap: If soap can clean me, how can it ever get dirty? I use one bar of soap and no washcloth. I'm a guy, and I only use one bar of soap. for everything.

am I wrong?

Gene Weingarten: Apparently, you and I are both swine. Apparently, my wife must hide her set of twelve bars of soap, because I've never seen em.


Sociopath in Gaithersburg: Gene, now you have me worried. Not only did I get the answer to the riddle instantly, I felt that it was so obvious that there must be another answer you were looking for that was more clever. Then I found out that no, I was just a sociopath.

I liked it better a half hour ago when I just felt dumb!

Gene Weingarten: I don't know what to say, dude.


Veganism mor,AL?: Okay, let me ask: Of the vegetarians/vegans out there not following religious guidelines or an allergy to meat, how many of them would be practicing V's if the evidence were overwhelming that the practice was UNhealthy and on average shortened the life of the practictioner by 10-15 years, and not necessarily swiftly like a heart attack? I'll bet that absent the "high horse" the numbers would shrink by about 50 percent. Agreed. Good thing that's not the case.

Gene Weingarten: Veganism, practiced intelligently, is quite healthy. What are you talking about?

Isn't it interesting the degree of passion associated with this issue? Which is simply .... dietary?


RE: Waiting for Marriage: I have a friend who waited for marriage for sex because of religion. They then divorced two years later. My comment though is that now she's perfectly fine with having pre/post-marital sex. I would think the point of religious contention would always be within the sanctity of marriage but apparently once the gate is open it doesn't matter any more. I think she was crazy to wait the first time.

Gene Weingarten: But don't most religions frown on ANY marriage outside of matrimony?


Gene Weingarten: ER, sex. Outside of matrimony.


No Soap Radio: If I Google this on my lunch hour will I be unemployed tomorrow?

Gene Weingarten: No. Try Wikipedia.


re: Male mistress: Whatever happened to gigolo? Works for me..

Gene Weingarten: Well, the difference is that a gigolo is paid.


Alexandria, Va.: What would need to be "fixed" about a child taking on a fundamentalist view based in (insert religion here)? What is so bothersome about it -- the idea that there may actually be some absolute truths out there?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, to me. And a religion of any sort that is so restrictive that it requires fundamental lifestyle change.


Sociopath Fakery: people, it ain't real.

Gene Weingarten: I haven't checked this, but I will take your word for it. I still like it.


Madison, Wis.: Re: male mistress -- I share an office with one. He likes the idea of being called an "extra" or "stunt double."

Gene Weingarten: Stunt double is terrific. We'll end on that.

Thank you all. I'll be updating as usual.


Happy, Tex.: "The mood I was in was the mood I am always in when writing a column: Gotta write a bleepin column now."

Hey, aren't you the guy who told us to choose a career doing what we loved?

Gene Weingarten: (I love having to write a bleepin column.)


UDPATED 2.22.06

Washington, D.C.: Gene, for years I agreed with your view that enhanced punishments for hate crimes criminalize thought. My view has changed recently since I started law school and realized that we criminalize "thoughts" every day.

If I hit you with my car, and it was an accident, then that is a crime. If I hit you with the same car because I wanted to, then that is a more severe crime with a much stronger punishment. My intention is scrutinized by a jury and my thoughts are judged and punished. Happens every day in every court.

Given that hate crimes victimize large groups of people, it makes sense to me to subject defendants' "thoughts" to the same jury scrutiny.

Gene Weingarten: Several people have expressed similar thoughts. To me, there is a distinction: This person is not defining "thought" so much as "intent." If you intend to harm, it is of course a different crime than if the harm were accidental or incidental.

Should it be more of a crime -- or prosecuted differently -- if a person beats someone up because he is a Jew, than if a person beats someone up identically, in the course of robbing him? Or, less dramatically, should it be more of a crime to scrawl a racial epithet on a wall than to scrawl "Down With Fascists" on a wall?

I consider these complex questions. I am more persuaded by the argument that the damage is greater in a hate crime, because it has a chilling effect on many more people.


Arlington, Va.: Gene,

I'm gay, 36, and yes, life is a smidgen harder when you'er gay. For this I am grateful. I was raised in McLean in an environment where everyone else was white upperclass straight people, I went to all the best schools and had access to all the best things that suburbia has to offer. If I were not gay, I would have fit in so well that I would have almost certainly turned out to be a rich white Republican, SUV-driving, golf-playing uncritical jerk (not that all such people are jerks, but I would have been).

Being gay absolutely forced me to think critically about the society I was living in, how it must feel to women, other minorities, artists, etc. The struggle to make my own life, as opposed to having it handed to me, has been a great gift of understanding for me.

Of course, I'm still a lawyer, mainstream, market-oriented kind of guy, but I'm able to appreciate human diversity, art and the world much more than I would otherwise.

So I'd prefer my kids were gay so they could experience the fullness of life, unless they had another way to do so.

Gene Weingarten: Several gay people expressed similar thoughts. This guy said it best. Makes sense to me, though I would add that the experience of this potential dad would help him help his kid see the broader outlines of life, whatever his kid's orientation.


Gene Weingarten: I want to thank the person who sent in the joke about the Catholic school girls reaching the pearly gates. Exactly two people have read this joke -- Chatwoman and me -- and no more shall, so help us God.


Fairfax, Va.: I have a friend who turned vegetarian. Now his stomach can't process meat, which is a problem in social situations ... and imagine the trouble he'd have if his plane crashed in the Andes, and he had to eat his fellow passengers in order to survive!

Anyway, the moral argument in favor of veganism is bogus. Unless you personally kill an animal, or order its slaying, you have not caused its death, and are therefore not morally responsible. If you don't eat that hamburger, either someone else will eat it or it will get thrown out, and that's just wasteful.

Note that a meat industry exec may be responsible, because his orders increase or decrease meat production. But individual consumers have no effect on the meat market, and hence no responsibility.

Gene Weingarten: Your argument is completely ridiculous. The greatest authority on why it is ridiculous is Immanuel Kant, in his thesis on the Categorial Imperative. Kant argued that the most moral way for a citizen to behave, in all cases, is to take the action that that would cause the greatest good if everyone behaved the same way. This provides the single best explanation for why it is immoral not to vote, even if your vote is statistically insignificant.

If everyone was a vegetarian, there would be vastly more grain products available to feed the world's starving people. We waste inordinate quantities of this stuff breeding and feeding animals just so we can eat them. A very, very inefficient and wasteful system. If everyone were a vegetarian, animals would not be consigned to horrible lives and painful deaths.

You are fulla crap. In short.

Many omnivores have written in indignantly about this subject, castigating vegans for their obnoxious, holier-than-thou behavior. Many vegans are, in fact, obnoxious and holier-than-though, and a DEFINITE pain in the arse to go to dinner with. This does not mean they are wrong, philosophically. Or ethically. Or morally.

My daughter has made a conscious decision about this, is very serious about it, and behaves without a trace of condescension. She does not proselytize.

She will probably say I am wrong about this, but I believe that in standing up for her principles, she has consciously eliminated many culinary joys from her life, for what she believes to be a greater good. (Molly maintains she loves and is completely satisfied by her food choices, but I can't help but feel that part of this is self-deception.)

Is her lifestyle a problem for me? A tiny one; a slightly larger one for Molly's mom, the cook. Do I respect Molly for keeping to her diet? Enormously. Do I feel a hypocritical guilt for eating meat? Yes.

Chatwoman, on the other hand, is a vegan for different reasons -- reasons she herself labels selfish. I am not an expert on the nutritional benefits of a vegan diet, though the literature is out there and seems persuasive. My friend Bruce Friedrich, the Washington spokesman for PETA, just sent me a new PETA billboard for a new campaign. It features a hot looking woman saying "I'm throwing a party and meat-eaters can't come."

This is making the case that meat-eating can be a cause of impotence. Clogging blood vessels.

Heh heh. I like PETA.


Transsexuals: I'm sure others have written in to clarify but I wanted to respond as well, just in case they hadn't yet. People who are transsexual feel that their gender identity is different from their birth sex -- so they change it. That is not related to what gender they are sexually attracted to. Being transsexual or transgender does not determine your sexual orientation/identity. So there are male-to-female transsexuals who are sexually interested in men, women, both, other trans people, etc. And likewise for female-to-male trans people. Yes it's complicated... maybe you'll feel better after lying down for a bit!

Gene Weingarten: I'm really trying here. So you can have male genitalia, but feel you really should have female genitalia, yet still want to have sex with women? So you remove your male genitalia, which would have permitted you to have sex with women in a particularly mutually satisfying way, and get female genitalia? And then have sex with women, possibly including (a guess here) using prosthetic apparatuses?

I guess what you are saying is that "feeling like a woman" is more complex -- and in some ways unrelated -- to sexual desire, eh?

This is hard for a kind of thickheaded heterosexual guy to understand. I feel as though I am pretty much all male. I know there is a continuum, and I acknowledge I must have some female traits, though I am not sure what they are. (I like poetry and understand emotion better than many guys, I guess.) But I think I very much define my guyness by the nature of my sexual thoughts.

This is interesting. I still don't get it, but I appreciate your effort. Gonna lie down now.


Why don't want swinging kids?: For me, every other choice demonstrated a commitment to something.

Gene Weingarten: True. True. But, at the risk of immediately losing the argument by raising the H word, Adolf had an extreme commitment to something, too.


Falls Church, Va.: My girlfriend, when I suggested that I'd like to have a large, grotesque facial tattoo, responded that she would not attempt to stop me if I went through with it. She said she would go with me and support me and hold my hand through the pain, and when it was all over she would help me find a nice person who would still love me.

Gene Weingarten: Understood.


UPDATED 2.23.06

Gene Weingarten: We begin today's update with a very important link.

And with this link to a story in yesterday's Baltimore Sun. I checked out the name of the restaurateur. It is legitimate:Harford Goes Into Frenzy Over Skater, (Baltimore Sun)


No Soap Radio: Thanks for the Wikipedia suggestion. And to think I believed you were a meanie as a dad, because of the sister story you told your son... but compared to the parents of that poster? Man!

Gene Weingarten: A number of people wrote in, genuinely horrified about the story I told re: Dan and my allegedly deceased sister. I think I need to elaborate.

I never intended for him to have BELIEVED the story, and am frankly quite disturbed, 13 years later, to discover that he did. I am certain I delivered it in a histrionic, overly dramatic tone that I had used many times before, in telling preposterous stories my children were intended to see through, and laugh at. This was part of our relationship, always. I think it has helped make both kids unrepentant smartasses. The joke here would have been my inventing a preposterous over-the-top explanation to justify the unjustifiable fact that I wasn't seatbelting myself.

Obviously, I misfired. Molly, at 11, understood completely. She doesn't even remember it. Dan, at 8, evidently did not understand at all.


Columbia, Md.: Dark lipliner and light lipstick? Anus lips.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha. Classy.


Washington, D.C.: Actually I just got a Fusion razor a couple of days ago (it was cheaper than a pack of Mach III cartridges) and while I hate to admit it, the gimmick works. It's the best razor I've ever owned. It's very smooth, shaves frighteningly close, and has an extra single blade on the back for tight spots. Plus, I think I'd have to try really hard to cut myself with the thing -- the five blades spread the pressure out like the bed of nails trick. I shave my head as well as my face every day, so this is very important. I applaud the superior manliness of your straight razor, but the technology rocks.

Gene Weingarten: I appreciate the testimonial. I will try it, and report back.


Herndon Va.: The woman whose gynecologist told her not to use the same soap on her genitals as the rest of her body did it for something other than sanitary reasons! The poster mentioned that she uses perfumed soap on the rest of her body and some unscented, low-irritating type on her genitalia. This was probably to prevent the overpriced, overperfumed soap from irritating some very sensitive areas. If she'd give up the stinky stuff, she could use that same nice Dove bar on her entire body.

Gene Weingarten: Many, many women made this observation. I don't understand scented soap. Why would women use scented soap? You guys smell great.


StraightRaz, OR: Gene --

I don't know if others have pointed this out, but I think you like straight razors for the same reason you like manual transmissions. Both require some skill, and while performing both tasks, you can feel like you are doing a competent job. There aren't that many areas left for such a feeling in daily life.

More so for the straight razor, of course but even driving a stick shift, there are moments where you just feel like you have done the "right" thing, in terms of proper downshifting, starting in second gear in the snow, or what have you.

A friend of mine, who also drives stick shifts, once told me that his father told him he should try to work the manual transmission so well that any guests in his car would be surprised to find out, at the end of a journey, that the car had a stick shift.

Using an automatic transmission does not allow you to feel better about yourself for being competent at a task.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is exactly right, and well said. What if I try the Fusion and like it, though?

I think I will stick with the straight razors.


Somewhere in Maryland: For the update:

I'm one of the over-35 guys who answered that having a gay son or daughter wouldn't bother me... but I have a qualifier and want your opinion on it. I claim I am not homophobic, have some gay friends, don't give a rat's butt about anyone's orientation, think gay marriage is perfectly reasonable for all the reasons you do, am not especially bothered about mild forms of public affection, etc. I even have five children and suspect one of them may be gay, and am comfortable with that if that's how he turns out to be.

Here's my qualifier, and I think I may be a bit ashamed of it, but it's how I feel: I wouldn't care a bit if my son were gay ... if he was basically non-stereotypically gay (think Will on "Will and Grace"). Or maybe I should put it the other way: I WOULD be somewhat upset if he were "a raging queen," "flaming," (sorry about using those kinds of phrases), markedly effeminate, a Richard Simmons or Stephen Cojocaru type. Does that make sense in any way? To my mind, they are on a par with somebody like Pamela Anderson, who in her own way is just as "flaming" as Simmons. Maybe all I'm saying is I don't like it when people "flaunt" it, straight or gay.

By the way, I saw the NBC piece on skater Johnny Weir going shopping, etc., and probably would be uncomfortable if he was my son (and I suppose there's room to speculate that Weir is straight, though I doubt it, but who cares what I think? not even me), not so much because he's gay but because he strikes me as a flake. But by the same token I think Steuver was a bit over the line in "outting" Weir, especially if Weir himself declined to answer the Big Question. I generally like Steuver's stuff, but that seemed to me to be overly cruel and catty at someone else's expense. Yes, Weir makes me a little uncomfortable -- but I don't think Steuver (or anybody else) ought to be picking on him. Leave the kid alone. The interest in Weir's (or anyone's) sexuality seems to me to be prurient, not just a routine part of a feature story/profile. Nobody's done an article on whether Emily Hughes may be gay, or Michelle Kwan's love life, etc., so let Weir alone, I say.

Your thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: 1) I loved Stuever's piece. I also loved the last line of his magazine piece on Brokeback Mountain, where he noted that Larry David had expressed humorous (but still sincere) distaste for the mechanics of gay sex, not that there's anything wrong with it. Stuever mentioned his distaste at having watched Larry climbing all over his TV wife, Cheryl Hines, not that there's anything wrong with it.

2) Extremely effeminate gay men: I think expressing a distaste for this exaggerated stereotypical behavior is not an awful or unreasonable thing to say. I find overly made-up women distasteful. Ditzy women distasteful. Guys who make little kissyface sounds at women in the street. Distasteful.

This'll probably get letters. Out? In? Or Past All That? Johnny Weir's Fancy-Free Skate, (Post, Feb. 17)


Re: Different Soaps: Being a former wrestler (ringworm) I have maintained the notion that soap CANNOT get dirty, so there is no need for more than one bar of soap. After an argument with my brother on the subject, he called me into the bathroom to show that he was urinating on my new bar of soap. Needless to say, I got a new bar of soap and have since changed my mind.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I'm laughing. But all you had to do was turn the water on the bar of soap for a few seconds. It's a bar of SOAP.

You are a pretty tetchy crowd out there.


UPDATED 2.24.06

Gene Weingarten: URGENT LINK.

Also this perfect situational aptonym, from the Bergen Record, spotted by Justin Perras.


Washington, D.C.: I thought you were unduly hard on the idealistic positions you wrote about in the Sunday Magazine. For example, you said that only in a post-apocalyptic world could there be "no countries, no possessions, nothing to kill and die for, and no religion, too." That clearly wasn't what Lennon meant. Rather, as the song "Imagine" makes clear, he contemplated world unification under an atheistic totalitarian communist regime. See how much more reasonable and immune to cynicism these idealistic positions become when properly understood?

Gene Weingarten: True. Someone else observed -- citing something on a Web site -- that before colliding with the Earth, Santa and the reindeer would have burned up in the atmosphere. A reasonable point, though the degree of heat generated by this would have been a fireball from Hell, possibly ALSO annihilating the planet. Below the Beltway: What If? (Post Magazine, Feb. 19)


Reason or Rhy, ME: My boyfriend and I disagree on how to word the punchline of this joke: A priest and rabbi are out walking when the rabbi trips and takes a tumble. He stands up and hastily crosses himself. When the priest expresses surprise, the rabbi says "What cross? I was just doing a quick check -- you know,..."

-- at which point I want to say, "spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch." The rhythm sounds better to me.

My boyfriend prefers "wallet, watch, spectacles, testicles," because then you're ending on the funniest word.

Your ruling, O arbiter of humor?

Gene Weingarten: Your boyfriend is wrong. While it is true that one should try to have the funniest word at the end, this dictum is less important than:

1) sound and meter; and,

2) verisimilitude. I am reliably informed that one crosses oneself top to bottom, then nipple to nipple.


U St., Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Do you watch "Project Runway" on Bravo? If so, can you explain (what my fabulous friends Skippy says is) it's "tremendous straight-boy appeal"? I'm straight. I'm a guy. I have three or four straight-male friends who dig the show, and we have no problem watching it with our S.O.'s even though they're all FAR more knowledgable than we are in the ways of fashion. So, I'm curious. Any idea why we all dig the show so much? Thanks!


Gene Weingarten: I cannot explain it. My son is straight, and he likes it, too. I cannot watch it for more than one minute. I leave the room.


Slippery Slope: Since you brought it up...

Does your belief in the slippery slope argument against restricting speech also apply to gun control laws? Just curious. Because I tend to find myself in favor of gun control and against speech restrictions, and wonder if I'm a hypocrite.

Gene Weingarten: After eating meat, being for gun control is my second biggest hypocrisy.

Gun control is vital. I like people who favor gun control waaaaay more than I like most people who oppose it. We need gun control. But I cannot really make it jibe with my feelings that the government should not mess unduly with our rights.


Bra Straps: As a guy, I'd say that any visible part of the bra that's just because of unfortunate wardrobe choices makes a woman a little trashy. But if some part of the bra suddenly becomes revealed for a moment on an otherwise put-together woman, that's pure magic. I'm thinking when the space between two buttons suddenly blouses out, and you catch a little flash of what's underneath -- that's some good stuff.

Gene Weingarten: It's just a delight to have you contribute to this chat, Pontiff.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, to answer your question, I am a former heterosexual woman who fell in love with a transexual female (she was also a Buddhist nun at the time but we won't go into that...). She was a man who had a sex change to become a lesbian. Her explanation is she "liked girls before and still likes girl after, besides, men are boney and smelly." I guess I am now a bisexual or a lesbian. You are right, it is very confusing. When she is asked if she is a man or a woman she answers "yes". It's lots of fun sometimes...

Gene Weingarten: Very nice Buddhist answer!


Morristown, N.J.: While in the ladies room this morning, I was the lone person in a 14 stall bathroom -- seven on each side with a wall in between. I took the stall on the opposite side of the wall, so I had to go around the stalls immdediately available, and took one that is at the end of the row. I'm wrapping up, when a woman comes in and proceeds to take her "toilet cover" from the wall and sits down right next to me. Thirteen available stalls, seven of which on the otherside of a solid brick wall, and she sits next to me. I finished up, washed my hands and made sure she wasn't coming out -- and said very loudly "Next Time, take a stall that's not right next to someone!" and ran out. First, am I a coward for not facing them in person, but second, how else could I convey to the woman that she has no grasp of bathroom etiquette?

Gene Weingarten: I have said this many times, and I repeat it now. I love women.

Gene Weingarten: I have said this many times, and I repeat it now. I love women.

_______________________ Next Week's Show.


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