Chatological Humor* (UPDATED 8.4.06)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 1, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

DAILY UPDATES: 8.2.06 | 8.3.06 | 8.4.06

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...

This week's poll: 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 .

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ .


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Since you are probably a living person, you have by now no doubt heard about the difficulties encountered by Mr. Melvin Gibson upon a recent traffic stop . Ordinarily, it is not the province of this chat to take pleasure in the pain or misfortune of others, except when that pain is really funny, or the misfortune involves excretory functions. In this case, I think we can agree there is nothing funny about alcoholism, anti-Semitism, road-rage, and whatnot.

But the incident does call to mind a moment from a chat a long time ago, when couple of readers accused me of slandering Mr. Gibson in THIS column . The argument went that a man is not guilty of the sins of his father, that I was perpetrating guilt by association, etc. As I recall, I responded that Gibson's refusal to disavow his father's toxic views on the Holocaust was tantamount to endorsing them, which resulted in a furious barrage of solemn lectures on the value of loyalty to one's parents and whatnot, and on my being a typical big-honkered, scuzzball Jew. (Okay, I added that last part.)

It turns out the poisoned apple doesn't fall that far from the tree, does it? Haha. Hahahahahaha. Ha.

Elsewhere in popular culture: I just want to say that from time to time I get embarrassed at the sort of crappy things we, as a nation, export to the rest of the world. These things -- dumbed-down quiz shows and reality TV comes to mind -- do not make us look good and may well help explain the popularity of, say, Islamic fundamentalism. But on the other hand, we do not lure innocent bystanders into Portajohns, wait till they drop trou, and then eject them onto the roof for laughs. This show -- cribbed from Dave Barry's blog -- makes my humor look positively Aristotelian in its sophistication. I must admit I laughed my pants off.

(This is worth the wait. It's six minutes. We'll still be here when you get back.)


I received this e-mail the other day from a reader:

After reading a few of your articles I've come to realize that you are a shame to the Washington Post. In your feeble attempt to "report" information to the public and "go behind the scenes" you have not only proved yourself to be an arrogant and uneducated "journalist" but also a person that has no real, solid facts behind his stories. You are helping to ruin a paper that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward made great, and also to ruin the same style of reporting that they created in the 1970's. Thank you for a waste of space in the newspaper.

I respond to most of my mail, so I thanked her for her letter, but asked what articles she was referring to, since I am mostly a columnist and don't write "articles." Her response was: "Oh, sorry. I must have been thinking of someone else."


Please take today's poll. I have to tell you something: Your answers to one of these question either betrays amazing naivete, or a desire to tell me what I want to hear, not what you really think.

The CPOW is Saturday's Candorville . First Runner up is Thursday's Baby Blues . Honorable: Sunday's Doonesbury .

Let's go.


Heat Wave: Why do newspapers (Washington Post included) always print pictures of white kids in swimming pools and black kids running around an open fire hydrant on super hot days?

Do they actually send photogs out, or is there a cache of stock images?

Gene Weingarten: There is a cache of stock images. We also have stock photos of Arab people shooting off rifles in celebration in the street, and of fat people being jolly.


Blondie mistake: Hey Gene,

Posting early, but wanted to see if you thought Friday's Blondie has a mistake. Mr. and Mrs. Bithers are talking, and the end panel has the exclamation line above Mr. Dithers's head. I think it should be above Blondie and Dagwood.

Do you agree? Blondie , ( July 28 )

Gene Weingarten: Every time I try to concentrate on this I get distracted. Blondie is doing that boot-and-skirt thing.

Gene Weingarten: Though she does appear to be wearing only one boot. Oooooh. Maybe the Ditherses dropped over at an inopportune time.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, Liz has just pointed out this is not Blondie's boot, but Dagwood's shoe. But I am now too hot and bothered to deal with the Ditherses exclamation point.

That shoe has a very weird heel. It's like Dagwood's ankle is in the middle of his foot.


South Riding, Va.: After reading Fisher's excellent piece in the Sunday magazine, I wondered which side of the divide you came down on as parents when your kids were still at home. Did you let your kids drink at home, or allow other kids to drink in your house as well? Could they have guests when you weren't in the house, or parties when you weren't there? Are You a Toxic Parent? , ( Post Magazine, July 30 )

Gene Weingarten: See next post.


Papa?: You got some love yesterday in Marc Fisher's chat about Toxic Parents, and it made me realize one of the reasons that I enjoy your articles and chats: you remind me of my parents.

Marc said that you declared yourself a toxic parent becasue you didn't set strict rules and curfews for Dan and Molly, and trusted them to do the right thing. That's how things worked in my home, too. I knew the rules and what was expected of me and the consequences for screwing up.

I think humor plays a huge role in this style of parenting. I can remember several times that I knowlingly did something I wasn't supposed only to get caught and stand wiating for my punishment as my parents tried to keep from cracking up.

Once when I was about six, I stuck a book down the back of my pants to prevent being spanked -- yes, I was occassionally spanked; it was reserved for offenses that could lead to me getting seriously injured or killed -- after I had grabbed my dad's soldering iron (he was an electrician).

When he saw the book, he started laughing to hard he forgot what I had done and just sent me to my room.

I never again grabbed any tools without asking. I think maybe his laughing at me was a more powerful deterrent than any punishment.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, Marc and I had a spirited debate about his intriguing story; I contended that it seemed to leave out a vast middle ground of parents who were neither the overbearing, overprotective, mistrustful, sanctimonious, teetotaling folks on one side of the story, or the wildly irresponsible, anything-goes, get-your-kids-plastered, have-sex-with-their-friends jerkwads on the other side.

My wife and I were in that middle ground. I told Marc that if I were forced to choose between the two extremes in his piece, I am going with the toxics. Proud to be a toxic!

We never told Molly and Dan not to drink or smoke pot. In fact, we told 'em that we presumed that at some point they would experiment with these things. We also told 'em that we presumed they would use good judgment, and that we trusted their judgment. As far as their personal freedoms, by their mid teen years they knew they could come and go as they pleased, within reason, so long as:

1. Their grades remained high.

2. They never, ever, EVER lied to us about where they were, and with whom they were. We told them that if they told the truth, they'd be surprised how many things we would let them do. They did tell the truth, and they were surprised.

3. If they ever got into any sort of trouble, they would come to us first, and not wait until it got out of control; that if they did so, they would receive help and not a lecture. There was a specific corollary to this: Once they could drive, if they ever found themselves buzzed and elsewhere, they would call us for a ride, at any hour of the night. And if that ever happened, it would not be mentioned again, and there would be no punishment or lectures.

I realize there are many valid approaches to parenting, but I have to say, in this case, it worked out. We have great kids. Neither went through periods of drug or alcohol abuse, or severe emotional trauma.

(I do remember a delicious irony, on the single occasion where Molly DID call me to avail herself of the drive-me-home deal. When she called, I was not in an ENTIRELY sober state, myself. I drove her back very carefully. I never shared this with her; she'll read it for the first time in this chat and laugh her arse off.)

I know that some of Molly's friends -- good kids -- lied to their parents about where they were. (Heck, I lied to MY parents about where I was.) Molly and Dan never had the need to do that, and I do think that made the bond between all of us stronger.

I do recall one circumstance during Molly's high school years when she called to inform me truthfully where she was, and when she would be home. Then she said, um, listen, if so-and-so's mom calls you, can you tell her that so-and-so is with me and we are at [a place other than where she was at.]?

I refused to do that. Not lyin' to another parent, nohow, no way.

So, yeah. We had limits.


Does this question make me look fat?: Gene, can you address once and for all the proper response to the question "Does this dress/suit/outfit make my butt look big?" In my experience, when I answer with "You look great," the woman accuses me of lying to spare her feelings. I'm left with the impression that I'm in deep offal no matter how I answer the question.

Gene Weingarten: I have said this before. I have patented the "Nice but" response. It's not what it sounds like.

When a woman asks you if she looks good in something, whether it is a butt reference or not, you must not simply say "Yes." She won't believe you. She will think you are just trying to get out of a no-win situation. She will think you are not even paying attention.

My wife is gorgeous. She looks good in everything. I have no fashion sense, and she has great fashion sense, so my opinion is worthless ANYWAY. However, she still asks. So what I answer is, "Yes, but...." As in, yes, you look great in that, your butt looks fabulous, etc. But I would change those [something minor.... earrings, belt, shoes, etc.] That way, you have achieved credibility. You are looking. You are considering. You have dropped everything to analyze her appearance, with love and care.

Often my wife will NOT change the thing I recommend changing, because she knows I am an idiot. But she goes away happy.

You're welcome.


Darren: So, your last line in your so-called calumnn about "Darren" is "Chat with him Tuesday...".

I think not.

HAHAHAHA! but what if?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I think Darren is about as deep in hiding as possible. Several people who saw this mentioned online wondered about my claim about being the first person to have talked to Darren: I was. I wrote this column on June 29, and when I reached Darren he was clearly stunned and horrified to discover his name was on the web.

Since then, I believe Lloyd Grove of the NY Daily News also talked to him, also briefly.

The whole thing was broken by That's where I first saw it.

_______________________ A Date That Will Live in Infamy , ( Post Magazine, July 30 )


Yaaa, AK: I've seen recent items in both Ask Amy and Hax about vegetarians or vegans who have been "tricked" by hosts who knowingly put meat into dishes just because the hosts didn't "believe in" vegatarianism (or veganism).

Now, I must admit that I've lived in relatively liberal areas (northern Florida, southern Missouri, down east North Carolina), but I've never known anyone to do such a thing. This strikes me as legally actionable, especially since the people writing in had to be rushed to the hospital (their vegetarian ways were health induced).

Has anything so ghastly ever happened to Molly? And if so, what did you do? I'd find a hunting knife and play a little Zorro with someone's forehead... but see, that's just my country ways.

I eat lots of meat, by the way, but I just can't imagine doing anything like this to anyone. It's crazy. These are the sorts of people who would slip a little bacon into the lamb stew at the seder or ham hocks into a Ramadan evening feast. Are there lots of people who are this stupid, or so they simply keep getting mentioned in advice columns?

Gene Weingarten: It's a really sick, controlling thing to do. Why not pee in their food, just cause you can?

Molly has been a vegan for years. The body adjusts. She can no longer tolerate any dairy -- it makes her violently ill.

No, no one has ever done that to her, to her knowledge. And she'd likely know.


Celebritology: Your guest appearance on Liz's blog last week was funny, but it made me appreciate anew what Liz does for your discussions. Your chats are wonderful because of editorial guidance. Comments on blogs are tedious because everyone and his semiliterate brother feels the need to blurt forth whatever banal thought is on their minds. Liz (and you, I'm sure) separate the wheat from the chaff, for which we are all grateful.

Also, I found the thought of someone impersonating you extremely unnerving. Were any of those comments actually yours?

Gene Weingarten: I believe I had three real postings, all under my full name. The guy submitting as "Gene" was not me. And I found it a little disturbing! I read 'em and thought, wait a minute, I wouldn't have said that. That's dumb!

It's sort of opposite the feeling one gets if one is plagiarized, you know? Gene's Mid-Morning Mix , ( Celebritology, July 25 )


Paging Dr. Gene: Gene, I need your help. My question has to do with (1) relationships between men and women and (2) involuntary bodily functions. (Not what you think.) It's also time-sensitive, so I implore you to answer today. This weekend I'm going to an event where I'll see an ex-boyfriend I haven't seen in over 10 years. This relationship was very intense -- intensely good and intensely bad--not much in between. After the last of many times we broke up, I met the man I married, have three kids with, and love with all my heart. It's not like I've been pining away for the ex all these years, but I'm afraid that when I see him I'm going to flush and give him the impression that I have been. I'm very pale and redden easily. Is this something I can control? Are there some deep breathing exercises or something I can do? I'm counting on you, Gene. Please don't give me a flip "he's probably fat and bald" answer. I've seen a recent picture -- not the case.

Gene Weingarten: I regret to inform you that it is virtually impossible to control to flush reflex. It is a major betrayer -- like the tail of a dog. Your only hope is, essentially, self-hypnosis. To persuade yourself in advance -- really persuade yourself, deep in your being -- that you do not give a crap about this guy or what he thinks anymore. You should try.


Okay, Doonesbury's Getting Better: He used to be stuck in the 60's, now he's almost current.

By the way: as a conservative, I couldn't be more strongly opposed to any law banning flag desecration. You should have the right to do anything you want to show how much you hate America, and it's certainly easier to spot a flag-burner than it is to pick out an ordinary Shiite, Hezbollite, or Democrat.

Gene Weingarten: Garry Trudeau has been doing the best work he's ever done, over the last three years. Monumentally good cartooning.

He is my next cover story. Working on it now.


Re: toxic parenting: But did you actually serve alcohol to your kids and their friends? (or allow a party at your house where there was open drinking?)

Gene Weingarten: We had no objections if our kids had a beer or a glass of wine in our house, once they were 16 or 17. We never served liquor to any of their friends. Not our call to make.


Alexandria, Va. -- you're not toxic: I consider you to be the perfect middle of the road parent as we tried to be. Toxic to me means actively promoting these types of things, having parties where kids could drink, buying the kids beer for the party, giving the kids pot etc. None of those things appear to be present in your home. We had a similar hands off approach and it worked out quite well. So long as our kids -always- told the truth, as you said, they would be surprised how lenient we would be.

So no, I dont think you're toxic.

Gene Weingarten: Well, that was Fisher's response. I STILL think his story lacked that middle ground. I am not signing no pledges. I'd rather be judged harshly by other pareents for refusing to sign.


Baby Hope Jokes!: This is Hope's mom. I just wanted to share her latest joke with you (well she and I think it's hilarious anyway).

Hope sleeps with a pacifier, but doesn't use it any other time. So sometimes when I'm trying to nurse her before sleeping I hold the paci in my hand behind her back. Occasionally I'll hold it by the handle in my mouth because I need both hands to juggle the very squirmy baby.

Hope has taken to pulling the paci out of my mouth, or hand and trying to stick it in my mouth. She thinks this is so funny! Let's put the paci in mommy's mouth! She looks so mischevious doing it that I start laughing too. Of course this is not good for settling down for bed, but it's a lot of fun.

This kid loves to laugh--it makes me happy.

Gene Weingarten: As the Official Baby of this chat, it would be unthinkable if Hope didn't love to laugh.


Goin' to Madr, ID: As of Monday, it looks like I need to start booking some trips for two to Madrid. Apparently, I stand a 1-in-5 chance of getting lucky according to the ladies, and a 1-in-3 chance of second base or better!

This, of course raises several questions. Does it have to be Europe? How much do my odds drop if its only the Bahamas? 1-in-6? 1-in-7? Will 7 dates to the Bahamas cost less than 5 dates to Madrid?

And most importantly, can you trace back the IP addresses of those women responding "sex" to the last question?

Gene Weingarten: After Liz took the poll yesterday, and opted for the last choice on question five, I emailed her: "That settles it. I'm not takin' you to no Madrid."

She responded:

"Well, if we were talking Fiji, you'd totally be getting some."


Boston, Mass.:

I was telling someone about your Grover Cleveland article from 1997/8 but I couldn't find it on the Post's Web site. A link? I can prolly find it for one of the updates later this week...

Gene Weingarten: Noted. We'll link to it in the update.


Washington, D.C. : Please, would you cut out the, "My thin blond petite gorgeous wife if so perfect she can wear anything and look outstandingly phenomenal" routine? First, no woman can wear everything - some things are so darn ugly or poorly made they should be ritualistically burned. Second, some of us have dark curly hair, curves, big boobs, and still have to be convinced that their husbands are happy and don't wish we were well, your wife. Third, it's just tiresome.

And yes, today is my day to internalize everything. Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: Jeez.

But if I call her my fat, slovenly, big-butted donkey of a wife, I'll be sleeping on the the couch.


Could you be more toxic?: So letting other people's kids have liquor wasn't your call to make, but letting them have wine or beer was?


Gene Weingarten: Huh?

No letting MY kids have beer or wine was my choice. Was I unclear? I gave no intoxicating bevs to my children's friends.


Beautiful Silver Spring, Md.: I recall earlier pictures of your daughter Molly with her hand deep in a cow. Does she anticipate going into large animal medicine? If so, do you know if she has an opinion on the recent proposal to (among other things) add continuing education requirements to the National Veterinary Accreditation Program? I am just curious. Molly and the Cow

Gene Weingarten: Molly loves cows, but she will probably wind up specializing in small animals, and probably further specialize in emergency medicine or surgery.

Actually, Molly's right here. Here's here answer about continuing education:

My sophisticated, quasi-professional answer is, "Well, duuuh."

If you go to a vet, do you want one who hasn't learned anything new since leaving vet school in 1965? Veterinary medicine is constantly changing. Even if you just do spays and neuters, there are always new and better techniques in suturing, and advances in anesthesia.

When I worked at a veterinary clinic in Colorado two years ago, the vets were constantly taking continuing education classes; this practice is so widespread, I assumed it was already required. It isn't? I didn't even know this was an issue.


Married, USA: Gene - In an update from the last chat, you rose even further in my estimation by noting that you don't understand separate bank accounts for marrieds. I never have either, but I have many friends (all in their 30s, like me) who keep their money separate. Their various reasons for doing so seem centered on retaining financial independence should one partner get into financial trouble. But if one partner loses a job or ends up with huge medical expenses, does the other really feel relieved at not having to deal with that? Wouldn't they help each other out i.e. funds would be shared anyway? I'm really interested in hearing other reasons from your chatters for keeping separate accounts. They probably won't change my mind, but they might convince me that it's reasonable in certain circumstances.


Gene Weingarten: I just don't get it, for precisely the reason you mention. If you are married, you are totally committed to a life with the other person (presumably). So you can carry out a fiction of having separate accounts, but the minute something huge happens, that fiction collapses (or should collapse.) Let's say I get dreadfully sick, and medical bills become astronomical. My wife is going to withhold her money?? Tough, sorry, bozo? So, it's really a fiction.

The only exception I can think is the sort of second marriage, multi-millionaire pre-nup situation. I can't speak to that because I cannot really identify with it. You're either married or you are not.

(Keeping with my feeling that marriage in the absence of children is a pointless formality, I would extend this to two people who have committed themselves to each other. One bank account. Why not?)


Hotda, MN: RE: quiz

"Your answers to one of these question either betrays amazing naivete, or a desire to tell me what I want to hear, not what you really think."

I can not believe that so many people think that when a woman agrees to spend a week in the same hotel room with a man, on apleasure trip, that he does NOT have a reasonable expectation of sex. Of course he does, don't be ridiculous, people.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Exactly. I will elaborate shortly.


Oxford Town, Miss.: I liked you poll this week better than usual. I 've thought about it a lot since taking it and have a few thoughts, maybe even a theory:

The first question is easy enough: The spending of money does not entitle one to a second date any more than the wwaring of nice clothes or the application of the perfect amount of cologne does. It's part of the effort of a date, but certainly not the one-and-only thing. I'd think it should be LESS important than, say, a decent conversation.

The next question I think is fairly simple too, though it brings up a good question that is only refined in the following questions. My answer is that Yes, he can "reasonably expect" a second date, though I would not have answered that way had you not specified a ROMANTIC kiss. I'm assuming the romantic aspect waas mutual.

But here's the rub: "reasonably expect" does not equal "entitled to." In other words, I think a romantic kiss at the end of date # 1 would lead the guy to "reasonably expect" that when he calls for date # 2, the gal isn't going to say, "you know, I think I'll pass." That said, that's the gal's prerogative. Life isn't always reasonable.

The third question, I think, is meant to weed out any bozos that are left lurking after question 1. The only time I think you can "reasonably expect" to have sex with someone (for the first time) is either when they've told you convincingly that they want to do it "next time" or if you pay for it. Anyone who "expects" sex is creepy, leaning-predatory.

I answered "nothing really" for what the guy could "reasonably expect" in the last two questions but only because you changed "somewhat misused" to "reasonably feel misused" in the set up. These two echo back to the first question insofar as I don't think you can "reasonably feel abused" by not having your advances reciprocated just because of the money you've spent. A two A.M. beach walk is closer to a kiss than a pricey restaurant but I've taken plenty of non-romantic 2 A.M. beach walks. Never been to Madrid, but my advice for that guy is: dude, see if she wants to kiss you first, then spring for plance tickets.

In short, I think that romantic physical contact is the only semi-predictable sign of additional romance to come, but life isn't predictable, and no one should get their panties in a bundle when someone they've bought dinner for or held hands with once or even kissed doesn't want to take things further. That's why relationships develop into more stable forms like "dating," "engagement," "marriage."

I'm a straight, white male, 32 years old, no party affiliation, and not originally from the south.

Gene Weingarten: I agree with you on everything but the last question, so long as that means you would have answered "no" for question two. In question two, the man may reasonably expect a second date, but I don't think he can justifiably misused if the answer is no. More on this later.

You are so wrong on question five.


Washington, D.C.: I'm sure you've gotten this question a bunch of times, but just in case you haven't...can you please explain todays B.C to me? B.C. , ( Aug. 1 )

Gene Weingarten: I am trying to figure it. It might be a joke about how it is not a "rock" but an 'artificial, man-made rock," being itself a joke on, like, cubic zirconium in prehistoric times. Or it might have something to do with Adam, the first man. Anyone?


New York, N.Y.: When the various main characters refuse to talk to you at any length, are you ever worried that you may not be able to find a story in a given week's article?

Also, I understand that you are not able to use people's names in the article. It follows that since you identified the guy as a CEO, you couldn't use the name of his company either. But why couldn't you specify the name of the restaurant?

Gene Weingarten: The Post lawyers suggested that I not use Darren's last name. Using the name of the restaurant didn't seem to gain me anything, esp. since it was a New York restaurant. But I had no other reason for withholding it. It was the China Grill.


Vermont and L: I have a separate bank account from Mrs. Vermont and L (actually, Ms. Connecticut and Q; she kept her maiden name) so we don't have to justify every last discretionary purchase to each other.

I'm responsible for the rent, she's responsible for the other stuff, we both agreed on the percentages of our incomes that go into the retirement fund, and we each buy what we want with what's left over. Neither of us have much of a claim on the money in each other's accounts, so neither of us hassles the other for the idiotic stuff we both have bought.

It isn't a hard-line rule, obviously; we've both hit each other up for cash from time to time. We've also had to adjust our relative responsibilities as our relative incomes have changed. It's helped that we've both had a turn as the major source of income.

I imagine we will go to a joint bank account once we have kids and can no longer afford any discretionary purchases.

Gene Weingarten: You are being silly. As I suspect you see. It's just childish. It's like you want to be married, but you're not really SURE.


Taskb, AR: Gene, I'd like to put something into people's heads. Assuming you're on a Windows computer, do the following:

1. Go down to the bottom of your screen, on the taskbar where your programs are shown, and right click on a blank part.

2. See the option to "lock the taskbar"

3. Start singing the Clash's "Rock the Casbah"

4. Repeat steps 1 & 2.

5. Try to not sing "Lock the Taskbar" from this day forward.

Gene Weingarten: Nice.

For years I actually thought that lyric was "F--- the cash bar."

_______________________ Gene, you'd also be lying. Your "rib" is neither fat nor slovenly.

Gene Weingarten: Well, yes. But that lady who wrote in seemed so ... so ... misused.


Gene Weingarten: On the poll: Gad, you folks place a great deal of importance on a kiss!

I believe a woman is not for sale. I believe her affections are not for sale. I believe a woman who chooses to kiss someone at the end of a date might well be a woman who, through a beer goggle, might just FEEL like a kiss. I think there is nothing implied by any of this. I think her obligation is simply that if she is going to turn the guy down for a second date, she do so nicely. I think a man is entitled to feel only disappointed, not misused.

But on that last question. People. The invitation was between two adults who know each other well, for two nights in a hotel room in Madrid. A woman would be a moron to accept such a date unless it was her intent for it to involve a sexual encounter. A reasonable guy would reasonably make that assumption.

We are not children. We do not expect a sleepover with bunk beds and teddy bears.


Washington, D.C.: Gene,

I love you. I honestly love you.

Gene Weingarten: Want to go to Madrid?


Anywhere, USA: Gene -- This question seems right up your deals with a medical question and poop....

Sometimes (once a month for a couple of days in a row) my poop is green. Not day-glo green, but a shade of dark olive green. Is this something I need to see a doctor about? I have no other bizarre symptoms, just this one.


Gene Weingarten: Green poop suggests some blood. It can mean other things, or nothing at all, but it can mean blood. You should see a doc.


Oye Como, Va.: Glad to hear you reserving your position on those long, sharp-toed shoes that women wear. My brother thinks they look sexy. I think they make a woman's feet look big, and they remind me of the Wicked Witch's feet just before they shriveled up (that would be the Wicked Witch who had the house on top of her). I was terrified of the Wicked Witch when I was a kid, so maybe that explains my aversion. But even so, I think the long pointy shoes are just plain ugly.

Also, I just learned that my daughter (18 years old and just heading off to college) is a "hoverer." And she uses covering noises (like water running in the sink). How worried should I be?

Gene Weingarten: I really think those shoes look awful, mostly because they look uncomfortable. I feel about them the way I feel about, say, eyebrow piercings. Uncomfortable.

Possibly Liz wishes to make some sort of comment about nose piercings.


Arlington, Va.: I have seen Gene's wife, and I can confirm that she is hot. She also has the sort of features and proportions that make it easier for a woman to stay hot as she matures. So I can understand why Gene would want to say this, not only because as a loving husband, but also as an honest reporter.

(Oh, and Gene's wife is not my type, so she's safe from me!)

Gene Weingarten: Splendid, then. And thanks for keeping your hands off!


Bethesda, Md.: But are you a toxic co-worker? Would you let Liz drink or smoke pot at work? Or date chatters?

Gene Weingarten: You seem to think LIZ works for ME?


B. C. Joke?: The joke might be a pun. Macadam is a paving material, so they make roads out of it. "It's all the rage." Get it? Road rage! Ha ha.

Gene Weingarten: Possible. A multiple pun. But that is, like, not funny.


Separate bank accounts: No, the real reason you don't have separate bank accounts is the same reason you are allowed only one check.

Seriously, I agree with you. Family money is family money. You're not roommates, you are partners.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely.


Boyds, Md.: Gene, help me out here. My wife and I are planning a vacation, and we're lucky to have friends that have beach houses that we can use for free. However, we're in disagreement as to where to go. We can go to Wellfleet, Cape Cod or Kitty Hawk, N.C.

We've both decided to let you decide, since I'm a regular chatter and she hearts you. (Honestly, given the chance I think she'd leave me for you, but I digress.)

So, any preference? Can we sway you to weigh in with a promise of a tchotschke?

Gene Weingarten: Well, I would calculate which place is least crowded, and go there. I love Cape Cod, but I'd only go offseason.

_______________________ Possibly Gene wishes to make some sort of comment about having a big, fat mouth.

Gene Weingarten: No, not really. But thanks!


Washington, D.C.: Just a comment about the last question. The woman is pretty naive to willingly stay in the same hotel room with a man she is really not dating. As a woman, I would think the whole thing is rather weird and maybe a little scary. That's a lot of money and commitment if the couple is not truly in a relationship yet.

Gene Weingarten: True, but you have to remember the personnel. They know each other quite well. They just haven't had a romance. Liz and me!


Boston, Mass.: I like how the men's answers to the final question are basically split between "sex" and "civility and nothing else" because those were the two options I was choosing between. (It's not like anyone's going to reasonably believe that she owes him a romantic kiss.) Basically, the question is whether accepting any kind of gift from a man implicitly makes a woman a whore.

I said she doesn't owe the man anything. As viscerally-satisfying as it may be to declare that any woman who accepts such an invitation knows that it's implicit that she must subordinate herself to her benefactor's carnal appetites, you and I both know that the only reason for any person to engage in that kind of activity is because he or she wants to. Intimacy isn't something one can purchase (in terms of dating, at the very least). I don't really understand the appeal of essentially buying a woman's "companionship" anyway -- wouldn't you rather she actually like you rather than your spending habits?

Prostitution is a little trickier case, if only because we're talking about a straightforward economic transaction between consenting adults. But I think you've addressed that topic before so I'll just skip the tangent.



Poll Answers: That whole thing seems like kind of a cheap ploy. There's a big gaping chasm between "reasonably expecting" something and feeling "cheated and misused" when it doesn't happen.

If I were to drop big bucks, and thought I got along well with the woman, I might reasonably expect a second date but merely feel fatalistic when she never calls, and spend a day muttering "c'est la vie" under my breath. I don't have to develop a chip on my shoulder about it.

Frankly, conflating the expectation and the hurt feelings seems like you're trying to play a cheap game of "gotcha."

I'm a guy, by the way.

Gene Weingarten: Well, that's the point.

Having received a passionate kiss at the end of a first date, I would feel pretty confident about getting a second date. But if it didn't happen, I would not feel at all misused or misled; I would probably feel guilty that I had done something wrong. Accordingly, I would have answered that question "No." The "and" required a yes answer to both parts of the question.


Typoetiquette: I'm sure a million people have noticed the typo in your column that reads: "The two met on at a restaurant in New York City on June 4."

My question: was this typo in the print version or just in the online text?

If the former, was it maintained in the online text for the sake of continuity and if so why?

If the latter, can we just pretend it's not a typo and start using the term "met on" as the new, hip way to say "met" or "went out to" or something date related?

I like the idea of saying to my buddy, "that girl totally digs you, you guys should really met on. A Date That Will Live in Infamy , ( Post Magazine, July 30 )

Gene Weingarten: I am surprised you didn't know this term. Where have you been the last ten years? To "meet on" is an expression meaning "to hit on during a first meeting."

Sigh. Yes, a typo that managed to elude me and a battery of crack copyeditors and proofreaders, both in the magazine and online, and no, I cannot explain it. I think it was the result of a last-minute trim of the column that wasn't completed to, um, absolute perfection. I hate typographical errots.


Yet Another Floridian Wordsmith: Gene, your relationship with Dave Barry is well known. Do you have a similar relationship with Carl Hiassen? Have you read his books? Enjoy them?

Gene Weingarten: I know Carl. I have edited Carl. I once played the harmonica (badly) on the same stage where Carl was playing the guitar (badly.) But I don't know him nearly as well as I know Dave.

I like his books. He is a master of the character-driven potboiler. And funny.


Gene: Sunday's FBOFW: Did you see the gentleman in Sundays For Better or For Worse. It seems as though he didn't want to be seen a an "old Fert". What's next? "Shet" and "Feck" ???? I'm seeing some loopholes in the comics code here... For Better or for Worse , ( July 30 )

Gene Weingarten: Old Lynn Johnston has used "old fert" before. It's actually pretty clever. I doubt if any newspapers -- even the really fuddy ones -- refuse to run that.


Arlington, Va.: Regarding Mel Gibson. Don't you find it absurd that people are even talking about whether or not what Mel said will hurt his career? Of course it won't. So here's my question: Has anything that a Hollywood celebrity ever said or did (other than choosing bad roles) ended up really hurting their career? If Michael Jackson still has a huge fan base can anything be career-destroying? The size of MJ's fan base is debatable.

Gene Weingarten: MJ is a good example of the few cases where it has hurt someone's career. I also don't think O.J.'s career skyrocketed after he hacked two people to death.

Liz will be better than I am on this, but I would say that it hurts you if you seem creepy. As opposed to, like, just licentious, or drug addled, or violent, or rude, or full of yourself. For it to really hurt you, you need to creep people out.

Case in point: Pee-wee Herman. He suddenly seemed to be the kind of perv who inhabited sleazy movie theaters and did dirty little things. Haven't heard all that much about old Pee Wee lately, have you? That one is sad. I'd sooner have Pee Wee over for dinner than Mel.


Word: Liz puts out.

That's cool. Hold on. What's going on out there? I categorically deny "putting out."



Herndon, Va.: Mr. W: I'm sorry, but you're wrong in one area -- no child in the history of the world has ever "not lied" to his/her parents. Maybe it's only not telling about something that happened, but no child is that perfect, and I'd be worried about one that was.

Gene Weingarten: I am restricting this to lying about one's whereabouts. I don't believe either of my kids ever did that. Could be, but I doubt it. We had a deal, and it was a pretty sweet deal for them.


Mel Gibs, ON: Just wanted to point out that one of the AP reporters on the Mel Gibson story is Gary Gentile.

Gene Weingarten: Lovely.


Smells good!: Gene,

I would only go to Madrid with you if you promise to wear Derek Jeter's new cologne.

On an entirely unrelated note: Are you ever going to give us more hints about the MLB player you suspect is gay? I have a few ideas (not Jeter) and I'm wondering if we're thinking alike.

Gene Weingarten: Nope. I hope it is clear that the LAST thing I would want to do is out someone against his will. I just wish this guy would out himself. Assuming I am right, which I may not be.


You are so wrong: "A woman would be a moron to accept such a date unless it was her intent for it to involve a sexual encounter."

This is maybe the dumbest thing you've ever said here. I'm sure I'm not alone.

Maybe it was her intent to see Madrid and hang out with someone she knows well.

Gene Weingarten: You do not accept that date, under those circumstances, unless you have made your nonromantic intentions clear in advance. Please.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, when I was 16 years old I threw a party while my mom was out of town. Drank a bottle of Bacardi and filled it back up with water, planning on replacing it through an older friend later that week. Of course, Mom comes home and has her own friends over, and proceeds to start mixing rum and coke... I had to tell her, in a kitchen full of her friends, that it wasn't rum but water. I'll never forget the look on her face -- steely disappointment. Only time I ever broke her trust and she even let me off grounding early because she saw I was punishing myself more than she was. Taught me that it is far, far worse to disappoint your parents than anger them.

However, I totally got her back when she had to call me out of school the following year to take a drug test for her. She had broken her foot at work a few days prior, and had put off going to see a doctor. One night, in terrible pain, she smoked one of my older, off-to-college sister's old joints. When she went to the doctor, she realized that in order to file for Workman's Comp she'd have to submit to a drug test. Knowing that I, her 17-year-old daughter, was a straight-and-narrow kid at that point, she had me leave school and bring her my pee in a tupperware container. I scammed a drug test for my mom. To this day, I have not let her forget it.

Gene Weingarten: THIS IS A GREAT STORY!!!


Put O, UT: Hey Liz,

I've got two tickets to Fiji, leaving this weekend. I'll meet you at Dulles. This had better be my husband.

Gene Weingarten: haha.


Boondoc, KS: What's the scoop on Aaron McGruder. My paper says he's "on leave". Seems like he's been away for a long time.

Gene Weingarten: He is making a lot of money on his TV thing. And getting good reviews. And not having to put up with the aforementioned fuddy newspapers. And he is allowed to say feck and shet. I am guessing he will not return.


Someplace in Virginia: Good aptonym for a political flak:

"Speaking of Bubba, Lieberman staffer Marion Slimefels was passing out big bags of "hug" buttons showing a precious moment between Lieberman and Clinton..."

BTW, I am so jealous that because of your ethnic identity you get to tell a whole slew of funny ethnic jokes. I'm Eastern European (but not Polish) and there are no funny jokes about my tribe. But here's an idea. Maybe you could sell your joke-telling rights to me (kind of like industries that sell pollution credits). In fact, this might start a whole new cottage industry. I could walk into a Jewish wedding, whip out my Gene Weingarten card, and tell any Jewish joke I wanted to.

Members of other minorities could sell their rights too, which would work out for the social good for those put-upon minorities that are poor. Here would be a chance for, e.g., the Indian tribes ripped off by the lobbyists to get some of their money back, etc.

Gene Weingarten: I am still trying to get David Von Drehle to sell his "von" to Joel Achenbach. "Von Achenbach" would be a hugh improvement, whereas Drehle remains an interesting name without it.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Hi Gene --

Hax rejected my question, but I love you more anyway and think you'll have a more insightful (or at least funnier) answer. Here goes:

If one is an attached and committed female interested in having guy friends, what's the best way to set the stage for an actual friendship with guys, not a pseudo-friendship-in-hopes-of-hooking-up (in their minds)? I am not seeming to get this right... don't want to start blathering on about the boyfriend too soon, thus assuming they have more-than-friendly motives, but also don't want to lead them on. Toting the BF with me everywhere is not an option.


Gene Weingarten: I'm not getting you. Why do you worry about an early mention of a boyfriend? If a woman mentioned to me, soon after meeting me, that she had a boyfriend, I would not feel as though she was trying to preempt a "meet-on."

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. That new term of mine does have an unfortunate homophone, doesn't it?


Pee Wee : Is in the mist of a renaissance. He DVD for the Playhouse is being released and is getting coverage on NPR and the like.

Gene Weingarten: Well, good.


No YOU are so wrong: "Maybe it was her intent to see Madrid and hang out with someone she knows well."

THIS is the dumbest thing I've ever heard...

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, we know. Honestly, I am just dumbfounded at the fact that the majority of both men and women chose the last answer for question five.

I really think it was slopover: All the other questions resulted in "the woman owes nothing" answers. It was like the coattail effect in an election.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Gene Dubya,

I posted as "Gene" last week on Wash Post blog. Most found it amusing because they thought it was you. When they discovered it was not you, they were no longer amused.

Humor question: Do people just laugh at comics that they assume are funny, like Bob Hope in his later years?

And was I wrong to post as "Gene" ? My typo's made clear it was not you.

Gene Weingarten: I imagine your typo's did, yes.


Arlington, Va.: Admit it baseball weenie -- you blew the call on lefty catchers. You are effectively correct that there aren't any -- 5 guys who caught 100+ games lefty is a statistical anomoly. That said the article you linked in your update does refute the stealing 3rd argument ENOUGH that it can't explain the near total lack of catchers. I like Left handed Bill Lee's explaination: "Lefties can't play catcher because your head hangs over home plate when you make a tag." "You've got the ball in your right hand, you're blocking the plate with your left foot. When you go to make the tag, you're exposed. A lefty catcher would get killed." Now this makes sense -- natural selection at work. Lefty catcher + Bang Bang play = Misplaced equipment.

Gene Weingarten: Totally ridiculous. Complete rubbish. It requires a minor adjustment in how you tag the runner. It's no more of a serious handicap than being a righty first baseman, who has to take an extra hitch before throwing a runner out at second.

Besides, tagging runners out at home is about one tenth of one percent of the job as a catcher. It would not remotely explain the near complete absence of lefty catchers over 100 years of baseball.

Catchers are constantly facing men on second with a righty at bat. That, son, is a real disadvantage.


Anonymous: Lost my best friend (Bobby Wooldridge). All of it is tragic, overwhelmingly tragic.

The funeral is tomorrow.

P.S. He told me that he thought the world of ChatLiz. And I thought the world of him, as would Gene had he known him. How could you not love a guy who called himself " Bob Vomit ?"

Gene Weingarten: I see that Bob died by skateboarding into a moving vehicle. I say this without any inappropriate humor: There are worse ways to go. There are many tributes to him on the web, some of them particularly moving.

I'm sorry for your loss.


Birmingham, ALa.: OK, I've thought about it, and I think I need to come clean. That last poll question pretty much happened to me. I accepted a first date with a guy for a windjammer cruise in the Caribbean, with a couple of nights in St. Maarten first. The guy made all the arrangements, so I honestly wasn't sure whether he booked one hotel room or two. I accepted anyway, and yes, it was one hotel room. My reasoning before the trip was that if I decided he was a mass murderer or just a jerk on the flight down from JFK I was old enough to get myself a room and a ticket home. The date worked out so well that we have celebrated 21 years of married bliss. My parents do not know this story.

I answered "sex" to the last question -- the guy has a right to expect it, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll get it.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, a reasonable answer.


Washington, D.C.: Loved the column on Sunday. Only one quibble: You made a paranthetical note about "the continuing theme of women helping women here." Joanne didn't NEED any help. I Googled this after reading your piece, and found the whole sordid mess. If you read her emails in their entirety, they're brilliant and spot-on responses to a world-class creep. The restaurant manager's reply was great, but you didn't have to see it as an example of the sisterhood.

Gene Weingarten: Well, my overall point is that this particular story spread virally largely because women were sending it to women. Chicks LOVED this story.

And yeah, I thought Joanne did beautifully.


Washington, DC: As someone who knows Lieberman staff - Marion STEINFELS...that was probably Kos throwing out cheap insults.

Slimefels, indeed. What an a--.

Gene Weingarten: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.


It's All Here, On the Hill: Gene,

I and a couple of friends were at a restarurant in Annapolis a little while ago, when the two couples next to us started having a conversation about weird quirks they learned about each other after they got engaged. After a few stock answers, the last guy said that he finally figured out why his fiancee would always go to the bathroom for really short periods of time. It was because she wouldn't fart in her pants.

She immediately leapt to her own defense, contending that "you'll ruin your underwear," and "it makes your clothes dirty." She enjoined the other girl to help her, but girl 2 was laughing way too hard to even pretend to set up a defense. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I think it's toilet embarrasment taken to an extreme level.

Gene Weingarten: Well, it's got ME laughing.


Tell, ME: Am I being overly sensitive? I'm in a committed relationship with my boyfriend of almost two years. We live together. Both of us have children from previous relationships. Last Saturday, I took his two little girls to his family reunion. Said boyfriend was not available to attend. At the end of the soiree, everyone gathered for a group photo. To my surprise, after I placed the girls in the group, the camera was handed to me so I could take the photo? I was embarrassed, and very angry. I'm not technically family, so I can't be in your stinking picture? I'm PO'd in a big way, but the boyfriend says it was no big deal. Who is right? Do I let this go?

Gene Weingarten: You are right, but you should let it go. Totally.


Alexandria, Va.: One of the funniest things about the Mel Gibson arrest was his statement to a female sergeant:

"What are you looking at, sweet t--s?"

According to my wife, I am under no circumstances to ever refer to her as "sweet t--s."

Gene Weingarten: I missed that! That's great. Yeah, he hit the trifecta: Antisemitism, throwing his weight around, and sexism. If there had been any black people around, he probably would have gone quattro.


Dahlgren, Va.: Gene,

Can you explain/translate/decipher the expression, "Nu?" please? My parents grew up in Brooklyn in the 30s & 40s, so even though they were Irish Catholics, they absorbed lots of Yiddish expressions with which they continued to pepper their conversations, but this is the only one I have no recollection of their using; it seems to be something heavily subtexted and, yes, nuanced, in its pithiness. And what's odd is, I've heard it twice in the past week -- is it suddenly entering the mainstream? Please help me out!

Gene Weingarten: It's not that nuanced. To the best of my recollection, it means "So....?" As in, "what are you waiting for...?"


Madrid: Why is it all about whether the MAN wants to have sex in Madrid? As a woman, I would not accept that invitation unless I, MYSELF was expecting (hoping for?) sex in Madrid.

Gene Weingarten: Well, that's exactly the point. You accept that invitation with that intent. Perfectly fine to accept that invitation, but you must have that intent. It's not about money. You aren't SELLING yourself for the trip. But two nights and one hotel room implies something.


I feel so stup,ID: RE: the poll.

About five years ago a male friend of mine actually DID take me to Madrid for the weekend. (yes, I'm a woman.) In fairness, we were both already in Europe for work.

It never occured to me that he might be interested in more than friendship until this poll. He is quite wealthy and frequently take trips on a whim, so I just thought it was that. Obviously, nothing came of it - -but he did act oddly that whole weekend. Little things.

I'm now 40. Still single. Guess we know why. Just. totally. clueless.

After several years, he just invited me on another trip. What now? Bikini wax.

Gene Weingarten: NO! NO BIKINI WAX!

Just sleep with the poor guy, okay?



Suzy Q, Miami: I am a woman and found it ridiculous that so many women and men didn't respond Sex as the answer to Question 5. A shared hotel room? That's an unwritten agreement, in my opinion. It wouldn't even matter who was paying.

Plus, who wouldn't want to get laid in Madrid?

Gene Weingarten: Thank you! Sheesh.


Chantilly, Va.: You've said in the past that you have a special good opinion of people who have bad things on the inside, but keep them in check on the outside, even struggle and win against them. In light of that, what do you think of the Mel Gibson story? By all accounts, he works with and employs Jewish actors and crew, and is professional and pleasant towards them. Yet he made a movie that arguably lends credence to the worst crime Jews, as a group, are accused of, and this recent drunken tirade appears to offer a window into what's actually in his soul. So how do you judge him light of your previous statements?

Gene Weingarten: Um. Employing Jews is not a sign that you are not antisemitic. An antisemite might well employ Jews because they are, like, smart and creative, which would be good for your business, despite their being cheap, petty unrepentant Christ-killers.

The reason this story has legs is precisely because Mr. Gibson has given us all reason to suspect he was an antisemite before. He is the opposite of the person who has struggled against his weaknesses, and won.


Phee, Cal: I'm in the midst of an ethical dilemma. The men's bathroom at the office I work at has two toilets. One of them is designated as handicap. I always choose to use that stall since it is roomier than my cubicle and better lit. My question is, am I violating my duty to the differently abled by doing so? Would your opinion change if there are no handi-capable people working in the office? What if I was in a potentially explosive situation?

Gene Weingarten: To answer this, I will borrow from Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative.

You should act the way you would want everyone to act, at all times, for the betterment of humanity. That is the moral thing to do.

If everyone's first choice was to poop in the handicapped stall, then handicapped people would, on the average, have to wait more often for the only stall they can use. It doesn't matter if there are no handicapped people working in the office; handicapped people could visit. If it is the only stall available, and no handicapped people are present, you may of course use that one.

That's what Kant would say. He was a German, though, and they started World War II.

I will routinely use the handicapped elevator in the Metro. But that is different. You can actually SEE whether any handicapped people / people with strollers are on the platform at any given time.


Ellicott City, Md.: At what point must you put aside politics and vote for someone based on name alone?

Calvin Ball is running where I live. I really haven't read more than his pamphlets and for all I know he is working for Larouche. And I know I would be voting for Kinky if I could.

So when must you stick to your politics and when should you go for the great name?

Gene Weingarten: You totally have to vote for Calvin Ball if his platform is to relax government rules and regs.


Linguisti, KS: "Nu" can also translate as "What's up?"

Gene Weingarten: Right.


Family reunion: So, what, one of the actualy family members should have been the picture taker and left out? Sheesh.

Gene Weingarten: Well, you take a few pictures, you know?


Williamstown, Mass.: Regarding Hope and the paci, I did that with my daughter when she was younger. I caught mono from her.

Mono, in young children, is asymptomatic and goes through daycare centers without any sign. However, in adults, it messes with your liver big time.

Gene Weingarten: I never heard "paci" before.

When my kids were little we called it a "bunny." That is because we were once out to dinner and a Brit woman nearby told us the baby's pacifier had fallen on the floor. But she called it a "dummy."

We loved that word, and started using it. But Molly mispronounced it, so it became, forever after, a bunny.


Washington, D.C.: (Sigh) So some of us aren't grammatically gifted at times. When I posted earlier -- sticking up for Marion Steinfels. My last sentence was very unclear. Marion is a very nice person. Kos is a a--hat.

Gene Weingarten: Understood.


Poll: When I was 20, I lived in Italy. A rich older man (I'm male) took an "interest" in me, and after several interactions paid for my (solo) trip to Switzerland. Upon returning, I finally figured out that it wasn't just a mentor type of interest -- I was naive, what can I say. Even then, I still agreed to another "date" with the guy, for a lunch to make abundantly clear I wasn't interested in that way-- I felt I owed him as much, despite the fact that I'd made no secret of my being straight and even introduced him to a girl I was dating previously. It was an expensive trip, he was a decent person, on balance. Half the people in this chat are wackos.

Gene Weingarten: And we are proud of it.


Bird Bath: Gene -- Do birds actually use your bird bath? I mean, self-respecting birds.

Gene Weingarten: All the time.


Sentiment, AL: "Gene Weingarten: You are not really grieving for Pepper, at least not entirely. A child grieves entirely for a dead dog. With humans, it is more complex; you are grieving over mortality. A dog's life is a human life in microcosm."

Which brought to mind my favorite Gerard Manly Hopkins poem, "Spring and Fall, to a Young Child"--

Margaret, are you grieving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?


It is the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. That's excellent.


Takoma Park, Md.: What do you make of Jon actually getting together with Liz in the recent Garfield strips? Admittedly, I'm writing this on Friday, so perhaps something will screw it up by Tuesday. But it seems like such a radical change in the Garfieldverse; it's almost like today's strip could legitimately be the last one. (And it would be a good time to go out--it seems that Garfield has actually been somewhat amusing of late.)

What I'm asking you is, Is Garfield marrying Irving?

Gene Weingarten: The storyline is completely puzzling to me. Yes, it is as though Charlie Brown finally nailed the little redheaded girl.


Detroit, Mich.: Regarding your mention of a Free Press article a couple weeks ago about the appropriateness of a Hooters restaurant on Big Beaver Road in metro Detroit, I thought you should know that the Big Beaver Road exit off I-75 is #69. I am not making this up.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Bristow, Va.: On the subject of left-handed catchers from the last chat, I believe it was Mike Squires (a lefty who played both catcher and 3B in the majors) who said that the one position that was truly impossible for a southpaw was second base -- a left-hander can't make the pivot for the double play, which is obviously one of the key requirements for that position.

Gene Weingarten: In terms of complete impossibility, I would agree. Though a shortstop would not be able to make any throw from the hole.

Squires didn't "play both catcher and 3B." He played 3B. He caught two games in an emergency situation in 1980. I repeat: You cannot be a regular catcher and be a lefty. Can't be. Won't never happen.


George Bernard Shaw: As of 8:30 this morning, 20 percent of your female readership thought that the Madrid date in Poll Q5 entitled the man to sex. To those women, I say, we have already established that you are prostitutes, now we are just negotiating the price.

Gene Weingarten: Um, dude. Those women are right. The question becomes, are they going to accept the date or not?


Roo, Roo: Gene,

I think I saw you and the rib havin dinner the other night, but I didn't want to interrupt. Instead, I decided to just bother you at work.

Gene Weingarten: If my kids were not with us, you probably didn't. Molly leaves in a few days, and we're all pretty much inseparable as dinner group these days.

You know, the nest never truly empties.


Alexandria, Va.: My friends and I get together regularly and play games (trivia, board games and the like) and we recently had a discussion about some oldies but goodies. It made me curious to know if you played them with your family when the kids were younger or if you still do play. If so, which ones do you like?

Gene Weingarten: Sometimes. Trivial Pursuit. Scrabble. I think my favorite, from years ago, was Master Mind. Master Mind was a variation of Jotto, the best pencil game ever.


New York, N.Y.: I have never answered all of the poll questions correctly before!

I also wanted to note that I didn't read your column until today. But I received this by e-mail and you received no credit. It is on blogs everywhere. Do you appreciate that it is so widespread or does it bother you that people are not crediting you for your hard work?

Gene Weingarten: How could I feel ripped off? I ripped it off from a website.


Gene: Posting Early:

I am posting early because I am going to be in a meeting during the chat.


What time is it?

Gene Weingarten: Two fifteen p.m. on Monday. Thanks for checking in.


Gene Weingarten: See how time flies? And now it is good-bye time.

Thank you all. A huge outpourage of questions. I'll be getting to many more of them in the update for the rest of the week.


UPDATED 8.2.06

Gene Weingarten: Observation -- Isn't it great that the Mel Gibson cop was named "Mee"? What better name could there be for someone from L.A.?


Washington, D.C.: Thanks for bringing this up Gene! I've several female friends, intelligent professionals, who feel completely entitled to having the guy pay on a first (to infinity?) date. I have one friend who will not go out with a guy again if he doesn't. I find this horrifying; these are my friends, some of whom call themselves feminists.

What's interesting is that I find this abhorrent at several levels (feminist ideology etc) but hugely because it is TACKY. TACKY. TACKY. Why should a man pay for me on a first date? I don't know him from Adam. Why would I want to feel obliged to a perfect stranger? Why am I entitled to a free meal just because I'm a woman (and attractive, which brings me to the whole skeezy part of it... so, what happens if you're not?)?

Biologically we are designed to select providers. Nowhere does it say that he actually has to provide for me on the first, second (to infinity) date.

Have no problems with him paying while we are in a relationship or going dutch, but at a first date? No way.

Gene Weingarten: I think in general the person who asks the other person out should pay, unless they have unequal finances, in which case the richer person should pay. I also don't think it is a big deal. Whoever pays, pays. It implies zero obligation.


Takoma Park, Md.: What do you think of this riddle?

Q: What do you call a black man in the cockpit of an airplane?
A: A pilot, you f---ing racist.

Would you feel comfortable telling this to your close family/friends? Around the figurative water cooler? Is this joke reserved for only African-Americans to tell? Or is only funnier when they do?

Supposedly, Tiger Woods would tell this joke around the golf course.

Gene Weingarten: I think that is a very funny joke. I would tell it anytime.


Los Angeles, Calif..: How soon before we see this portable john humor on American television, do you think?

Gene Weingarten: We will never see it, because ours is a litigious society. You would quickly own whichever business enterprise did it.


Calgary, Alberta, Canada: The fifth poll question was poorly executed. No guy has the guts to ask a co-worker if she would like to join him in Madrid for a weekend alone. There would have to be some kind of lead-up. The question implies that this is coming out of the blue, and therefore is creepy and weird. You can't go from long-time coworker to lovers just like that. Unless there is copious amounts of alcohol involved.

Gene Weingarten: I never said it was out of the blue. I said the two people knew each other well.

Without belaboring this point, and at the risk of ticking off Chatwoman, she and I would be a good example. We know each other very well. We like each other. We are friends. We have no romantic relationship. If Liz and I were both divorced, and I said to her, "Hey, let's go to Madrid for a weekend, what do you say? It's on me. We'll share a room," Liz, being an intelligent and sophisticated woman, would understand this is a romantic proposition. To use a sports metaphor, I would be trying to take this relationship to a whole 'nother level, in a pretty dramatic (and romantical) way.

Liz would accept this deal if she wanted a romance with me. She would decline if she did not. And I would understand both answers, and their implications, perfectly well.

Mostly, my point is, I don't think in this sort of relationship, it would be "out of the blue." It would be the equivalent of a first date, but between people who knew each other far better than most first-daters. So it would be a "what the hell, let's go for it" first date. Not bizarre, IMHO.

Gene Weingarten: Corollary, because several people have asked about this -- She would also not be OBLIGED to sleep with me, obviously. This ain't no contract. A woman always gets to say no. But the question asked whether I could reasonably expect sex, and the answer is yes, I could.


Lance is Out: How shocked were you to learn that Lance Bass is gay?

Gene Weingarten: I had never heard of Lance Bass.


Finally watched that video: It seems you buried your lead. The real news is Japanese men sit down to pee.

Gene Weingarten: You are right. I am hugely embarrassed at missing this. According to the Web, almost half Japanese men pee sitting down, often as an accommodation to their wives, who are tired of dirty bowls.

I don't know if this is true, but it's pretty amazing.


Washington, D.C.: You said you reply to "most" of your mail. What mail wouldn't you reply to? Anything offensive? Or just plain stupid?

Gene Weingarten: Basically, I fail to reply sometimes in times of huge mail. If I get 100 e-mails on one story, I have to pick and choose. Other than that I respond to most everything, other than letters that clearly are anticipating no reply.


UPDATED 8.3.06

Gene Weingarten: This just in, from a Washington lawyer who asks to remain anonymous --

Yesterday, you posted the following exchange:

Los Angeles, Calif..: How soon before we see this portable john humor on American television, do you think?

Gene Weingarten: We will never see it, because ours is a litigious society. You would quickly own whichever business enterprise did it to you.

In fact, you are only at the tip of the iceberg.

Leaving aside all the suing that could happen, the conduct these guys engaged in, if done in the U.S., could subject them to criminal penalites. A quick look at the model penal code (which is basically the criminal law in most states) shows possible crimes of:

Sec. 211.1(1)(c) (Assault)
Sec. 211.2 (Reckless Endangerment)
Sec. 212.2(a) (Felonious Restraint)
Sec. 212.3 (False Imprisonment)
Sec. 250.12 (Invasion of Privacy)

The water-ski version seems to imply more go-to-jail type possibilities than the elevator version.

Interestingly, one of the torts one could sue for is "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress". This is actually the funniest tort in law school. The reason is that one of the several elements you have to prove to win is that the actions the defendant engaged in were "outrageous". And what is the offcial test for "outrageousness"? It is conduct that would cause a resonable person, upon hearing of the conduct to exclaim, "that's outrageous!" So there's a bit of fun for a few weeks in school where conduct is posited by the professor and the whole class spontaneously exclaims, in unison: "that's outrageous!"


Boston, Mass.: Crazy Bike

Gene Weingarten: Very nice. This starts slowly, but quickly gets to be excelent.


Does "Darren" Exist?: Gene:

What do you make of the fact that almost the entirely same story as that in your Sunday column is on the Urban Legends Reference Pages from 2004, with different names?

Were you hoaxed by "Darren", or do you think he got the idea from the site?

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting. There appears to have been an urban hoax from 2004 that Darren was unconsciously imitating.

Repeat: Darren is real. I have no doubt. I talked to enough people to confirm it. It was not a setup.


Washington, D.C.: I can't believe no one asked this: What if it was the woman inviting the man to Madrid? Same deal, she's paying. Should she expect sex? Should he?

Is this a ridiculous question to even ask because of COURSE the man would assume he's gonna get some if she's asking him to frakkin' Madrid?

Gene Weingarten: I meant to do this turnabout in my explanation. In fact you can reverse any of the questions, substituting man for woman and woman for man, and the answers seem clearer. If a man kisses you passionately, does that mean he is going to call back for another date? HAHAHAHAHAHA.


Miss O, MS: So if the woman in question 5 accepts the date and then refuses sex, is she at fault?

Gene Weingarten: "At fault?" Depends.

Has the guy, during the date, displayed some really disagreeable behavior, or shown a side of him that really turns her off? Then, no, she is without "fault" for deciding not to have sex with him. I'd argue at that point, she should pay for her own room, if for no other reason than to avoid awkwardness.

Did the woman MAKE the date knowing she was not going to sleep with the guy, and not mention this to him so as to score the trip? Yes, then it is her "fault." He has a right to be pissed off.

No one is arguing that she has no right to deny sex, under any circumstances. But I think in scenario two, she is behaving badly.


Inter-gender Agitat, OR: Regarding Darren Sherman:

Great column this weekend, but I think you went wrong in asserting that "this is the story of a guy who will never, ever, ever get a date again."

Even setting aside the low-self-esteem and anything-for-security types who might be interested in this guy, he is certain to find female attention again. Some woman somewhere will learn this story, and conclude that Darren is a poor, misguided soul, and that she will be able to find the true goodness within him.

This inescapable fact is the kind of thing that makes us men think women are crazy.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree, but would like to hear from some woman who has heard the answering machine recordings.

I doubt any woman would have anything to do with that guy, having heard the tapes. He is just this terrible weenie. Sicko women who wanted to date Ted Bundy were probably attracted to his bad-boyness. This is no bad boy. He is a terminal schlep and schmuck.

_______________________ As promised, Grover Cleveland for President, (Post, Oct. 4, 1998)


UPDATED 8.4.06

Washington, D.C.: Gene, I have a question about urine. But first, a story as explainer. A few weeks ago, I was having a personal package picked up at my work by a package-delivery company. I was told they would arrive to pick up the package between 2-5 p.m. Because the delivery person would have to get through security, I needed to wait in my office to answer the phone in case the security desk needed verification that the man in the yellow uniform was indeed a package picker-upper. So, at 1:55 p.m, I ran to the restroom to pee. Got back to my desk and waited... and waited... and waited. Being a frequent water-drinker, I just had to pee again at 3:30 p.m. But I was really afraid that, if I ran to the restroom, security would call and the delivery person would leave without picking up the important package. So I waited. At around 4:45, a friend/co-worker stopped by. I told her the situation and she immediately said to go to the bathroom while she waited at my phone. Unfortunately, on the way to the bathroom, I ran into my boss (almost literally), who has the habit of talking incessantly. One of those people who you start to back away from, yet they keep talking to you, and just kind of follow you. Anyway, as he started to say something to me, I blurted out a phrase I have always used with friends to indicate that the need to pee has reached a critical stage: "I'm about to go toxic." I never waited for his response. So, the question. Can one actually go toxic by holding their pee for too long? Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: Theoretically, yes. This is the considered opinion of Molly and me. You couldn't actually hold it voluntarily; you'd probably pee yourself. But if you had a urinary blockage -- well, the bladder can only hold so much. Urea would have no choice but to stay unfiltered in the blood, which would, in time, toxify you.


Open Boo, KS: Gene:

Inasmuch as your life seems to be an open book in these chats, and that you have two wonderful, good-looking children, how did you and the rib avoid having OTHER good-looking children? In short, what kid of birth control did/do you two employ?

Just wondering, for the record.

Gene Weingarten: When a man looks like me, a natural sort of birth control occurs.


SW Washington, D.C.: Mel has issued an apology to people who are Jewish.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I saw this. I hate to sound cynical, but:

This is the work of a brilliant image consultant. Mel got some expert professional help, for which he paid handsomely.


New York, N.Y.: There's a fine line between cool and disturbing.

Gene Weingarten: Wow!


Alexandria, Va.: Do you think a male owns this bathroom?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I would bet my house on it.


Vermont and L, Washington, D.C.: Gene, if I take my wife to Madrid for the weekend, but I pay for the whole trip out of my separate bank account, should I expect her to have sex with me?

Gene Weingarten: No.


More on Mel: Maybe you can shed some light. I'm baffled by the whole thing. I don't doubt that it happened, but why would someone make a bunch of anti-semitic remarks when they were stopped for drunk driving? I've gotten drunk many times without impugning anyone (or driving for that matter)

Gene Weingarten: It is because you are not an antisemite. See?


Gene Weingarten: Fabulous headline of the day:

Nude Man Rolling in Street Leads Cops to Pot


HIGHLAND MILLS, N.Y. (Aug. 2) - Robert Ferranti probably has more than the usual regrets of someone found rolling around naked on a neighborhood street, babbling, immune to pepper spray and accused of punching a police officer.

Investigators following up on the Monday fracas said they discovered a well equipped marijuana growing operation in the house Ferranti rented with another man in a normally quiet community in southern Orange County.

"They were growing so much and storing so much, the odor was overwhelming," Woodbury Police Sgt. Clifford Weeks said. "For this town, it was a good-sized operation."

In addition to public lewdness, resisting arrest and assault charges, the 35-year-old Ferranti faces a felony count of second-degree criminal possession of marijuana. The other residents of the house - Michael P. Cody, and Cody's children Deirdre, 26, and Michael, 25 - were each hit with the same felony drug possession charge, police said.


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