Chatological Humor: Whoppers and Sticky Fingers

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 11, 2007; 12:00 PM

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On Tuesdays at noon, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

This Week's Poll:

FIRST, take this version... 30 and Under| 31 - 40| 41 and Older

THEN, take it again, this way... MEN| WOMEN

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

P.S. If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

I want to thank the dozens of people who wrote in response to Sunday's column, with their painfully earnest advice on how to ease the pain of arthritis. Some of it was very colorful, including the woman who instructed me to pray to Saint Teresa, and the man who said that a cure is as close at hand as the nearest Mexican-owned grocery store, where I must search for a "salve with a picture of a cow on it." A guy in Nevada said I would feel better once I walked three-point-five miles with the foot of my good leg in the gutter, and the foot of my bad leg on the curb. I am, of course, taking all advice to heart.

Because I never remember to have a pen near my bed, when I get an idea in my sleep, and I wake up, I have to trudge to the bathroom to write it on the mirror in soap. This happens at least once a month; sometimes my idea, expressed in soap abbreviation and in the fog of sleep, is and remains indecipherable. Usually it is understandable but stupid, when examined in the clear light of day. Rarely but occasionally it reflects true inspiration that has resulted in some of my best ideas. But sometimes it is merely kinda interesting. Last night, for some reason, I felt it imperative to limp to the bathroom and write this: " Why do they still call it a computer? It makes no sense. It just doesn't compute."

On the continuing crusade against dumb links in washingtonpost.com articles, I offer this fabulous link found by Erin Treacy.

See what happens when you click on the link for the name of the county.

I have spoken to Jim Brady, the boss of washingtonpost.com, who is aware that there is some public discomfort about these links, and says he is going to addressing it. However, he 1) points out that very many news sites do the same, some even more egregiously, which is true; 2) says they are easy to ignore, if you wish to ignore them; 3) says he does believe that some people make use of them; and 4) admits that, um, yeah, they do increase the number of apparent eyeballs to the site.

So. Does any of that that excuse this? (Check out what happens when you click on the Mormon Temple.)

I want to thank the Empress of the Style Invitational, who was sent this photo as an entry to a contest, but magnanimously agreed instead to share it here.

This link is fascinating: Ironically, it's safe for work but contains powerfully dirty language.

And lastly, I recently re-encountered one of the more astonishing acting performances I've ever seen. For those of you too young to remember "Coming to America," or those of you who never saw it, check out this elderly Jewish man tell a joke. It is still hard for me to accept this, but unless it is an enormous hoax, this character is played by ... Eddie Murphy.

Please take today's poll. I will be offering some thoughts on it, as always, midway through the chat.

A very weak comics week. The CPOW, simply for it's audacity, is Saturday's Baby Blues. First Runner-Up, Monday's Candorville. Honrables: Today's Agnes. Friday's Speed Bump.

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Columbia, Md.: When I was in 7th or 8th grade I felt the need to shoplift something so I went into the dime store (yeah, I'm old enough to have grown up with them), and picked up a small cheap toy. I felt so guilty that the next day I took it back. I had a hard time sleeping all night. It was harder to put back then to shoplift because I was afraid I would get caught in the process of putting it back. It took me about an hour of walking around the store to put it someplace.

Gene Weingarten: The reason I included the shoplifting question is that there is something I wanted to get off my chest.

I shoplifted in college, not because I needed to but because I was honing my nerve. This is probably the worst thing I have ever done, and I actually repressed this memory for 30 years. (In fact, in my hypochondria book, I wrote that stealing a medical diagram of the female genitalia, at 13, was the only thing I'd ever stolen; I thought this was true when I wrote it.)

But, no! When I was 19 I used to lift small items of clothing (gloves, say) from department stores and walk out brazenly with them, to prove to myself I could do it. I developed systems for doing this -- systems that would have given me plausible deniability, had I been caught. For example, I would always walk right up to a security guard and talk to him before I walked out. I was deliberately testing myself to see if I could operate like a cat burglar or a spy, cool under pressure, glib, smooth, cunning. I thought this would be a valuable tool for life.

Yeah, I know. I'd send em a check, but the company I most often victimized, Alexander's, is long kaput. I bet I stole $100 in merchandise over the course of a year.

Gene Weingarten: Also, when I was in high school, I ran a forged hall-pass ring. Others would steal empty hall-pass forms and I would forge the names of a few teachers whose signatures I could reproduce perfectly. I hereby apologize, specifically, to Dr. Herman Slutzkin, Spanish teacher, and to Ms. Rosalie C. Tornello (nee Palermo), biology teacher, whom I also, for the record, was deeply in love with. I can still sign both of their names perfectly.

However, I do not consider this a serious ethical breach. It was fun and basically harmless.

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Waking up: You also wake up with bad ideas. Have you ever woken yourself up by laughing? I do this every few months; I always think it's the funniest thing ever. My bedfellow of the moment says he's never heard someone do this before.

Gene Weingarten: I do it often.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene,

A few weeks ago, you wondered about how women in ancient times conducted abortions -- which you knew happened because of the Hippocratic oath. I learned something about this during a classics course in college. Basic, the preferred method was to bring the woman as close to the point of death as possible without killing her, usually by poison but sometimes by horrific means such as stretching her. The general idea was to make the woman's body unable to successfully sustain a second life, which would make it abort. Obviously, the success rate of this was pretty low.

Gene Weingarten: Wow!

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Falls Church, Va: The first memory I can place in time (I was almost 3) was watching Lee Harvey Oswald being shot on TV. The reason that it is so clear is I remember my feelings of complete confusion over the incident. I knew everyone was very upset because the President had been killed but I could not understand why the people would chain the President - I didn't quite understand the whole handcuff thing - and hold him up so someone would shoot him and then be so upset that he had been shot.

Of course, I didn't realize until much later that I had seen Oswald being shot and that I was not the only one who was confused about the entire incident.

Gene Weingarten: Laughing here.

My related kid-confusion memory is watching a scene on TV when a woman tells her husband she was pregnant and they got all thrilled and happy and bouncy and kissy, like it was this big surprise. But I had recently learned from my ma how people got pregnant. And I thought, wait a minute. If they actually did that disgusting, revolting, squalid thing that people had to go through because they wanted to make a baby, why would they be at all surprised that the woman was pregnant. Wasn't that the whole IDEA?

Eventually, I figured it out: They must have been really happy that it had worked, so they didn't need to do that thing again.

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Stupid Chat Trick: This is more kinesthetic than that spinning silhouette from a few weeks ago:

(1) While sitting, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles (you youngsters: that's the direction you would turn the cap on a water bottle if you ever put one back on instead of leaving them everywhere).

(2) Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction.

I believe this will happen to anyone unless he has brain damage or is Dick Cheney.

Gene Weingarten: It's amazing, isn't it? Can anyone out there do this successfully, without switching rotation?

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RE: Links: So the County link leads to... info about Montgomery County. And there is no Mormon Temple link. That is 5 minutes of my life I will never get back. You owe me.

Gene Weingarten: the Mormon Temple link is to Temple University, home of the "Owls." The county link I was talking about was Prince William. Check it out.

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Bethesda, Md.: I recently received the following email and thought maybe you'd want to remember Johnson & Johnson the next time you place one of your famous 1-800- customer service calls...

Next time you have a bad day...

On your way home from work, stop at your pharmacy and go to thethermometer section and purchase a rectal thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson. Be very sure you get this brand. When you get home, lock your doors, draw the curtains and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed.

Change into very comfortable clothing and sit in your favorite chair. Open the package and remove the thermometer. Now, carefully place it on a table or a surface so that it will not become chipped or broken.

Now the fun part begins. Take out the literature from the box and read it carefully. You will notice that in small print there is a statement:

'Every Rectal Thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson is personally tested and then sanitized '.

Now, close your eyes and repeat out loud five times,'I am so glad I do not work in the thermometer quality control department at Johnson & Johnson.'

(Just for the record I have not purchased this product so cannot verify the statement listed above)

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

Okay, I will use this next time I make 800 calls.

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Savannah, Ga.: The Freakonomics blog ran a contest to find a new name for the computer, and based on their results ("LifeLine" was the winner, runners-up included "the screen", "the box" and "Magic Box of Continually Changing and Life-Altering Potential"), I'd say we still call it a computer because we can't think of anything better.

Maybe the chatters here can do better.

Gene Weingarten: Anyone?

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White Eddie: Didn't you ever see the SNL skit where Eddie Murphy goes undercover as a white man, into a world where everyone dances out of rhythm and gives things away for free? It's a classic.

washingtonpost.com: The White Man ( SNL via YouTube)

Gene Weingarten: This is brilliant.

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Arlington, Va.: Gene, I am jealous of you because you mentioned in a column a while back that you are a friend of Barry Louis Polisar. I was a big fan as a kid and now my kids love him too. Right now we are listening to an album so old that he probably doesn't remember making it- but it includes such masterpieces as "Never cook your sister in a frying pan" and "You can't say pbbbt on the radio." Can we devote this chat to appreciating him?

Gene Weingarten: No, but I am a fan too. I am going to devote a future chat to appreciating Tom Lehrer, though.

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Shoplifting: When I was in college in the arly 70s my best friend and I were into yo-yos. I don't know if it's still true now, but you could buy replacement string for your yo-yos then. They came in a small bag that cost 15 cents at the time.

My friend and I both needed new string so we went to a local store where I stole a pack of string at my friend's urging. When we left the store I confessed to him that I couldn't believe I took the string. He looked at me and said that he felt bad about taking the 2 yo-yos he pulled out of his pocket. I still feel badly that I stole the string.

Gene Weingarten: EVERYTHING is relative.

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New York, N.Y.: I can do the chat trick!

Gene Weingarten: Really?

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Tempe, Ariz.: Okay, I'm glad that Jim Brady is quasi-sympathetic, but the links are still terrible, and not at all easy to ignore.

Yes, other sites do it, but they link to relevant stuff. Here is an example of appropriate hyperlinking: "After Michael Vick's conviction in Atlanta earlier this year..." and "conviction" is hyperlinked, then it takes you to a story about Vick's trial. Inappropriate hyperlinking, which the Post is doing now, is hyperlinking "Atlanta," which then takes you to a map of Atlanta. How in the WORLD does that contribute to my understanding of the story?

I would imagine that they're measuring the "success" by how many times people click the hyperlinks, when what they really should be measuring is how long the person stays on the page they just linked to. Occasionally I click on one, somehow expecting it to actually be relevant, then smack my forehead and click back to the story about half a second later.

Gene Weingarten: I know. We need to gradually lead these folks to see the light. They will.

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Childhood memories: I am hoping you will discuss this in detail later in the chat since this has been a source of chagrin for me all my life. I have very few early memories. Almost nothing before going to school and I didn't go to school until first grade (They didn't have kingergarten yet.) My sister however has very very clear memories of very early childhood. Why would one not retain memories like this? Any other ways I have a fabulous memory - I am really good at useless trivia, peoples names, historical dates, poems memorized in 6th grade. But major portions of my own life are a blur.....Why would the brain work like that?

Gene Weingarten: My father could remember the name of no teacher. No teacher he had ever had. His memory was otherwise splendid. I just don't know.

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Rectal Thermometer: Gene, your Urban Legend radar is woefully inadequate.

Gene Weingarten: This person was lying?

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Waldorf, Md.: there's an ad on a sports radio station for a weight control "body shaping" remedy called liposhape, in which the shill o' said product recommends a gift certificate for the process for the wife or girlfriend as a Christmas present. "You'll be the hero," said shill says. Is that not the most untrue claim in an advertisement, ever?

Gene Weingarten: It's very bad, but you have set the bar really high! Any nominees for a more untrue claim in an ad?

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Sam's Clams Disco, CA: So on the radio this morning, there was a great example of what I consider to be one of the most annoying public speech trends. The Fresno State U. president was talking about the changes in the athletic department staff, citing their having "over 100 years of experience." Can we stop this, please? If you have 10 people with 10 years of experience, that does not make 100 years of experience.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. What if you had 200 people, each of whom had 6 months' experience? Would that be 100 years of experience?

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Openthepodbaydoorsh, AL: At the risk of being tagged as a hopeless computer nerd: it's still a computer because it is making millions of computations each second, converting the data that we see into something intelligible to itself and then back again. Just because the computing is happening faster than we can see doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Sort of like Santa in that regard... but I digress.

Gene Weingarten: Whatever, nerdo.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Do you think it's possible that two people who came together as a result of an extramarital affair can successfully build a long-term relationship once the marriage(s) are over? Assume no children and that the spouses never found out. Will there always be a barrier to trust or even a barrier to telling people the typical "How we Met" story? How do should one explain the start of the relationship under such circumstances?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, it is possible. Both of you need to be largely free of guilt; if you are not, then, no, it is not possible. And it is no one's business how you met. You can say whatever you like.

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Palo Alto, Calif.: It seems that the linking machine is taking its revenge on you personally.

In this letter about your column, I count seven links in three sentences. I could have used a link to the original piece, or to the YouTube video the letter refers to. Instead I got news results about YouTube and Philadelphia.

Gene Weingarten: Ten of the 67 words in this letter have hyperlinks, and not one of them is of value.

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Reston, Va.: Gene, couple of weeks back you mentioned that you want drivers on greenway to get the license tag of the red BMW (the lady who drives ever so slow) and that you want to include that in one of ur columns.

It has been bugging me a bit and hence the question - isn't there something called personal privacy? Granted I don't know how you wanted to use her license tag info in ur chat/column, but it's been bugging me that you would want to solicit and use personal info of that sort in a public forum.

Gene Weingarten: I would call her. Not identify her in the column, or give her license number: Just call her and write about our conversation.

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Soap on the Mirr, OR?: Wait, how does that work? Do you write with the corner of a bar of soap? Dip a finger in the liquid soap? I keep a dry-erase marker in the bathroom for the same reason, so I don't forget things I've thought of in the shower or brushing my teeth.

Gene Weingarten: You write with a corner of the bar of soap.

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UVA: Hi Gene,

I need your help.

I'm a senior in college, and I've been dating a hilarious, intelligent guy for about 6 months. There's just one thing I keep coming back to: he told me at the beginning of our relationship that he's bisexual. Here's why this bothers me:

He's never had any experience with guys, but I worry that there will come a time when he feels a need to explore this side of his sexuality. What do you think? Does the fact that he's attracted to men as well mean that he will one day -need- to see what it's like to be with a man? Or is gender irrelevant, i.e. he doesn't -need- to be with a man no more than he -needs- to be with another woman?

FWIW, I'm the only one who knows about his bisexuality (since we're talking about repression today...).

Gene Weingarten: I think it's an important fact that he told you. He has character.

I am no expert, and would be delighted to have any bi's out there contribut to this discussion. My thought is that if he loves you, he is going to be faithful to you, and if he doesn't, he is going to stray. I think this would hold true whether he is straight or bi.

We have heard in this chat, several times, from straight people involved in successful monogamous long-term or forever relationships with bi people. They just playfully ogle the same people in the street.

Any other opinions?

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What's your na, ME: Inspired by this chat I have conducted some unscientific, arbitrary research about women taking their husband's names. Here are synthesized results from a bunch of typical northeast soccer mom's, 30's - 40's, college educated (many advanced degrees), slightly left of center politically, and middle/upper middle class economically.

The willingness, even desire, to take their husband's name comes from some nesting/maternal instinct. They have this vision of the whole family having the same last name and being called: "The Whatevers". This invokes some cozy, all snuggled by the fire feelings. They all acknowledge this is illogical and silly but it is there never the less. They seem to accept that men won't take their wife's name. Yes this unfair and a double standard but it is just one of the many prices they pay for their heterosexuality. In fact, there seemed to be some distaste for a man who would change his name. They did feel that it should be their choice as to which name they would use and their husbands should accept their decision.

The tendency to take their husband's name is more likely the younger they get married and if the arrival of children is expected in a year or two (rather than a vague some day).

Gene Weingarten: Like the ubiquity of the automatic transmission in America, I have come to accept this as a thing that is just not going to go away. I dislike it, but yield.

You know, there was a period of time -- 1964 to about 1980 -- when most women who married (at least in the urban northeast) kept their last names. The theory, very simply, was that nothing about getting married should compel a person to forfeit her identity. It was a formidable argument and it seemed to make inarguable sense -- and be poised to lead to a more equitable distribution of last names in the next generation. I envisioned that by the 1990s, most girls would have their mother's last name, most boys their father's. Or vice-versa, an interesting twist.

It just fizzled out. Pouf. The fuddy old indefensible patrilineal system prevailed. It's what we want, for some reason.

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Clockwise foot and counterclockwise hand: Yep, I can do it. But I was taught how to "separate" my limbs when I was in high school. I was in Drum & Bugle Corp and WinterGuard ("the flag girls" for the uninitiated). If you are spinning a flag, rifle, or sabre you have to be able to control both hands/arms and move your legs independently or you risk serious injury.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Okay.

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Fun, NY: Can I just say how happy I am to see Hank Stuyver's byline again? I do not know where else to share my joy, but because he is so funny, I thought this would be the best place.

washingtonpost.com: Stuever: The Elite Apple Corps, (Post, Dec. 9)

Gene Weingarten: It's also an excellent headline, when you homonophonify it. Also, "homonophonophy," which I believe I may have invented, is a great word to say outloud.

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Alexandria, Va.: As I read your comment about Tom Lehrer, all I could think is "Man is he old!" and have a slight sniggering in my head about it until . . . I thought "Man, that means I am amazingly old, too!" Now I am just depressed, sigh!

Gene Weingarten: Exactly. I recently remembered that he was a major influence on my early sense of humor. I am going to do an homage. He is why I love doggerel.

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Soup Joke: Hey Gene, howzabout transcribing the joke for us deafies?

And yes, it doesn't compute. Unless you use the calculator function, you never actually use your PC for its original putpose.

B.D. is going to have an affair with Melissa, don't you think?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think so. But I have no inside information. B.D. already had his affair.

The joke is coming up.

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Tom Lehrer is a god: And I say that as an atheist.

I grew up listening to Tom Lehrer albums. My parents, a couple of socialist, atheist, antiwar academics in the 1960s, played "That Was the Year That Was" and "Another Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer" a great deal when I was a kid. I thought I was really cool for knowing all of the lyrics to these subversive songs. The coolest part is that his songs for "The Electric Company" are my 6 year old's favorite songs from the show.

Did you know that Weird Al Yankovic is a fan of his?

Gene Weingarten: Makes sense.

He was the best.

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Confused: Dear Gene --

You seem like someone who might be in the know on this topic. My boyfriend takes a long time to go to the bathroom -- a very long time. When we go somewhere, I can have a leisurely bathroom experience, spending quality time with numbers 1 and 2, and still have to wait for him for several minutes. If it was once or twice then maybe there was a line but it is all the time! I have taken to listening when he goes at home (and yes I KNOW that is weird) and there doesn't seem to be a problem, so why does it take him so long to pee in public?

Gene Weingarten: He has shy bladder syndrome, and is too shy to tell you. He is waiting until he is alone in the bathroom, however long it takes.

Look it up.

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Gene Weingarten: Joke: Jewish man in deli, calls waiter over. "Taste my soup," he says.

"What's wrong with it?" the waiter asks.

"Just taste my soup!"

"Is it too cold?"

Taste the soup!"

"Is there a bug in it?"

JUST TASTE IT.

"Okay, okay. Where's your spoon?"

"A-HA!"

Loses a lot without the voice.

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Extra Marital, Va.: I had an affair with my NOW husband when I was married. No kids. My ex was a mean husband... not nice... it was a miserable marriage and I should have left but was very young...

We have been married 9 years very happily!!!

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Ice Storm, Iowa: How is the Chatwoman today?

washingtonpost.com: Peachy.

Gene Weingarten: Good.

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Re: updates: Just so you know, I am seriously opposed to the no updates thing. I don't like it one bit. I prefer to read your updates each morning with my coffee. Now, every morning is like Monday! When, oh when, will you be updating again?

Gene Weingarten: About two weeks.

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Synvisc Treatment: I assume you've received the treatment by now? Last year, when my arthritis acted up, I got a course of PT and an offer of SYNVISC. My ortho similarly said the results could be limited or non existent. I read up on it a little and decided it was something of a money-making scheme; three visits every six months; a nice way to maintain some cash flow between major surgeries.

But I could be convinced otherwise. How was yours?

washingtonpost.com: Lame Humor, ( Post Magazine, Dec. 9)

Gene Weingarten: So far, of limited or no value.

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Serious Lies: I said I never told a serious lie but then the first choice in the next question is a lie told to disguise something illegal. This gave me pause but I guess when I told my parents that I didn't smoke dope, I didn't really consider that a serious lie.

Gene Weingarten: Me, either. Not a serious lie.

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Exaggerati, ON: You left out lies that aren't preventive in nature, but are actually constructively disinformative. Lies that aren't meant to avoid disappointment, but are meant to create excitement in a situation where neither disappointment nor excitement are likely to occur. Serious, attention-getting, self-mythologizing lies.

Gene Weingarten: True. But I'm not sure any of those constitute "serious" lies. Well, maybe. "I am Sidney Poitier's son" would be a serious lie. Unless you happen to be Sidney Poitier's son, of course.

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Aptonymity: Gene, I work for a news-related company. Going through some old photo files, I ran across a headshot labeled "CNN -- Bill Headline". (I had to Google him -- he was their first Washington bureau chief.) A predestined career if ever I saw one.

washingtonpost.com: That's Bill Headline on the right.

Gene Weingarten: This reminds me of one of the better headlines I ever wrote. It was for a two-page fashion spread about hats. The art director had chosen to shoot the photo on the beach. He buried the models in the sand so only their heads were exposed, and put a hat on each head. He arranged them in a line on the beach.

The headline was:

The Head Line.

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BBFL: Gene, you haven't printed anything by me in a while, so can you use this entry to segue into a link from your column on Sunday?

washingtonpost.com: Lame Humor, ( Post Magazine, Dec. 9)

Gene Weingarten: Well, this is the first thing you have written that makes any sense.

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Virgin Islands: So Gene, when did you lose your virginity? Now that we've all told you?

Gene Weingarten: Comin' right up.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

I think there is one headline to this , and it's one I am proud of. I believe you have been more honest than most people who respond to "When did you lose your virginity?" Questions.

In typical surveys, women report having lost their virginity 2-3 years later than men, which defies logic and most anecdotal evidence. What it suggests is that men give lower than true ages, and women higher than true. We have seen no such chicanery here. Thank you.

I lost mine at the 17-18 cusp, during the start of my second year in college. I felt, at the time, that I was impossibly late, essentially sexually retarded, the last male among anyone I had ever known. No one told the truth about this.

My biggest surprise in the answers is that there is no pattern to the nature of people's first memories in life. Mine were very clearly negative. I carry two of them: The time my grandfather took my brother and me to the railroad station to watch the trains come in. I was about three, and I was terrified by the noise, and burst into tears. The second was my first day in kindergarten. I was four, totally overwhelmed by the social pressure, and burst into tears.

Also, one heartening thing: Younger people don't shoplift as often as they used to. The percentages show a straight line downward, as you get younger.

There was a time, sadly, when I think shoplifting was a rite of passage. Maybe you yoots replaced it with illegally downloading music.

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Washington, D.C.: What would Jesus do?

I don't see why this issue of keeping a name is such a big deal. When I got married it really wasn't an issue. In fact, it mattered so little that my husband and I didn't really discuss it. My mother, who did not keep her name, had at one point told me that she thought I should keep my name. As my wedding was approaching she gave me her unsolicited opinion that I should change my name because, "it would be nicer." A female cousin was SHOCKED that I wouldn't have a new last name after the wedding. She said, "It's in the bible." I asked her to give me the last name of Jesus or anyone in the bible. But it still makes me giggle when I think about the conversation and her outrage.

Gene Weingarten: IT'S IN THE BIBLE!

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Washington, D.C.: I actually believed the thermometer post too, but according to snopes.com, it's false.

Gene Weingarten: Crap. As it were.

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Gene Weingarten: You know, there may be one jackass out there who tries to game this chat with urban legends. A few weeks ago, they tried to pass the free dogs off here, too. This is a major feeble individual. A panty-sniffer.

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Eddie Murphy and Billy Cryst, AL: Yes, that is Eddie Murphy convincingly playing an old Jewish guy. It's noteworthy that he overlapped in the SNL cast with Billy Crystal, who in one skit played a very convincing former Negro League ballplayer (alongside Christopher Guest, I believe).

Gene Weingarten: Boy, the makeup is just extraordinary. You can see his forehead and eyebrows move convincingly, which you'd think would be immobilized by makeup.

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Bisexual Boyfriend: I write this as a licensed psychoanalyst. I am female, straight and gay-friendly. A large portion of my private practice is made up of gay men and women.

The psychoanalytic definition of sexuality (homo, hetero or bi) is NOT who the person sleeps with or dates. It IS what or who (which gender person or genitals) the person is fantasizing about while experiencing arousal and orgasm. Thus, gay men and straight women fantasize about men or male genitalia; lesbians and straight men fantasize about women or female genitalia. The reasoning is that you can fool yourself while conscious, but the state of arousal is not something that can be faked, and the responses or stimuli are more honest in that situation. A review of the psychoanalytic literature shows that there are NO documented cases of true male bisexuality, although there are documented cases of female bisexuality.

While it is valiant, honest and honorable of him to have told her about this before acting on his impulses, given their ages, it is unlikely that he will refrain from homosexual activity. That will probably cause her great pain if he is unable to resist while they are still involved with each other. It can also expose her unnecessarily to a host of sexually-transmitted diseases. I would counsel caution.

Gene Weingarten: You know, with no training or knowledge, I have said the same thing about the sexual response: Know what a person is thinking immediately before climax, and you know what he or she is.

Your advice sounds right, and scary. There are no male bi's? Really?

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Tom Lehrer: When I was in 6th grade in early 70's our teacher (the hip and sexy Mr. Weber) brought in a Tom Lehrer album for us to listen to. It was an important moment in my life - meybe when I learned to put a name to the phenomenon of satire. I still think about it a lot - how the whole class was gethered around listening, and making comments and askin question. And Mr. Weber w/a grin on his face (with his bow tie and afro) - sort of makes me think he must have been thinking "hey this little punks are getting it." A teacher today would probably not bring that sort of material into class in a million years. Too bad.

Gene Weingarten: It's not that easy to understand, in a different time frame. Much of his stuff was topical.

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Rears, ME: Hey, it's your pal with the anatomical surname I recently marred through marriage. Just writing to let you know my first memory, age 2.75 (I seem to recall it was March 3, 1983, though I could be totally off), was of the first time I ever wiped myself without my mom's help. Hi, mom. Seriously, I was using the basement bathroom and she was upstairs on the phone. My convention was to yell, "Mommy, come wipe meee!" until she finally came downstairs and did her, uh, duty. Well, this particular day, she just stayed on the phone. I could hear her talking. After what seemed like an eternity of yelling, I gave up and simply wiped myself.

Best. First. Memory. Ever.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. AND it makes your last name a remarkable situational aptonym. Hi, Kate.

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We CAN'T change the computer: Just like we still dial a phone and roll up a window. How are us old timers gonna have anything to talk about if not how things used to be?

Gene Weingarten: It never occurred to me that roll up the window no longer makes sense. Well, wait. It's still on rollers, right?

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Re: Name Changing: A very liberal friend of mine decided to change her name when her soon-to-be sister-in-law put it this way:

You already have a man's name - your father's, which you did not choose. You are choosing to marry this man. So essentially, you are being more real to yourself, your own choices and your own identity when you choose to take your husband's name because this name you have essentially picked for yourself.

Gene Weingarten: A very interesting argument, but bogus. It may be a man's name that she was born with, but she was born with it. It is what she has been all her life. It is HER name.

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Williamsburg, Va.: My first memory of any President was during the Bush-Clinton election. I was in kindergarten, and in all my informed five-year-old brilliance, I told my mom I wanted Bush to win because his name sounded like he'd like trees.

My mom angrily told me that he HATED trees and only cared about oil and would cut down as many forests as he needed to get it.

I'm still amused by this. I doubt she ever expected me to still remember venting her political frustrations like that at the age of 21.

Gene Weingarten: That's terrific. Molly's first remembered president was Bush HW. She remembers her mother and me watching TV on election night as all the states turned red. "You guys were cursing and stuff," she said.

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Last Names: For what it's worth, I just married a Swede, and the tradition is Sweden (if the couple opts to have the same name) is to take whichever of the couple's last names is more interesting or storied. This allows couples to forfeit common names and perpetuate more unique ones and takes gender out of the equation entirely. My new husband and I are going through both of our family histories to see whether we find a name we'd like to revive. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for something with umlauts.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent! I would have taken my wife's name: More melliflous. Neither of us was storied.

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Farragut West, Washington, D.C.: Settle a currently raging debate in my office - best Springsteen song of all time?

washingtonpost.com:10th Avenue Freezout.

Gene Weingarten: Last Train to Clarksville.

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Anonymous: I had to answer that yes, I've shoplifted in the last five years. I have in the last year "stolen" items from the grocery store - they have been stuffed on the bottom of the cart and have not been noticed. I -never- go back to pay for them even though it's pretty clear to me what's happened when I put my groceries in the car. Most of these items are in the $10-15 range. Does unintentional theft count?

Gene Weingarten: It's not unintentional theft, dude. By not going back and paying for these items, you have stolen them. I would argue that on a subconscious level, you are stealing them the moment you stow them below, knowing what has happened in the past.

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"it's audacity" ???: Auuuughh!!!!!!

Gene Weingarten: Sorry.

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Seattle, Wash.: I, too, have just recently had stuff injected into my arthritic knees (I'm 37). But what I found most disturbing, aside from the "well, some people say it might help" nature of the thing, is that the non-synthetic version of it is made from rooster combs. My doc claims that what I'm getting is synthetic, but how would I know? I don't eat fowl, and I really don't want to be responsible for mutilating them. Anyhow, it has been a week or so, and I'm not noticing much yet (though, as a friend told me, a placebo effect is still an effect). I plan to remain optimistic until the new year.

Gene Weingarten: Don't feel that bad. When I first starting getting injections of Interferon back in 1991, it was made from baby foreskins.

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"I am Sidney Poitier's son":100 percent chance it is a lie. He has five daughters.

Gene Weingarten: I know. But some guy went around getting a lot of credit and favors by making that claim.

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Arlington, Va.:"A few weeks ago, they tried to pass the free dogs off here, too."

Didn't the person who posted the thing about the dogs do so with good intentions, and then apologize abjectly?

The thermometer guy I have less trust in, although you notice he included a CYA (so to speak) about not having seen it himself.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, wait. You may be right. I think you are.

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Seats for the Elderly, Disabled, and Pregnant!: Gene -- Your column reminds me of something that I've wanted to discuss for a while. After years of riding the Metro with my nose buried in a newspaper, book, or work, I have finally realized how rude it is not to take 3 seconds to glance up to see if anyone around you really needs a seat more than you do. I'm 8 1/2 months pregnant, and I've frankly been pretty shocked at how few people offer to give up their seats on the Metro. Some days I'm feeling okay and I don't really mind standing; but some days, I'm totally exhausted, uncomfortable, and ache all over, and spend much of the ride looking around desperately, trying to use my powers of mental telepathy to will someone to offer me a seat (which they usually do not do). I haven't reached the point of feeling the need to yell at someone about their rudeness, although this morning came close. I was one of only a few people standing on the train. About 2 stops after I got on, a guy who looked to be about 60 but in relatively good shape got on and stood next to me. We were in the aisle next to the first couple of rows of seats (instead of in the area right by the doors). The guy in the seat next to us looked up at both of us and offered the 60 or so-year-old his seat. When the guy politely declined and said he was fine standing, the seated guy went back to reading his newspaper. What the . . . ??!!

I don't feel like it's fair to scold people for not always offering up their seats -- I failed to do this for years when I really was just into whatever I was reading and oblivious to most of the people standing next to me on the Metro -- but if you're going to go to the trouble of offering up your seat to someone, please don't forget about the pregnant women! Thank you.

washingtonpost.com: Lame Humor, ( Post Magazine, Dec. 9)

Gene Weingarten: I know I have said this before, but it is a sociological observation of interest: When The Rib was pregnant with Molly, we were living in New York, and she worked until the day she popped. We lived in close-in Brooklyn and she worked in lower Manhattan, meaning that the subway was standing room only every day. This means she had many, many days to watch and catalogue the reaction of subway riders to the presence of a very pregnant woman.

By her estimate, 95 percent of all the people who got up to give her a seat were either women or black men.

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Tempe, Ariz.: Sorry, but there's no way the poster who claims to be a psychiatrist is actually a psychiatrist. Documented cases of male bisexuality in the literature? That's insane. I'm bisexual. I've had long-term relationships with both men and women, and haven't cheated on any of them. To me, bisexual means that I am attracted to/want to date/want to go to bed with both men and women. It doesn't mean that I can't be monogamous. I don't care whether it's been documented in the literature, and don't get me started on the STD thing. Like a man who sleeps with other men is automatically a walking petri dish. It's called protection, people.

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting. I think this bears some independent research. Can the original poster contact me after the chat at weingarten (at) washpost.com?

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Tom Lehrer: I first heard Tom Lehrer's music on a radio broadcast when I was about nine or ten. They played "Vatican Rag" and my devoutly Catholic parents were appalled and forbade Mr. Lehrer's music from our house for all eternity. But I found tapes of that broadcast, and later actual legal recordings, and I still listen to his stuff 30 years later.

I think you're wrong about the topical nature of the music. Sure, a lot of is it topical but the art of it is that it is STILL funny, long after the news is old. And you don't even have to know the background to find it funny. I wasn't alive when Werner Von Braun was in the news, but Tom Lehrer's song is still funny, and gives you enough information to know exactly why it's funny.

Gene Weingarten: It's one of his most brilliant songs -- Wernher -- but I think it needs some annotation, no?

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Dr. Gene: Oh sage one, I need your advice.

If someone you know continues to lie about something they are doing, is there any chance that the thing that they are doing isn't a big deal? Does lying indicate a cover-up? Is lying an admission? Example (but not the example): Person says that they don't drink, but you know that they DO drink. What you don't know is how much they drink.

Does your advice change if it is a matter of the heart?

Gene Weingarten: I think you know the answer to this: You have to give real details for me to have any idea what you are talking about.

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Baltimore, M.: That whole barbershop scene in coming to America is impressive because Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall are playing five different characters, including the old Jewish guy who loves Rocky Marciano.

Gene Weingarten: Right. A tour de force.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Who drew the cartoon of you?

Gene Weingarten: Eric Shansby. He illustrates my columns.

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Changing Names: If a woman chooses to take her husband's last name when she marries, or if she chooses not to, it is not good or bad. It just is -- that's all.

When I got married, my wife opted to change her name. I expressed a preference that she make a change, because I preferred that she not continue to go by her first husband's name, but I also said it was OK with me if she wanted to go back to her maiden name. She chose my name because her maiden name lends itself to an unfortunate mispronunciation.

Some couples I know have the same last name, some don't. Oh well.

Whether or not a woman changes her name concerns me less than whether or not she can drive a stick shift.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed. Or throw a baseball.

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Maryland: My fiance and I were trying to come up with amusing replacements for the standard marriage ceremony language. We thought we had come up with something original, but as it turns out, "You may now blow the groom" is a Googleyup.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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untrue, AD:"A diamond if forever"...until next holiday season, at which point that last diamond isn't worth a piece of coal unless you buy this new diamond.

Personal pet peeve of mine. My wife now leaves the room when jewelry ads come on the TV so that she doesn't not give me the satisfaction of someone hearing me rant.

Gene Weingarten: Don't get me started on Jewelry ads. What about the ones where the women examining the jewels just can't get over that "he went to Jarrods." Like anyone gives a rat's ass what store it was bought in.

Or how about 1-800-Her-Love? Nothing is more sickening than that.

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Tom Lehrer: Did he die or something?

Gene Weingarten: Nope. Just a fond, nearly forgotten memory.

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The bisexual men debate...: Reminds me of a great line from Will and Grace.

Can't quote verbatim, but it was something like, "bisexuality is just a pit stop on the way to gayville."

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

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Memory of first president: I wonder if the younger peeps have an earlier first memory of the president than us old codgers? My family and most of our neighborhood got our first TVs when I was in the second grade. I don't have any political memories before that point, but I can tell you many, many details about the 1952 Republican Convention, which happened shortly thereafter.

Gene Weingarten: I only vaguely remember a President Eisenhower, and I was 9 when he left. Oddly, I do remember some other leaders from the time: Christian Herter, Singhman Rhee, Dag Hammarskjold.

Dag Hammarskjold was a very interesting man. Gay, a rather good poet, a brilliant diplomat, and fearless.

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Bisexual Boyfriend, Part 2: Licensed shrink here again. There are no documented cases in the literature of true male bisexuality. That means that there are no documented cases of men who respond equally to male and female imagery. In my experience, a gay man can get aroused in the presence of a woman by fantasizing about another man or male genitals.

Gene Weingarten: I want you to contact me afterward, okay? I've never heard this, we have at least one person contesting it, and I'd love some citations.

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Seats for the Elderly, Disabled, and Pregnant!: One of these things is not like the others. (I am speaking of women in countries, like the US, where birth control and family planning are readily accessible.) I will give up my seat to an elderly or disabled person without a moment's hesitation. A pregnant woman made a choice to get pregnant. She is NOT disabled. It's uncomfortable/painful/tiring? You chose it. Deal with it.

Gene Weingarten: Good God.

Uh, you're a jackass.

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Bisexual Female: The post from the therapist is interesting. I am a married female and I sometimes fantasize about other females. My husband knows this and thinks it is cool. That is where it stops. I've never in real life felt any sexual attraction to any woman ever. I would never want to make any fantasy a reality but in the realm of fantasy I am turned on. I have been all my life sexually attracted to men and have only had sex with men. By the therapist's definition I am bisexual because at the point of orgasm, sometimes but not all the time, I am thinking about women.

Gene, do you have an explanation for this. Am I truly bisexual?

Gene Weingarten: I think you are. So what? Good for you.

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Madinvent, OR: I'm sorry I missed the chat on the 4th, because I have a concept -- not patented, but I'm not risking much here because I doubt it would ever be accepted for patent -- for a device that will put Dr. Kevorkian out of business. (See, it's working already.) It's the same basic idea as Norplant: a tiny device implanted under the skin to deliver a delayed-release drug. In this case, the drug would be a lethal overdose of sedative.

The critical new feature is a hand-held scanner that can set and reset the implant's time delay. Hold it over the implant site, and select 30 days, or 60, or whatever. You just have to perform the reset regularly and often. If your mind degenerates to the point where you can no longer remember to do this simple task, you have a fixed number of days left, and a quick, painless exit.

Plus, if somebody loses or breaks their scanner and wants a new one, they'd be willing to pay a LOT for it, right? Now there's a business model.

My wife thinks there wouldn't be much of a market. I think she's wrong. If I ever reach a point where I'm worried about my mind failing, or my body failing catastrophically, I would want one of these things. I might not want her to know where I keep the scanner, though.

Apart from that, plus venture capital, advertising, and some thorny legal issues, the only real difficulty I see here is what to name it. Any suggestions? So far I've come up with Easy Out, Doomgiver, and Death Alert. I'm sure you could do better.

Gene Weingarten: Well, the marketing plan should be called Buy-Buy.

Hey, "Buy" is one of those words that loses all its meaning when you look at it for a while.

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Alexandria, Va.: Speaking of anal probes, I'm scheduled for a prostate biopsy in three weeks. Whee! Ever had one, Gene? Go ahead, feed my fear. I can take it.

Gene Weingarten: No. But I have had a liver biopsy, which is worse. You'll be fine.

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Washington, D.C.: I LOVE the Shansby cartoons that accompany your column each week. This past Sunday, though, he should have had you up on a rack at Jiffy Lube, getting your knees lubed.

washingtonpost.com: No no -- Operation was poifect.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I loved that 'toon.

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Poll Constructi, ON: You know, it would probably have been more statistically useful to add an age question to the survey and then sort by that axis. As it is, I don't think I answered the questions identically, mostly because the age of my earliest memory is pretty fuzzy. While the memory is clear, I don't know what time of year it was and thus don't know if I was four or younger at the time.

Gene Weingarten: Perhaps a statistician can help out here, but I don't think that adding a question about age would have delivered any relevant data about voting patterns. We don't have the ability to re-sort the answers.

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Since you brought it up: I've always felt guilty about losing my virginity at 14. When I think about it, I can't come up with any good reason why I did it other than I could. As a woman, it has always been embarrassing to disclose to boyfriends that I was 14 -- I'm always afraid this makes me look slutty. Do I need to just get over it already? I've been having sex longer than I've been driving, for goodness sake!

Gene Weingarten: I think age of virginity loss is one of those things that loses all meaning after time. If you are 20, it probably looms large. Believe me, at 45 no one gives a crap.

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Matrimo, NY: Gene,

How often do random strangers ask you for Molly's hand in marriage?

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, you could not afford her.

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Slumberla, ND: The other night, I dreamed I was reading a Gene Weingarten cover story in the magazine called "21: Being 21 Years Old in the 21st Century." I live on the other side of the continent from The WaPo's circulation area, so the odd part was that I was reading it in an actual paper copy of the magazine (a light magenta cover, with several separate rectangular photos of what were presumably the 21-year-olds profiled within).

Just how do you manage to insinuate yourself into people's dreams like this? I don't remember ever dreaming about reading the work of a specific newspaper columnist before.

Gene Weingarten: That's a startlingly stupid cover story idea: You should sell it to Parade.

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Washington : I've developed an unusual muscle ache. I feel a stinging sensation in my left shoulder whenever I reach my hand around to where my back pants pocket is. As a guy who tucks his wallet on the left side, the pain only arises when I'm reaching for my wallet.

This ache deserves a name, how about Pickpocket Shoulder?

Gene Weingarten: Rectal Thermometer Shoulder.

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Roundso, AP: NO CORNERS!!!! ARGH.

Oh wait. I'll just use the handy-dandy dry-erase idea.

Gene Weingarten: You just need an edge, not a corner. It works fine. Unless your soap is a ball, you will do fine.

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Boston, Mass.: I'm a 24-year-old female who thinks about both ladies and gents when I get off, have only been in relationships with gents, yet, in spite of my age, have managed not to get it on with a lady when I'm emotionally involved with a gent. That therapist's advice really got my goat. "Given their ages, he'll almost definitely act on his homosexual impulses which puts her at risk for an STD"? Way to scare the crap out of the poor girl! Of course they should be having safe sex regardless of which genders he's attracted to, but UVA: Talk to your boyfriend! He may not have told everyone else in his life he's bi, but the questions you have for him are completely reasonable given the context of your relationship. And assuming he tells you he intends on keeping your relationship monogamous, you need to trust him. It's up to him to figure out whether he needs to be with a guy to be satisfied in the breadth of life experiences; whatever his answer to that question is, he needs to continue being honest with you.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Definitely a jackass: A pregnant woman's center of gravity is thrown completely out of whack, making it dangerous for her to be standing on a moving train or bus. Dangerous for her, her unborn child, and even those around her.

The elderly chose to get that way too... suicide is always an option. I suggest you look into it.

Gene Weingarten: Well put.

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Bi Boyfrie, ND: So the only true bisexuals are those who are precisely 50 percent attracted to men and 50 percent attracted to women? Bull. Sexuality is a continuum.

Gene Weingarten: I don't think that is what the therapist is saying. I think the therapist is saying that at the critical moment, me who claim to be bi are one hundred percent thinking gay. I do not know if this is true; this is the first I have ever so heard.

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Off Topic: What is the best Bob Dylan song ever? And, because the answer may not be the same, which Bob Dylan song is your favorite?

I ask because I recently heard "Tangled up in Blue" on the radio and have not been able to get it out of my head. It was (and is) my favorite Dylan tune, but this is probably because of certain personal memories (good ones) it evokes. Where does it stand on a "Dylan's Best" list?

Gene Weingarten: It is very very good and not in the top ten. I'd probably put Ballad of a Thin Man up there. Like a Rolling Stone is more commonly suggested. Visions of Johanna. It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.

Many more. This will take some thought.

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Arlington, Va.: I agree with the Rib's estimate of who will get up on the subway to offer their seat. In defense of the white guys, they will not rush to claim an open seat without looking around to see if a woman wants it, but rarely do they give up a seat once they have it. I would kindly say that it's obliviousness, but I will note that the demography of the people who will stop if you have car trouble has been in my experience similar to that of the people who give up their subway seats -- women and black men. White guys -- care to defend yourselves?

Gene Weingarten: And we will leave that till next week.

Than you all. Next week might be Tom Lehrer. Or maybe not. We'll see.

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New York, N.Y.: I wonder if the guy who doesn't give up his seat for pregnant women is the same guy who doesn't give out Halloween candy to out-of-neighborhood kids.

Gene Weingarten: Ha.

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