Chatological Humor: Post-Pulitzer Edition (UPDATED 4.11.08)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 2008; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: Wed | Thurs | Fri

Pulitzer Prize-winner 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, the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist 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

Not chat day? Visit the Gene Pool.

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. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Okay, yes, it is true that Bob Dylan and I won the Pulitzer Prize yesterday. Me and Bob. And yes, it is true that I knew about mine sufficiently in advance so that I could create a poll (and a Gene Pool) that would help me stay humble.

You did splendidly on this challenge, and I thank you. I was especially gratified to see that you were almost evenly split on whether my jowls or my mustache are my most hideous physical feature. You were also almost evenly split on whether my columns suck because I am a tired old hack who uses stale material, or because I am so unfunny by nature that I must strain for humor that falls flat.

Yes, it was a trap and I apologize for the deception, but it worked as designed. Thank you.

Were getting many hundreds of congratulatory posts and compliments, some of which aren't even backhanded. I am grateful, and I promise I will read them all, but for obvious reasons, I've asked Liz not to pass them along for the chat. Likewise, e-mails directly to me. There are thousands of those, and I will slowly work my way through em.

I want to share excerpts from my speech to the newsroom yesterday. Other parts of it are actually on streaming video, which Liz will link to after the chat, along with a brief interview I did on NPR.

From the speech:

"I know it's customary to begin by thanking one's spouse. Now, I do have a wonderful spouse, but the fact is she didn't have anything to do with this story. But then I got to thinking that if Hillary Clinton can takecredit for 35 years of government service ... well, then my wife WROTE this story. So, thank you, babe. "

(The Rib, from audience: "You're welcome!")

"I want to actually begin by thanking not a person but a principle, the principle of journalism that holds that communication between reporter and editor is sacrosanct, as privileged as that between priest and penitent, or doctor and patient. Which means that (managing editor) Phil Bennett can never ethically disclose which line in the story he wrote, which is actually too bad, because it was the best line in the story.

(many thank-yous follow, to Tom the Butcher, who edited the story, and to the people at dotcom, who helped it become global, to former Post classical music critic Tim Page, whose advice helped create the illusion that I know something about classical music, and to Rachel Manteueffel and Emily Shroder (Tom's daughter), who were reporters at the sight and who chased down passersby and persuaded them to cough up their phone numbers. We now pick up the speech again in midsentence...)

"If there is any message I am trying to deliver here at all, and I think it should be obvious by now, it is that I really didn't have anything to do with this story. I mean, I'll accept the award and everything. It does seem to be in my name. Life isn't fair.

"And finally, speaking of the profoundest reason why I don't deserve this award and someone else does: When Josh Bell and I first sat down to discuss this idea, we talked briefly about what might go wrong. I explained that we weren't really equipped to handle crowd control, so conceivably his $3 million Stradivarius might wind up in pieces no larger than a human pinkie toenail. But that was not likely. More likely was that he would suffer the single most humiliating experience in his life, and though he would do his best to ignore it, this rejection would remain in his brain, a little pulsing nugget of self-doubt that would haunt him every day for the rest of his life. It would be there at every performance, until critics began to notice that something indefinable was missing from the great Joshua Bell, and, his self confidence totally eroded, his career would collapse like a souffle in an earthquake, until years later he would find himself at L'Enfant Plaza again, a gin bottle in his pants, with a sign that says "Will Play for Food."

"Josh said, "This sounds like fun. Let's do it."

"Josh Bell is a hugely gifted and gracious and courageous man, and he is the reason I am standing here today. Can we give him, finally, the standing ovation he never got at L'Enfant Plaza?"

A thunderous ovation followed.


It was a very busy last few days and a very late night last night, and I am going to have to cheat you out of links to this week's comics. The rest of the chat should deliver what you expect, among them the fabulous CLOD, or Clip of the Day. This is from the British comedy group "Man Stroke Woman" and is, to my way of thinking, the perfect disquisition on the difference between the sexes. The redoubtable Chatwoman has figured out a way to make these clips elude some of your more draconian work filters.


Do you know how water is the universal solvent? Well, today in the newspaper I believe I have discovered the Universal Aptonym. It's a name that would be an aptonym no matter who has it. The coach of the Kansas Jayhawks is named Bill Self.


I'd like to thank a reader who took this picture of one of those tiny Smart cars on the street. Please note the license plate.


And lastly, we are going to have a puzzle of the day! This riddle is attributed to the great mathematics teacher Vern Williams, though Mr. Williams did not submit it himself. It was submitted by a former student of his, now an adult, who still remembers it, and him, with fondness, from McLean Middle School.

A man needs to cross a river in a rowboat, and return. He can choose one part of the river, where there is no wind, or another part of the river where there is a ten-mile-an-hour wind. In this second case, the trip will be aided by the wind in one direction, but impeded by the wind in the other. Which route should he choose? Or doesn't it matter? This is not a trick question. There is a good answer. Please submit your guesses, with explanation, only if you have not heard this puzle before.

(I will accept nominations for future puzzles of the day. Send to me at weingarten(at)


There's no need to take the poll anymore. It has served its purpose handsomely.

Okay, let's go.


Pulitzapalooza: So... is there going to be a chat today, or are you too hungover from celebrating?

Congrats, by the way.

Gene Weingarten: I am too hung over, and there will be a chat. Deal with it.


Gene Weingarten: Ooh, I forgot to mention, there is a photo in The Post that has both my kids in it. The one on page A6. That's Molly and Dan over my right shoulder.


The might Mississippi: He should choose the narrower part of the river.

Gene Weingarten: Same distance across both parts.


Anonymous: Why would the wind matter if he is in a rowboat?

Gene Weingarten: Because wind still has an effect.


Rockville, Md.: I still do not trust you, but if it is an honest question the wind advantage should match the wind disadvantage and the best thing would be to stay out of the wind. But if you have trick - go ahead. Say it cools the rower and he is less tired or there are waves or some such foolery.

Gene Weingarten: I said there is no trick. If the advantage matches the disadvantage, why stay out of the wind? Why does it matter?

_______________________ Pic: Gene and the kids


Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: The video STILL gets caught in my work filter. Seriously. What a drag.

Oh, and I've always known that Liz is the reason this chat does so well, but the reasons became starkly clear when the Gene Pool began. Thanks, Liz. Sure thing. And if the vid is still a problem, your work must block either flash or video players. Sorry. Watch at home.

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Others still having the problem?


Worst Ever?: Gene, check this out. I am surprised it is only 61 percent, frankly. But check out the language. These wild and crazy historians do not hold back.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I totally agree with these assessments, but this has a feel of pseudoscience to me. In my experience, historians are very reluctant to make any sort of judgments on sitting presidents; it's just too early.


Pulitzer Prize Winner: Gene: I wanted to remind you that you didn't win the PP for humor.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

Yesterday afternoon, Amy Lago, the editor at the Washington Post Writers Group, asked me to write a brief statement about the Pulitzer that they could send to all the newspapers that buy my column in syndication.

This is what I wrote:

"While this award is technically not for my columns but for my feature writing," Weingarten commented, "I consider it an endorsement of the excellence of absolutely everything I do: Humor writing, parallel parking, lovemaking, etc. So in that regard, using the same bold, broad-brush logic, I think all the clients of my column have a right to claim that they, too, won the Pulitzer Prize today."


Excellent Li, NE: In a story about Cheney set to receive secret service protection after leaving office, we get this gem of a line:

"Cheney, a principal architect of the administration's foreign and national security policies, has been an unusually high-profile No. 2..."

I think that pretty much sums him up, no?

Gene Weingarten: It does!


Knoxville, Tenn.: I know that you've gotten about a million notes like this, so I'll keep it brief: I actually shouted with joy when I saw you had won a Pulitzer.

As much as I love Dana Priest's work -- or anyone else's for that matter -- I'm not sure I've ever been gleeful about someone winning a journalism award.

So, thanks for letting us all get to share in your little piece of the world. Congrats.

Gene Weingarten: Awww, thank you.

Gene Weingarten: And this is the only one of its type I will post. Let it represent all the others.


Nowi (ND): The rower should pick the windless stretch.

The wind doesn't balance out: The trip with the wind delaying him will take longer (and the wind will affect him for longer), and the trip with the wind behind him will take shorter (and so he'll have less help).

same means he'll work harder to do the second trip.

Also, grats gene. Does Barry have a pulitzer? If not, you know what to do.

Gene Weingarten: This is the correct answer. And see next post.


Poolitzer: Now that you got the dingus, is there a sophomoric game you and Dave Barry can come up with to play with these? Like a coin toss drinking game or teeny table tennis.

Gene Weingarten: Dave sort of addressed this in his blog yesterday. Liz, can you link? From Dave Barry's Blog


W's gonna be lonely in, TX: If this chat is good for one thing, it is good for anonymous rumor mongering. One of my best republican friends, who would know such things, told me that Laura was going to leave W. after he left the White House. I did not believe her at first, but then she asked me how me times I have seen the two of them pictured together; outside of a trip to Africa I have not seen them together. (She told me at Christmas) They are supposedly not talking at all right now. So while he may live to never realize the moral wrongs he has wrought on this nation, he will live a very lonely existence.

Gene Weingarten: This is irresponsible speculation.

Further speculating irresponsibly, what do we think she is mad at him for? His terrible policies? That would be too good to be true.


An Apology: For the past few weeks, I've been feeling really judgmental about your inability to tell that The Rib has been wearing makeup all these years. How, I thought, can a guy miss what must be a fairly obvious feature on a woman he shares more time with than anybody?

But then I had this exchange with my husband over the weekend, while we were shopping with our college-student daughter:

Me: L. went into that store to buy some eye shadow.

Him: What is eye shadow?

So I apologize. It turns out that you're no more daft than any other guy.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah.


Dunn Loring, Va.: Congratulations and all.... but those Pulitzer folks have fingered your wife (er, you know what I mean) in your bio! The Rib has been outed! For some reason this disturbs me. I can only imagine that The Rib is only slightly less embarrassed to be known as "the spouse of the -Pulizer Prize-winning- VPL Fetishist".

Really, I feel like some kind of sacred trust has been violated. You have to ask yourself: is that little gold (not even -real- gold, I bet) medal REALLY worth it?

Gene Weingarten: I know. It's freaky. After all these years.

Well, her name will never be mentioned here.


Washington, D.C.: I submitted this to the Pulitzer chat:

Washington: How often does a humor columnist end up winning for a feature story? Rarely, right?

Roy Harris Jr.: It is rare, indeed. Jack Fuller, a former Chicago Tribune editor and Pulitzer board member, told me it was one of his concerns that funny material didn't do well in the Feature category. Gene Weingarten did it VERY well this time. What an amazing story. I could only think of the irony of such a beautiful piece of journalism being passed over by unappreciate readers, and perhaps ending on the bottom of the bird cage, while oh-so-few realized it for the gem that it is.

Of course, now it has its recognition. It's worth a reread.

BTW, I'm in Boston and NOT a Post reader, so reading Weingarten was a first for me.

So how does it feel to be one of the very very few (if any) humor columnists to win a Pulitzer for feature writing? Combining such a unique idea with humor and interesting commentary on the state of our lives nowadays, particularly as Washingtonians, was just beautiful.

Gene Weingarten: I love the fact that I am permitted to write humor and serious things. I have a great job. But I'm not sure that the comparison here makes sense. Pearls Before Breakfast was not really comedy. I think the main way it differed from most previous winners in the category of features was that it was not tragedy. The feature Pulitzer historically goes to reconstruction of plane crashes, tornados, stories about the dying or disfigured, and thus such.


Fairfax, Va.: Well, Mr. Weingarten, with your "Fat Beauty Queen" post you seem to have gotten your wish. A hot topic in the "Gene Pool." Unfortunately, you also seem to have done the equivalent of speaking truthfully about unflattering pants.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I need to figure out where to go with this, if anywhere.

For those who do not dip in the Gene Pool last week, I linked to this story and asked people to discuss it. My opinion was that this woman had great courage, and I applauded her gumption, and I thought the writer was needlessly nasty. But I said I thought it was not a great idea to reward someone of her dimensions in a beauty pageant.

My reasoning was that there is an epidemic of obesity. We are too fat, we have a national eating disorder, it's a health problem, it's a lifestyle problem, and the answer to it is not to adjust our views about what "overweight" means, or turn it into a quasi political issue about about self-image and loving oneself the way one is. The solution is not to deny there is a problem.

American bus companies and theaters and whatnot have had to widen their seats. This is not good. So rewarding this woman by declaring her a beauty queen is condoning the problem, in my opinion.

I got my head handed to me. AT least two Genepoolers said they will never visit this chat again. It's an unbelievably touchy subject.

I want to touch it again, but I'm not sure how.


Amherst, Mass.: "But he was a genocidal maniac at a time when that's what we were doing. It was sort of our national policy."

In Worcester vs. Georgia the Supreme Court backed the Indians but Jackson allegedly said "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" and let the Indians be removed anyway. It wasn't "what we were doing." It was what he was doing.

Gene Weingarten: Very true, but Jackson could not have done all that relocatin' of tribes unless he had the political muscle to do it. There was a vocal but only relatively small minority opposed to the persecution of Indians. It was national policy because most of the people wanted the Injuns gone.


Nick Frost is a CLOD!: Thanks for the clip! I needed a laugh and adore Nick Frost. Did you see either of the films he is in with Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz)?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: You know, all of the members of that troupe are really good. If you youtube them, search for the one called something like "What I Really Like," with a man and woman in bed.

I wanted to link to it, but Liz looked at it and nixed the idea right quick on account of language, situation, everything.

Alert: Possibly not safe for work. Okay, definitely not safe for work. It's among the funniest 30-second skits I've ever seen.


Poll outco, ME: This isn't just about you, but about all people. I am stunned that "the way he dresses and carries himself" didn't win. I mean, you are famously, and by your own admission, slovenly in both manner and appearance. (I assume that a vast army of stylists was needed to make you look as marginally presentable as you did in the Shari Basner story.) Mustaches and hair can be worked with, and unusual noses and jowls and voices have different appeals to different people (and if not there's always surgery), but a person who cares little about his own appearance can't be trusted to care about his relationships with others. Dressing with care and respect goes a long way. Were you also surprised that this wasn't higher? Or were you too self-obsessed, contemplating the unusual way your nose and mustache look when reflected from the surface of the Pulitzer?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Whoa. I was with you until you got to how not caring about one's appearance (I don't) makes a person unable to care about others. (I do. Fiercely.)


Washington, D.C.: Did I see this right? Somebody got, "that's no lady, that's my mother" on the front page of the Washington Post comics section? Wow. What other retred '50s jokes can we expect in the future?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Yeah, that was really, really bad.


Reston, Va.: I have been a longtime fan of yours, but I am becoming decreasingly so. Ever since you came back from your break, your attitude in the chat has changed. Perhaps even in your columns, though those have been funnier, so it's okay. But in the chats you have been more condescending, more disrespectful, and more dismissive than ever. In short, you have become mean. I am an elitist myself, so to some extent I can understand feeling superior. But that is no excuse for being rude and mean. We are, in a sense, the reason you have a chat. We respect you, but you do not seem to respect us. This is my biggest problem with you.

Gene Weingarten: Bugger off.


Baltimore, Md.: Is there a Pulitzer category for chatting? In that case, the award should definitely go to Sietsema.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Billings, Mont.: Gene:

Thought your Bell in the Metro story was good and all, but your Great Zucchini story from two years ago was the best thing you've ever written. Was that story submitted for a Pulitzer?

P.S.: Don't get a big head over winning a Pulitzer, the lying Sun reporter on "The Wire" won one for writing about a nonexistent serial killer.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: It was. And I was only recently reliably informed that it got real consideration, but was ultimately rejected because it was perceived as not serious enough.

A misperception, IMHO. That was a story about the nexus of fear and humor. It was quite serious.


From last week:: "Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Very few things are more tedious and obnoxious than religious proselytizing, so I'll keep this short. I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. "

Somebody, somewhere, is going to connect last week's event to this week's.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


One questi, ON: How many Post Points do you get for a Pulitzer?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Also, haha.


Kensington, Md.: Will Liz get a raise now that she is the producer of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's chat?

In his radio program this morning, Tony Kornheiser admitted that you made him a better writer. Will you add this soundbite to your outgoing voice mail message?

Heart you (hey, I love my husband, but has he won a Pulitzer lately?)

Gene Weingarten: I did make Tony a better writer. He also made me a better editor. Like any good writer who cares fiercely about his work, he challenged me on everything I wanted him to do, which makes an editor learn to be more analytical so he can explain himself better. Tony and I fought all the time, and it benefitted both of us.


Condi Rice: I hope she will be McCain's running mate. I want the Democrats to win.

Gene Weingarten: Despite all speculation, he would never choose her. Having her on the ticket would be as toxic to him as having HIllary on the ticket would be for Obama.


Woodbridge, Va.: "So rewarding this woman by declaring her a beauty queen is condoning the problem, in my opinion."

How about if she were a thin and beautiful smoker?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: That would be fine. Whether you smoke is not about the concept of "beauty."


Baltimore, Md.: Ok, this is a dog-related question. Not sure if you'd need Molly to answer it, but here goes.

I came home late last night, and my dog (a Rhodesian ridgeback mix, FWIW) limped over to greet me. Worried, I inspected all four paws and rubbed his legs. I didn't see or feel anything amiss, and he didn't yelp or whimper to indicate that touching anything in particular hurt him.

This morning, he was still limping. But now, it seemed to really be upsetting him -- he hid under the kitchen table and wouldn't come out when I tried to give him a treat. He also refused to go in his crate, instead curling up on the recliner next to his crate. Since he was clearly not feeling well, I left him on the recliner and went to work.

So. I am worried. I have no idea what happened to my dog while I was out yesterday, but he's definitely not acting normal. Should I just wait another day or two to see if it gets worse? Like I said, I don't SEE anything amiss. Help?

Gene Weingarten: As it happens, Molly is right here, next to me.

She says:

Go to a vet. This can't be diagnosed without seeing your dog, but the possibilities are almost endless, ranging from nothing at all serious to a torn cruciate ligament to cancer impinging on a nerve. If your dog is still limping today, see a vet today.


Laura hates George: "what do we think she is mad at him for?"

Let the record show the chatter is making the "drinky-drinky" motion.... Simpsons reference!

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Could be! This is all so unfair! And speculative!


Pesa, CH: My local grocery store is selling a six-pack of matzo for $5.99. I know that the day after Passover the same monster pack will sell for $0.99.

What makes me a better Jew - eating matzo at Passover or saving $5?

Gene Weingarten: Good question. It requires a Talmudic scholar to answer it.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I couldn't find a Talmudic scholar, but I found the next best thing. My friend Laura Blumenfeld is the daughter of a Talmudic scholar. Her answer follows:

Leading Hebraist Philip Birnbaum says, "Matzoh is a reminder of the joyous eagerness which marked the departure from Egyptian slavery to freedom. It suggests the purity of heart and implicit faith resluting in moral courage. In Jewish mystical teachings, matzoh is called celestial bread in the sense that it served as an antidote to Egyptian bondage, decay and corruption."

I say matzoh tastes like dried up Play-Doh. Here is what you do: Buy the 99 cent box and freeze it for next Passover. No one will know. Donate the $5 you save to Hadassah.


Fred from New Orleans: Forget the Smart Car! Did you ever find the lady in the red BMW?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Workin' on it. It has been very complicated, and I hope to explain in detail soon. I even have a PHOTO of the car.


Silver Spring, Md.: Technical question about the Pulitzer: How far in advance did you know? Did they call you?

Mind you, when I think Pulitzer, I usually visualize a cartoon from one of Dave Barry's books of a chicken with a sign around its neck (or similar) saying "Pullet Surprise."

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I knew on the the Friday prior to the Monday announcement.


Arlington, Va.: There is something significant about your Pulitzer win that, I think, a lot of people are missing. You don't know a damned thing about classical music -- you don't know a fugue from a fudgsicle. You dove right into a highbrow subject that probably intimidated you (or more likely bored you), and swam right out with a brilliant, Pulitzer-prize-winning article. This is beyond amazing.

That said, you DO owe Timmy Page a big, wet kiss on the lips for his help. And because the Web is big on cooperating with the paper, we offer to videotape said kiss for posting online.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Indeed. As I said yesterday, Tim was indispensable. I know NOTHING about classical music. What I didn't learn from Tim, I learned from Josh.


C'mon: "Injun" doesn't belong anywhere in discourse, including this chat.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Read it in context. It was in the voice of the people making the claim.


Ithaca, N.Y.: Let's get down to brass tacks here: whaddya gonna do with the $10 grand?

More to the point, how does the Post newsroom split its $10 grand? Throw a big party? Everyone gets a bag o' nickels? Does it go right in to Don Graham's wallet?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Good question. The story on the Virginia Tech massacre was essentially the product of the entire Metro staff. Every single winner agreed that the ten thousand will go to a charity associated with the tragedy.

Me, I'd like to buy a parrot. The Rib and I are in tense negotiations over this.


Savannah, GA by way of Washington, DC: Gene Pool question: What's your opinion on the very outspoken misogynist floating around the boards? It's a different name but I'm pretty sure this same guy has been haunting the message boards of the Post for years. "WmarkW" is pretty nuts and you kind of have to love how deluded he is.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Haven't noticed him, sorry.


Anonymous: Is it a mistake when you pick your fantasy shanks that your wife picks Bono and you pick a woman living down the street from you?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I am thinking you might just be male.


Anonymous: Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: That would be fine. Whether you smoke is not about the concept of "beauty."


Then why did you bother bringing up the health issue in the first place?

Man up and say you don't like looking at overweight women, and that your "social message" is just a cover for your aversion.

And I still can't forget that she's maybe a size or two bigger than Marilyn Monroe! This is not some freak of nature.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Please stop with the Marilyn Myth.

No, you misconstrue.

A woman who smokes should not win Miss Healthy Woman award.

Saying a woman who smokes should not win a beauty pagent is as ludicrous as saying a woman who smokes should not win the Pulitzer Prize.


Fat Beauty Queen: Gene -

I am actually in agreement with your stance on this. While I am a pretty good lookin woman that no one thinks of as "overweight" my weight does tend to stay on that BMI 25 line into over-weightdom. I have to admit, seeing the picture of the girl I had to think "wow, good for her being that comfortable with herself and all, but, wow, do I look like that in a bikini, too!? Man, I gotta go work out." I think people in this country need to move past the "I love me the way I am so who cares if I'm 20 lbs overweight" mindset to one more of "I love let me make sure it's a healthy me so I can enjoy being me for a longer time."

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Exactly.

Responding to this problem by changing the definition of fat is like George Bush responding to the charge that we torture people by changing the definition of torture.

Sorry, but true.


Washington, D.C.: I just don't get it. The Josh Bell article was fine, but it never connected with me on any level. I read your chats and articles regularly and though I lack much knowledge or interest in classical music, I do consider myself to have relatively well-rounded interests and tastes. As someone who took the metro frequently, I found the set-up to be forced and designed to engage in some sort of holier-then-thou "gotcha" from the all-powerful and all-knowing educated elite. I have found much of your other work funnier and other features more interesting, this one I lost interest in while reading.

Congratulations and keep up the good work!

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Okay! You knew I'd post this, didn't you?


College Park, Md.: Don't Parrots live like 130 years!

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Well, 90 or so. Yep. I think I am probably going to lose this fight.


RE: Dave Barry: Gene, Barry can't call you on the Pulitzer anymore so now will he remind you that you haven't had a sitcom on network television based on your career?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I know, also he's better looking.

He wins on many levels.


I like how your tagline changed.: Sorry, I just nearly spit out my water when Liz (or you) changed your tagline to now say "Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten."


Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Crap.


M Street NW, Washington, D.C.: Okay, can we get the congratulations out of the way early, so that we concern ourselves with more pressing matters, such as what is your take on the meaning of "man crush"?

In Liz's chat, she suggested it involved "crossing over" more than admiration.

I told Lizzie your opinion would be invariably correct; she scoffed at this. Now that you are a "Pulitzer prize winning journalist" maybe you can definitively settle this debate.

Gene Weingarten: I shall.

Twice in my life I have been in the presence of a man and thought, "Boy if I were a woman, I would really be interested in this guy." The fact that I remember these two occasions attests to the fact that this was more than an idle and unimportant observation.

There was no obvious sexual component to these feelings; I did not scare myself with a single pulse or something. But I have to say it was more than an entirely intellectual observation. And, Liz is right, "admiration" doesn't exactly describe it. There are many men I deeply admire about whom I did not make this observation. It's emotional, on some leve.

So, it's an interesting phenomenon. I'd call it a hiccup; a momentary disruption on one's personal sexual continuum.


Arlington, Va.: You're going to be insufferable to people like Liz now with your demands after the Pulitzer Prize, aren't you? People like me? What -- vegans? RLS sufferers? Irish girls?

Gene Weingarten: No more insufferable than usual.


Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Aaargh, Liz has done that. I am going to get her for this.


Alexandria, Va.: Maybe if doctors told people they were "fat" or "corpulent" instead of "overweight" it'd make a difference. For a few days anyways.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I like "portly."


Shepherd Park: Pic: Gene and the kids

I wish Dana Priest would hug me like that. Phwaoo!

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: You'll have to help her win the Pulitzer first.


Ithaca, N.Y.: If you are successful at making the case to get a parrot, what would you name him/her?

Understood about the Virginia Tech charity contribution - very nice, appropriate and all, but I am disappointed that it wasn't the bag 'o nickels option.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Jewbone.


Size 12 Beauty Queen: Gene, my biggest problem with the Fat Beauty Queen thing was that the girl was, like, the US equivalent of a size 12. Size 12 is not fat. Since you don't know what eye shadow is, there's no way you know how big a woman who wears a size 12 is. It's not big. Smaller than Marilyn Monroe, in fact.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Whoa, whoa. I'm sorry. I'm calling on women here right now to look at that body in a bikini and confirm for me that she is NOT a size 12. That cannot be a size 12.



A PARROT????: HOW could you even consider a bird as a pet? You cliam to be an animal lover? Do you know how they get most of these? They take them from their flocks in S. America in tiny cages and ship them in awful conditions. Further, just the concept of keeping a bird in a house... really, Gene. This is an animal that is social and is designed to fly. I am really really disappointed you are even thinking about this.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Uh, I am not an idiot.

I know the provenance of the bird I want. It is currently an egg being hatched in a very nice house in Virginia.


Rears, who loves your son: Haha! Gene, your son looks just like the kind of guy I would've dated in high school. Is that just a lip shadow, or is he following his proud papa into the hallowed mustachioed land?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: No mustache. An artifact of the photo.


Lawyer: Bill Self would be better if he were a pro bono lawyer.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Yep


A confession about the Pulitzer article: Gene, I have to confess that although I usually devour your articles with gusto, I couldn't bring myself to read the Josh Bell piece. I was afraid that I had either been one of the people who walked by him without recognizing his talent, or -would- have done so if I'd been on the spot at the time. Guess you could say I suffered anticipatory guilt.

I actually saved the article to read "some day," but never got around to it.

Has anyone else confessed similar misgivings/reluctance, or am I a complete freak?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: You are a complete freak.


Anonymous: I like the taste of chocolate!

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: It is SUCH a great 30 second video.


Cold Catching: Hi, Gene,

If I brush my teeth while I have a cold, then can I re-catch the cold by using the toothbrush after I get better?


Gene Weingarten: I welcome advice from a doctor, but I don't think this is a risk. I think a cold inoculates you for a time from re-getting the same cold.

I have heard the advice to change toothbrushes often, but I think this might be hysteria promoted by the toothbrush industry.


Fat girls: when I was a kid (like under 12), girls clothes were made in regular sizes and "Chubbette" sizes. My cousin was a chubbette, and that distinction alone was enough to keep me from porking out. (Unlike now, when we are "Womens" sizes as opposed to "Misses" sizes)

The boys, meanwhile, were regular sizes and "Husky" sizes, which sounded far less demeaning, and almost more macho -- something a boy could aspire to.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Nope. I know some former "Huskies". They HATED that term.


Pronunciate, VA: Q. How should you pronounce the prize you won?







Gene Weingarten: Basically, it is "pull it, sir."


Pshh!: I am an authority on what a size 12 woman looks like. In the mirror, at least.

That is not a size 12 woman.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Mancru, SH: Did Josh Bell inspire one of your man crush moments? I had quite a crush on him after reading your article...

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: No. But I know certain WOMEN who want to bear his child.


Sizes in US: Gene, sizes have changed. To flatter women, I kid you not, what used to be a size 16 now is a size 6 or 8. Fat women now honestly can say "I am OK, I can fit into an 8". I have gone to negative 0 (0 is too big) at Banana Republic and I have neither lost weight nor am I that tiny. It is really stupid.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I know! The Rib was once a size five. Now she is a zero, I think. She has always been petite.


Defintely NOT a size 12: I'm a size 10, have been a 12, absolutely not.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Virginia: I might have believed she is a size 12 if she were 5'5" or shorter. But at 5'10" and carrying that much bulk, there is no way. I am 5'7" and have a hair less padding than she and I am a 14.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Okay, we have established this.


Fat Pig: This reminds me of the play "Fat Pig" in which a good-looking guy falls for a fat girl, and his "normal" friends mock him and eventually the relationship ends because he can't come to terms with it. In the Studio Theatre version, the fat girl was played by someone who was very obese. Probably 100 pounds overweight. That's what I think you're referring to when you say unhealthy and unattractive. However - in the original Broadway show, the fat girl was played by someone who was maybe a size 12 or 14. It changes the entire meaning of the play, to me.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I have seen that play, and yes, the Fat Pig must be VERY fat for it to work. I have heard of one performance of it where, as a political statement, the Fat Pig was a normal sized woman.



The Parrot: I forget; was it Robert Benchley who said there is only one pet parrot in the world? People just keep purchasing him from the pet store, then taking him back.

I know because he lived at my house for a while and was a gift from me to my husband.

My husband was determined to feed him a diet full of fruits and veggies similar to what parrots eat in the wild. Maybe that's why he smelled so bad. He also became adept at throwing the fresh fruits and veggies far, far from the confines of his cage. And he bit.

The story does have a happy ending. Eleven months later the pet shop took him and his cage back and I didn't even have to pay them to take him back! It's been several years and I'm no longer finding dried gobs of gooey fruit stuck to the register, in the kid's hair, under the dry sink, etc.

Bleck! But what does Molly think?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Molly says no. But this is between me and Rib.

That Benchley line is great.


Is this the last chat?: Now that you're a Pulitzer winner, aren't you to good for us?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but I am contractually obligated to do this chat. Otherwise, I'd be so gone, instead consorting with other Men of Letters.


Charlotte, N.C.: Hi Gene,

This was the last post in an interesting thread in Carolyn's chat on Friday:

Re guy who "adjusts" himself:: I once worked with a guy who couldn't keep his hands off himself. It seemed completely unconscious on his part, so nobody construed it as harassment, but boy, was it unnerving. Finally, one of the other guys said, "What's the matter, Tom? You got crotch crickets?" That put an end to it.

Carolyn Hax: I'm just handing this chat over.

After I got through laughing, I thought about the two guys in my office who evidently have crotch crickets. Do guys really not realize they do this??? I thought you would be the one to ask... Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: There are lots of different means of practicing crotch cricketry. Some guys are constantly rearranging their package for comfort. Some are scratching or kneading, which is a particuarly unnerving form of scratching.

It's bad behavior and my suspicion is it is more habit than necessity. I mean, if you itch, get it looked at. There are powders.

So, yeah, what happened in this case was good. It should happen more.


Celiba, CY: Gene - I've got an issue. Been married for a few years and have a great spouse and home life. But there's minimal enjoyment in the way of romance. The spouse just isn't into it. This is a major problem for me since it makes me feel unwanted/undesired. I don't think I would ever cheat, but something's got to give on this. I don't want to go through the rest of our marriage in a semi-celibate state. Any advice? And congrats on the Poolitzer.

Gene Weingarten: Gina Barreca says: "If there is no sex in a marriage, eventually one party will find it outside the marriage."

You need to talk to each other, very plainly, about this, to forestall a fracture that is very hard to repair.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, I have realized that my dissatisfaction at work is not that, after 19 years of employment I am only an Assistant Deputy Associate Undersecretary, but that the person who does less work and has only been here 18 years is the First Assistant Deputy Associate Undersecretary. Is there no justice in this world?

Gene Weingarten: Justice comes to those who seize it. You need to kill him.


Washington, D.C.: So, do the A.J. Soprano residuals pay well enough that Dan can just slum it at a hardware store and work on a comic strip with his dad?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: You know what? He DOES look like A.J.!


Alexandria: The thing about the beauty queen is while there's consensus that being morbidly obese is very bad for your health, there's less consensus that being moderately overweight is a significant problem. Eating crap, bad; never excersizing, bad; but someone who gets moderate excersize and just eats more than necessary of reasonably healthy food, not so certain. This woman is overweight certainly, but obese, I don't think so, so we don't really know by her appearance if she's really unhealthy or not. Doesn't seem right to criticize her because other people who are even heavier than her are unhealthy (and if you going to start on the diet and excersize aspect not just her weight/appearance, it's not fair to ignore smoking-- which by the way helps you to lose weight and therefore makes you more likely to win beauty contests--)

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I am not saying SHE is unhealthy. I am saying that calling her a beauty queen is suggesting that it is okay to Let Yourself Go.


Good Genes: High school, nothing. Your son looks like the kind of guy I'd like to date NOW.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Dan is, in fact, pretty easy on the eyes.


Arlington, Va.: Hey, didn't you have a parrot before? That cost a lot? Or something?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Matthew was my favorite pet of all time. He cost $1200 to die, at a time when I didn't have a pot to pee in.


Size: Gene, since you seem to be discussing size a lot today -- it's making me lose respect for you, BTW, even with the Pulitzer win -- I would like to know whether you know anyone who has suffered from anorexia or bulemia, and how you feel about businesses using models whose BMI is below the healthy range to hawk their products. (Old Navy, for example; their models look sickly.)

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I have the same problem with that. I think that's no damn good, either.


size 12: I'm a 12 and thinks she looks just like me!

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: This is the first such post I've seen, but okay.


Hypochondria by proxy: Gene, I've read your book, so I know that one little harmless thing can actually mean a GIANT deadly thing. So it stands to reason that several little harmless things at once are not good news at all.

My husband, a trim, healthy-seeming fellow in his early 30s, is an anti-hypochondriac. He says he'll go see a doctor when he starts losing large quantities of blood. That's his threshold. Pretty much everything else, he waits for it to "clear up on its own".

About four months ago, he started having terrible headaches, accompanied by dizziness and nausea. (He's always had stress headaches. These were different.) He stopped taking OTC meds (on the theory that it was rebound headaches) and they more or less went away. The dizziness has remained. Then, two or three weeks ago, he got an awful pain in his wrists and the joints of his hands. No swelling that I can see. It has not "cleared up". And now he has occasional trembling in his hands, and has fallen down twice in the last week. (He says he tripped both times.)

I think I've convinced him to go get an MRI. At least, he got me to shut up and stop bothering him by agreeing to it. What else should I be thinking about? What's a likely diagnosis for this batch of symptoms? I know what the scariest one would be. I'm hoping for a more pedestrian idea. Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: I just consulted with Molly, who is better at this than I am. The range of symptoms can mean an infectious disease, a nerve disease, a muscle disorder, a rheumatic problem.

I'm not sure what you mean you convinced him to get an MRI? For what? Is a doctor supervising this?

He needs to see a good internist, pronto. A full system diagnostician.


Falls Church, Va.: "Each week, Gene will choose a Clip of the Day"

Doesn't this make it a Clip of the -Week-?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Yes, but CLOD is better than CLOW.


Dan: Tell him to get a haircut so he looks more like Harry Potter again.

Now THAT was hot.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Lately, Dan has been going for the Jesus look. He even toyed with a beard.


re: Celibacy: I was there. I tried to talk. For 20 years. She refused to agree it was a problem. I begged. It did not work. I finally left. My self-esteem was in the toilet, and it has taken several years of therapy to believe I am not repellent. I now wish I had left after a year, despite having children. Sex is part of marriage. To shut the other person out is an act of profound disrespect (obviously, if there are health reasons, etc, that is different).

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Anonymous: It is important to keep your bird out of a draft.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: It is.


Washington, D.C.: What is your opinion about the difference between the posters on the Gene Pool and here on the chat? Is it so dramatic (Gene Pool seems much angrier and quick to take offense) because different people (e.g. non-chatters) are posting or is Liz just that good at her job?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: It's both. It's also that I have a leavening effect on the discourse. But I think mostly, there are two distinct audiences, which I am fine with.


Toilets, US: Hi Gene and congrats on your prize.

What is your opinion of an Olympics boycott? I think it would be appropriate for this chat to start a boycott petition for no other reason than the shortage of seated, flush toilets in China. (Not to mention the lack of toilet paper.)

What say you?

P.S. I haven't seen the chat in a couple weeks so please ignore this question if already discussed.

Gene Weingarten: I really like this idea! The campaign must have NOTHING to do with human rights abuses, other than toilets and toilet paper. How do we start it?


Pull It, Sir: Does this mean that Paris Hilton might have a shot at a MacArthur Fellowship?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. If I can win the Pulitzer and Kissinger can win the Nobel, Paris can win a genius grant.


Chicago, Ill.: Hey Gene.

I'm a bit confused. From everything that you stated about your wife, I've gathered that she's a very intelligent person. It seems strange to me that she'd ask you to wear a wedding band. Isn't that like putting an alarm on your car?

Gene Weingarten: I love this comparison. It's really ingenious.


Presi, dents: I read your list of top presidents with interest. Funny, isn't it, that they are all divisive figures? You don't get a much more divisive president than FDR or Lincoln. So why is it now such a negative to be viewed as divisive? Is it just that history is kinder if you are divisive?

Gene Weingarten: This is a good question.

Washington was the opposite of divisive, but most of the others at the top were. One of the first things Teddy Roosevelt did was invite Booker T. Washington to the White House, which instantly re-poisened much of the white south against all Republicans.

I think the reason for this is that great presidents are in power during troubled times, when solutions are not clear and implementing them is not easy. These presidents push their agendas forcefully, so they'll find many detractors. If these forceful pushers are largely correct -- like FDR, Lincoln, Teddy, and Polk -- they are perceived as great. If they are largely misguided and inept -- like the current occupant of the White House -- they wind up in the trash heap of history.


Crochety: Is Crotch Cricketry like Pocket Pool?

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I think pocket pool is different.


Alexandria, Va.: Gene -

What's your opinion of a writer who faithfully reports the answers given to an interview, but then changes the questions asked for the story?

Beause I hope you realize that's exactly what you did for the latest Gene Pool topic. Made the posters on the first couple of pages look like clods for not congratulating you on the Pulitzer, when you hadn't shared that information yet!

But congratulations anyway - you deserved it. You are as obnoxious as hell, but you do occasionally write superbly.

Gene Weingarten: I know! That's sort of unfortunate. I probably should have pulled the queston after 3 p.m. yesterday, but the poll and pool (ooh) were both intended to keep me grounded.

Actually, anyone posting early could always return to the pool for a second dip, no?


Montclair, Va.: No other forum seems suitable for this, so I hope it doesn't get lost in the hoopla surrounding the Pulitzer thing. Last week the WP ran an article that described female police chief Kathy Lanier as "hot." There was a letter in Saturday's WP complaining about the use of that word because the rest of the story had nothing to do with her looks, but rather her competence. Was the use of the word justified? Should she ever be described as "hot," even though from the point of view of this male, she is hot? Did any females ever think former chief Ramsey was "hot"? I can see where they might.

Gene Weingarten: Whoa, whoa. The "hot" reference was in a story by Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger. It was a chatty VIP society story about who attended the parties for the new Nationals Stadium. It said Cathy Lanier "looked hot in her long dress coat with epaulets and stars and a pair of sexy-tough boots -- very Condi-in-Wiesbaden."

Perfectly appropriate for that kinda story. And very descriptive.

Back off, fuming feminists. The story was fun, written by two chicks. It also talked about how Fenty was dressed.


DC: This morning, every reference to your name on your Wikipedia site was prefaced with "Pulitizer Prize-winner." Now, sadly, that's gone. But I do hope you had a hand in the original change.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahaha.

No, I didn't. But I know who probably busted it. Greg Oshel is my personal protector on Wiki. I wrote a column about him once.


Poll: Yikes, I had a difficult time with the poll. I like your nasty, mean columns.

But it was worth it to get to the last question. "Distinguished"? I actually laughed out loud when I got to that choice.

Gene Weingarten: And THAT was the ultimate joke in the poll!

The formal wording of the Pulitzer says "distinguished feature writing."

Heh heh.


Provo, Utah: I was raised conservative Christian (note my location ...), and while I like to think I avoid the worst pitfalls of my upbringing - at least socially and politically - there are many concepts that I still adhere to which would result in some conflict between the two of us were we ever to have such a discussion in person.

However, you could be my dad's cousin Dale's younger brother that I never met. Both in appearance and attitude you are a close match. He is a school music teacher now; he and his wife had a band for years and years.

Sadly, this is the best picture I can find of him online just now, as his personal web site ( is devoid of content just now, and I'm kind of impulsively sending you this comment from work so I don't have anything I could put up myself handy.

Anyway, you're practically a member of my family, so I haven't got much to say bad about you. I haven't ever gotten around to hearing your voice, and since he is a singer - among other things, I expect some contrast there.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. His a little paunchier than I am, but that could really be me.

Gene Weingarten: Same doofy posture, too.


Fairfax, Va.: Gene, I'm recovering from reconstructive knee surgery -- tore my ACL. Is it funny or cruel that I showed my scars to my four-year-old niece, told her it was okay to touch them, and when she did screamed in fake pain?

On another note, I have 59 (out of 60) Vicodin left over. How much can I get for those on the black market?

Gene Weingarten: I once wrote a screenplay in which the opening scene was in a barber shop. A little obnoxious boy was about to get his first hairut, and was being bribed by his obnoxious mom not to cry, it doesn't hurt, etc.

Then a smartass in the next chair started screaming from his haircut, saying his hair was bleeding, accusing the barber of being a butcher, etc.

Send the vicodin to me. I will make sure they are properly disposed of.


Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: And with that, we are down.

Hey, this chat set a record for the most questions ever, a record we will likely never approach again. Thank you all, and thank you for so many nice words we never posted.

There will be an update.

See you next week.

_______________________ As promised... Here's some video of the newsroom announcement, video of Gene and others speaking after the win and Gene on NPR Monday afternoon.


UPDATED 4.9.08

Your Chippies: Hey Gene, we thought you and your legions of fans would approve of this project we're working on. Here's the solicitation that's run in various online and print forms (and FYI, we're still accepting inquiries):

We hate weddings. Let us plan yours (free)

Have you had it with the all-consuming, insanity-inducing Matrimonial Industrial Complex? Are you looking for a wedding that celebrates your love rather than a $3,000 beaded gown or embroidered cocktail napkins that match the groomsmen's vests that match the specially made jelly beans handed out in silk bags as wedding favors? A local publication is looking for an engaged couple brave enough, secure enough, in love enough to let their wedding be a statement, a rebellion aimed directly at Wedding Obsessed America. We'll plan a very inexpensive, unique, stunningly unorthodox affair to remember in the DC metro area. Preference will be given to events than can be staged in Spring/Summer 2008.

Interested? Contact us at

Gene Weingarten: How cheap? How unorthodox? How seditious? This could be something related to marriage that I might actually endorse!


Gene Weingarten: Several readers have written i to ask what I meant by "The Marilyn Myth." I am going to explain, but only after asserting to certain women readers that this is not personal. This is science, and doing what I am about to do gives me no joy.

In "I'm With Stupid," Gina Barreca and I exploded the Marilyn Myth. That is, I exploded the myth while Gina stood by and sputtered uncontrollably.

There exists in lore and on the Web the contention, repeated time and again by weight-loss advocates and others, that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16. This is supposed to give comfort, hope, and succor to all women of a certain weight. And I can see how it would. Unfortunately, it is total balderdash, and in the book I proved it. How did I prove it? I called Thomas Noguchi, the coroner to the stars, who performed Marilyn's autopsy on Aug. 4, 1962. Here is how the conversation went:

Me: How much did Ms. Monroe weigh, naked, at the time of her death?

Dr. Noguchi: One hundred seventeen pounds.

Me: And are you confident your scales were accurate? Could they have been in error by, say, 50 pounds?

Dr. Noguchi: Weighing peolple's remains is a serious business. We use a body scale. We weigh the body on a gurney and then subtract the weight of the gurney.

Marilyn was five foot five and a half inches tall. She weighed 117 pounds. She likely never got above 125 pounds. By no standards -- even those of 1962, pre size deflation -- did she wear a 16. At the most, fashion experts say, she was a size 12, which today would be about an 8.



Speaking of 'husky': I love the exchange in "I'm With Stupid" with Gina during which you pointed out that plus-sized women's stores have elegant, often French names, while big guys' stores are called things like Fat Sloppy Beefstick Junction.

Gene Weingarten: Exactly. "The Big Slobby Fat Guy's Barn." And stores for big women have names like "Giselle Depardieux, Ltd." There is a whole heck of a lot of euphemism and denial in place in the women's weight industry.


Size 12: She might be a size 12, depending on the clothing style. Also epends how sqooshible that fat is.

Oftentimes, when fat people start exercising, their size increases because the unlying muscle that develops makes it harder to squeeze into clothes (but onces that muscle develops, it also helps eventally burn away the fat).

I understand your point about the beauty queen, but I think you misunderstand the psychology of overweight women. She gives severly overweight women an achievable goal that, once they start working towards, they might be able to surpass.

Do you really think having her win a pagent is going to make average size woman say - hey, I'm going to start porking out so I can look like her?

Obese people know how they look, and saying that someone who is two sizes smaller than them should be automatically excluded from a pagent will make them less likely to get healthy, not more.

Gene Weingarten: I hadn't thought about it quite that way; that seriously overweight women might look at her, and think, I can achieve THAT, and if THAT is declaired beauty, all is great.

It's a valid point, and gives me pause. But it also sounds to me a litle like the bus company's solution to the obesity epidemic: Widen the seats.

I want to says something else about this topic: I am neither unaware of, or unsympathetic to, the difficult problem of weight control. My father was my height and weighed, at one point in his life, 240 pounds. At 170-180 pounds, I feel I have been overweight my whole adult life, and have been unable to get at or near my ideal weight. We are a rich society, and there are rich temptations, and we are a sedentary society, and it is all not good for us.


Arlington, Va.: I think it's a little disgusting that you are asking people to dissect a woman's body. You wonder why women go on crash diets, have eating disorders, and live their lives hating themselves. Because even if they are a 12 or 14 or whatever, someone will try to tell them they aren't or that they're lying. AS IF IT IS YOUR BUSINESS.

I have to say this is a new low. I cannot read your chats or columns anymore. I can't do it. Sorry. The Pulitzer is obviously not given out for being a decent human being.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry to see you go, but your argument is ridiculous.

This is not some woman we plucked off the street. She is a contestant in a beauty contest. She posed in a bikini and invited photographers in. She wants us to look at her body, and discuss it. That's the point. She is making it my business


UPDATED 4.10.08

Alexandria, Va.: What happened to the response from tall people at the movies?

Gene Weingarten: I got a lot of them. Summary: They are well aware of their height, and embarrassed at the inconvenience they might cause. They love stadium seating because it mostly lets them off the hook. They tend to come to movies early, so they can get a seat with no one behind them, meaning anyone who sits behind them does so by choice or necessity. And they scrunch down a lot.


ATX: You said you'd never write your wife's name in you chats, but I happen to know there was one chat where you gave her full name. Gotcha!

Gene Weingarten: Hundreds of people sent in this gotcha.

Yes, of course I know. I revealed her name in a chat five years ago, when the chats were young. I didn't know they were going to become a Web phenomenon, or that I would one day with the Pulitzer.

Yes, the reference is there for anyone to see, but I am not going to give it new life in this chat.

(Dave Barry has also written about her by name.)


St. Louis, Mo.: "Pulitzer Prize-winner Gene Weingarten: I am not saying SHE is unhealthy. I am saying that calling her a beauty queen is suggesting that it is okay to Let Yourself Go."

In the same way that calling a woman with anorexia a beauty queen would suggest that it's okay to starve yourself?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, in exactly that same way. I have never said or implied otherwise. I abhore the half-dead cadaverous look.


Hey Moron, if you don't get it... well, you know.: "I think the main way it differed from most previous winners in the category of features was that it was not tragedy."

If anything proves you're still a moron, a lovable moron, but a moron nevertheless, this is it. It was a tragedy. Many people read it that way. Many of us wondered what we passed by in our lives, what we missed, what we're missing... it was a tragedy!

Gene Weingarten: Not compared to a Boy With No Face.

The two runners-up this year were:

The story of a man and his daughter who were mauled by a grizzly bear; and the reconstruction of a bus accident in which dozens of people died, including children.

I have not read the second piece, but the first, by Thomas Curwen of the LA Times, was extraordinary. I am humbled that I was compared favorably to it.


Congrats, but. . . : The grizzly bear story (the LA Times story nominated for the feature Pulitzer) made me cry. The Josh Bell story did not. How, if at all, should that play into a decision about which is better?

Gene Weingarten: I think that should count!


UPDATED 4.11.08

Marilyn My,TH: OK Gene, you're right, Marilyn wasn't a fattie, she was pretty normal, average, healthy, etc. for her height. The point is that she was representing what normal women looked like and she was a sex symbol, arguably the most desired women of her time. Today, successful models and Hollywood stars are not 5'5", 125 lbs, and a size 8, they're 5'8", 105, and size 0. Marilyn was normal, which makes women more comfortable with her and her sexuality (and their sexuality, in extension). And yes, it's sad that our perception of what is beautiful has become so distorted that we have begun to see Marilyn as fat or chubby or overweight. But in comparison to today's stars, she is.

And virtual panty flinging etc., from a hot 22-year-old writer who wishes she could write half as well as you do.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. Listen. I disagree with you and many other posters on your central premise. I don't think the image of the modern, beautiful woman is that of an emaciated cadaver. I think this is a phony generalization. Fashion models are ridiculously skinny, but no one looks at models as a beauty ideal; everyone understands they are almost a caricature.

Sure, there are Kirsten Dunsts, but I don't think they are seen as any sort of ideal. I think the most celebrated modern sexpot is probably Scarlett Johansson. Let's take a look at Ms. Johansson here.

To me, this is a stunning hottie with a terrific body, and I don't believe that her body is at all emaciated. I think this is close to the modern ideal.

Now if you look at Scarlett and your reaction is that she is a scarecrow, a pair of tweezers, a cadaver, well, then, we are simply never going to agree on this.

Want an example a little more mature? Liz, can you link to a shot of Halle Berry, where her body is most evident? Halle Berry


Mr. Willia,MS: ... is the Gene Weingarten of math teachers. He will tell you you're wrong while making you laugh. He has hoards of former students all over the country who adore him.

A mild correction: he teaches at Longfellow Middle School.

Gene Weingarten: Right. Sorry. Got the school wrong.


Because this is anonymous: OK, so with all of the debate about the beauty queen, I have my own question (that I can't ask in normal company without sounding full of myself).

I am a 6 foot tall woman and I am slim (luck of genes as I have never consciously dieted and as of this morning weighed 137). I am regularly told that I should model - by friends, acquaintances, passersby on the street. This happens weekly or more often (it happened 3 times yesterday, which was what made me wonder this). How should I respond to these comments? When I just smile and say 'thank you,' people always seem disappointed that I don't give their statement more value. When I actually respond with something more substantial, I feel like I sound vain or that I agree with them. Or, the one time I responded with a 'How do you propose I do that?,' I just came across as obnoxious and ungrateful.

And I'm an engineer! I want to be taken seriously and not feel like people only see my height/looks/whatever. What is the appropriate response?

Gene Weingarten: The appropriate response is: "Why thank you. Most people are too bashful to suggest to someone what career path they should take, based entirely on a physical appraisal. Let me return the favor. Have you considered a career in large appliance repair?"


Parrothead: Liz can you imagine what a parrot would sound like once it began imitating Gene's voice?

PLEASE talk him out of it, for the parrot's sake.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


Hugging Pic: Does Anne Hull have two right arms?

Gene Weingarten: Liz, can we link to this picture again? The one you linked to in the chat itself?

Rachel Manteuffel, who is pictured against the wall in the far rear, emailed me with the same question. I'll take explanations from people, please?

I can confirm, though, that Anne has only one right arm. Anne Hull, the Inspector Gadget of Post reporters.


Congrats on the Pulitzer: I was going to submit a comment to the chat, but then I had to go throw myself under a bus because I'm larger than the teenage girl you've declared to be too fat to enter a beauty pageant. (Maybe this is your plan - drive the obese to despair and suicide, to spare society the trouble of dealing with them.)

I have a picture of myself at 17, five-foot-four, 128 pounds, size 12. I'm at the pool, but I'm wearing a t-shirt over my bathing suit because I wouldn't let myself be photographed in a bathing suit because I was convinced I was hideously fat. Somehow the constant drone of the same kind of sanctimonious judgmental crap that you're peddling did not inspire me to take joy in my then healthy BMI of 22, rather than engage in a health-damaging rollercoaster of loss and gain that's brought me to a BMI of 35.

The idea that a teenage girl shouldn't be allowed in a beauty contest because she is a size 16 is part of the same mindset that makes people think they have to lose weight before they can go to the gym. They believe (rightly, apparently)that the jowly, slovenly dressed humor writer with the dead animal perched on his upper lip is going to be judging them for how they look.

Gads, if this arrogant attitude of yours is not a pose, the Rib must either be a figment of your imagination or a woman of very little taste indeed. Is it possible she puts up with you because it feeds her ego that a man who looks down his nose at such a large percentage of the human race (those stupid enough to have religious face, those polite enough not to go banging into other people's bumpers because "that's the way you parallel park") is convinced that she's practically perfect?

Sorry I can't spare any virtual panties. I haven't done laundry yet this week, and I need the last clean pair, because my mother always told me that if you're going to throw yourself under a bus, at least be sure you're wearing clean underwear. (She was a nurse, so I don't know how it escaped her that after getting hit by the bus, the undies weren't likely to be clean anymore. Especially if you were killed, what with the sphincters relaxing and all.)

(Oh, I just used the "Congrats on the Pulitzer" heading to increase the chances you might read it. I'm finding myself doubting the whole self-deprecating persona.)

Gene Weingarten: And I think we'll end the week with this.


Submit questions and comments to next week's chat with a Pulitzer Prize winner.


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