Chatological Humor: Now with Tentacles! (UPDATED 4.18.08)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 15, 2008; 12:00 PM

Trouble viewing this week's chat? Please e-mail me at liz.kelly@washingtonpost.com with the type of computer and browser you were using to access the chat. The transcript should now be available and viewable below. -- Liz

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, 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: MEN | WOMEN

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

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Periodically, something small occurs around us, and goes almost unnoticed, but it signals something far greater and more dire about the state of our culture. Usually these things are discovered in retrospect. A good example is bowling alone -- a trend identified by political scientist Robert Putnam, who used this phenomenon to write a best-selling book about America's new social isolationism and the breakdown of community.

I have lately noticed something, too, that is equally disturbing. We shall call it The Calimari Catastrophe.

It used to be that when one ordered calamari in a restaurant, one got a meal with two parts: the rings, which are the neatly shaped transverse-sliced body of the squid, and the tentacles, or, as The Rib has always called them, "the creepy crawlies." The calamari rings are clean and uniform do not resemble what they are. The tentacles are rude and slightly disturbing, perhaps, and have the single, meager virtue of tasting much, much, much better. They are succulent, and have a far more interesting texture than the comparatively boring rings. Any chef or food expert will confirm this.

It is now almost impossible to find tentacles in an order of squid. Many, many restaurants have stopped serving them because Americans would prefer not to look at them. We would prefer to eat the comfortable, tasteless part. This is the definition of lack of sophistication. We have, in effect, confirmed the French stereotype about us. This is the second step of a three-step process. The first was our classless, lazy, insipid love affair with automatic transmissions.

I am not sure what step three will be. But I am thinking about it. And when I can predict it, I shall write a best-selling book about it and you will all be jealous.

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Here is another thought that I had: You know how surnames used to relate to one's occupation? Clarke was a clerk, Cooper was a barrel maker, Smith was a smithy, and thus such? (Wait, what was Jones? A drug addict?) Well, anyway, the name "Webster" should take on a new dimension in the current age of the Internet. IT people with bad surnames should change their names to Webster. Not a sermon, just a thought.

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I want to thank Andrew Cullen for pointing out a wonderful inaptonym contained in this story.

Yes, the church has closed a school named "Our Lady of Perpetual Help." Also, two people were kind enough to notice that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a story about a personal trainer who got breast implants. Her name is Fran Mammarelli.

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Today's CLOD, or clip of the day, was submitted by Dave Zarrow. It is a video of Calvin, his step granddog, who got a little tired during Saturday's walk in the rain.

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Okay, that was short. Here's another fabulous CLOD from a recent Daily Show. What you need to know about this is that after the rehearsal, the writers substituted an entire new (and apparently far more lascivious) list of names, without telling Stewart. Which explains his reaction.

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Meanwhile, we have figured out the mystery of Anne Hull's second right arm in this photo from last week. It's an interesting illusion created by an unusual arm angle, a confusing patch of black. The upper hand belongs to Dana Priest, and contrary to appearances, it is not embracing Michel DuCille from a distance, but is wrapped around his body, and is an arm of normal length. It still looks mighty weird.

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Please take today's poll. Yes, these are dated jokes, and more than one youngster has petulantly pointed out that movie theaters don't have balconies anymore and that nobody wires anyone. Yes, true, true, and no one knows what a malmsey butt is anymore, but people still enjoy Richard III. Sheesh. The point is, these jokes can be graded. And I will do so. And, yes, you are doing quite well.

The CPOW is today's Speed Bump. The First Runner-Up is Sunday's Lio. Honorables: Yesterday's Brewster Rockit, Sunday's Speed Bump.

Can anyone explain yesterday's Speed Bump? He seems to be talking about the shoes, but I'm still not getting it.

Okay, let's go.

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Liber, AL: OK, this is a little behind, but here's my question to pose to the Gene Pool: A few weeks ago a chatter posted the various opposing positions of Barack Obama and John McCain and asked, How could anyone consider voting for both?

What if you don't agree with either candidate more than half the time? In fact, why would you agree with either candidate all the time? What does the Iraq war have to do with abortion, with tax policy, with ethanol subsidies? It seems unnatural to me that people in general fall on one or the other side of entire suites of issues.

So my question is, "Why are people liberal and conservative? Why are you?"

Gene Weingarten: Hmm.

I think the answer is that being libera and being conservative entail pretty consistent world views. Conservatives love the nuclear family and religion and the United States and want the triumph of individualism, whereas liberals hate the nuclear family and religion and mistrust the United States and want the triumph of socialism and government paternalism.

That's one way of looking at it. Another way is that conservatives are flag waving, me-first bible-thumping hypocrites and liberals are, basically, intelligent, compassionate humanists.

Either way you are on one side or the other. And there is another factor: The effect of team loyalty. You identify with one side, and suddenly, you are identifying with everything they do and hating the enemy. This becomes crystallized when the enemy is demonstrably loathsome. If you are libeal, you can hate this war because it is a truly idiotic war, or, if you don't buy that, you can hate it because it is Bush's war.

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Tentacles...: Are the dark meat of the sea.

Gene Weingarten: That is correct.

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Lanham, Md.: I hope that during this election cycle the folks who voted for Bush have their heads out their a--es. A white man (Navy ADM) and a white women (ex-First Lady) are prattling on about the black son of a single mother being "elitist." People, don't fall for it!

Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed, but it was a serious gaffe. It is going to hurt Obama a lot. He needs to defuse it in a really convincing way.

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DeltaWest?: Gene,

I think we have an opportunity for some fun here. What should Delta and Northwest rename themselves, in a perfect world? My boyfriend and I, in an effort not to pitch ourselves over the cliff last night in a fit of academia-induced exhaustion, decided they should scramble the letters in their names to come up with one original name. Not every letter must be used, but no letter can be used more than once, and no outside letters can be introduced. The best we came up with, credited to my handsome, wonderful boyfriend, is Lon Deathstrew. I'd like to introduce the concept here, because I think you and the audience might enjoy it. Cheers!

Gene Weingarten: I think the best name for an airline was created by Dave Barry in his first novel, Big Trouble. It was "Impact! Air."

Gene Weingarten: Actually, it was "Air Impact!"

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Re: Yesterday's Speed Bump: I think the point of this is that the Crocs shoe fad has finally penetrated to its fullest possible extent, and now even manly, flannel-shirt-wearing, ax-wielding lumberjacks are wearing them.

Now maybe they'll go away.

Gene Weingarten: I guess. Okay.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene

Where do these smart, beautiful women that Gina talks about hang out? I am, by all accounts (friends, co-workers, etc), a good-looking great guy who is smart, funny, financially secure. Yet I am left looking at Date Lab and internet dating as viable options.

BTW, I always thought that when one makes generalizations-- you always get into trouble and self-fulfilling propehcies (e.g. smart men won't date smart women, etc.).

washingtonpost.com: Revenge of the Nerds (Post Magazine, April 13)

Gene Weingarten: All those women hang out with Gina.

Then again, I'm trusting Gina's taste in looks, which, now that I think about it, might be a mistake. Liz, can you link to a column I did with Gina a few years ago, when she tried to find a match for me with an online dating service? Search for, believe it or not, "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (Sept. 8, 2002)

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Great Writi, NG: Gene,

I just reread Pearls Before Breakfast, and I realized it was written entirely in the present tense, which gave it a great deal of immediacy and action. Was this a conscious decision? Did you try other approaches before you hit on it?

Gene Weingarten: Ah, but it was NOT told entirely in the present tense. The first half of it is entirely in the past tense.

I moved to the present tense only after I said that to understand what really happened that day, you have to rewind the videotape, and go back to that day, to the moment Josh's bow first hit the violin strings.

Much of the rest of the story is in the present tense, because I am bringing the reader back to the scene, and we are reliving it together, as though we are all there.

Very conscious decision.

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Bethesda, Md.: Have you heard of the recent trend of women who are getting married having "lingerie parties"? Apparently all the women are required to buy the bride lingerie now too. So the shower, bachelorette party, and wedding aren't enough gifts; we now have to actually buy the bride lingerie!!

Gene, I'm totally outraged about this. When does the madness stop? Ladies, if you invite me to your lingerie party,

I'm buying you a $3 bra from Target.

Gene Weingarten: Liz, can we re-link to that post by the anti-wedding planners from last week's update?

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washingtonpost.com: 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 antiweddingplanners@gmail.com.

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Calama, RI: Go to a Chinese seafood restaurant and order the salt and pepper squid. You'll get a nice big order of fried calamari with tentacles that tastes better than anything you'd get in an Italian place.

Did you know that here in Boston, potstickers used to be (and in some places still are) called Peking ravioli? When Joyce Chen opened her first restaurant in the predominantly Italian North End back in the '50s, she called them that to make them more familiar to the neighborhood locals. For the same reason, you're more likely to find "calamari" on a Chinese restaurant menu here than "squid."

Gene Weingarten: You're right. I think if you can find calamari in a Chinese restaurant, you'll get the tentacles. For now. But market pressures will prevail.

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Uncompromisi, NG: As of 3 p.m. on Monday, about 30 percent of the poll respondents are morons. Number 5 is hilarious. It also has the best meter of any punchline there. Sure, number 2 is funny, but does it roll off the tongue like "Cancer of the shoe"?

No. No it does not.

Gene Weingarten: Cancer of the shoe is both very good and very bad. I will explain.

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Broadlands, Va.: Hi Gene.

I had the pleasure of hearing your interview on NPR this past weekend (followed immediately by a bit about how difficult punditry really is).

Would your voice be appropriately described as the worst vocal aspects of Billy Crystal and David Katz plus the best of Gilbert Gottfried?

Sorry if that's too harsh. It was a very good interview, though. Thanks for sharing!

Gene Weingarten: I sound like a man born without testicles, and with a kazoo lodged in his nose.

It is impossible to offend me by describing my voice. I just Know.

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Bad Day: What do you say to yourself when you have a long string of bad days? Like, four straight months?

I'm one mistake away from getting fired, was recently foreclosed, have 47K in debt.

I have two little babies, 1 and 2, and I keep thinking that maybe the best thing about me is 500K in life insurance.

I couldn't bear to leave my kids, but I don't know how to snap out of this.

Gene Weingarten: First, forget offing yourself. For one thing, insurers don't pay if they can make a reasonable case for suicide. For another, your children need a loving father (I'm presuming you're male) more than they need money. I can tell you that suicide puts an indelible stain on every life it touches, even very young ones.

So that option is out.

Second,your debt is nothing. I know it seems insuperable but it is nothing. You need to see a financial manager, explain where you are, and get some help. Credit card companies are famously willing to take pennies on the dollar in structured settlements.

Third, you could use counseling. You're not mentally ill, or emotionally disturbed, you are reacting with panic -- a reasonable, if destructive reaction -- to a genuine crisis. But you know what? These crises are financial, and financial crises are resolvable.

There's another reason for seeking counseling -- establishing, officialy, that you have a problem. I'm not an expert in workplace laws, but I believe that it's harder to fire someone who is seeking help for a mental problem; a counselor can tell you how to go about establishing this.

Listen: You don't have a fatal disease. More important, your children are not dying. You are not facing prison. There are tens of thousands of people in far more dire situations than you are. You're in a pit, but it's not as deep as you think, and but you have hands and determination, and you can crawl out of it.

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Thoughts from another funny old guy: Garrison Keillor's web site recently had a letter from a 22-year-old woman, "Heather," who was considering getting a tattoo of Garrison's face on her arm. This was his reply:

"Heather, Heather. I am a 65-year-old writer with thinning hair and a pierced heart and no tattoos and I adore your letter and your spirit but I would be horrified if you had my likeness tattooed on your bicep. You asked and that's the answer, darling. It's only a radio show and these things come and go and in two years you'll be on to other things but the tattoo will hang around and when you're 35 you'll look at it and wonder, What was I thinking? You'll feel odd about wearing a short-sleeved shirt because you'll be sick of people asking you, Who is that? "Oh, somebody I used to know," you'll say. Why burden yourself with this? Life is about change and staying light on your feet and being free, and a tattoo, dear Heather, is Baggage. And your skin is lovely as it is and needs no decoration. Wait until you're 50 and your skin isn't so great and you have a better idea who you are. Check with me then, and if you want a picture of a 92-year-old guy on your bicep, hey, why not."

So, Gene, here's what I want to know.

1. What do you think of Garrison's response? I personally think it was a brilliant argument against tats. Baggage, who needs it?

2. Have any of your nubile young fans gotten YOUR face tattooed somewhere? Now that's a goal to shoot for. Pulitzer, Schmulitzer.

Gene Weingarten: I think it's a great answer, but I do suspect the original poster might have been putting him on.

I'm not against tats. But I think you have to be real careful about what you choose to make permanent.

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Calamari: Hey! I like the creepy crawlie parts! I don't get out to eat in the "fancy" dining establishments much so I didn't know they had stopped serving them.

Grumble.

Gene Weingarten: It is a horror.

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Under my Desk, Va.: Re: Tentacles

I was just noticing this over the weekend - when we got our order, I was looking for the tentacles - sadly, none were to be found. It was a disappointing moment.

I would think, though, that this comes from the same place as those sci-fi depictions of being able to take food in pill form, and calling it progress...

Gene Weingarten: We need a movement.

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A Poem: One evening in October, when I was one-third sober,

An' taking home a load with manly pride;

My poor feet began to stutter, so I lay down in the gutter,

And a pig came up an' lay down by my side;

Then we sang 'It's all fair weather when good fellows get together,

'Till a lady passing by was heard to say:

'You can tell a man who "boozes" by the company he chooses'

And the pig got up and slowly walked away.

~ Benjamin Hapgood Burt

Gene Weingarten: I have always loved this poem.

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Not Preg, GO: Dear Gene:

I feel that you are the only person I know who can be trusted with this question.

I am a mid-20s, decently attractive female. I also happen, via mostly genetic factors, to have a large tummy. That's where the fat in my body concentrates, instead of in my hips like most women, and on top of that, I have a gastrointestinal condition that causes me to bloat after eating. Please note that I am normally proportioned in all other areas of my body.

Now, here's the problem. Quite frequently, it would appear that I am in months 5 to 6 of a pregnancy. Which leads to the inevitable questioning from rude strangers, ranging from some guy in a store saying, "Hey, you got a baby growin' in there?" to someone in a professional setting, in front of my colleagues (!!) saying, "When's the big day?!"

Not only is this pretty embarrassing, I think it is unbelievably rude! Here is where you come in: how do I respond to these people? I need the wittiest, snappiest comeback you can come up with, that will instantly neutralize these jerkos.

Thanks for your help.

- Not Pregs

Gene Weingarten: Ask them if they want to feel the baby kick. When they say yes, kick them.

Or, alternatively, when they say yes, put their hand on your stomach. Assure them the baby will kick any minute, and then go about your business until they give up and slink away.

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Female Ide, AL: A guy here. One problem with the ideal women you showed in last week's chat updates is that we never get to see them in person - only in pictures. Scarlett and Halle are SMOKIN'! on film, but I bet in real life they'd look skinny. The camera add pounds. I'd love the chance to find out myself, but there's no way. You're a Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist With An Extremely Understanding Wife - how about you and Gina and the Rib visit them in person and check them out. You should bring along some other guy with more average tastes - someone who doesn't like his women quite as skinny as you seem to.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but I don't see how any pounds are added in this photo.

Yeah, it's just another excuse to link to this photo.

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washingtonpost.com: Thank you to everyone who has gotten on board with sending pre-coded html links. It makes my life easier and I know Gene -- a Pulitzer Prize winner -- really appreciates it, too.

washingtonpost.com: Thank you to everyone who has gotten on board with sending pre-coded html links. It makes my life easier and I know Gene -- a Pulitzer Prize winner -- really appreciates it, too.

Gene Weingarten: Gene is posting this even though he doesn't understand it because he fears the wrath of Liz.

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Calama, RI: The squeamishness it is just more along the lines of people's not wanting to know what their food is of where it came from. People want to eat meat, but dog forbid if they actually see what happens to get it on their plate. I think everyone who wants to eat meat needs to go to a farm, see animals slaughtered, read the studies on how intelligent pigs (and other animals, for that matter) are, etc, and then decide. The decision to eat a pig but not a dog is utterly arbitrary.

Gene Weingarten: I agree. But you cannot make the same argument about squid.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: The discussions have been too serious lately. How about something more fun? You told yoga lady that she farted when doing yoga at home but not at class because of all the movement in getting to class got the farts out. How come when I wake up in the morning all I have to do is move slightly (roll over or stretch) and I fart but when I get up in the middle of the night it requires at least walking to the bathroom before anything happens? This is much more important than a discussion on the Pulitzer.

Gene Weingarten: Farting upon wakeage is a near universal phenomenon. It is because gases have built up in the colon and you have been relatively still, so they are quiescent, happy to lie where they are. When you move you jiggle stuff around, the gases are dislodged, and move.

I don't know about the middle of the night thing. Can anyone explain?

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Gene Weingarten:
Okay, the poll. You did very well. These are all at least passably funny jokes, except for number one (radio-crash) which is stupid. It's got nothing. It's illogical (who worries about hearing a crash?) and just lame.

Set-up and punch line jokes are good because they are unexpected, or because they create a funny mental image, or because they expose something funny about the human condition. Another, lesser criterion is conciseness. I am using these criteria to judge these eleven jokes.

The best jokes are 2 (seeing eye dog), 4 (prostitute) and 6 (balcony). I'll go with 4 as the funniest, followed by 2.

Six should be the funniest because it is very unexpected, and creates a hilarious mental image, but it loses a point or two because of a contrivance flaw. The first question the cop is going to ask is not going to be "Where are you from?"

It is interesting that women didn't like number two. Ladies, humor must be judged absent personal biases. It's a great zinger. A good joke.

Seven, the one about the train and the bed, is my next choice (it gets points for being preposterous in order to set up the punch line, a bit of meta-humor) followed closely by three and nine.

One joke is almost unrankable, just like Lyndon Johnson. Cancer of the shoe is a very funny concept. Totally unexpected. It gets points for finding humor in cancer. It loses points because it is really stupid, and because of some faint illogic. Doesn't matter how many puffs the guy takes, he's still gonna stomp out the cigarette. Okay, wait. As I write this, I reject that last argument. Number five is funny, even though Chatwoman hated it.

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Calama, RI: My problem isn't with the various parts so much as that it's hard to find the squid in a preparation other than breaded-and-fried. In the heyday of the Atkins craze a local brewpub had a very nice spicy "naked" calamari dish, but it has since vanished from the menu.

Gene Weingarten: Squid cooked in its own ink might be the best preparation.

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Women and Humor: This idea that women aren't funny is, honestly, kind of new to me. I come from a really funny family, (of course I'm biased) and my mom and I (I'm female) are the biggest jokers. My whole life I have been surrounded by women friends and relatives who can make me laugh so hard I pee a little. I've sort of seen the debate about women and humor as an anomaly.

Then last week my university had novelist Tim O'Brien (The Things They Carried) visit and give a lecture. He is one of my literary idols, so I was bummed to hear the following story. At a cocktail party after his reading, he spent time talking to a good friend of mine. Later, he told her husband, "I usually don't find women funny, but your wife is FUNNY!"

What the hell? Where does this attitude come from? I believe there are definite gender differences in certain areas, but this one -- to me -- has no legs, and just smacks of sexism. Please enlighten me.

Gene Weingarten: Liz, can we link to the column I did on this? Search for me, Tamara and Manteuffel. That should get it.

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South Jersey: On the subject of "Chinese ravioli": Decades ago, before pizza became as American as Mom and baseball, Italian restaurants in South Jersey (and maybe elsewhere, I don't know) served "tomato pie."

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

Okay, you are older than I am.

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PETA are the devils minions: This is why PETA must be ignored. It is the inevitable next step. We are evolving ourselves towards extinction.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I think I agree with this!

Let's put it this way: Is it wrong to cut down a big ol beautiful tree? Would you dislike a neighbor who did that so he could put up a swing set for his kid?

If so, then this kinda makes sense, in a laughable liberal way. I like the idea of respecting plants as lives, and these sweeties don't seem to be going overboard.

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Re: Your Looks: Gene, I just wanted to write in after seeing you in your thank you speech. I thought you looked terrible for your 24-hour punditry column, but seeing you give the speech, you don't look too bad. Maybe it was all in the tux. Oh, get a haircut, hippie!

Gene Weingarten: The pundustry story had me looking my worst, but I didn't want to say that, because it would rightly sound defensive. The fact is, I was DEEPLY DEPRESSED (that wasn't shtick) doing that story, and I think it affected the way I looked!

In short: I am ugly, but not quite that ugly. You know what I actually look like? I look like me holding the walrus penis. A completely candid, unadorned, honest, ugly picture of me. Liz, can we link?

washingtonpost.com: Gene "I am the walrus" Weingarten

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washingtonpost.com: The Male of the Specious, (Post Magazine, Dec. 31, 2006)

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Arlington, Va.: How does something like this slip past an editor at a newspaper with so many Pulitzer Prize winners? From today's WP Sports section E1, "Five Things the Capitals Must Do Against the Flyers" 3. Get Alex Ovechkin UNTRACKED. (emphasis mine) There are few things more grating in sports than the idiotic use of this word which means the exact opposite of what the author/speaker intends. They need to get Ovechkin ON TRACK, not UNTRACKED. Please beat the offending party about the head and shoulders for me. Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: I believe this is the single most repeated sports cliche idiocy. Some sports people lamely defend it, by saying, y'know, he was on a bad track, a rut, and we want to get him out of the rut.

I also love "now we control our own destiny."

If you have a destiny, you cannot control it. It's your destiny.

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Frederick, Maryland: I just had calamari last week that had tentacles.

You may now unbunch your panties.

Gene Weingarten: A few people have said this. I know sans-tentacles is a trend, but maybe it's not as advanced as I thought. Even better for my book.

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Liberal v. conservative: I also think there are core issues that are so important to you as an individual, you just won't budge. Whichever side aligns with you on those issues is who you choose. For example, environmental protection, abortion rights, separation of church & state, and social services are most important to me and non-negotiable, so I will basically always lean "liberal." That being said, I hate how democrats/liberals prop up US manufacturing, which either needs to evolve technologically or die its natural death. But I would never, ever vote for someone who wanted to take away my right to choose an abortion. It's just more important, and personal, to me.

Gene Weingarten: Hm.

This pretty much describes me.

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About your voice . . .: Have you ever heard David Beckham speak? That man is h-o-t-t, but from what I hear his voice is cold water on the loins. I say "from what I hear" because I've made a conscious decision never to hear him speak. In my world he sounds like Colin Firth.

Gene Weingarten: Understood.

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Fo, MA: I have seen Angelina Jolie in person at a movie premiere and she is just as hot in person if not more so than on the movie screen. And much tinier. She is very petite. And amazingly hot.

Did I mention that she was hot?

Gene Weingarten: Liz, we need to confirm this, scientifically. I cannot let this go unchallenged. Can you find a photo of her in a bikini?

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RE: Balcony: The Balcony joke fails because apparently the guy cannot speak any words until the cop asks him where he is from. Why could he not say, "I'm hurt" to the usher or manager? Fail.

Gene Weingarten: He was slowly coming to!

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Raleigh, N.C.: I'm getting married in a few weeks. My whole family lives 1300+ miles from my house. My guy's family lives about 300 miles. Our families want to celebrate with us, so we do feel obligated to have a wedding of sorts.

So, if we get married outside, at our own house, and have a pig pickin' later, and set up tables in the garage, with a few coolers of beer sitting around, is that anti-wedding enough? Because that's what we're doing. We really just want to have a party and dispense with the "wedding" part of it. I'm putting on a dress, and the law requires us to have witnesses, so we have two close friends that have agreed to stand there and sign the license. Is this still too much in your estimation?

Gene Weingarten: No. I endorse this. You have my blessing, children.

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Southern Maryland: Gene, I don't know who else to ask, and I'm not brave enough to find out for my self... do bumble bees sting? You know bumble bees, those fat fuzzy buzzy one that shouldn't be able to fly, but somehow manage. I know that they're not very aggressive, but if pressed, so to speak, could one sting you? There seems to be a nest of them near the back door at my work, I wanted to know how much space it should give them. I don't know of anyone who's ever been stung by one. I was hoping you might know. Thank you.

I am allergic to wasp stings, by the way.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, they do sting, and unlike honeybees, they don't die after they sting.

As a kid, Molly was once bitten by a bumblebee. Which is how I know.

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Tomato Pie: They still serve this in the Trenton, N.J. area.

washingtonpost.com: Trenton makes, the world takes.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

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washingtonpost.com: Angie in a bikini and board shorts

washingtonpost.com: Angie in a bikini and board shorts

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. We can confirm.

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For Washington, D.C.: If you want to act as matchmaker, Gene, I'd be willing to meet up with the discouraged gentleman wondering where to meet women.

Gene Weingarten: This terrifies me, but if each of you write to me at weingarten(at)washpost.com, I MAY connect you up.

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Vienna, Va.: Gene, while I agree with your beauty queen statments, and I think Scarlett Johanssen is hot as balls, she is still smaller than the average woman her age, in my opinion. I was lucky enough to sit in front of her on a flight earlier this year from L.A. to Dulles, and she is tiny. Not waifish or cadaverous, but pretty small.

By the way, I was in Mr. Williams' class when I was in 7th Grade at Longfellow, 22 years ago. He was easily the best teacher I had before college, if not ever. I hope he is doing well. How do you know him?

Gene Weingarten: There we have it. Not waifish or cadaverous.

Rachel Manteuffel also had and loved Mr. Williams. She related the puzzle to me.

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RE: Walrus Photo: Hey Liz,

If you use that same photo with the Celebrity Morph site, it comes up with only one choice to use with Gene's photo: Bruce Willis. Sadly, I am not joking.

washingtonpost.com: Ha! Gene has more hair, tho.

Gene Weingarten: I am also more soulful. I have pathos.

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The third step: We already reached it, and it may have been the second step. It is the belief that judging people is wrong. This is a pernicious fallacy that results in otherwise intelligent people dismissing or condoning the most outrageous behavior with excuses like, "Different strokes for different folks", "Everybody is different", or "He/She must have good reasons."

Thus you get situations where (for instance) a man can impregnate his wife and then leave her before the child is born because he has realized he doesn't want to be a father. Then all the couples mutual acquaintances bend over backwards not to condemn him, because they don't want to be judgemental! This is just an example (that happened to a friend of a friend), but I bet you could think of many more general situations.

To me, the most obvious one right now in our culture is single motherhood. A woman decides that she wants a child, has no partner, and goes ahead anyway. The point is not her financial health, her education, or her fitness to raise a child. The point is that she has deliberately chosen to bring a child into the world with one half the support system that it could have had. If anything happens to her, that child is immediately orphaned, and has no more than the hope that some relative or friend might step in. I'm not blind to the fact that marriage is not a guarantee of happiness and security (see example one), but at least it provides some legal framework for redress in case of disaster. And by redress, I mean for the kid. The parent is not my concern.

And to all of this, the rest of us shrug and say, "We don't want to be judgemental." Faugh.

Gene Weingarten: You seem to have a hugely sharp axe to grind here.

I disagree with the single mother thing. But I sort of see your overall point.

I never got the No Child Left Behind idea. Or the concept that everyone can achieve whatever he wants.

We are not all the same. We don't have the same abilities or potentials. Some children have to be left behind, because they are dragging the others back.

My least liberal position, perhaps!

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Rahway, N.J.: re: Tomato Pies

The pizza of my youth is not like the pizza of today. It was better. Nowadays there is too much cheese; it smothers the texture and flavor. The tomato pies popular in NJ, especially the shore area, had a nice mix of tasty tomato sauce and about half the cheese consumers expect today. And it had a thin crispy crust.

Gene Weingarten: The only real pizza is Bronx pizza from 1959.

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Bitterville, Pa.: I don't think this is going to hurt Obama as much as others seem to, and I actually live in one of those small towns people keep referring to. Here's the thing, Obama's comments did come off as a bit elitist and whatnot. But there's two things a lot of the media don't seem to get about us. First, we're a fairly nice, understanding people. To the extent that Obama's comments offended people as disparaging, he's apologized and said he misspoke. Most will give him the benefit of the doubt. Second, to the second he is an elitist, who cares? We don't really have this knee-jerk animosity to people with more education and bigger vocabularies that people on the coasts seem to think we have. We do tend to dislike people who are inauthentic. That was John Kerry's problem, not that he was "elite."

Gene Weingarten: Interesting.

Well, I hope you're right. I think Obama is the man we need.

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Old Dogs: When is your Old Dogs book expected out? Our vet has been so good to our animals, so compassionate right to the end, I thought this would make a good thank-you gift.

Gene Weingarten: Around October.

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Heterosexu, AL: Gene, with all this posting of women in bikinis and whatnot, I think you owe us some thoughts about the ideal man. Let's start with this exercise: For which male celebrity would you, avowed, established, and respected heterosexual that you are, change teams?

Thanks, you're a stud.

Gene Weingarten: Only Steve McQueen.

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Calamari: You need to get out more; it's only places that are clearly getting their calamari out of the Big Sysco Bag of Frozen Squid Bits that don't serve many tentacles.

Gene Weingarten: I think not. I have been served only rings in places where the squid was clearly fresh.

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Suburbia: It is not true that stores for large women all have floofy names. Some are quite straightforward. Please check out "Dress Barn Woman."

In the pantheon of unfortunate names, Dress Barn ranks right up there with Marathon toilet paper.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, but see, you have just proven my point.

"Dress Barn" is indeed an unfortunate name, but Dress Barn caters to all women. They sell small sizes.

It is "Dress Barn Woman" that are the plus sizes, and therein lies the lie. The great euphemism. In women's clothing, normal sizes are "misses" and plus sizes are "women." Haha. Women!

If, say, Jos. A Bank had a store for fat guys they would call it the Jos. A Bank Fat Guys Store.

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Washington, D.C.: Sorry, I couldn't be bothered to read all the way through those tired, dated and stupid jokes. What gives, you phone it in now that you've won the big prize? (For the record I don't read the columns in which you call the toll-free numbers for companies and ask them stupid questions. I'd as soon catch up on Cathy or Family Circus.)

Gene Weingarten: What you are looking at are 50s-era humor, and judged against that fact, they are pretty good for the genre. I got them from a book of Henny Youngman jokes Liz gave me last year, and will say that those were the best of about 100 jokes in the book. Henny was mostly bad.

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My Eyes Actually Are Green: Gene,

This is so unlike me: I hate my boyfriend's ex girlfriend. "Boyfriend" isn't quite the right word to describe what he is to me; "life partner" is better, I guess. We aren't married, but we might as well be, and we will be when it's time for kids. I'm not the jealous type, at all. I love and admire his female friends; they're my friends too. I feel so lucky that they have come into my life through him, and I love it that he has a friendship with each of them that is independent of me, as well. They are wonderful women. He loves them, and they love him, but he and I are romantic partners and they are platonic friends. Now, for the ex. This isn't a jealousy issue; I know he doesn't want her back. I do think she wants him back on some level, but that doesn't completely matter, because he would never leave me for her. I hate her because she was HORRIBLE to him when they were together. She was abusive in every sense of the word. Now they are friends, and he tells me he forgets they were ever romantically involved. He tells me she's past the crazy, but I don't see it. I see evidence of the crazy all over the place. She brings him into the excessive drama of her life whenever possible, and he tries to help her and talk her through it, and all the while, I stand by and talk to him about it and offer him my advice and thoughts when he asks for it, and refrain from editorializing on her current state. Now, though, my attitude is really starting to bother me. I would never dream of telling this brilliant, sensitive, wonderful, funny man from telling him he should or must rethink his friendship with someone with whom he has a long history. In fact, I am certain that were it not for the abuse/insanity history and its continuity, I would have no problem with his friendship with her. So, how do I refocus this in my own mind? I have to stop letting this get to me, because I know he can tell. I don't want him to feel like he has to walk on eggshells when it comes to the ex, but I think he does. If he gets a new CD or something she gave him, he'll try to avoid mentioning it was from her, or recommended by her, because he can see me bite my lip, and he doesn't want me to do that. I know in my heart there's nothing going on between them. So, what do I do to make this toxic sensation in my mind go away?

Thanks, Gene. You're fantastic.

Gene Weingarten: I am going to hazard a guess here.

I am going to guess that by writing this all down, you just purged yourself of it, and it will go away.

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Re: No baby momma: Why don't you just give them a due date and a link to a store registry, where they can purchase for your "little one" leather pants, tequila and a 60 inch plasma tv?

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

Excellent. Terrific answer.

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Bronx: Which neighborhood in the Bronx are you from?

Gene Weingarten: I grew up around the intersection of Tremont and University, on Loring Place.

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Frederick, Md.: I was visiting last week with family, and the subject turned to politics. When John Edwards' name came up, my mother said, 'Oh, John Edwards is gay.'

When asked how she knows that, she insisted it was something about his hair, and about the way he talks. Besides, she says, ''Ann Coulter says he's gay.'' (A reference to Coulter's use of an f-slur to refer to Edwards, though I think Coulter has denied that she meant to suggest that Edwards is gay).

Mom is not a follower of Ann Coulter. In fact, she agrees with me (and with you) that Coulter doesn't actually believe much, if anything, that she says -- and that she's more or less a performer trying to say outrageous things that will get lots of people angry, and that the better she is at it, the more money she makes.

But on this one, she's willing to take Coulter's word for it (even if Coulter says that wasn't what she was suggesting). And why?

When Mom insists that it's something about Edwards' hair or about the way he talks, she either doesn't know why Ann Coulter would choose HIM (out of all of the politicians with good hair) to (perhaps) accuse of being gay, or Mom doesn't want to admit that she DOES know why Ann Coulter would choose Edwards, and that Mom herself believes it because she shares Coulter's rationale for making that suggestion.

Of course, the issue that Mom won't acknowledge -- the elephant in the room, if you will -- is the fact that Edwards is married to an overweight woman. (I'm sure you've heard it about other men who are with overweight woman. Stedman? He's gay. Why else would he have stayed with that fat slob Oprah?) Anyone who would publicly suggest that Edwards is gay is doing so knowing that lots of people will believe it, because his wife is overweight.

I can't really call Mom on it, because she'll insist that her view that Edwards is gay has NOTHING to do with the fact that his wife is overweight. And Mom would never admit she's always had a bias against fat women (though she's had a wonderful relationship with my wife, who was considerably overweight earlier in our relationship).

I'm submitting this for your possible comment, only because I know you've been involved in some discussion recently involving women and weight. What do you think -- am I reading too much into Mom's comment?

Gene Weingarten: I don't know where to begin.

No, I never heard the one about men married to overweight women being gay. Is this silliness really out there?

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Turn up the radio: Um, ladies, that IS funny, if rather off color. Way funnier than the bit about the old man and the prostitute.

Gene Weingarten: One, it's not funny.

Two, how is it off color?

What planet are you from?

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Ward Circle: Sorry about the blank questions, but submitting a question is the only way I can get the chat to refresh. F5 isn't cutting it anymore, and that's for all of the chats.

washingtonpost.com: Okay, we're on it.

Gene Weingarten: Whoa. Okay.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: I came in late, but are people seriously discussing whether Angelina Jolie is hot? Let me reassure you, as someone who used to live with her, she is gorgeous.

Oh, and when I state I used to live with her, I mean, in the same building, and we never knew each other. But still, she is a great natural beauty.

Although, as an aside, when she mentioned she was into bloodletting, I was a little nervous and kept an eye out that there never was too much blood seeping into my apartment. Fortunately, there was never a problem.

washingtonpost.com: Please e-mail me at celebritology@washingtonpost.com. Thankew.

Gene Weingarten: Ooooh. Ooooh.

Liz is excited. I can feel it.

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For the green-eyed lady: I think what Carolyn would tell her, Gene, is that if nothing in her history with this guy has even set off warning signals, and that this sudden infusion of jealousy is inconsistent with her normal way of thinking, then she may very well be picking up on something that is not quite what it seems. That is, she may be jealous for a reason. Give your instincts some credit.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I hate injecting suspicion.

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Washington, D.C.: Here's where the public service part of this chat really comes in--linking people with like needs together. Depressed guy needs extra income. Green eyes has a problem with boyfriend's toxic ex-GF. See the "Strangers on a Train" solution right there?

washingtonpost.com: Strangers on a Train

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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Team-changer: Clooney. No question.

Gene Weingarten: You know, Clooney has become the cliche male hottie. It's boring, already.

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New York, N.Y.: I have discovered a way that females love fart jokes. There are youtube videos out there that show the Dancing with Stars dancers with appropriately timed fart noises during the dances (i.e. during splits). The women find it hilarious.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, in my experience women like fart jokes more than men do! There's a reason. Women are more genteel so farts are more subversive.

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Western New York: Allow me a pointed question (hey, that's only fair, right?)

Who are you talking about, "IT people with bad surnames"?

Gene Weingarten: Rupert Dingleberrymuncher, IT specialist at The Washington Post.

He really needs to become Webster.

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M Street NW, Washington, D.C.: No one ever acused Tom Arnold of being gay, as far as I know. And if there was ever a man who needed an excuse more than Tome for THAT marriage, I haven't met him.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Bethesda, Md.: Gene

You've said in the past that the NYT "Ethicist" is not humorous. I agree.

What do you make of the Times' "Metropolitan Diary"? I think its the most pretentious piece of crap available today, yet I read it every week.

I don't hate New Yorkers, but I truly despise the people who write into that column.

Gene Weingarten: It's precious. It wasn't always that way.

For many years it was edited by a writer named Enid Nemy, who really knew how to find and shape telling anecdotes.

I think it's been ten years or so since she retired, and Met Diary has not been as good since.

However, if you still read it religiously, they're still do9ing something right.

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Chicago, Ill.: Interesting that the east coasters still believe you can get pizza outside of Chicago. Tomatoe pie is a completely appropriate description tor that pallid red sauce on thin bread concoction that New York tries to pass off as pizza.

Gene Weingarten: Chicago pizza is awful. Awful. It's like eating meatloaf.

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re: bumblebees: These may be carpenter bees. We've had them around our front door in the past, chewing out holes. They also made holes in deck wood. They are similar in appearance to bumblebees, similarly nonagressive, but they can sting.

Gene Weingarten: Carpenter bees punched two deep holes in my front door. They are amazing.

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Fat Guy store: No, they wouldn't. They'd call it Jos. A Bank Big and Tall store.

Gene Weingarten: Fine. "Big" is hardly a euphemism.

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fashion, able: I'm starting a fashion consulting firm and need a celebrity client. Can I make you over? I'm really good at it.

I made over my ex-boyfriend so he can pick up chicks, but now he looks so hot I have to continue sleeping with him. I don't think I'd have that problem with you.

Gene Weingarten: Possibly. Email me at weingarten(at)washpost.com

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Laurel: Gene, picking up on the theme of the anti-non-judgementalist and the Pope's visit.

Is there any religious doctrine (of a reasonably large church or similar) that you consider so stupid that it's an indictment of the intellect of any person who even belongs to the religion?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but I am not going there.

You think I'm a moron?

Well, okay, I'm a moron but I am not going there.

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Arlington, Va.: I'd love to know how many peoples view of abortion changes after they've undergone a pregnancy. Seeing that baby grow in front of your eyes and listening to the heartbeat at 10 weeks is an experience I'll never forget. I was pro-choice before my pregnancy and I am still pro-choice but the idea of abortion just doesn't sit as well as it did in the past.

Gene Weingarten: Fine. Understood.

But you're not going to foist your feelings on others. So I have no problem at all with your stance.

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Alexandria, Va.: re: gay men and fat women -- ooh, I never even thought of this before! My dad is gay and my mom was very overweight after having me and my younger sister. Mom was 5'2" and weighed probably 145, all in her belly and butt. Which came first, the gayness or the fat? I think Dad's always been gay, and married because it was expected of him back in the early 60's, but you never know!

Gene Weingarten: Okay, but this stereotype is ridiculous.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: There are many men who find obsese women sexually attractive and prefer obsese women. I believe we should respect their rights to these desires. We should only make fun of them behind their backs when they aren't listening.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Arlington: Gene, since you have rather liberal ideas on exactly what constitutes cheating among the married classes and so on, perhaps you can answer this.

I am a many years happily married woman. For even more than those years, I've had a good male friend, who is also happily married. (Far as I know.) We met in college, he married some years later, I married even later than that. So. Of recent years, he has taken to giving me very nice birthday gifts. Cost is probably between $50 - $100.

This isn't cheating, I don't think, but - why? Is male gift-giving behavior that starts after a very long friendship just acknowledging that friendship, or is it a precursor to cheating, or a bit of fantasy, or what? I'm feeling a little confused and thought you could enlighten me with your perspective.

Gene Weingarten: Good god.

Gina once contended that eating unbidden of the other person's plate is cheating.

This is even sillier.

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Moving To New York: I'm moving to New York City next month for a job. Because you seem to like gushing about your hometown, name the top five things I should do and/or see in NYC. I've never been in New York for more than three days at a time before now, so don't feel like you need to skip the obvious.

Gene Weingarten: You want to live in Brookyn, preferably Park Slope if you can afford it. Even if you are not a baseball fan, you want to go to Yankee Stadium before they tear it down, so you can say you were there. You want to walk around Chinatown and Little Italy, which abuts it. Have some meals there, and remember that the scuzzier a restaurant looks, the better it probably is. Theater is better in New York than anywhere else in the world; splurge on it. Don't ever go to Queens -- there's nothing there.

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The CLOD: The Daily Show bit is a complete rip-off of an SNL piece where Robert DeNiro portrays a State department official talking about wanted terrorists. I'd find the YouTube link but it is a forbidden site at work.

It might be the funniest bit SNL has ever done.

Gene Weingarten: I remember that. Brilliant.

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Washington, D.C.: The mentality behind Chicago pizza, like Chicago hot dogs, is pretty ingenious, really--take something that was perfected in New York, then slather on some "fixins and toppins" until it's barely recognizable. It's like taking a ribeye and topping it with ketchup and potato chips.

Gene Weingarten: People who like Chicago Pizza have something seriously wrong with them.

Yeah, it's exactly like people who order a hotdog with everything. This individual does not understand food.

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Chicago, Ill.: "Meatloaf?" Sheesh. Have fun with your Sbarros pizza.

Gene Weingarten: We all feel sorry for you. Really.

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Sigh: It's still early in the poll as I write this, but so far men seem to really like the second joke, the seeing-eye dog joke. I find this depressing, because there's a certain mean-spiritedness to the joke that makes it unfunny to me. Yeah, I'm a woman.

Gene Weingarten: They're ALL mean spirited in some way! But you don't like that one because you're a girl, and it is at the expense of girls.

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Sunbelt: Gene,

I have a close friend in her late 20s who is carrying on an increasingly intense relationship with a married man, and asking me to be happy for her. I simply can't be. I love my friend and I know she's been through some gross times with guys before, but in this case, there is another woman and two young, smart, impressionable children involved. So, she calls me to tell me about what a great time she had going on his business trip with him, or how he brought her a necklace or something when he came back from wherever, and expects me to giggle and coo with her. I can't. I also haven't found the words to tell her I think she's doing something wrong here, mostly because of the kids, for whom she has shown an utter lack of concern. She is convinced he is going to leave his family for her, and then everything will be roses, and the kids will just get over it, and she won't have to deal with them. I don't want to have to end my friendship with her over this, but it's getting there. What do I say? Is there a way to remind her that children aged 8 and 10 are old enough to realize what's up, and will likely suffer damages from this? And has she asked herself whether it's worth it? I'm mostly shocked at the level of selfishness. This is starting to bother me intensely, and it feels like a sticky wicket, so I could use some help. Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: I usually advise people in situations like this to butt out of other people's business. But your friend is actively roping you into her business, and it's disturbing you. I think you need to talk to her about it; at the worst, you risk losing a friend. At best, you might make her think more carefully about what she is doing. Middle ground: She keeps doing it, but stops talking to you about it.

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Extremely Ic, KY: Hi PPWGW - I was out of town and read two chats in a row. Commenting on April 8. Can't believe nobody picked up on the worst part of that SheWee device - the "what now?" moment. So you've accomplished your goal, and you look down at this dripping thing in your hand for which you paid about ten bucks, and you envision yourself carrying it somewhere to rinse it, or worse, just putting it away as is.

Come to think of it, I guess men are faced with that same problem many times a day...

Gene Weingarten: Exactly! We choose to ignore the problem.

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portland, or: i'm sure you'll get a thousand posts about that elizabeth edwards comment; hopefully mine will be the only one with html.

does that poster's mother think john and elizabeth edwards JUST got married? here is a picture of them as younguns, here's the wedding photo. neither shows a woman anybody would consider overweight.

since the chat seems to be going in this direction today, here's the attractive spawn of john and elizabeth: cate edwards. and, in the interest of partisanship, here's meghan mccain, with some old dude.

washingtonpost.com: Portland, this almost didn't make it because of your lack of capitalization. But the links won me over.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent.

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Washington, D.C.: GW

In the spirit of Sunday's article, can you hook me up with some of the smart, hot female members of the Gene Weingarten fan club?

washingtonpost.com: Revenge of the Nerds (Post Magazine, April 13)

Gene Weingarten: They're ALL smart and hot, dude.

Gene Weingarten: And on that note, we're done.

See you all in the updates. And thanks.

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UPDATED 4.16.08

Falls Church, Va.: Pulitzer Prize Winning Gene-

I don't want to say too much and spoil the end of this, but it's a commercial for a product that you mentioned a few weeks ago.

Please to enjoy!

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

Watch this then read my comment below.

There is one bit of illogic in this storyline, though, no? This is the morning after. Isn't the man likely to know whether or not the lady has a penis? I mean, I think I'd know, at that point.

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Sunny Midwest: Hi Gene, poop question here. Last week I asked my bf how he manages to wipe afterwards since, you know, there's "stuff" in the way that us girls don't have to worry about. He said he does it from the back, I couldn't quite figure out how so upon further questioning he explained he has to stand up and reach around! Is this right? Do all guys do it this way? That just seems incredibly awkward to me. For obvious reasons I can't just go around asking other guys this question, so I'm hoping you have an answer. Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: I have never polled on this topic, but it is my belief that most men approach from the side, and remain half seated, if you get my drift.

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Dallas, Tex.: Mom Jeans

Gene Weingarten: Wow. This is really tasteless. I like it.

I'd to take this opportunity to make a true, if self-serving statement. I love women of all ages, sizes and types. I am a woman admirer. Kind of a woman worshiper; I believe than in most if not all significant ways, women are a more advanced life form. But of all the women I love and find myself attracted to, I would have to put "young moms" at the top. It would be torture for me to be, say, a third-grade teacher. Parent-teacher night would be a terrible tease for me.

So young moms: I do not endorse this fake ad. But it's funny.

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Questions for the Pope: Gene, if you had about five minutes to ask a few simple questions of Pope Benedict, what would they be?

Gene Weingarten: I'm glad you asked. I posed this question to yesterday's Gene Pool, and I thought many of the readers did brilliantly. Lizzie, can we link? Skip past the first grumbly dorks.

washingtonpost.com: The Gene Pool

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What is so funny?: Again with your stupid assumptions that you know what is funny. I think comedy is more personal then that and what is funny to you might be funny to me, and visa versa. And since it has been months and months since you have written anything funny I fail to see how you can tell me what is funny. You think you are funny, but you have the mind of a teenage boy in a past-middle age body. Just a clue, calling 800 numbers is definitely not funny. Saying poop is not funny. Grow up man, man I wish we could have Dave back.

Gene Weingarten: You are a big, fat, ugly wad of poop. You are a filet of poop in fart sauce. You are a grumbly, gaseous concert of borborygmus followed by simultaneous eructation and firehose diarrhea.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, and takes one to know one, I might add.

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World Peace: I think the world would be a better place if people linked to that link more often.

Gene Weingarten: I agree. That is the point I was trying to make. I also think it would be beneficial to link to this one from time to time.

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UPDATED 4.17.08

C'ville: Hi Gene-

I'm just about Molly's age, work in a small office, and today our morning UPS driver tried to kiss me. The driver is much older than I and has displayed some inappropriate behavior before (poking, tickling) that I have stopped and told him a firm, "No!" Today, I actually had to push him off of me.

This kind of behavior is extremely and obviously unwelcome, and I'm trying to decide if I should report him. I know he's married with younger children, and I don't want to cause trouble, but I can't stop thinking that he may be doing this to other young women.

As a father, what would you recommend I do?

Gene Weingarten: Uh, you need to report this guy immediately, first to your boss,and if no action is taken, then to UPS. This is unconscionable behavior, and yes -- he's clearly harassing other women, too.

Someone needs to stand up to this, and it should be you.

Gene Weingarten: And if you are reluctant to go to your boss, for whatever reason, that's no problem. Go straight to the UPS supervisor. There's no obvious chain of command issue here; you are not OBLIGED to tell your boss, if you don't want to.

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Richmond, Va.: I am a woman, 25, cute, and I drive a stick shift. In fact, I went to great pains to ensure that my first car was a stick. The question is, by what quotient does my hotness increase because of this?

Gene Weingarten: I don't want to go over the top on this. We are all reasonable people here.

Driving a stick shift turns an ordinary looking woman into a maddeningly attractive sex goddess. In your case, starting at "cute," the transformation is almost dangerous.

Let's put it this way. If there are two of you, both cute and stick shift drivers, I would severely caution that you never get too physically close together, lest fission occur and there is extensive loss of life and property.

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HOLY C, OW: You read Arlo and Janis from 4/10?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. Wow. Speak of fission. This one sizzles.

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Fairfax, Va.: My father was 40 pounds overweight. He was also an attorney, and had the abbreviation "atty" included in his phone listing. He also listed his middle initial, "F". As my friends pointed out, it made for quite the aptonym.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent.

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Chicago, Ill.: Attack Chicago style pizza all you want, frankly I've never actually seen anyone in Chicago eat Chicago-style pizza, but what is your problem with meatloaf?

Gene Weingarten: I have no problem with meatloaf. But it's not the texture and heft that I want when I am eating pizza.

I love oysters, too. But I wouldn't like oyster flavored ice cream. Everything in its place.

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UPDATED 4.18.08

Gene Weingarten: This just in, about the woman who is having trouble with the UPS man at work:

I'm an employment lawyer, and that young woman's employer absolutely should be informed. Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees from harassment, not only from their fellow employees and supervisors but from others in the workplace whom they would normally encounter in the ordinary course of their job. That would include regular delivery people, copier service personnel, building maintenance, etc. Her employer should WANT to know about this, because it concerns their own liability. And you can bet your boots that if they have a lick of sense they will call UPS.

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Herndon, Va: Gene,

As a serious answer to the guy who was staring at his $500K life insurance and his mountain of debt I have two Words: "Chapter 7" and I'm not kidding. If you are drowning in debt, your credit rating will actually go UP if you file Ch. 7 and get all of that unpayable debt discharged.

Trust me, I was where he was a few years ago when I was basically forced to file to keep my job (Federal government employees can't have bad debts -- but ironically discharging them in bankruptcy is fine) and it was the best thing I've ever done for myself finacially. And if he's worried about the potential stigma, let me put it this way: given the foreclosure crisis, he's going to have TONS of company soon (I'm a lawyer, who oversees banks and trust me this situation is about to get a LOT worse)

Gene Weingarten: It's a really good point. I hope he's reading this.

I hate getting ideation-of-suicide posts. I feel I must respond, and I WANT to respond, but I fear that something I say might induce the wrong reaction. It's scary.

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Bronx pizza?: What made pizza from the Bronx circa 1959 so special?

Gene Weingarten: I am glad you asked! Bronx pizza combines a few elements:

1. Thin, firm crust.

2. Very light on the tomato.

3. Grease. A lot of oil.

4. Garlic.

The closest to Bronx pizza can be obtained at Mama Lucia's in Bethesda. The owner, in fact, is from the Bronx. Get a plain slice. You'll see.

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Where the beautiful single (and smart) women are...: We are everywhere. at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, bookstore, at your workplace, in college or grad school... I have many single beautiful (and very smart) friends. Honestly, I think men see beautiful women and they assume we must already be dating someone. We see you checking us out, we look at you and make brief eye contact hoping you'll say something, and you walk away.

Gene Weingarten: I believe you. Boy, we are a messed-up society, aren't we? What is wrong with us?

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Chicago, Ill.: As a transplanted Chicagoan, and a claimant to pizza by birth (I'm from New Jersey) I can say you are right about Chicago pizza, if by which you mean deep-dish pizza. The cartoonist Ruben Bolling calls it "a lasagna based bread food." It is awful, and not actually pizza, in any way. That said, it's much better at the original/real Pizzeria Uno location in Chicago than at any of the awful franchised locations... fresh vs. frozen.

Further, none of the people I know in Chicago who like to eat pizza eat deep dish. It's strictly for tourists.

However, we do love our hot-dogs. I've become addicted to the true Chicago dog: pickles, tomatoes, relish, mustard, sport peppers, celery salt. After that, I can't eat the plain boring mustard things you get in NYC.

All best as always,

Peter Sagal

Gene Weingarten: Hey, Peter. Congrats on your Peabody award!

Are you sure you've got enough junk on that hot dog? It might still be possible to taste the meat a little. Shouldn't you add some sauerkraut? Or A-1 Steak Sauce?

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Alexandria, Va.: I know I'm too late -- but -- this is the only place I can ask. If I'm wrong, I'll look like an idiot asking people.

So, I wasted a few afternoons reading the Ann Landers book -- "Coffee in the Morning" (something with coffee in the title). There is a letter in there from someone talking about how women should not wear panties to bed becuase it increases your chance of a bladder infection, etc. Then Ann agreed about how no women wear panties/underwear to bed.

How can this be that I don't know about it? I've been wearing them non-stop (except in the shower, although my mother says she bathed me & my brother in our underwear when we were small since kids shouldn't be naked in the tub together). Hmm -- is that a clue to why I wear them to bed?

Please poll your women about yes or no to panties/underwear. Then - if they say no to wearing them -- do they change their PJ's ever day- - how often are they washing the sheets.

Ugh - this is blowing me away!

Gene Weingarten: I am laughing.

I am specifically prohibited from revealing the results of a survey I just took in my own house.

So, I will just say that I share your shock. And welcome other women to weigh in on this for next week's chat.

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washingtonpost.com: Submit questions and comments to next week's chat.

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