04 December 2009


(Photograph copyright 2009, all rights reserved)

Oh my, these are some terrible letters this week - this could end up being very short.... However, the originals can be found as always at Dear Prudence .

1. You're doing well, your friends not so much. So far this seems not to have been much of a problem, and at your age a lot of this is time-related. Some of those friends will eventually do well, perhaps even better than you are. Some won't. You know it, they know it and all will be well. But that's not the issue, is it? Money is coming into a couple of these friendships because your boyfriend...well, he screwed up. Tell him to


about the whole thing. The damage from his unthinking offer to turn friends into employees can be mitigated, but only he can do it and he has to do it NOW. It was actually pretty thoughtful for him to try and replace a bad cleaning lady for you. It's just that his alternative wasn't the wisest. Prudie was right. The only way out of this is for your BF to tell your friends that he made a mistake, that you hired someone else to clean house when he wasn't looking. Yes, it will be a lie and you'll have to clean yourself until you find someone, but it will be a kind and sensible lie, won't it?

As some wise person on Slate pointed out, if your friends do a lousy job, how are you going to fire them without hard feelings? The answer to that is you can't. Also consider that these people are your friends and point out to your boyfriend that cleaning people know EVERYTHING about your house. Do you REALLY want people you socialize with to know that your bedroom floor is covered with underwear or the hi-jinks that go on elsewhere in the house? There's no point in hiring anyone if you're just going to run around tidying up before they come over. Yes, they probably could use the money. But you are perfectly within your rights to say that you'd rather have friends stay friends instead of well, employees.

You've been taking a kicking on Slate because some people who don't earn the kind of money you and your boyfriend do can't resist trying to "take you down a peg". It's pure envy and spite from people who don't have the energy and drive to do what you do. You have my permission to ignore that crap. The two of you worked hard through school and got the jobs that everyone wanted. People who have no drive or ambition love to whine about how "snobbish" it is to hire a cleaner. If you talk about your life, they'll accuse you of bragging. If you go on a vacation, they'll call you a snob. They seem to think that you've been sitting on your ass for your whole life. You know that truth. No one is handing you money to do nothing. You earned it, it's yours, and you have nothing to apologize for.

As for finding a new cleaner... I don't have a lot of advice for you, but I think your best bet is to ask around and try to get names from people who love their cleaners and see if that person can get you in the schedule. Once you find someone who's really good, you'll half kill yourself to keep them happy.

2. How many lunch thieves are there, anyway? Millions, I bet. Zillions, too. How do I know this? I'll tell you. It's because every person who has ever worked in any kind of office (even me) will happily regale you with tales of some sticky-fingered individual who carries out sneaky commando raids on the office fridge. I'm sure that many people are dancing with glee at the very thought that someone in your office actually caught a culprit! I seems a rare and beauteous thing, doesn't it? But is it, really?


for a moment and consider. Offices are closed spaces and the tiniest things (stapler anyone?) can come to seem like monumental disasters. Tiny slights are magnified into huge offenses. Something as simple as a snort or giggle can lead to murderous thoughts. In some peoples' minds, the way a pencil is sharpened, the tuneless hum of someone at the copier, or the loudness of a keyboard stroke can become firing offenses.

So stop and consider..... Yes, the lunch thing is irritating. When this started happening where I worked, I invested in an insulated lunch box with it's own cold pack which I stashed under my desk. Easy. I wish more people would do that, life would be simpler. It's a solution.

But your lunch thief has been busted. Not only is she your friend, but she's also a financial guru for your firm. Dangerous ground. Very dangerous. How close a friend is this woman? Can you tell her she's been busted? If you think you can, talk to her about it AWAY from the office. Mention that someone saw her going through the fridge, ask if she was looking for something and mention that some people think she's a lunch-jacker. Then LEAVE IT ALONE.

A lot of people are yapping about going to HR, some think she should be fired on the spot because I guess touching a baloney sandwich is not only a hanging offense, but guarantees that she's raiding company coffers and stashing millions in her Swiss bank account and probably has her own personal pirate ship that robs unwitting Carnival Cruise people of their booze tickets.... but none of that matters. If you aren't close enough to her to talk about it outside of work, then stay out of it. SAY NOTHING AT WORK. It's none of your business.

3. "I am not a germophobe." Give me a break here, lady! Do you really think that H1N1, the plague, the seasonal flu and the common cold are going to just vanish off the face of the planet because YOU can force others to wash their hands when they leave the loo?


And that's what you should do. Not because, as many people explained to you in detail, there are germs everywhere. Not because there's any real hope of eradicating all communicable diseases if people obey you. No, you need to keep your mouth shut because you sound like a nut case! Who are you kidding when you claim you aren't a germophobe? Seriously.

I can see you now, a silent, lurking presence in the washroom, just waiting for someone to hit the door instead of the sink after they leave a stall. What were you planning on doing? Leaping out of the stall with a clang in your pink tights and bubble cape and beat them over the head with a large bar of Ivory? Pushing the button on an air horn and following them around yelling "Dirty, poopy hands! Don't let this person touch anything!" as if anyone but you cares?

You're going to have to find something else to obsess about before someone either drowns you in a bathroom sink or has you hauled off to the booby hatch. I hear there's a lunch-jacker in your office. Best get a few surveillance cameras and a Taser to take care of that one.

4. Schizophrenic brother, check. Hitchhiker that vanished with the sun, check. Long-held suspicion that your brother is a murderer, check. Boring life as toilet supervisor/lunch room surveillance officer, check. No drama in your life, check. ....


No really. I have no advice here. Just ...just.... SHADDAP! already. Either you're a phony or a nut, but either way no one is interested in hearing this crap.

Ok ok ok. I'll give you some advice. I recommend that you buy your old family home and quit your job so you can dismantle it piece by piece looking for blood or body parts or some kind of evidence that the hitchhiker was killed in the house. By the time you're done, I expect to see nothing more than a pile of sticks and another pile of gravel because you'll also have to take apart the foundation and dig under it, too.

I recommend also renting a backhoe and digging up the yard looking for bodies, too. You never know who else your brother killed, right? While you still have the backhoe and under cover of night, you need to go to that park that your brother "dropped" the guy off at and dig that up, too. If you manage to do THAT and not get caught, then you're going to have to dig up every ditch and yard along the way to the park and inspect all of that dirt, too!

Eventually you'll be caught of course - the police are death on people who tear up parkland and destroy entire roadways. No one would convict you of an actual crime, you understand, because you'll be so overwrought by then. You won't get away with it, though. So when you're alone in said booby hatch and your now-healthy brother comes to visit you and asks if you killed that hitchhiker so many years ago... you can babble and drool into your straightjacket and hope to get into a halfway house some day.


  1. Alright, Messy, it's on like Stallone, woman! Regarding LW#1, I'm *not* jealous, nor do I make less than she does (you can take that to the bank, Sister), but, even still, I think she's an entitled, smarmy little bitch. Here's why: she said her friends aren't very career ambitious (and one just doesn't make that judgment of true friends--usually it's more like "Joe is an artist" or "Jill is a classical musician", which has much less to do with ambition and much more to do with a calling, or at least that's how it should be thought of of actual friends who are not props in some sort of slumming play that our LW is acting in). The fact that she'd say that they had a lack of career ambition is super judgy to me. Does becoming a master musician, for example, represent a lack of career ambition? It don't pay the bills here in the U.S., and I bet sure as hell it's something she couldn't do, but because of that those people lack ambition? That's just not something to say about friends.

    Also, she signs "Friends in Low Places." Clever? Sure. Judgy and smarmy? Yes. Over the top, even.

    And finally, she gave us way too much status and financial information. All of that status bull shit? Irrelevant. All that mattered, like you said in your note, was that she has work and can pay for house cleaning and they could use the extra cash and were willing. That's it. At least that's all a classy person would ever say of true friends.

    Finally, she talked about the friends being poor, but then acted like the cleaning money would be "extra" money for them. Which indicates to me that she has no clue what it's like to struggle. At all. Which indicates to me that she's never *had* to struggle. And I don't have much respect for that kind of an attitude coupled with those circumstances.

    Just wanted to point out that some of us calling the LW a smarmy little bitchy pants aren't jealous or poorer than her. Some of us are just overly judgmental about the smarmy little bitches! HA! So there. :-)

    As for your column, though, and the response to LW#4? Out-freakin-standing. :-)

  2. I think she's young and socially clumsy. I also think that no one hands anyone money for free and we can assume that both she and her boyfriend work hard to get what they have. It's an age thing. They are putting a lot more hours in for the money than we would be at our age in the same jobs, right? They're EARNING their lifestyle, it's not a handout.

    Sure, she was oversharing a bit. On the other hand, she IS in a good position to see what her friends are doing with their lives. I think we can assume that they were calling her a "grind" for all the studying she was doing while they were partying or some such thing. The fact that the profession she chose is one that will support her is not something to denigrate, but something to congratulate. More young people should be as realistic as they are.

    I'm an artist. I am deeply grateful The Boy is willing to feed me, because NO ONE makes a living at what I do. Not entirely. I know that, and I'm not young and arrogant enough to think that I can just make art and wait for the world to notice me. If I were on my own, I'd be working a day job or two to keep body and soul together, just like a lot of extremely talented artists of my acquaintance do.

    There are plenty of people on Slate who are condemning this LW JUST because she and her boyfriend make a good enough living to hire a cleaning lady once a month and treat their friends once in a while. There's nothing wrong with what they do, and reverse snobbery is as bad as its opposite.

    Still, hiring friends is a no no. Best to stop that right now.

  3. Thanks on LW #4, though. What do you say about nonsense like that letter? There aren't a whole lot of places you can take that....

    Oh, and Stallone? I wasn't being as supportive as you think......just behave or I'll go all Road Warrior on your backside. ;-) Maybe with the high heels...

  4. Wow, great picture!! Of that, I AM jealous.

    I'd hire a housekeeper if I didn't think she (or he, EEOC and all that) would run screaming from the disaster that I refer to as "home." Between my work and both of our physical ailments this past year, we've done well just to finally find a couple of kids to maintain our yard.

  5. CoolOne - for a couple of hundred bucks, you can get a deep cleaning done. The best way to find someone for something like that is to go through a maid service. If there's a lot of stuff that you can't handle yourself, or the furniture needs to be shifted around, that's the way to go.

    I have (used to have - no idea if she's ever going off maternity leave, blast it) someone come in once a month to do the jobs I hate, and she did them way better than I ever could. In about 3 1/2 hours, she had the place sparkling in every nook and cranny.

    She dusted the WALLS. She cleaned the ceramic tiles in the bathrooms all the way to the ceiling. All of the cabinetry in the entire house got wiped down, and she did the baseboards, too. The woman is a goddess. I've never seen anyone work so thoroughly and so fast in my life. She was booked solid all the time, that's how good she is.

    THAT'S who you need to do the deep cleaning. It makes things so much easier afterwards. Somehow - aside from the fact that it's a bad idea to hire your buddies - I don't think the LWs friends are going to be able to manage cleaning like that because it really does take an expert.

  6. CoolOne said...
    I'd hire a housekeeper if I didn't think she (or he, EEOC and all that) would run screaming from the disaster that I refer to as "home."
    We have a maid come every other week to make sure we don't get knee-deep in our own filth. We know it's just about time for her to come when the cat hair tumbleweeds rolling through the living room have grown to tennis ball size.

  7. Didn't you know? Those cat hair tumbleweeds are where kittens come from! If you listen closely, you can hear tiny little mews coming from behind the furniture that never gets moved...

  8. When I still lived with Mom a few decades ago (I paid rent - so there!), she for some reason thought I would enjoy the thought of a cleaning person coming once a month. I was OK with a cleaning person, provided that whoever it was avoided the closed door of my bedroom like it had the plague wiped all over the knob. So Mom could only hire germaphobes, I suppose. Maybe she hired LW3!

    Auntie M, I confess to my jealousy of artists with supportive spouses who can pay the bills. If I weren't allergic to pinching pennies and generally struggling, I would've quit my I.T. job, or any of my non-artistic jobs, years ago to "make it" as an artist. And of course, starved. I read a book about how to sell one's art for profit, and although it's a good, sensible book, the author's origin story is SO typical: her husband paid the bills, while she was free to explore her options - for years, in fact - before finally finding her niche. Story after story in her book was Just Like Hers.

    Not that I'm denigrating such arrangements. I'm jealous of 'em, remember? Which means I want that, too, wahhhhh. Anyway, all that whine has me hungry for some cheese. Extra sharp cheddar, mmmmm...

    I wonder if I should try to top LW4 and write to Prudie about my fear of zombies and being attacked by them.

  9. It was an accident, I swear! We're Canadian! I didn't even have a Green Card for YEARS after we moved here! It's true, all true. I have no interest in becoming famous. I don't even care if my stuff sells. It would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath.

    It's just something I need to do. I'm reasonably good at it, but I'll never set the world on fire.

    As for the cheese thing...if you like the sharp cheddar, then go for the Roaring '40s Blue. Check it out at http://www.cheesereviews.org/node/11 . I LOVE that stuff.

    As for zombies....I'll take that letter. Any time.

  10. I generally enjoy SHADDUP but this time, I'm all about the cheese! I'm ordering this for myself for Christmas. This and some fruit or chutney for breakfast will put me in a very happy holiday mood indeed. Thanks for the link!

  11. I've always been ambivalent about bleu cheese. Most of the time it's too salty for me. I like cheddar that's so sharp, it burns a hole in the stomach. But on those occasions when for some reason I think money is no object, then I splurge on a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano, the parmesan that's aged 18 months, or somesuch thing. Bottom line, really expensive. That's actually my mostest favoretest cheese. I just wish it didn't get so HARD. I don't bother with grating. I just slice and eat!

    And yet I still like the Kraft crap. Needs no refrigeration! (That's probably a BAD thing, but I don't care)


    Dear Prudie,

    I get nervous once the sun goes down, because as we all know, that's when the zombies come out...

  12. Herdthinner - if ever you get to Toronto, you have to go to Kensington Market (yes, I know it looks seedy and the tourists would rather be in Chinatown or on Queen West) and check out the cheese store. I LOVE that place.

    You walk into a storefront that is not more than ten feet wide. On your left is a blank wall where everyone lines up. On your right is the cheese counter and behind for the counter for at least half a city block, is floor to ceiling cheese. We're talking about twelve feet by half a block of cheese.

    Everything you could possibly want or fantasize about is there. There are unpasteurized cheeses that the Powers That Be are too paranoid to sell here. There are cheddars that are up to 15 years old - they're so dense that they are starting to form salt crystals like good Parmesan. There's everything blue, white, orange, creamy, smoked, you name it. It's all there, from all over the world.

    The first time I walked in there, the smell almost knocked me over. You just don't put that much cheese in one place and not have that...smell. It's horrendous and beautiful all at the same time. It is, to be blunt, The

    There's only one cash register and it's an old, non-computerized thing. No credit cards are taken, it's cash or nothing. No one who works there has any manners at all. If you want service, prepare to bellow YO, when they ask who's next.

    It's heaven. Pure heaven.

  13. Hey Messy, good vigorous advice as usual.

    But what of the LW 4 taking her family house apart? What is she going to find? Could it be something much more terrifying than her brother killing (and eating?) the hitchiker? And then of course there will be a mad chase while she runs away naked....

    PS: what is that beautiful photo of? I want to be there sitting on a rock and dreaming about the landscape...

  14. I took that on a hiking trail on Vancouver Island near Nanaimo. It was cold and rainy that day, so taking pictures was a little tricky - I got a few interesting ones.

    Sadly, you can't sit on that rock. I took that photo from the top of a ridge. To get it, I had to crawl out above the rocks on a tree that was leaning over. When The Boy saw me doing that I got into a wee bit of trouble over my methods and even I have to admit that wasn't the brightest thing to do.

    Still, it's a nice picture, right?

  15. I want 15-year-old cheddar.

    To blatantly rip off 30 Rock: "I want to go to there."