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Jul 9, 2003

Advice Column for July 9, 2003

Ray continues to answer* actual reader questions. Got an issue? Need some advice? Email ray(@)achewood.com. Serious inquiries only, please.

H E R E   W E   GO !
Listen to the theme to Ray's Place, by Milwaukee Youth Children's Choir, aka MC Frontalot

I try to be like you, but I look horrible in a thong. Can you recommend an exercise regime?
S.B., Colorado Springs

Dear S.B.,

Just like how Mr. T is the only one who can get away with his unique signature haircut, I guess I am sort of the only guy whose body lines are in unique harmony with this little black devil. I wouldn’t try exercising if you don’t already—it’s something you either do or don’t do. If you’re mellow, stay mellow. Don’t fake a bunch of energy.

My lady's parents hate me—partly because I am also a lady, and partly because they are extremely rich and sophisticated, while I am more "down to earth". Do you think I should try to get them to like me, or just figure that they never will and get on with my life? Getting them to like me would probably involve (for starters) learning Spanish (they are Puerto Rican), learning which of many forks one should use when at a fancy restaurant that I could never afford to go to, and possibly becoming a celibate nun.
Thank you, cartoon cat!
P.S. This girl is FINE, and also, I really like her a lot.

Dear Lady,

Yeah, have you seen Six Feet Under on HBO? The Puerto Rican guy, “Rico,” is also totally against gay sexuality. He hates it. It’s too bad that Puerto Ricans have sort of been painted as “the future of Republicanism,” but what are you gonna do. Maybe they’ll take over the White House, and then it will be awesome Adobo pork sandwiches for everyone.

As you probably know, I have a really soft spot in my heart for lesbians. I even have this special part of my corkboard to which I staple pictures of my lesbian readers. Send in your picture(s), you crazy holding-out chica(s)!

Anyhow, as far as the parents go, don’t live your life around them. They may flex, they probably won’t. Why let someone who hates you determine how you feel about yourself? That sounds like a couple of male objects on the chin, and I know you aren’t into that!

Hm. Looking back over this advice, I guess it is not very helpful. Let’s see if I can do better.

Ahem! Lady, this girl’s parents are ALWAYS gonna dislike whoever their daughter brings home because they aren’t down with her being gay. So just do your thing! It’s your lives, not theirs. You and your sexy chica should send me some photos.

I've been married for just a few months, and life in the bedroom is swell. I was just wondering if you had any experience with Tantric Sex, because we've got this book on the shelf we haven't pulled down yet, but I thought I'd consult the Baron of Bone before I gave it a spin. Have [you] tried this amazing technique or is it for the birds?
J in Atlanta

Dear J.,

All I know about Tantric Sex is that someone told me that Sting does it. Allegedly he can do it for like nine hours or something? Anyhow, whatever. It all sounds like homework to me. If you need a book to tell you how to get a massive freak on, then you need to get a massive freak on with the idea that you are a nerd.

This is my problem. My girl can’t handle her liquor but she likes to drink. I’m always cutting her off because I don’t want to be on Puke Patrol anymore, plus it’s not good for the “bedroom activities,” if you know what I mean. The thing is, she gets like one cosmopolitan in her and she’s done. I’m on beer number 2 and not even clipping a buzz yet and she’s slurring her speech. If I don’t slam my beers or take shots, I’m on “drunk watch” before I got a buzz. I tried suggesting other drinks with less alcohol but she doesn’t like beer (sigh, women) or the various Bacardi Silver type drinks, or “college drinks” like a screwdriver or rum&coke. She’s classy enough to want a martini or other respectable mixed drink, and she can handle the taste of straight liquor just fine, but her tolerance isn’t up for it.

This isn’t a problem at home where I can just slam a few mixed drinks to “catch up,” or I can make her a weak drink. But out at bars you can’t ask a bartender to make a weak drink without looking like a chump. What I need is a classy drink that a girl looks good holding and that she can drink a few of in a night. I figure most dudes would be happy if their girlfriend was a cheap date, but I really love this girl and want her to enjoy herself and don’t mind shelling out the extra money for a successful evening.
D.R. in Chicago

Dear D.R.,

Man, this girl straight up has a problem. It doesn’t sound like she should be drinking at all, since she has like zero tolerance for the stuff and routinely becomes a burden to her crew, who obviously know how to handle their stuff. But I’m not going to tell you which clinic to refer her to or anything, since I am a cartoon.

I think one good trick is to get the bartender to make the lady a mimosa. The best part about mimosas is that they make you take a real weird green shit the next morning, and so you kind of feel less sexy about drinking. Hope this helps.

So I do this thing where I get totally slammed and act like a big slut. I've ended up fucking a few guys that I'm not interested in under sober circumstances (the last one admitted he had a crush on me and now I feel crazy uncomfortable around him). So I end up feeling shitty for being a drunken whore, but at the same time, if there isn't a guy wanting to get in my pants I get pissed off and feel all rejected. On the flip (non-drunken) side, the scene never changes with the guys I am interested in. Like I get all stupid girly and lose the already minute amount of game I've got going on. I feel like I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life and it sucks hard balls. I think I need validation from men and it's sick. I just want a boyfriend.
L. P., Internet.

Dear L.P.,

It sounds like you like to let loose and have a crazy hedonistic time with strangers. It also sounds like you tend to feel guilty about this behavior later. Basically, there is a whole complicated set of reasons we could look into based on your analysis of self validation and self esteem. I am going to recommend that you see a professional therapist here, because I have been around the block with your type before and I got to tell you, no dude digs to be with a lady who will hop any old “Anonymous Johnson” once she downs a 7&7. Hope you find help.

I appreciate your stance on the herbivore diet, despite it's [sic] somewhat misguided assumptions (the human body is evolved to subsist on nuts, berries, bugs, etc.). However, I must know, how do you feel about dishes which use felis domesticus as their primary ingredient? Ordinary house cats, such as yourself, are consumed regularly in many Asian and African cultures, often as part of very complex and aromatic gourmet cusine. The (your?) meat is somewhat gamey but with a delicate flavor, I hear...I wouldn't know because I'm a vegetarian, and would never eat you.
Gabe from Oregon.

Dear Gabe,

Way to go, playin’ the big vegetarian card and sayin’ that you wouldn’t eat me because you are so amazing and full of advanced thoughts. I am so moved with these huge realizations I’m havin’ about how your way of life is so kind and beautiful. Dude, you wouldn’t eat me because if you tried I would cold drop your narrow ass!

Anyhow, ain’t you watched “Walking With Cavemen” on Discovery? Those cavemen went !!apeshit!! when they could get their hands on some meat! Also, there was no “emotional” distinction between a gazelle and a potato, both were just food (although the gazelle was better food and helped them live longer and produce stronger children, which eventually led to your dumb ass existing and setting things in reverse). Sure, we have the luxury of plentiful food supplies, but to deny our omnivorous instincts just sounds like kind of a college/wimp thing. Tell me your chilies don’t stand at attention every time you catch a whiff of barbecue.

Here’s what I want you to do, Oregon Vegetarian: stand in front of a full-length mirror looking at your body, and then smile really nicely at your body as you say to it, I am so much smarter than you.

That is what it means to be a vegetarian.

Ray, in your column you have now twice made vodka reccomendations [sic] and both times repeated the myth that better vodkas are necessarily more expensive. Vodkas, like tequilas, can't be gauged by price. Two of my favorites, Monopolowa, an Austrian potato vodka, and Wyborowa, which is a Polish rye, price in under $20 a bottle and have both outdone Grey Goose and Absolut in tasting contests.

So, what gives? You get commission from Chopin or something?
Gray, Chicago

Oh man! I totally forgot about Monopolowa! It’s tasty and a great deal at around ten bucks. I am not a “price fascist,” (particularly when it comes to wine), but hey, up to a certain point you get what you pay for. I wouldn’t go paying like three hundred dollars for a bottle of wine, because that is the height of asininity.

Anyhow, Monopolowa ain’t exactly stocked in every corner grocery, so I didn’t mention it. Personally, I find it at my local Underground Trader Joe’s. Okay, let’s move on.

Lately I've been noticing that when I'm around people, awkward silences arise and I can't think of anything to say next. I've always considered myself a pretty good conversationalist, and it's only recently that I've had to suffer embarrassingly long pauses around others. What kinds of things should I be talking about to keep my conversations fresh, and what should I do when I can't think of anything to say?

Baby, sometimes the chemistry just ain’t right. If you’re just being your free-ballin’ self then it’s the other person’s fault for having a small and uninteresting brain, unable to go with your flow. There are a lot of duds out there. Just look at how many people genuinely cared about the outcome of “American Idol” this year. I heard some reports that people actually bought CDs by people who were on that show! I mean, come on! Who cares if some overgrown meat-bug re-sings an already famous song with a generic band behind him, taking all the cojones out of the music? What a waste of various types of resources.

Anyhow, if you are having trouble warming people up, then just send me some photos of you and I will try to figure out how to help.

Let me set this up for you. [Readers: you do not need to start a letter this way. --Ray] I met a fine woman who enjoys a smooth single-mail [sic] scotch (a rarity indeed!). However, she explains to me that her favorite scotch drink (with the straightest of faces) is "scotch n' blood." My initial reaction was perhaps the "blood" was the juice from a blood orange, which might be damn appealing. However, I could find no evidence online about the existence of "Scotch and Blood." Perhaps she is full of it. I'm a Chivas & Rocks man, I have no clue. Please help.
Evan R.

Dear Evan,

There are more pet names for drinks than that Google can ever hope to hold. Let’s just work with some common sense and perhaps we can arrive at the recipe which has come to be known as “Scotch ‘N Blood” to this lady.

My initial thought is “Bloody Mary,” so perhaps she has come up with some concoction where bloody mary ingredients are mixed with Scotch instead of vodka. Given the intensely-flavored nature of a bloody mary, this is entirely believable. Give it a try and see if you can’t submit a recipe next week. Maybe also send some photos of the lady (this will help me to better judge what kind of lady she is).

Hope this helps.

Look, me and this girl have been nuts for each other for years. Recently we decided to become a little more then [sic] girlfriend/boyfriend (ie engagement plans). And now theres [sic…] a "friend" of mine who seems to be trying to wedge his way into our relationship. He has a history of skeezing on other guys [sic… :( ] loves and keeps repeating to everyone "They come to me". What can I do to remedy the situation without injuring either party...most of all not injuring myself?

Dear Mort,

This guy doesn’t sound like a very useful friend to keep around! Also, if you’re so close with this girl that you are considering committing the rest of your lives to each other, you should be able to talk frankly about him. By not talking to her about him you are essentially disrespecting her intelligence, because she sees things just the same as you do. One of the biggest problems in the world is that all people think the rest of the people somehow have a weaker grasp on things than they do. I think this is because we all grew up watching Leave It To Beaver sitcoms where a child always tried to perpetrate a falsehood as far as he could. TV taught us that it was okay for Beaver to help hide Eddie Haskell’s stolen comic books inside a giant steaming teacup on a billboard, only to later be rescued by his father after getting stuck in the teacup, and be forgiven after a meaningless slap on the wrist.

Anyhow, if some guy is trying to muscle in on an established relationship then he’s just a garden-variety sociopath and should be omitted from your life. If your girl is genuinely too dumb to see him for what he is, then get rid of her too. Maybe someday after the dude goes insane and has a transsexual operation they’ll both wind up in the same prison and poison each other with D-Con. Just a thought.

I am 27, recently single, and about to start my 2nd year of law school. I have no desire to relive the cheap beer and sleazy hook-ups of my college days, but I am getting my J.D. from my undergrad alma mater and I find myself back at the same bars, drinking the same beer, and surrounded by the same throngs of 18-22 year olds as in the days of yore.

I have never had too much difficulty with the ladies, Ray, [over 150 pages omitted here. —Ray.] but the grad school dating pool is small and relatively unattractive. How do I approach a lady 5-8 years younger than myself? And what does a man who prefers a diamond juice martini order in a bar where $2 pitchers are the rule?
California Urbanite Trapped in Virginia College Town

Dear CU,

Man, that was like readin’ Moby Dick or James Clavell’s Yokohama or something. Way too long! May I give you a tip? Please ask at least one question every sixty-five pages.

Alright, let’s look over what you said, which took you so long to say. Basically, you are older than the girls you’re back at school with, and even though you use a lot more words than them when you communicate, you would like to date from their pool and not out of the pool of women your own age. I guess you are saying that the women your own age who are still in college are kind of “stringy-haired” and sort of “extremely messed up.” Hell, I’d believe it. Any chick (or dude, for that matter) who was still going to college after the regular college part of life probably played the violin way too much as a kid, essentially locked in a room with like the Periodic Table of the Elements on the wall.

Anyhow, you want to relate to younger, more sophisticated women. It may surprise you to hear that lots of younger women drink liquor instead of beer. I bet there are lots of honeys who want you to take them off-campus for a better scene than the usual on-campus Natural Light assembly line. Maybe park your car outside of the Student Union with a banner made out of your white bedsheet, on which you have written in shoe polish that you are going off-campus to buy sophisticated cocktails.

I used to do tech-support alongside a man with a worse case of acute-Tourette's syndrome than had ever been parodized [sic] in any joke or movie. Having a voice like Pavarotti, he would blurt obscenities, and sexpletives, and slurs at well over 130db. Evaluating him, it seems like the disease keeps you from refraining to speak your mind. Is this why more improvisational forms of lyrical music seem to involve so much profanity, because there is not enough time to filter out inappropriate word choices? Similarly, I often find myself whispering to nobody about how a person or object is a mother-fucking-cunt and how I intend to set the entire world on fire.

Man, a cussing Pavarotti! Fully belting it out! ‘FUUUUUUCK AAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL YOUUUUUUUUU shitFAAAAACES!” That sounds awesome…except I know that in truth it is just a depressing manifestation of an unhealthy mind.

Anyhow, I think that the reason most freestyle/improvisational forms of lyrical music are plagued with profanity is because the average mind is not up to such an intensely creative task. Cuss words are perhaps the easiest way to provoke a reaction from people when you don’t have an actual idea to convey. A lot of stand-ups work “blue” for this very reason. It’s just a crutch. Shock value only goes so far before you get pigeonholed as a person who lacks new ideas, and instead just goes around telling people that he looked in the mirror at his own clenched purple asshole.

These are just my ideas.

I have a history question for you: what ever happened to the Tiki/Polynesian lounges of the 50s and 60s? There don't seem to be many left. I know some of them were pretty campy, but they still seem like they would have been a good place to get your slant on. And if you could play Nostradamus for me, can you tell me if you think they will ever come back?
Tiki Tom

Hi TT,

Tiki bars weren’t ever big enough to get campily resurrected as a full-fledged nationwide “retro” cultural movement (such as what happened with disco or hippie stuff), so they’ll always just be tangential. Plus, all that dried grass stuff is a fire hazard and a target for mildew.

Hm. How to predict when they will come back in full fashion? I predict that they will come back in the year 55378008, the year which when, typed into a calculator and turned upside down, spells “BOOBLESS.”

Just a fun thought I had just now. --Ray.

I'm not really into alcohol so much, but i've [sic] found it to be both inconvenient and a little shameful to have to always get a soda. I've tried beer, vodka, and some wines, admittedly the cheap boxed kind, and i've [sic] found them mostly unpalatable. So i come to for [sic] [sic] advice, what do you advise drinking that’s not too hard or bitter, but not too sweet either?
T.R. in MA

Dear T.R.,

It’s totally cool if you don’t naturally enjoy alcohol. Just like how some people can’t stand the flavor of chocolate or hate the smell of a rose, so is alcohol an unpleasant substance to some. What I want to do is recommend a drink to you that will (a) not raise suspicions of you being a weirdo teetotaller, and (b) be pleasant to drink.

I asked Pat what he likes to drink, since he is kind of weird and uptight about drinking, and he said (after he read the laser printout I made of your letter) that you probably haven’t ever really had any good wines. I said “fine, fine, Pat, but he isn’t gonna get any good wines as a totally new consumer of wines, buying by the glass at bars and restaurants,” and then Pat just sort of acted the way he does and left. So! I came up with a cocktail for you to ask for. It is called a Hornsby’s Cider, and it is actually a cider and not a cocktail, and there are other brands of cider usually on tap such as Wyder’s or Blackthorn etc., but there you go. Slightly alcoholic, not so sweet as a soda, and you won’t look too crazy ordering one. If that doesn’t work out for you, just get a Guinness. There is no way that somebody doesn’t like a Guinness.

Does beer really make you fat? Or does it just make you tired and lazy, and the tired and lazy makes you fat?
Tim, San Diego

Dear Tim,

Life makes you fat. When you are a kid you all just run around and stuff and it is just the most wonderful time. When you get older you love that you have earned some peace and quiet and tend to overdo it on the “relaxation” thing. Beer has nothing to do with it. As I have said a hundred times before, don’t blame alcohol for your problems. Blame yourself for using alcohol as the solution to your problems, which were caused by you being lazy and just drinking a bunch of alcohol, which can be a lot of fun.

Back in April, I slept with this incredible punk rock girl, took her cherry even. No real problem so far, in fact, she was more than grateful, but she is much younger than I. To make matters even worse she is my buddy's ex-girlfriend and he's still way into her. I told myself that I would just sweep it under the carpet and stop seeing her, but she seems bent on continuing it and I am not strong enough to say no to such a super rad girl. Now I'm seeing her several times a week and I find myself digging her more and more. I don't want my bro to feel like I've betrayed him and I certainly don't want to end up in trouble over her, but I really do feel something for her and don't wanna let her go, I've been lonely too long and this girl is everything I've wanted. What's a poor guy to do?
Country, VT

Dear “Country Hick Ham Bacon Meat Onion Skillet,”

Okay all right I will answer your question. If you really think that a girl is a piece of social wampum and that somehow this particular girl is still subservient to your friend, then you should just date an oven mitt. If you are able, at my recommendation, to respect another...ah, forget it. You kids and your problems. I really don’t care and don’t have the time. Basically, you’ll just mess around for a few years and then eventually settle into a more stable routine where things make sense to you. Try not to get AIDS. Always use a condom on whatever part of your body you are messing around with.

do you think it's ok to pretend to be sensitive, just to get laid?
-insensitive and horny

In terms of your question, I guess you should just do whatever you feel like. If you like to lie to someone in order to get some sex on, then do that. Try not to get AIDS, or to spread it. Personally, I don’t have to lie to get some country-style ham-n-jam, if you know what I’m saying.

Man, whoah! “Country-style ham-n-jam” was totally wrong for the image I was trying to get across just now. It’s this damn “Unix” word processor I’m using while my Powerbook’s in the shop. Where the hell is the “delete” key?! ^X ^C which one did he say it was ]]B ]]D ]]B ]]D SAFFAFFFFFDDDDDD

I haven't had a drink for over 16 years now though I did my best to swallow all I could until then. [long boring stories omitted here --Ray.]

Anyway, it's a long time between drinks and I'm getting tired of smoking even the best Dutch shit which is why I can't remember that hotel's name. What else can I get high on that won't make me head for the booze?
T. P., Dallas, TX

Dear TP,

So, you turned from alcohol to weed and now you are tired of weed. Hm. I guess some people get “high” by running like a triathlon or something, or by helping people who only have one leg to learn to walk again, or something. I guess if you aren’t into that then just get some Scotch, that can be a lot of fun. I also understand that a few people like to get into Bondage and hit each other.

Recently my friends and I have had a good number of drinking parties. For whatever reason though, I just can't seem to have much fun at them. I'm not sure what bothers me or what's missing, and no matter how I approach the party as far as mood goes, I just can't get into it. Is there something you do at parties that help[s] you get into them and really enjoy yourself?
Anonymous, Internet

Dear Anonymous,

It sounds like you’re bored. I don’t know what you are bored with, but you are bored if you are not having a good time at a thing where your friends are. You probably already know what it is you would rather be doing and you should just do that instead.

Personally speaking, I always love a party, and if the party doesn’t have its foot on the pedal then I mess with the stereo and start a drinking game. Every party needs a President, and sometimes I just have to swear myself in and wrest control from whoever it is that’s throwin’ the bloodless shindig (usually Pat).

I've got a dilemma I could use your help on. My ideal night on the town is going to my favorite pub here in Austin and having a pint, and kicking back with good friends for good conversation. When I go back home to visit old friends (which I do fairly often), I'm generally roped into hanging out in some terribly cheesey bar with disco lights and blaring "top 40" music. My question is this: is there any way to tell your friends that you don't like their "scene" without completely offending them, or do I have to endure watching people in shiney clothes dance to the latest horrible Justin Timberlake song if I want to see my friends?
Fed-Up Cowgirl, Austin, TX

Dear Fed-Up,

No, they will always like this stuff because this is who they are and where they are going to stay. You will gradually evolve away from these people and create new roots in the place where you’ve relocated. Eventually you won’t hear from your old friends so much anymore, but you won’t notice. Everything should turn out awesome.

I'm at a point where I have to make some decisions about my future. I have a year left in program at a "technical institution" (college). I will be certified to work in the radio industry, as an announcer, producer, writer, whatever. The problem is that I have a passion for education that I don't want to leave untapped. Everyone says "teach broadcasting!" as if they're a genius for coming up with this. I want to teach highschool English. I just don't know how I'll afford all the school it takes to be a teacher after all the school it took to be a broadcaster.

Do I go for it and hope I can afford it, or do i suck it up, do what I was trained for and give broadcasting a shot? I think i'd be good in either field. Please give this some serious thought.

Dear Mr. DJ,

Radio broadcasting is actually pretty unimportant. Plus, you wouldn’t get to do anything interesting in that field until you had like twenty years’ career experience (you would mostly be selling ad space to like a place that sells you a pizza while they wash your car). You should be a teacher, particularly since you want to do that more. Radio is extremely stupid. I’m sorry to be so boldly against what you have devoted your life to, but by your very inquiry I can tell that you want to change your plans.

I started seeing my first girlfriend when I was twenty-one. Now, eight months later, we're living together, and planning to do so at least until next summer, when she graduates. That's cool with me, but I think she's planning on us being together much longer. She likes me, she says I'm smart and funny and handsome and perfect for her, but I don't know if she's perfect for me. She's attractive and I like being with her, and the sex is great, but I don't feel like we connect in any deep way. I'm an easy going guy, I could probably live with her for the rest of my life and not be unhappy, but I don't know if that would be fair to her. Maybe it's not fair to me. Being single isn't too bad, and I might find someone better for me. What should I do?
K.S. in MI

Dear K.S.,

Whoops! Man, are you obvious. I have never seen a clearer case of a guy who wanted to ramble the hell out of “Boring Town.” Your whole letter basically says that you are unfulfilled. Man, why the hell did you write to me? You know what you want to do, but you are a few buckshot shy of a full round, if you know what I’m saying. You’ve latched onto a good, stable relationship, but it’s not what you’re looking for. Break it off, life is a long time. Simply “not being unhappy” is not enough to tie the knot. Come on, idiot.

Sorry to be so rough. Pretend I am saying the word "idiot" with my arm around you, like a friend.

I have always been a gentleman, and now I have a great wife and a good kid, both of whom I love a lot. Last week I was in a class where I met this lady who really swept me away. We became great friends, and our conversations where [sic] immersing. Now that I've returned home, I'm still haunted by the experience.

There were no sketchy situations between us; we are both married. I'm not interested in getting lucky, as I'm quite lucky already. I guess what I'm looking for is a healthy way to cherish and cultivate this friendship, with respect to our marriage vows.
S., Internet

Dear S.,

Man, who are you kidding. You know where this is going. You think your wife is gonna be down with you having another “soul mate?” Don’t be a bullshit-type guy. You’re already worried about it getting out of hand. Go buy your kid some toys. You “friends with women” guys make me sick.

I've found my new favorite mixed drink, Kansas City Ice Water. Fill a tall glass with ice, 3/4 oz gin, 3/4 oz vodka. Shake. Add 1/2 oz lime juice, then fill with 7-Up. Garnish with a lime or a cherry. Make sure you don't overdo it with the lime juice, as it becomes far too bitter.

For hot July days, I've found a Kansas City Ice Water to be a perfect anywhere, anytime drink, should one somehow get tired of martinis. Thoughts?

Dear Anonymous,

That sounds tasty! I hope my readers make that drink and enjoy it. I didn’t have any limes on the night I read your letter. Thank you.

I recently discovered tequila at a party, while doing shots. I usually stick to whisky when taking shots but I would like switch over. Can you offer a suggestion for a good chaser? Is there a particular brand that is the best?
PRG in Ottawa, Canada

Dear PRG,

If you’re shooting tequila then it doesn’t really matter what you’re drinking. Good tequilas are like good cognacs or scotches; they are for savoring. I think what you really like to do is get trashed fast. Always make sure that you have your address written on a laminated card in your pocket, so the cab driver knows where to take you.

Ray, I need some advice. I am a reasonably cute girl (I guess) who works at a large chain bookstore, usually as a cashier. My problem is middle-aged men who think that my working retail is an invitation to hit on me. These guys will come in with their kids who are my age, all hella balding and usually sweating profusely/chuckling to themselves, and wink at me or make bumbling, vaguely sexual conversation while buying "The Kama Sutra: For Dummies" or "101 Erotic Haikus"- you know, just basically acting like sex-starved clowns while implying that I should do something about it. I have pepper spray, but as I like my job I have refrained from using it on customers. I've considered buying a fake wedding ring, gaining 90 pounds, and/or giving up showering altogether. Do you know of any ways I could discourage this sort of behavior?

Dear MJ,

Yes, stop working at Borders. Have some dignity.

Recently I was approached by a friend of mine looking to sign me up as an Amway distributor. It sounded like a pretty sweet deal, until any non-Amway-supported research I did made it seem like a cult-like pyramid scheme. Have you any experience or advice for these shady dealings? I'd appreciate hearing it.

Dear Pete,

I have no direct experience with Amway but from what I understand, most people can just buy Windex and dish soap at the grocery store, eliminating the need for door-to-door salesmen. Have some dignity.

I'm dating this great woman right now and she is working in Quebec City for the summer on a short contract. While there, she is living with her parents, who from my point of view are extremely cultured (ie. European). I've met them once before and felt like it was a positive experience and I would like to continue to leave a good impression with them when I stay with them. I'm considering bringing a gift, but I'm rather at a loss as to what I should bring. Is there some sort of protocol for this? I've thought of bringing a bottle of good wine, but am not confident that my tastes are discerning enough.

Obviously I'd like to impress them, and obviously you could just say something like “give something from the heart and they'll respect the real you” or something, but these people are French and the rules of try your best might not necessarily apply in this situation. However, any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
T., Toronto

Whoo hoo! My last letter! Let’s see what he needs.

Hm. It sounds like he is all biased about the French, due to the bad press they always get. Dude, don’t do the wine thing. Wine is totally a French thing, you will just look like a rookie. Give them something you actually know anything about, whether it’s a picture of hockey, a six pack of Molson, or something else appropriate to your own culture. The first mistake a lot of people make when trying to impress foreigners is to give them something from the foreigner’s own homeland. Would it impress you if a Frenchman came to your house and brought you a Krispy Kreme donut? What would be the point of that? Who is learning anything there? Have dignity.

* A Gentle Reminder (“Disclaimer”): This is advice from a cartoon cat, and should not be taken seriously. We are not responsible for anything you do based on what Ray says, or otherwise. Do not commit suicide or otherwise interrupt the lives of others. Continue on with your life as though you had never read this column. Erase your browser history.