Amy Alkon, Los Angeles-based syndicated advice columnist (“Advice Goddess”) and author of Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (St. Martin’s Griffin), is a friend of mine, so this is a plug, not a review. But even if this were a review because I didn’t know Amy, it would read like a plug anyway. Her previous manners book, I See Rude People (2009), got rave blurbs from Elmore Leonard and Harold Bloom. I’m not in the same league as either of those, but I can say without reservation that Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck is hilarious, consistently entertaining, and, above all, wise. It’s Emily Post as a beach read.
Unlike Post, though, Amy doesn’t pretend to know, much less dispense advice about, the finer points of formal etiquette. In her opening chapter, titled “I Don’t Care Where You Put the Fork (as long as you don’t stab anybody in the eye with it),” she confesses: “I do have a grasp on certain table manner basics, like that you shouldn’t lick your plate clean unless there’s a power outage or you’re dining with the blind, but I’m basically as domestic as a golden retriever.” But as she points out: “What really matters isn’t how you set the table or serve the turkey but whether you’re nice to people while you’re doing it.” Her book, she writes, is “for people like me, who are well-meaning but imperfect…who sometimes swear (and maybe even enjoy it) but take care not to do it around anybody’s great-aunt or four-year-old.”
Some of Amy’s directives are aimed at one’s own well-meaning but imperfect self: How not to shoot your mouth off (or use it as a repository for your foot), how to deal politely with prying questions from others, how to resist the temptation to criticize—because “criticizing people doesn’t make people want to change; it makes them want to clobber you.” Other parts of the book target the human vermin that infest today’s life: litterers, “cellphone rudewads,” violators of the “one car, one parking space” rule (“if a scratch is that big a deal, you aren’t rich enough to drive it”), seat-kickers on airplanes, sidewalk hogs, dog-walkers who regard your front lawn as a canine lavatory, and parents who refuse to hush or discipline their screaming children in public places for fear of traumatizing the little darlings. Amy tells you not to be one of the above—and also how to deal with these pests effectively without either being a pushover or getting arrested for assault and battery.
There is a much-needed chapter on Internet etiquette (don’t hit up your friends to crowdfund your vanity projects, don’t put people into your Facebook group without their consent, don’t ask your friends to read and comment on your attached poem/short story/draft of your newspaper op-ed piece unless you’re paying them for the chore. When e-mailing people for business purposes, stick to 9-5 business hours (this is a rule that I myself constantly violate, I’ve got to say.)
A chapter on dating and relationships—and how to end one of those relationships politely but firmly (don’t explain—just say it’s not working for you) is not only sage but refreshingly politically incorrect. Amy draws on evolutionary psychology to argue that dating is a mating ritual that is ultimately linked to procreation and the raising of children. This means that “male sexuality is about the visuals,” as Amy writes, because women’s youth and good looks signal their fertility, whereas “women evolved to feel compelled to seek men who are ‘providers’” for them and their offspring.
Awareness of this crucial difference between the sexes should govern everything from who asks whom for the first date (the man, says Amy, because men value women who exercise their evolutionarily programmed choosiness); who pays for the first few dates (the man, because he symbolically demonstrates that he’s a provider—but only symbolically—first dates should be short and cheap); and, contra to reams of feminist propaganda, who gets to indulge in casual sex without feeling “like stepped-on crap afterwards” (the man again). Amy writes: “There are hookups that lead to happily ever after, but because men tend to devalue women they don’t have to chase, there’s a good chance a hookup will be the fast track to ‘He’s just not that into you…(but he’ll use you for sex while he’s looking for a woman he is into).’”
The Obama administration has worked diligently to shrink, underfund, and demoralize the military. Now, Politico reports, two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, are joining an effort led by New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand that goes beyond where even the Obama administration is willing to go in weakening the military.
Over the weekend, New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who was just reelected, sat for a Sunday interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. They discussed the Petraeus affair, the looming fiscal cliff, and the clean-up after Hurricane Sandy.
But Menendez was not asked about the allegations he faces regarding his own sex scandal.
Adrienne Pine, an assistant professor of anthropology at American University (AU) in Washington, decided to bring her cold-stricken baby daughter, too sick for the daycare center, along with her to teach her opening class for the fall semester in "Sex, Gender, and Culture."
The calls for state Rep. Kerry Gauthier to quit politics grew louder Monday, as party leaders urged the first-term DFLer from Duluth to withdraw his bid for reelection following reports he had oral sex with a 17-year-old boy at a Duluth-area rest stop in July.
RECALL MAKES for strange bedfellows. Arnold Schwarzenegger has coupled onscreen with Sharon Stone. Arianna Huffington and Al Franken hit the sheets, John-and-Yoko-style, to report on the 1996 national conventions. Cruz Bustamante is in bed with the Indian gaming tribes that underwrite his campaign.
And then there's Mary Carey: adult entertainment performer and independent candidate for governor.
THERE WAS TRENT LOTT on one side, and now Rick Santorum on the other. Like bookends, they seem to frame the war with Iraq--each subject to an attack in which an offhand comment is taken by opponents for a steed and ridden to death with spurs. Some commentators (and many, many politicians) hoped that in the high seriousness of a nation at war this trend in public discourse would wither away. But it clearly hasn't. Welcome home, boys.
EACH YEAR, hundreds of thousands of women and children are trafficked into prostitution around the world, and join the millions of women and children already entrapped in prostitution by pimps and organized crime groups. Thankfully, this humanitarian catastrophe is finally attracting high-level attention in Washington.
At the end of 2002, former congressman John Miller--who is determined to defeat the traffickers--was appointed as director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
I'VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME on elite college campuses recently--at Yale, where I taught a course, as well as at Princeton, Dartmouth, Kenyon, and a few less rarefied schools--and while I've temporarily given up on the game of trying to diagnose the ills of America's youth, I have found that things really are different than they were when I graduated about 20 years ago.
For one thing, the students in the competitive colleges are products of an almost crystalline meritocracy.