Advice October 2009

What’s Your Problem?


I recently met a woman I’d like to ask out. Here’s the complication: she’s one of my new doctors, and I met her while I was wearing a paper humiliation gown. She’s beautiful and intelligent and has a good sense of humor, and I learned that she’s single. The problem is, I couldn’t ask her out while wearing the gown. And whenever I call, the receptionists give me the run-around because I’m technically the patient of another doctor she was subbing for. What should I do?

M. K., Chicago, Ill.

Dear M. K.,

It is rare, outside of the pornography industry, for a woman to have the opportunity to inspect the naked body of someone she has not yet dated. So you must be in excellent shape (and no shrinking violet, so to speak), or you are delusional about your chances. In any case, you can take one of two approaches. One, learn her medical specialty, then fake an illness associated with that specialty and make an appointment to see her. Stay clothed and calm, and when she enters the room explain that this was the only way you could think of to see her. She’ll find this either utterly charming or fairly creepy. (She will find this especially creepy if she specializes in venereal diseases or in the condition known colloquially as “black hairy tongue.”) Alternatively, I suggest you write her a note, explaining, in both comic and earnest tones, your dilemma. Leave the note at the front desk, and make sure you drop the receptionist some cash or a box of chocolates to ensure delivery.

Is it okay to serve caviar at a dinner party during the recession?

J. D., Baltimore, Md.

Dear J. D.,

Yes, but only if you’re a Romanov.

I recently graduated from college, and my formerly dearest friend has stolen one of my extracurricular activities for her résumé. I just happened to see her résumé lying around and noticed that the community service I performed—reading to blind children—is on it. But she never read to the blind! She’s not very interested in charity, to put it mildly. I think she saw it on my résumé and realized how excellent it sounded. Should I let prospective employers know? How would I even know whom to tell?

J. G., Ann Arbor, Mich.

Dear J. G.,

I turned your question over to my sister-in-law, Ellen Gordon Reeves, who is an actual expert on these things, having authored Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?, a guide to job-finding for recent graduates. She notes that if you were actually sniffing around for your friend’s résumé, you don’t have a moral argument to make. If not, she suggests the following: “Tell her you didn’t know she’d started volunteering and that you’re so glad your activities inspired her. If she fesses up, remind her that employers will not forgive lies on a résumé, especially when the falsehoods can be checked.”

I’m in high school and my father smokes a lot of pot. He does it privately (in our living room), but I just found out that he buys his pot from one of my friends. My friend is in college, and he told everyone that he’s my father’s dealer. Should I tell my father to stop smoking pot, or to just stop buying from my friends?

J. P., San Francisco, Calif.

Dear J. P.,

What your father is doing is terribly selfish. It sounds as if you have more sense than he has. You must lay down the law: absolutely no buying illegal drugs from your friends. You are being raised in a catastrophically lenient household (has your father never heard the tragic story of Robert Downey Jr.?), and you’re going to have to be unequivocal. And by the way, how did he convince you that the living room is “private”?

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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