Advice November 2010

What’s Your Problem?

Seth

How old should my daughter be before I let her watch The Godfather? It is the greatest movie in history, and I can’t wait to share it with her. She is 13 now. Is this too tender an age?

G. G., Denver, Colo.

Dear G. G.,

My answer depends almost entirely on your daughter’s feelings about horses. Also, tollbooths. But mainly horses. If, like many 13-year-old girls, she is deeply moved by the grace and beauty of horses, do not let her watch The Godfather. If she is indifferent to horses, I see no reason why she can’t watch it. The typical 13-year-old is exposed to so much mindless violence that exposure to the mindful violence of The Godfather will be salutary. (The same goes for The Godfather II. But do not allow your daughter, or any loved one, to watch The Godfather III.) Perhaps more salutary would be encouraging your daughter to read the book, by Mario Puzo. A long time ago, I heard a lecture delivered by Dan Rather (or possibly Jacques Derrida, I can’t remember), who said that only two books are needed to explain the universe of human sin: the Bible and The Godfather.

When we first met, my husband and I went out all the time. Now all he wants to do is stay home. How do I get him to go out and experience the world again?

K. C., New York, N.Y.

Dear K. C.,

I must say, I admire your husband’s lifestyle choice. The world is wildly overrated. Bad things happen in the world, such as monsoons, mudslides, bonuses to hedge-fund managers, Turkish flotillas, lightning strikes, Cake Boss, surfboard decapitations—the list is endless. It is true that many people suffer accidents in their home: 51 percent of all disabling injuries occur there, in fact. But the home is a haven. I learned this from Mario Puzo (see above), whom I got to know slightly toward the end of his life. I once asked him if I could take him out to lunch, and he invited me instead to lunch at his home. “My mother always told me that bad things happen when you go outside,” he said. Puzo, of course, was smart enough to be listened to by Dan Rather and, possibly, Jacques Derrida.

On a recent private tour of the White House, my family and I received gift boxes of M&M’s embossed with the presidential seal. We want to keep them as a souvenir, but how long do M&M’s last? Can we keep them forever, or should we empty the boxes? It seems less real if we open the boxes. On the other hand, maybe something in the M&M’s will eventually leak and cause the boxes to fall apart.

T. S., Boston, Mass.

Dear T. S.,

One of the most rewarding things about writing this column is grappling with the problems of everyday Americans who have been affected by the economic downturn, and this is what I think: you should donate the M&M’s to a charity, which can auction them off to raise money for the needy. My guess is that Barack Obama would approve. But if you must keep them, all M&M’s packages, including the White House souvenir boxes, are guaranteed for only 52 weeks, according to their manufacturer.

I’ve noticed that you are a name-dropper. I know you’ve met a lot of people as a reporter, but you don’t have to tell us about every last one of them. Don’t you think name-dropping is a terrible habit?

P. D., Great Neck, N.Y.

Dear P. D.,

Name-dropping is absolutely a terrible habit. And you know, by the way, who is a terrible name-dropper? JayZ. I was with Jay-Z and his lady, Beyoncé, recently in Gstaad, and it was all “P. Diddy this, Barack Obama that.” Sickening. Later, when we dropped by Castel Gandolfo for dinner with Pope Benedict XVI, I was surprised to learn that he, too, name-dropped: “The Dalai Lama this, Mother Teresa that.” Unbelievable. You’d think a pope would be above that sort of thing. John Paul II certainly was, at least in private.

Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly 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.

Goldberg's 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. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. 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.

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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