Advice October 2011

What's Your Problem?

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Nishant Choksi

I am a single woman in my 30s, and I would like to have a baby on my own. I don’t want to go to a sperm bank —too anonymous—and I’m lucky because I have four very acceptable guy friends, any of whom I think would be a willing donor if I choose to go that route. I’ve made lists of their various attributes, and they all basically even out in the end. The only place where they really differ is in their level of academic achievement, specifically where they went to college. Two went to Ivy League schools (Harvard, Columbia), one went to Duke, and one went to a second-tier state school, the University of Kansas. I assume their undergraduate choices had to do with their SAT scores (I don’t know how they did on standardized testing, and I think it might be rude to ask), so those choices do seem pertinent. How much should I weigh this in making my decision?

D.S., New York, N.Y.

Dear D.S.,

To avoid making such a difficult decision, I suggest you collect sperm from all four men, combine the donations in a test tube, and inject this potent mixture using the traditional turkey-baster method. Whichever sperm outswims, outfights, or outfoxes the others will fertilize your egg, which is as it should be, because I think the most ruthless and mercenary sperm is axiomatically the best sperm for you. I suspect that the University of Kansas sperm will win this competition. Just look at the school’s football program: while not on a par with Auburn or LSU, it could crush Columbia or Harvard. As for Duke, I would guess that the sperm will be too drunk to compete.

Prompted by various books and movies, I’ve decided to make a bucket list of all the things I want to do before I die. The problem is, I don’t know how to limit myself. I have a fair amount of money, and a good amount of time left (I hope), but there are a million places to visit and a million things to do. How do you think I should organize myself in this endeavor?

L.D., Miami, Fla.

Dear L.D.,

I understand why you are flummoxed by the variety of choices before you. My suggestion is that you focus your thinking by making a reverse bucket list of all the things you are positive you don’t want to do. I’ve made a reverse bucket list of my own that you may use as a model. Here are 25 of the things that I hope never to do:

1. Climb Mount Everest

2. See any movie or read any book about self-actualizing rich people who climb Mount Everest

3. See that movie about the guy who cuts off his arm in a ravine that isn’t even on Mount Everest

4. Spend three weeks in a Turkish prison—again

5. Read The Remarkable Millard Fillmore, by George Pendle

6. Adopt small African children for ornamental purposes

7. Obey indoor firearms regulations

8. Retire to Abbottabad

9. Take a photograph of my penis and then tweet it

10. Collateralize a debt obligation

11. Juice cleanse

12. Colon cleanse

13. Ethnic cleanse

14. Go on an ayahuasca bender

15. Create a coat of arms for my family

16. Purchase a Teutonic trophy wife

17. Play golf with John Boehner

18. Play golf

19. Make love at midnight in the dunes on the Cape

20. Swim with dolphins, because swimming with dolphins means swimming in dolphin shit

21. Spend a week in a monastery

22. Spend a day in a monastery

23. Join LinkedIn

24. Update my software

25. Write an advice column

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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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