Advice March 2012

What’s Your Problem?

Nishant Choksi

I have raised my daughter for success. She is an A student in high school, and she has many extracurricular achievements to her name. She is now in her junior year, the most important year of her life. She is Harvard material. There is one issue. Without my permission, she pierced her nose and now has a small stud in her nostril. I tell her she will be looked on poorly by admissions interviewers. Her response is to announce that she’s going to get a tattoo. I’m trying to control my temper. How do I get her to listen to me?

S.F., New York, N.Y.

Dear S.F.,

I suggest you buy my new book, The Tiger Mother With the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Until you get a copy, perhaps you should encourage your daughter to pierce her eyelids and have a staph-infected tattoo artist, preferably one named Cletus, ink an image of Charles Manson on her neck. This might prompt her to write her college essays.

I travel a lot and ring up a lot of expenses. I’m really bad at keeping receipts, and my company probably owes me thousands of dollars by now. Since I’m always going to be in the red in this situation, is it ethical for me to fake some small receipts?

A.M., Charleston, S.C.

Dear A.M.,

Not only should you not fake taxi receipts (this is how Bernie Madoff started), you should actively cultivate an image as a person whose life is too grand and interesting to include such pettiness as expense reimbursement. My role model in this and other matters is Michael Kelly, the late editor of this magazine. Michael lost cellphones on five continents; he abandoned rental cars the way Newt Gingrich abandons wives; and he sometimes stored receipts in paper bags and then lost the bags. But he was a great man. Why would you want to lead your life like an accountant? Unless, of course, you are an accountant. In which case, you’re terrible at your job.

I’m very close to the pastor of my church. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior because of this pastor’s leadership. I’m also a business owner, and here is the problem: My pastor has recommended someone for a job with my company. This fellow is qualified on paper, but I just don’t get the right feeling about him: he seems as though he’s hiding something. In any other situation, I wouldn’t hire him. But because my pastor sent him, I feel I should.

A.T., Atlanta, Ga.

Dear A.T.,

It is axiomatic that your pastor believes in redemption. He believes that humans, with God’s help, are capable of profound change. In other words, his interests run counter to yours. So you must ask your pastor forthrightly if there is anything you need to know about this job candidate. For instance, is he likely to build a meth lab in the supply closet? If you remain unconvinced after this conversation, you should not offer this man the job. Unless, of course, you don’t want to spend eternity in Hell.

I work at a nonprofit organization, in a semi-stressful environment, with several highly emotional women. Under what circumstances is it okay to cry in a professional context?

A.S., Washington, D.C.

Dear A.S.,

I cry in a professional context every day, and I’m not a highly emotional woman. I cry when James Bennet, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, scowls at me. I cry when he doesn’t scowl at James Fallows. I cry when senior management says the mission of this magazine is to provide a “tablet consumption experience with best-in-class bundled premium content.” I cry because I don’t know what this means. I cry because The Huffington Post exists. I cry for the young people of my profession, who are now paid in ramen instead of dollars. I cry because one day I will be working for people who are currently paid in ramen. I cry because I didn’t get to keep the ponies.

But I cry on the inside.

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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