Advice April 2012

What’s Your Problem?

Nishant Choksi

My children are at the age when they will probably ask me whether I’ve ever smoked marijuana. (The answer is yes. I experimented with pot as an undergraduate.) I’ve read the literature on what to tell your children about your past drug experimentation, but what it suggests seems so forced and staged. My children are too smart for the antidrug script. Do you have experience with this question?

F.S., Atlanta, Ga.

Dear F.S.,

Yes, I do have experience with this question. When I was in college, I too experimented with marijuana. I experimented 132 times with marijuana. I had to repeat the experiment 131 times to make sure that I could replicate my results, and to assess inconsistencies and variances in the data I was collecting. The data had mainly to do with how many bags of Funyuns me and this dude named Smurf could eat in one sitting. By the way, Smurf is now a gynecologist in Westchester County, New York.

So, yes, I understand your dilemma. But I assume that you, like me, are old enough that this is a distant, and at least partially regretted, phase in your life. Tell your children the whole truth about your experience, including and especially the regrets, and don’t forget to impart to them the most important lesson in marijuana experimentation: what matters most is not that you smoke marijuana, but that you never pay for marijuana. I always smoked other people’s marijuana, because actually buying marijuana is what, from a technical standpoint, makes you a pothead.

I’m a frequent flier, but only in the middle range of frequent fliers, so when I do get upgraded from economy to business class, it’s often at the last second. A flight attendant ordinarily will come back to my seat and tell me that a seat is open in business class. I feel very self-conscious about taking that seat in business class at the last second, as if everyone is staring at me. Should I just not take the seat if this is the way I feel?

S.G., Hartford, Conn.

Dear S.G.,

On domestic flights, approximately 100 percent of the people you are joining in business class are also bumped-up frequent fliers, so please don’t feel self-conscious. The key is to behave as though you belong. So no outbursts along the lines of “Cashews? For real? Sweet! I can’t believe we get cashews! This is so awesome!” Just smile and enjoy not getting your knees crushed by the Chipotle-eating orc in the seat in front of you who doesn’t understand that just because the seatback reclines doesn’t mean you’re obligated to recline.

I am a progressive living in a conservative part of my state. I hope to run for the state legislature, and I’m troubled because I might have to vote on issues related to gay marriage. I personally endorse gay marriage, but the people of my area don’t. If asked a question about this, I don’t know how to frame an answer that would be acceptable to my neighbors and true to my own beliefs.

D.C., California

Dear D.C.,

For some conservative-minded people, especially older people, gay marriage is an understandably large leap. My suggestion is that you ease your would-be constituents into the issue. During the opening days of your campaign, you might consider endorsing marriage only between heterosexuals. Then, as you gain confidence, you should announce a policy change: you now support the right of gay men to marry gay women. I don’t see how the voters could object to that. Later, once you’ve made it to the legislature, you might consider following your conscience. Alternatively, you could follow your conscience now and not have history look upon you with disdain.

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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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