Advice June 2012

What’s Your Problem?

Nishant Choksi

I have difficulty sleeping, so I take Ambien. It works well, but sometimes I feel aggressive the next day. It’s not like I’m driving my car into people, but I feel like I could contemplate doing that. Is there some way to counteract this feeling?

B.F., Baltimore, Md.

Dear B.F.,

I, too, have taken Ambien, and while I found it effective, it caused me to dream that I was Alex Trebek.

As someone who once thought for 10 minutes about becoming a physician, I recommend that you cease taking Ambien immediately, and see if these thoughts about driving your car into people also cease. If they don’t, we have another problem here. In the meantime, my suggestion for when you’re having difficulty falling asleep: warm milk, stewed peaches, and Harper’s magazine.

Unfortunately for me, I share a name with a notorious political figure, and my name is also the name of my business. I’ve been in business longer than he’s been notorious, but now I get jokes about it all the time, and I wonder if I’m losing business because of this.

J.E., Atlanta, Ga.

Dear J.E.,

Rebranding a company with a troubled history, or renaming a product with unfortunate associations, is often a necessary act of self-protection. The makers of the diet drug Ayds, which was popular in the early 1980s, did not move quickly enough to change their product’s name, for instance. And it’s recently come to light that before he was killed, Osama bin Laden, realizing that al-Qaeda was a damaged brand, proposed renaming his organization the “Monotheism and Jihad Group.” (My own suggestions would have included “Snowcones and Monotheism” and “Altria.”)

There is no hard rule on this question. It depends in part on the notoriety of the name. Scandal is ephemeral, but your name is your name. Err on the side of maintaining your name, and your dignity. Unless you are John Edwards, marriage counselor.

My boyfriend and I are planning to pursue advanced degrees; I will be attending UCLA and he will be at the University of Chicago. We are in love and plan to get married. He told me the other night that he thinks that, while we’re apart, I should go out with a couple different people, so I won’t resent him for making me miss these experiences. I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t believe that he himself is asking for permission to play around. What should I do?

S.T., New York, N.Y.

Dear S.T.,

I think you need to steel yourself for the real possibility that he is seeking permission to sleep with other women. Numerous make-believe studies show that men simply do not think in the manner you describe. Your boyfriend makes a plausible (if self-interested) argument—there is value in the notion of two young people’s experiencing the wider world of dating in order to test their bond of love before they seal it for eternity. If his suggestion bothers you, you should tell him so. You might also point out that he may be engaging in an act of unilateral disarmament, because the University of Chicago is the place where libidos go to die. If he is inviting you to find a boyfriend at UCLA, he is either not committed to the relationship, or not terribly bright.

I am overdue for a checkup, but I’m overweight and I dread getting on the scale. How can I motivate myself to go to the doctor?

N.R., Newton, Mass.

Dear N.R.,

You are operating under the mistaken assumption that you are mandated to get on the scale. You can refuse. You’re a grown-up, after all, and a paying customer. If you are substantially overweight, the doctor will know by looking at you. But if the doctor, or the nurse, insists on pushing the point, simply redefine the problem, as I do: tell them what you have is not a weight problem, but a height problem, and demand that they focus their attention on that.

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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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