What’s Your Problem?

The smartest way to carry an iPad, and other advice

By Jeffrey Goldberg

When I was 17, I shoplifted condoms from a pharmacy, not because I’m a criminal but because I was too embarrassed to make eye contact with the clerk. I’m now in my late 40s and in a similar situation. Well, sort of similar. I need Viagra to function properly, but I’m too embarrassed to ask my doctor for a prescription. My doctor is a friend of mine, but I don’t think this is the problem. Am I just pathologically shy when it comes to sex?

T.R., St. Louis, Mo.

Dear T.R.,

You should not feel shame or embarrassment about your problem. For one thing, you are obviously not too pathologically shy to actually have sex, unless you stole those condoms to make balloon animals. And your dilemma is a common one, though this columnist does not have personal experience with it, suffering as he does from Extreme Erectile Function Syndrome. If this columnist manages to reach 90, however, he will avail himself of whatever medications, stimulants, prosthetic devices, or kitchen implements he deems necessary to compete in his age category. (To celebrate reaching such an advanced age, he will also consume only chili dogs, Ho Hos, and cocaine.) But you should see a doctor soon—if not your own doctor, then a stranger in another city. Erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of more serious problems, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and lingering guilt over your career as a teenage condom thief.

We vacation each year on Martha’s Vineyard. At the end of this summer, my children asked if we could place those little oval stickers reading MV on the back bumpers of our cars (a Land Rover and a Volvo) to show their love for the place. I hesitate to do this, because it seems like bragging. When I see people with OBX or ACK on their bumpers, I think, I don’t care where you go for vacation. Would I be right to deny this to my children?

P.W., New York, N.Y.

Dear P.W.,

I am going to guess that you do not deny your children very much; no harm will come from denying them an early experience in status enhancement. In any case, the Land Rover says what needs to be said, without additional bumper-level commentary. Like you, I am opposed on principle to self-aggrandizing car adornments. But if, as I suspect, you work in the hedge-fund industry and have extra money, I would like your financial help to start producing reverse-snob bumper stickers. Instead of advertising an affiliation with Sun Valley or Aspen, these stickers would memorialize important but less-celebrated American destinations, such as LOV, commemorating America’s most famous Superfund site; EWR, for my favorite New Jersey airport; HNR, celebrating the radioactive-waste clean-up operation at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation; and MCC, for the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan. Put one of these on your rear bumper, and create status anxiety in Restoration Hardware parking lots across America.

Everyone tells me the iPad can save magazines. I’d like to save your livelihood. But I’ve got to be able to tote a magazine everywhere. The iPad is expensive and fragile, and I have no way to carry it. A woman can always carry it in her bag. Hipsters and metrosexuals have messenger bags. Older males entirely comfortable with their sexuality have European man-bags. I’m middle-aged and retrograde; how am I supposed to carry my iPad everywhere?

B.S., Los Angeles, Calif.

Dear B.S.,

I suggest wrapping the print edition of this magazine around your iPad. Its luxuriously glossy pages will provide ample padding.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/whats-your-problem/308291/