What's Your Problem?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

I recently had a technical malfunction with my iPhone. A friend sent me an invitation to a party and I meant to text back, “Hi, I don’t want to go to that party,” but I was typing quickly and wrote, “Ho, I don’t want to go to that party.” This friend recently broke up with a good friend of mine after she met another guy at a conference, so there is some sensitivity about her morals. Anyway, now she won’t talk to me. What should I do?

A.C., Washington, D.C.

Dear A.C.,

This is the result either of sloppy typing or of the “autocorrect” feature on your iPhone, which is a wonderful thing, except when it turns the word marinate into masturbate. Your options are limited: You can bring her the phone in question and demonstrate how the mistake was made. You can explain that if you had intended to compare her to a prostitute, you would have done so in a more comprehensive manner. Or you can find a friend with a better sense of humor.

Can you tell me the best way to propose to a woman?

C.F., Madison, Wis.

Dear C.F.,

Honestly, quickly, privately. First rule, no spectacle: no offers of matrimony during halftime at Giants Stadium, and no pretend-spontaneous proposals on the Today show or anything hosted by Howie Mandel. It is best to avoid putting a woman in a position in which she finds herself too embarrassed, or overcome by television studio lights, to say no. Second rule, spit it out. You will be acting strangely, and possibly sweating uncontrollably, in the hours before you propose. This behavior could, over time, alienate her, so it is best to propose well before dessert. Third rule, verbosity is not a sin. Outline for her, at great length if necessary, her various extraordinary attributes, and why you cannot live without them. Fourth rule, do not be too honest. As you hand her the ring, do not say, for example, “You win” or “Okay, I give up.”

In the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster, I’ve become worried about the chance that there is radiation in my sushi. Is it right to be worried?

P.D., Long Beach, Calif.

Dear P.D.,

Sarah Silverman once said that 9/11 was devastating for her because it was the day she discovered that her soy chai latte had 900 calories. I feel much the same about your question, but I will try to answer it anyway. You would be right to worry if you were dining in the cafeteria of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant. But the truth is that your sushi probably does not come from Japan at all; less than 1 percent of the sushi-grade fish consumed in America does. And you must have some faith that the FDA, which monitors the fish trade, is keeping an eye out for radioactive filets. Moreover, we can hope that the devices installed by the Department of Homeland Security at American ports to prevent the importation of nuclear weapons will also detect nuclear tuna. If you need to worry about something, worry about mercury. Also, sushi is raw.

My wife and I take turns selecting which movies to rent for us to watch together. I like Woody Allen movies, but she cannot stand them. Should I keep selecting them when it is my turn, in the hope that she will come around?

S.K., Bloomfield, Ky.

Dear S.K.,

Usually when women say they “cannot stand” something, that is simply girl code for “I haven’t done it enough to agree with your point of view, but if you keep pushing me, I will undoubtedly see that you are right.” As a test case, try treating your wife to a weekend-long marathon of repeat viewings of Melinda and Melinda and Cassandra’s Dream. Eventually, she’ll come around.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/06/whats-your-problem/308504/