What's Your Problem?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

My 10-month-old son likes to eat your magazine. Can you tell me which parts are certified organic?

E.A., Katy, Texas

Dear E.A.,

According to John Kefferstan, The Atlantic’s production chief, the magazine uses mainly soy-based ink, paper pulp, and rhino horn to make the printed product your child is eating. As the magazine moves through the final stages of the production process, it is coated with marijuana, along with an invisible solution designed to make its readers 15 percent smarter than they already are. Finally, each magazine is hand-dipped in hummus, for taste. Good eating! Might I suggest your son try the articles written by James Fallows? They’ll help him get into Harvard.

I cannot get my 14-year-old son to stop speaking in sports clichés. He’s beginning to sound like an ESPN announcer, even when we’re not watching sports: “no lead is safe,” “they’re really lighting up the scoreboard,” “this is a real pressure cooker.” We were watching The King’s Speech the other night, and my son said, of the Geoffrey Rush character, “He’s really putting on a clinic.” What can I do about this?

J.T., Manchester, N.H.

Dear J.T.,

You have a few options. You can get him a job at ESPN (I understand that it is an agreeable place for males to work). Or you can expand his observational range by buying him a book of late-19th-century British witticisms, ideally one with an aristocratic bent. I recommend Douglas Jerrold’s Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures, which puts the young people I know in stitches. Regardless, consider yourself lucky—not only do most teenagers not speak English, they rarely speak at all. You, by contrast, have a son who can construct, or at least regurgitate, sentences. He should be fine, as long as he gives 110 percent in school.

I don’t have a problem for you to solve—I have a solution to all your problems! The answer to your problems, and those of your blessed readers, is the Goddess, the Divine Mother, the creatrix who represents higher human consciousness and the essential femaleness of the beloved Earth Mother. Will you tell your readers that faith in the Goddess will end disharmony and that the intoxicating love of God in the Feminine has the power to stop wars, hatred, and pollution? Will you? You cannot join our movement, because you are wombless, but you can be an ally!

R.C., Albuquerque, N.M.

Dear R.C.,

This columnist, by custom, leans toward pluralism, and therefore seeks the good in all religions, except the ones he doesn’t like. Moreover, he has always suspected that he is not, in fact, wombless. Nonetheless, he will not endorse a neo-pagan movement that demands of its adherents repeated visits to a “menstrual hut.” (You can look it up on the Internet.) On the other hand, if goddess worship were to be conducted in a “prostate cave” or “sports bar,” he might be enticed to reconsider.

My wife has difficulty falling asleep, so she is trying a new “ambient-sound machine,” which creates allegedly soft sounds, such as breezes, waves lapping the shore, whale calls, and the like. The problem is that I find ocean sounds and whale songs (or whatever they’re called) very discordant. Is there something wrong with me? I’m an environmentalist, so I should like whale and ocean sounds.

P.N., Berkeley, Calif.

Dear P.N.,

Numerous scientific studies have shown that while you can tune a piano, you can’t tuna fish.

Editors’ Note

The Atlantic Media Company apologizes for the previous joke. The writer of this column has been trying to see it into print since at least the presidency of George H. W. Bush.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/whats-your-problem/308552/