Thursday, December 3, 2009

From My Orbit

As per usual, original letters here.

LW#1: You ask if it is okay for you to hire your struggling friends to clean your beautiful home. Well, no, it's not a good idea. You were right! You win the argument!

However, the LOLcat is out of the bag because your husband is apparently not savvy about this sort of thing at all, so if the offer is rescinded, you'll both look like jackasses (and he'll probably indicate that the blame is yours, so you look like a biznatch). So now you're kind of stuck, and I guarantee you that if you don't think the regular housecleaner is the bestest in the world, a couple of kids with what you call a deficit of ambition (but likely a whole barrel full of entitlement), will probably not meet your standards either.

So I have a philosophy, and while it's not "friends and money don't mix," it is, "When a friend or family member asks for a loan, consider if you wouldn't mind losing that money with a happy heart before you pony up."

I think you're going to have to cultivate a happy heart for what is to come, though.

But while you're at it, look around for other jobs for them so they can leave off cleaning your house and do something with their time and talents.

LW#2: Sometimes people who are charming and have big, important careers have a kind of a danger-seeking streak. I think sometimes being successful in high-pressure fields almost requires a certain amount of personality disorder. A healthy amount, so to speak. I would reckon your friend has a little bit of the adrenaline rush when she's pilfering lunch, if not in some other fashion through her work (yeah, your honesty alert antennae should be perking up), or possibly a little shoplifting of minor items. The signs only make it more thrilling for her, I bet.

I've also found that people making the "best" salaries to sometimes be completely inconsiderate of other people's property. So I can't say I'm shocked or befuddled.

Obviously, the correct way to address this would have been for the discoverer to have shouted out, "YOU ARE SO BUSTED!" at the moment of discovery. That way this would have bypassed the gossip route and just come out into the open.

You might want to send her an email apprising her that she has been busted and word is getting out. This lets her get out in front of her own personal PR disaster, because let's face it, if she's talented, her career shouldn't evaporate, but her pride should. She needs help before she's after more than baby carrots and yogurt, and you might not advise her this directly, but just state how shocked you were to learn that she was responsible for such petty, malicious acts, and that seems completely out of character to you. Those are kind of buzz words she can use to guide her search for a therapist.

LW#3: Your company must be the very last one in the US that has not installed health department flyers about handwashing, cough covering (with the elbows people!) and general hygeine maneuvers to avoid the plague. I mean, flu.

So go ahead and hit up your local health department and download a couple of these handy flyers, print them out and post them yourself.

If not, encourage your HR people/boss to have a "come to Jesus talk" about handwashing and swine flu and taking time off if you feel sick plus 24 hours of non-NSAID-treated fever. (See? My company is muy on the ball! They even handed out bottles of hand sanitizer!)

If they have already done all this, then rest assured you cannot change the habits of your disgusting pig coworkers without tearing into a bathroom rant ("I AM IN THIS OTHER STALL AND I HEAR YOU NOT WASHING YOUR HANDS, PEGGY SUE! OR "PIGGY SOO-EEY!") that will humiliate everyone and ruin relationships, then just stick to food that is separated by toothpicks at buffets.

Also, whether you like it or not, every single surface is coated with contagion in this world. Most of it is benign. Every inch of your skin holds an estimated 50 million bacteria on it! In fact, fully 10 percent of your body weight is not you, it is bacteria! Millions of viruses float in a single small pitcher of water from any outdoor lake, sea, river, etc.

I just say this to give you some perspective, because you will never be able to get fully liberated from bacteria, just as you will never become fully liberated from coworkers who do not share your sense of urgency about handwashing. You shouldn't let it turn you into a full-stop jerk.

LW#4: This is the best fake letter ever. You hit a trifecta of high points: Abuse, mental illness, hitchhiking. All we need is to stick not doing it for Jesus in there and you would have had the fake LW sweepstakes all wrapped up.


Folks! PSA for you! Virtually no schizophrenics, even in their sickest, delusioniest states, kill or even harm other people! They are of greatest danger to themselves!

So, let's assume you are telling the truth (though you aren't, because that's what I do here). What you do is you go down to the halfway home and ask your brother what really happened to that hitchhiker. Because if there are other people around and he's on the drugs (which tend to make schizophrenics a little something more than spaced out), it's probably a good place and time to ask.

Prudie obviously has no imagination, aside from the thumb-charm. Who's to say he didn't choke out that hitcher at the park and dump him in the river? And yeah, settle down, because if your brother is the sicko you're making him out to be, he would not be able to conceal the body effectively. The crime would have been discovered. Another clue that your letter is 100 percent grade A bullpucky.

But I have to say, I am really pissed at you for this letter. You are exploiting a stereotype for your little thrill. Schizophrenia has touched my life and the lives of people I do and have loved, and a lot of people who read the Dear Prudence column. Those of us who have known schizophrenics or still know them are aware of the difficulty of treating this disease, of the extreme vulnerability our loved ones have, and their families, who suffer immensely, not because of abuse, but because of stigma, of difficulty handling the day to day of a person who is not on medication.

Schizophrenia is a terrible disease. Sure, there are violent schizophrenics, but there are many, many, many more people who are really suffering from the disease and the stigma of schizophrenia. Please, future fake LWs, try not to exploit an already over-exploited group with this sort of nonsense.


  1. SC, thanks so much for ripping a much deserved hole in the arse of LW #4. Nearly all of my wonderful, funny, brilliant, accomplished family is afflicted to one to degree or another by manic-depression, which ranks right on up there on the "Mental Hilarity" charts. Thanks to folks like (Fake) LW #4, who do nothing but further myths and ignorance, it's made us have to keep an intrinsic part of our lives a secret lest potential friends, loved ones and colleagues be frightened away by what they hear and not what's right in front of them. LW#4 deserves every bit of shame she ought to be feeling right now.

  2. Way to go, Spacey! Excellent stuff, as always. My favorite, though, is the 10% factoid! I didn't know that. At all! And though I personally don't give much of a rat's patootey about the hygiene of others (because I have the constitution of an ox and the resistance of a block wall), I got a little shiver with that fact. Which means it *had* to just freakin' *nail* our LW! Here's hoping she sees it and it sends her right over edge. I want to see her in the bathroom with a picket sign that reads "Wipe your ass and wash your hands, you filthy heathens!" :-)

  3. Thanks, SC, for setting the record straight on schizophrenia. You are correct in every word you write.

    Though I'm an advocate of gun control, I see red when I hear proposals (mainly in light of the killings at Virginia Tech) to ban all those with documented mental illness from owning guns. Let's be straight that the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people are no danger to others. Indeed they are *less* dangerous as a group than the population at large.

    If the logic is, "some unacceptable number of assaults with firearms are committed by group X, therefore take firearms away from group X in its entirety"---if that's the logic, then it makes a hell of a lot more sense to ban the male population (group XY?) as a whole from owning guns.

    Bipolar disorder runs in my family, and for a decade I worked and lived with people who had serious mental illnesses. Yes, a scant few could be violent when taking alcohol or drugs, or when off their medicine---but most of those people were also suffering PTSD of some sort.

    In the course of knowing these dear people intimately, I observed that the primary cause of violence was not the psychiatric disorder, but rather the social consequences meted out to them as a result of their disorder---women who in their vulnerability had suffered sexual assaults, and turned aggressive in their own defense; men whom war (whether in Vietnam or the Middle East) pushed over the precarious edge, and who then came home to find no effective help or support.

    These people, as well as those who are fortunate enough not to fall through the safety net, suffer excruciatingly. The ruin they are forced to look on is that of their own lives, not of violence they have committed against others.

    I wish I could ban the use of the terms "schizophrenic" and "split personality," when all the speaker/writer wants to convey is that a person or institution manifests inconsistent behavior, or contradictory attitudes.

    These basic truths cannot be asserted too loudly or too often. Thanks again, SC.

  4. Now I feel challenged to write a fake letter-to-beat-all-fake letters.

  5. If you think I'm harsh LW4 you should see what Proody the LOLcat has to say.

  6. Spacey, neat outerspace wisdom in your answers.

    I'm glad you're standing up for schizophrenics. Such a catastrophy as it affect youth in their late teens or early twenties. I've read somewhere that there's a theory that it's caused by a yet unindentified virus. I hope that leads to a cure.