It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for me to solve all the world’s problems with the anonymous mailbag.
As always, you can send your anonymous mailbag questions to email@example.com, anonymity guaranteed.
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Here we go with the anonymous mailbag:
“Half the time I am living with my parents, the other half I am 5 hours away living with my girlfriend. I recently was away from my parents’ place for 3 weeks. While I was gone they rearranged the family room. They got a new 85’ tv. Really nice. But they also got rid of the most comfortable couch in the world in exchange for new, very bland couches that pass the decorations and looks test, but fail the comfort test miserably. Apparently the old furniture smelled bad, but I never noticed anything wrong with the smell.
My dad has his own chair he sits in so he doesn’t have much of an opinion, other than spending a grand on new couches that he didn’t know he needed to. But my mom and sister love the new couches.
My girlfriend says I’m being a spoiled brat to complain about the new uncomfortable couches. Even though the tv is a great purchase, I don’t think that makes the couches immune from criticism. On the bright side my girlfriend, who also has an uncomfortable couch, did say she will never buy another couch again without my approval.
I quickly stopped the criticism because I don’t live here permanently. Ultimately, I don’t care about the looks of a couch. At all. All I care about is how comfortable it is.
Is it the right move to just let this go? Can you please explain to the world how comfort is the most important quality of a couch.”
Your girlfriend is right, you’re being a huge brat.
YOU’RE GROWN, AND IT’S NOT YOUR HOUSE!
So you have no say in what the new couch is like. Or frankly on any other decisions that are made in your parents’ house. (Although you are correct that the most important quality in any couch — bed too — is whether or not it’s comfortable.) Plus, what’s your play here anyway, to demand the purchase of a new couch that you, a grown man living for free, I presume, in your parents’ house, gets to pick?
Yeah, that’s absurd.
Let me just go ahead and let you in on a little secret here — your girlfriend is also lying to you about the choices she’s going to make in home décor, if you guys get married one day. Women decide all of these things, and once you marry them, they know they have the ability to turn the home into a benevolent — hopefully — dictatorship. Sure, you might get “consulted,” but that’s just for show. Your opinion really doesn’t matter on any decorating decision your wife will make in your/her house forever.
This is like an old school Iraqi election with Saddam Hussein. You vote, but you vote the way she wants you to vote.
And, frankly, that’s probably the way it should be for most couples.
Because you, like me, probably have awful taste when it comes to the appropriate furniture in your home. Or matching furniture or ensuring that your overall home has a “style.” Most men, left to their own devices, would have a really comfortable couch and a massive television and essentially nothing else in the entire apartment, house, or condo.
You’d eat every meal on this couch too, meaning you really wouldn’t need a dining table or anything of the sort either.
You might have a headboard on your bed if your mom insists on you buying one, but a lot of guys are fine with just mattresses — again a comfortable one — on the ground in their bedrooms.
Before I got married, I didn’t even know all the things I was going to end up spending money on in the house. I’m still in shock over what window treatments cost. I didn’t even know window treatments existed until I got married, and then I had to buy them in a condo, a house and now another house. I’ve spent more on window treatments now than your average kid pays for a couple of years of college, AND I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THEY EXISTED BEFORE I GOT MARRIED.
I thought every home just had a curtain or those blinds that you raise or lower or twist on the side.
I was very wrong.
My point here? Most men are comfortable living relatively spartan existences when we are left to our own devices. (Then we get divorced and spend way too much money on whatever an interior decorator suggests because we’re hoping she’ll sleep with us.)
When my wife moved in with me, I didn’t have any pots and pans in my condo and I hadn’t even realized I was missing pots and pans until she asked about them. I used the microwave, made myself sandwiches, and otherwise bought food out. I had no idea what I was missing. And that, generally speaking, is how most guys are.
Anyway, my point here is, you’d better get used to things changing and having no say about any of it. Right now, you’re a spoiled kid who has pretty much had the world revolving around him. Once you get married and have kids, you will rapidly realize that with every kid — and pet — you move farther down the flow chart of importance in the household.
Don’t believe me? Here are the Travis family power rankings at this exact moment:
2. Youngest son
3. Middle son
4. Oldest son
5. Cat one
6. Cat two (he occasionally refuses to use the litter box)
(Yes, we have two cats. And each of them cost me a $1000. How did this happen? Consult the power rankings in the household above. I have no say on anything.)
“I’m in my mid-thirties with two kids. My wife has started planting the seed of having a 3rd child, which I’m totally on board with, even though I have a few reservations about the financials.
My bigger issue is that since baby #2, my wife has not only not lost any of the baby weight, but she’s put on even more. This isn’t about fat shaming – I’m incredibly attracted to her and she’s an unbelievable mother. I am most concerned about her health and that of the baby during pregnancy.
We had no problem conceiving baby #1, but my wife had two miscarriages before baby #2. There were other factors at play, but I am concerned that the unhealthy lifestyle may contribute to more difficulties.
Part of me is to blame since I buy a lot of snacks and don’t gain weight like she does, but how do I encourage more exercise/healthier eating habits without being blacklisted from ever having sex again? Also, please delete this email permanently, or it’ll be another reason I never have sex again.”
So you’re emailing me to ask how to tell your wife that she’s fat without causing World War III in the household?
Yeah, I’ll get to that as soon as I cure cancer, end mass starvation, and ensure that Tennessee athletics has a stable coaching environment for football.
In all seriousness, this is an incredibly delicate situation.
I think the only way you can manage it is by changing your behavior too and making it the focus of your conversation with your wife. In other words, you have to make a concerted effort to eat healthy, even though the snacks you bring into the house don’t have the same impact on your body as they have on her body.
I also think you can use the decision to have a third baby as an excuse for both of you to get healthier.
You mention your wife had two miscarriages before your second child, and you are in your mid-thirties. You and your wife aren’t as young as you were on the first two kids, and you probably aren’t as healthy either. So you can say that both of you should get healthier in advance of having this third kid to make sure you’re able to take care of the new baby, in addition to your two other kids, to the best of your ability.
You can say it might take longer for your wife to recover from this baby than it did for the first couple of kids, which is why going into the pregnancy as healthy as possible is the best possible choice for both of you.
I think that allows you to broach the topic without getting yourself killed.
Second suggestion, can you work out together? Lots of couples brought fitness in house during the pandemic. Peloton, for instance, has become wildly popular. My wife loves her Peloton bike. Could you buy something like this for the two of you and encourage a couples workout? Could you sign up for a couples gym membership as COVID restrictions across the country are easing? Gym memberships are relatively affordable, and if you do it together, you can avoid her accusing you of focusing on her weight.
Put simply, getting healthier is about changing your household’s lifestyle and habits. Ultimately what you eat, I’ve found, matters more than how hard you work out. And getting healthier isn’t an overnight fix, which means you both have to commit to it if you are going to sustain the change. What you absolutely, positively cannot do, however, is ask her to make changes to her lifestyle that you aren’t willing to make yourself. Because then she will believe you are asking for these changes because you think she’s fat. (Which is true, but you absolutely, positively cannot allow her to believe this.)
Good luck avoiding World War III.
“I’m a teacher in GA. One of my fellow teachers was doing a lesson today reading Huckleberry Finn. One of our virtual student’s parents (our district is doing in person and virtual at the same time) called to complain because the book has the N word in it. I get the culture we are living in, but the whole premise of the book is Twain actually talking AGAINST slavery and discrimination. I should probably also say that 95% of our district is made up of minorities. So it’s not as if it’s a bunch of white kids sitting around reading this book. Also, what is with the fake outrage? Every single one of my students can sing every word to WAP and not a single parent says anything, but they can’t read Huckleberry Finn? What is this world coming to Clay?”
Everyone is so afraid of losing their job that they’ve decided the safest thing to do is accept every single complaint that anyone raises without fighting back.
That’s why cancel culture is running rampant.
Not because people actually agree with it, but because they are so terrified of disagreeing with whatever the ascendant mob online is attacking because that mob may turn on them next.
We’ve also bought into the idea that children should never be uncomfortable in their learning at all. In other words, anything that makes any kid the slightest bit uncomfortable has to be eliminated. That’s how we’re raising the most coddled generation ever to exist.
Many parents now believe that by shielding their kids from any discomfort at all, they are helping their kids. Parents have bought into the idea that kids are fragile and in permanent danger of breaking. I believe the exact opposite. I think kids are tough, and we need to work on making them tougher. Kids need to fail — and overcome obstacles — in order to grow.
Last night, my ten-year-old son’s basketball team lost in the county tournament. All of the kids were crushed and crying after the game. Now, personally, I’d prefer that kids lose games without crying. But the bigger issue here is sports teach kids how to cope with failure in a world that increasingly tells them they never fail.
The world is full of high-end competition everywhere. You don’t succeed in life by shrinking from competition. Just as there are winners and losers in every game, there are winners and losers in every competitive field as well.
So are you going to compete or not?
You have to learn how to try your hardest and understand that even when that happens, you still might fail. You don’t ever want to get comfortable with losing, but you have to understand what giving your all and still coming up short feels like.
Because that’s going to happen a ton in life.
You have to learn to cope with that feeling of failure.
We’ve created a world where kids aren’t ever supposed to feel the least bit uncomfortable and that isn’t a world that I want to live in because it stifles all growth and, again, presumes that kids are fragile and delicate when the reality is they aren’t at all.
Great works of art often make those who are exposed to them uncomfortable. THAT’S WHY THEY ARE GREAT WORKS OF ART! Art is supposed to challenge your way of thinking and make you see the world in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.
What’s awful about parents like these, as you mentioned, is they are perfectly fine with their kids being exposed to modern culture, which is often far more sordid and without most of the artistic merit, but they are not fine with works of art from the past. How can you be fine with playing “WAP” or any other modern day rap song in your car, but not okay with your kid reading Huckleberry Finn?
It’s totally illogical.
The saddest part of this is these parent think they are helping their kids, but in reality they are harming them. Parents have to stop reacting to words like they are incredibly harmful. We just do. One thing my generation’s parents got right was the old school “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you” aphorism. This isn’t true, of course. Words can hurt, as any kid who has ever had another kid say something mean about them knows. But the lesson is an important one: you shouldn’t let words hurt you. And you should teach your kids, like I teach my own kids, that they shouldn’t let words hurt them either.
We spend far more time, it seems to me, judging words in modern day society than we do actions. And that’s absurd because our focus should be on actions, not words. Today’s modern cancel culture is almost always about word choice of one type or another. It’s almost never about actions. In fact, many people absurdly excuse criminal actions and argue for lesser punishment while insisting maximum punishment for word choice. It’s bonkers.
So if I were the teacher in this situation, I’d respond to the parent by saying, “I understand your concerns, but great literature isn’t about making kids comfortable. It’s sometimes about making them uncomfortable. Because when you’re uncomfortable is often when your horizons grow the most.” Then I’d explain what the book is actually about and why it matters today as much, maybe even more, than when it was written over a hundred years ago.
That may or may not work, but it’s the direction I’d go here.
I also assume, as has been the case for decades, that if a parent is uncomfortable with a particular book assigned in class that there is an alternate book that can be assigned instead. So that offer should be made. But I’d make the case that this is an important book for all kids in school to read.
Good luck with that conversation.
And good luck with continuing to exist in the absurd universe we’ve created, where even Dr. Seuss is being canceled.
As always, send your anonymous mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, anonymity guaranteed.
And thanks for reading.