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Concern over equations brings this:

I’ve never heard about that “age equation” for how much to spend on a bottle of wine.  Where did you hear it?  Is it written down?  You can’t just make up rules.


Can’t I?  I don’t see anyone else running around trying to claim the mantle of etiquette, so I don’t see why not.  That, and you’ll find out that rules in general are just made up.  That’s how rules work.

You wake up screaming in the bloody morning, crawl out of your cave and club something over the head to eat.  You’re chowing down, when a bigger troglodyte comes up, cracks you on the noggin and drags away your breakfast.  Or drags you away for breakfast.  Either way, a few other neighbors notice this, sort out it doesn’t seem quite fair, and alllll the little guys gather around the big guy and beat him to death.

The first rule has been made.

Now we sort out and settle our differences in all manner of ways, many not unsurprisingly like our hairy-knuckled predecessors, and at some point along the way someone writes it down (as I did just yesterday).  At that point, everyone (more or less – see the antagonist of our parable for a dissenting opinion) agrees to abide by it for the time being and there you go.  You have a rule.

So the Rule of wine for casual acquaintances and the Rule of wine for special occasions with your bestest friends may be slightly different from our brand new all-purpose rule of How much to spend on wine in general, it won’t be far off.  Then take into account the sub-clause on How much you can afford and Am I going to be drinking this paint tonight? and you’ve got yourself a pretty well rounded Rule of thumb…which has it’s own colorful (and probably inaccurate) history.

But don’t let that stop you from running around making rules telling the people making the rules that they can’t make the rules.  It’s no end of fun.

I’ll bring the wine!



Asked again and again:

I have been invited to a birthday party, and the invite says “No Gifts.”  I can’t just go empty handed!  What should I take?


A bottle of wine.

What kind of present do you get for a co-worker you don’t know very well?  I drew her name in the office gift exchange.

A bottle of wine.

My best friend from college is coming into town for a wedding, and he’s asked me if I want to go – the bride and groom are fine with this apparently.  What do you bring to a wedding of people you don’t know?

A bottle of wine.

What do you give a new neighbor when they’re moving in?  What about the neighbors moving out?

A bottle of wine.

What is an appropriate housewarming / birthday / thank you present?

A bottle of wine.

I have a friend who entertains all the time – what can I bring (other than a bottle of wine) to show my appreciation?

A bottle of Champagne.

What if they’re alcoholics?

Stinky candle.


How hard is this?  I mean really – I think the whole point of people putting “No Gifts” on their invitations (beyond being alllll kinds of tacky) is that they’re trying to restock their wine cellar.  Or cabinet.  Or what are those things?  Fridges.  Wine fridges.  And who can blame them?  I wonder sometimes if any of this stuff gets drunk.  I mean, to hear you people ask, it never occurs to you to bring, but you’re desperate for ideas.  You know what people just moving in – people you don’t know – people you’re barely acquainted with – Do you know what those people don’t want?

Your creativity.  They really, really don’t.

So just use this formula:

WHAT KIND:  Champagne is always appropriate.  Sparkling wine, too, but Champagne is nicer.  No one is going to turn their nose up to proseco, though.  If it’s hot out, bring a white.  If it’s cold, bring a red.  If it’s a bright, brisk spring day, warm in the sun, and you plan on sitting outside for a while, bring a nice, crisp, chilled rosé.  Just in case they decide to drink it right away.  Other whites don’t have to be chilled for presentation purposes.  (You don’t expect them to open it right away, do you?  Silly head.)

HOW MUCH: Shockingly simple.  Take your age, divide it by 2, and then +/- $5.00.  You’re 46, your neighbor is moving – you go to the store and get them a nice bottle of wine, $18.00 – 28.00.  (46/2 = 23, +/- 5 = 18-28…got it?)  That’s all.

Let’s try again – You’re 21, and going to a friend’s to watch a movie?  (21/2=10.5, +/- 5 = 5.5 – 15.5) … $5.50 – 15.50.  Easy as pie, right?

So I’ve got a party to go to tonight…I’m 39, don’t know the host (I met her while walking the dog – she’s part of the neighborhood association and they’re having a potluck type thing…) – so…19.5 +/- 5… $14.50 – 24.50, bottle of red (it’s going to be chilly out) – and I bet I’ll be invited back.

I hope to God she’s not one of those stealth drunks…



A thoughtful question:

My husband is impossible to shop for!  We have an anniversary and his birthday coming up, and the only thing he says he wants is a gift certificate to Amazon.  I hate giving gift cards, especially to my friends and family…what would you do?


Aaaaaaand what part of that is impossible?  He sounds like he’s quite easy to shop for, and your sentimentality is impossible to appease.

Oh, I don’t know – maybe you just don’t have a credit card and can’t buy anything online.  Maybe you’ve been banned from the internet because of computer crimes – these days, anything seems possible.

Talk someone into buying him a gift card on your behalf, give them cash or a check that won’t bounce, then give the stupid gift card to your husband.  You can spend your time dreaming of fanciful ways to make him have an orgasm instead of thinking of fanciful ways he’s supposed to be impressed by your gift giving.

Come to think of it, maybe a fistful of No-Strings Attached Blow-Job coupons would be more to his liking.  I mean, if you’re just dead set against a gift card.

The truly thoughtful would do both, but I don’t recommend you outsource the second idea to a more computer literate friend.

Who knows where that would lead…



Blindingly obvious, really:

My neighbors are selling their house, and real estate agents letting people in turn on all the lights.  They’ve left one on now for days – on the outside.  It’s a floodlight that points directly into my backyard and into my window at night.  What can I do?


Don’t you have a slingshot?  Oh, do get one – they’re a cheap and fun diversion to common sense, which would tell you to slip a little note under the door asking them to turn the light off instead of hurling little rubber band propelled rocks at the offensive installation.  Actually, I think a note would be rather more effective if you unscrew the light bulb and tape the note to it and pop it in their mailbox.

Perhaps you can’t write.  In my neighborhood, when we have houses for sale, they put up little signs in the yard with numbers on them so you can use a telephone and call people to ask to see the house, or buy it if you’re really intrepid.  I wouldn’t suggest you purchase the house to alleviate the problem, but perhaps calling them and asking them to sort it out would generate some sort of system wide awareness in the realtor world, like a glitch in the matrix.

Failing all those things, you could close your blinds.  Or your eyes.


κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα

κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα!

Say it after me – Katatraya stayeftika!- meaning – “There is trouble in the Gypsy village!”

It also means “Who gives a shit?” or “Who cares?”

I think that’s a wonderful launching point for this glorious mid-week.

Put your life into context every once in a while.  When presented with an issue, a problem, an annoyance – when you’re cut off in traffic or someone flips you off…when you’re pressed for time (but no amount of rushing will change the fact that you’re going to be late) – κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα!

When your friends come to you with petty gossip, or when you are the subject of petty gossip yourself; when you make a little less impact on the world than you thought you would when you were a younger human being…κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα!!

Taken literally, one sees that the trouble in the Gyspy village as literally (sorry Gypsies) beneath one.  The village is over there, down the hill, their problems are not ours and won’t spill over into our lives – so who really gives a shit?  Let them sort it out.  So yes, it has a horrible, racist origin and retains the stain of that provenance, but many wonderful things in life do.  Think of how excited you all were when we landed a robot car on Mars!  You can thank Nazi rocket scientists for giving us the leg up.

So I encourage the Gypsies to make their own slur, to steal it and move on…and we’ll do the same, rather like Gypsies ourselves.

But the take back to your own village point is the same…start asking “Who gives a shit?” a little more often, especially when you’re upset or comforting a friend.  “There, there” is a good start, and the clucking noises of concern have their place, but when there’s really nothing for it, Mr. Frodo, just throw your hands up, throw you head back and laughingly declare:

κάτι τρέχει στα γύφτικα!!  Katatraya stayeftika!! 

And who gives a shit!?



A nerve-wracked reader reports:

We recently got some new neighbors – a gay couple and their dog.  The first thing we noticed before they even moved in is that they fixed up the house.  Great!  The second (and third, and fourth) thing we noticed is that they have a little dog who isn’t yappy necessarily, but who really, really barks.  Don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t bark all the time, but when it does it goes insane – chasing squirrels or neighborhood cats or whatever.  It normally doesn’t last all that long, but the peace of any morning can be just shattered – or any evening meal.  

My question is this: Can we really say anything?  It isn’t a nuisance most of the time, but should we just be expected to live with this daily interruption?


I’m only assuming, then, that no-one on your block:

— mows their lawn

— uses their weedeater

— blows their leaves around with those godawful leaf blower thingies

— has a teenager

— has a loud car

— has a party

Is that the case?  Or did you move out to a huge plot of land with no one but the trees for neighbors until the gays eminent-domained your next-door slot to set up a homestead and annoy you with their dog?  Either way, get ready for some annoyance because – guess what – gays love yard-work (or at least having it done) and they love having parties.

I understand that other people’s pets can be annoying.  Our backyard neighbor’s cat shits in our yard, and I once had a neighbor with an Afghan hound he would dress up and have sit at the table during dinner.  I would have to look at that shit!  But the fact is that a dog that barks at a cat, or a squirrel, even quite loudly and suddenly, is not a nuisance.  A nuisance is a dog that sits outside all day (or all night – or just early in the morning) and barks and barks and barks.  That’s a nuisance.

But look, it isn’t as if there’s nothing you can do.  They sell these little transmitter things that are supposed to emit a high frequency that is triggered by (and bugs the shit out of) dogs when they bark.  If you read about them on Amazon, they have mixed reviews, but it may work – who knows?  I’d wire one of those puppies up and see if it works…your neighbors might appreciate the effort (should you bother to tell them about it) – and if you don’t feel like messing with all that yourself, you can just give them one as a housewarming present.

Anonymously.  From the neighborhood.”



A correspondent:

your sight (sic) is so stupid i’m never coming back





An unhappy homeowner relates:

We’ve recently purchased and renovated a house and thankfully didn’t have to live there during that process.  We’re moved in, and are now in the process of finishing up the last few little things.  So every few days or so we have one or two workers or project managers stop in to repair something or touch up paint, things like that.  The difference is that before it was just an empty house – now we’re fully moved in.  The last time they were here, I walked in on the project manager taking photographs of one of our pieces of art.  I just stood there… When he noticed me, he shamelessly asked “Do you mind if I take a picture of this painting?  I really like it.”  I thought it was shocking and unprofessional – and I intend to talk to the owner (who is a good friend), but in the moment I was at a loss for words.  What would you have said?


“Another one?”


“I do.”

Come to think of it, these responses are also frequently heard at weddings.

The fact that the owner is a good friend somewhat explains why this particular creep thought it was ok to invade your privacy and snap photos inside your house.  Familiarity breeds contempt, I believe, and his behavior is indeed contemptible.  It violates privacy, trust – probably a few clauses in your contract… and so on.  The owner, your friend, will definitely want to hear about this, so don’t pull any punches about what happened, what you said (or didn’t say) and how it made you feel.

Because his actions were totally fucking awful.



Back-aching, a guest writes:

I recently stayed with a friend (of a friend) who had a sleeper sofa.  It was a new, very expensive thing from a designer store, and he was obviously quite proud of it…but it was horribly uncomfortable.  That morning, he asked me how I slept, and I’m afraid I was honest and told him it was pretty bad, and he looked crestfallen.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want to be dishonest.  What could I have said?


Just say “Like a rock.”  He doesn’t have to know that you meant you felt like you slept on one.

He should leave it there, and so should you.  Sofa beds are never comfortable, no matter how much they cost.  If he stupidly persists and asks if the couch was comfortable, you can say “Oh, it’s wonderfully firm.  I’m used to a softer mattress, but if you like firm it’s heaven!”  All other entreaties are met with “It was fine!  Thank you!  No, please, stop – it was fine!” until he stops asking.

The next time you visit, just tell him you need to stay in a hotel because of your acid reflux or something.



A harried host’s harangue:

My husband’s two close friends are coming into town for 4 days during our “staycation”.  That’s all well and good, but that means I get 2 days of rest and 4 days of hosting work while waiting on them hand and foot and keeping the house clean.  They’re nice people, but this is how the dynamic always plays out.


1) Stop using the word staycation.  People who use that word deserve the bad things that happen to them.

2) Don a cute French maid uniform and see how the dynamics change!