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Bad Advice On Employing A Sexual Harasser To Teach Your Child

“A sign in my gym’s locker room reads: ‘Please use a lock. Not responsible for lost or stolen items.’ Frustrated at searching for free lockers (because people stow their things, but don’t use a lock — thus making lockers look free when they aren’t), I move the contents of unlocked lockers to the ledge above. I am trying to square the owners’ apparent indifference to what happens to their things (by failing to use a lock) with the idea that a locker is occupied. I am frustrated by the time-consuming search for unused lockers. And these people fail to follow instructions: ‘Please use a lock.’”

—From CONNIE via Social Q’s, New York Times, 1 February 2018

Dear Connie,

It is of course tiresome enough, when searching for a place to stow one’s own bag full of priceless gems and cures for various deadly illnesses, to open gym locker after gym locker only to find the cubbies occupied by the worthless tackle of the masses. But to then be forced to do the exhausting work of removing strangers’ piddly crap and placing it elsewhere — why, that really cuts into a cardio warm-up! It really says something about the thoughtlessness of people these days that your gym-mates think nothing of delegating to you the responsibility of removing their crummy bullshit from lockers and leaving it just around wherever when in fact you have a lot of House Hunters to catch up on from the elliptical!

Items that are not placed under lock and key must be strewn about. That’s not just a basic function of physics — famously illustrated by the concept of Schroedinger’s Moldy Shower Shoe — it’s also a moral issue. Once you’ve laid eyes upon a set of house keys, a half-used stick of Right Guard, and a crumpled but blessedly unused maxi pad, you have an obligation to move them to a new place in order to teach a valuable lesson to people who erroneously believe that “their” “possessions” “belong” to them just because they bought them, were given them, or otherwise came to have them in their custody. Why, anyone might come by and simply help themselves — you’ll make sure of it!

But of course none of this answers your question — you want to know how you can stop wasting time opening all of the unlocked gym cubbies full of people’s phones and credit cards and other garbage, emptying all the unlocked gym cubbies full of this detritus and relocating all of this trash no one will ever miss from all of the unlocked gym cubbies. The solution couldn’t be simpler: Incorporate all of this unavoidable lifting and shifting into your weight training routine, thereby cutting down on the time you spend out on the floor. You could even ask one of your gym’s personal trainers to help you out! In the spirit of intellectual consistency, be sure you follow whatever instructions they give you after you have described in detail your practice of rifling through the belongings of your fellow patrons.

“My son is in high school and has been being tutored by a college math associate professor for the past six months. My son has made fantastic progress and has overcome years of failing math grades.

The problem is that this professor was just fired for sexual harassment at his college. It was a big enough deal to make the local paper and everyone has backed away from him. He has been ejected from his other leadership positions in town and is now seen as a pariah. (The level of harassment was Louis C.K.-level, not Weinstein.)

I want to continue the tutoring as long as possible. I am concerned about the message my son gets in this, but at the same time, this tutoring is the only thing that has ever worked for my son in math. He has taken a child who may have not graduated high school and put him on track for college. What should I do?”

— Via Dear Prudence, Slate, 19 December 2017

Dear What Should I Do?

At any moment your son could be asked to perform elaborate feats of trigonometry, but what are the chances he’s going to interact with another human on planet earth and need to draw on the values and lessons imparted to him by his family in order to decide how (or whether!) to proceed in any given social situation? Pretty low, probably!

As long as the otherwise brilliant man your son hangs out with on a regular basis has only whipped his dick out and masturbated in front of women who expressly did not consent to participation in such an act, as opposed to forcibly sexually assaulting them, you’re fine. Adolescents are notoriously immune to sociocultural influences and your kid, like all teenage boys, is not of a developmentally significant age at which it would be a bad idea to teach him that being moderately competent at something means he can do whatever he wants to whoever he wants to do it to, whenever he wants to do it. You can always decline to give your family’s money to some other sexual harasser, some other time, when it is more convenient for you.

Who can say that just because your family continues to expressly support a sexual harasser for doing math good, your son will get the impression that an individual man’s intellectual or artistic contributions are more important than the safety, wellbeing, and potential of any number of women? He might just learn some good long division tricks from the man who makes women look at his dick when they don’t want to! It’s definitely worth the gamble.

Your son has his whole life to learn that sexually harassing women has consequences. Maybe your soon will learn this lesson at that good, good college he’ll get into thanks to that man who shows his dick to women when they don’t want to see it! Maybe he’ll learn it when he gets a job, or maybe when he becomes somebody’s boss, or maybe when he becomes powerful enough to hire people, or maybe when he becomes powerful enough to fire people, or maybe when he retires, or maybe when he’s literally on his deathbed?

Regardless, there is just so much time left in life for your son to learn about consent and respect and human decency, and so little time for him to memorize the quadratic equation. There are not many math professors as good as this one and so few women in the field, anyway, so it’s not like you’re going to find one easily — I wonder why? It’s probably biology or something.

“I got married three weeks ago. It was my second and my husband’s first marriage. The venue was about 110 miles away from the area where we and most of our friends and family live, so many guests stayed in the hotel affiliated with the venue. We went all out! Several guests have said it was the best wedding they’d ever attended. Five hours of open bar, outstanding food, and gorgeous setting! We went through all our cards and gifts and noticed there was one missing — a woman I’ve considered a very close friend for twenty years. She came to the wedding alone and, believe you me, took full advantage of the open bar. I was perplexed and surprised because it seemed out of character for her not to give a gift. I texted her and (white lie) told her that hubby and I were concerned that we may have been missing some cards then casually asked, ‘Did you put a card in the box?’ To which she simply replied, ‘No.’ I understand she doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, I get that, but NOTHING? Not a card with a lovely sentiment or even a modest gift?

Do you have any words of wisdom? I realize I need to ‘let it go,’ but I’ve been ruminating!”

—From VEXED IN UPSTATE NEW YORK via Ask A Practical Wedding, A Practical Wedding, 18 January 2018

Dear Vexed,

Of course you’ve been ruminating! People who get married deserve to be materially rewarded for falling in love and telling a bunch of people about it all at once, and you are no exception. Everyone who attended your destination wedding owes you a gift that meets or exceeds their precisely consumed share of the open bar, and this so-called “very close friend” is absolutely obligated to reimburse you for the 1/389th of the wedding you performed for her. (And you definitely had one of the best weddings, for sure! Definitely only people who have the best weddings are told that their weddings are the best! This is absolutely 100% not a thing that people just blurt out because what the fuck else do you to say to someone who stenciled their kindergarten school picture in artisanal vegan crayon on 389 light blue mason jars.)