"Social Q's," Answered By The Loser

This morning, we got another e-mail from a reader about the New York Times new Styles column "Social Q's." It asked "Can you please cover this new ny times crazy advice column? where did it come from? who is the mysterious philip galanes?" Well, it turns out that I don't know a lot about Philip Galanes, other than what his biography says (lawyer, novelist, etc.) and the fact that he was, apparently, my competition for this column. Yeah, um, I was auditioning to be its author, too, and they picked him instead. So, after the jump, I answer questions from his column. You can decide whether the Times made the right decision (Hint: they probably did. I'm kind of confrontational.)

A few months ago, I met my boyfriend on JDate, a dating site for Jewish singles. He assumed I was Jewish, and I didn't correct him when I had the chance. Now I'm afraid that if I tell him, he's going to dump me. What do I do? I really like this guy, but it's getting weird.

Look, I know that lying in an online dating profile is practically de rigeur these days — just ask either of my exes that posted profiles in singles sites while we were still dating — but that doesn't make it the right thing to do. What are you actually there looking to do? Are you looking to find someone who likes you for you, or for someone you can lie to long enough that he'll be so attached by the time he gets to know the actual you that he won't leave even though he'll think you're a liar and might never trust you again? You lied, and you kept lying and of course it's "getting" weird. It started out weird. Accept that he might dump you, accept that you may end up with a profile on TrueDater.com, accept that you have serious issues if you can spend months lying to someone like that, and then suck it up and tell the truth with a measure of contrition and humility. And then get into therapy to try to figure out why you can't trust people to like you for who you are.

My assistant doesn't do anything for her appearance - no make-up, hair pulled back (and looking greasy) and dumpy clothes. I try to set a good example by being put together. Now that summer is here, she's wearing open sandals and doesn't paint her toenails. Her feet look rather unkempt, and I think painted nails pull a look together - especially in summer! How do I have a conversation with her? She wants to move out into the business world in the next year or so, after she completes her M.B.A.

As a woman who rarely wears makeup, has incredibly un-shampoo- commercial-like hair, used to wear dumpy clothes and currently sports a 3-week old chipped pedicure, believe me, you don't have to tell her that's she's not living up to society's expectations that all smart, successful woman are also impeccably dressed, coiffed and manicured. You know what that often requires? Money. Sometimes lots of it. It also requires time and effort that maybe, just maybe, she doesn't have while working for you full-time and trying to complete a graduate degree. Plus, frankly, no one is going to be looking at her toes during a job interview (if for no other reason than she hopefully won't be wearing open-toed shoes).

On the other hand, a lot of younger people can and do benefit from appropriate career advice, from how to interview to how to negotiate on salary to how to move up within an organization. Maybe her grad program has sessions on those things that she's missing while working. Rather than talking to her about what she could do to try to meet your standards of "put-together," you could really mentor her and ask if there are career-training sessions at her college that she's missing and support her in taking the time off to attend them. You could help review her resume, or practice her interview skills, or, best of all, you could find some reason to compliment her appearance just because it would probably brighten her presumably extremely long day.



My friend and I have played tennis together for many years. Lately, I've noticed his cheating on line calls. This has been confirmed by others. I haven't said anything to him for fear of damaging our relationship, but I'm starting to get frustrated that he is winning points at my expense. How do I handle this?


Ask yourself: do you want to keep the friend or win the game? Your friend is immature, hyper-competitive and annoying, but he's your friend. If it's just a friendly game of tennis for the enjoyment of one another's company and a little exercise, why make a point of it? But if it's so important to you that you win, bring it up while you're playing. Maybe he'll concede the line calls, and, presumably, him cheating won't be so much of an issue for either one of you relatively soon.

You're at someone's house who starts talking about how wrong gay marriage is. You are gay. What do you do?

I think the first question to ask yourself is how important is it to you that they know (or don't know) that you are gay. If you're trying to stay closeted with this person for whatever reason, you probably already know that getting into a debate on gay marriage — even as a straight person — with someone who thinks that the "wrongness" of gay marriage is an appropriate topic of conversation is going to make that person assume that you are gay. If this has consequences for you that you don't want to face (like, say, if you're in the military and this is your commanding officer), then you need to tread carefully, and changing the subject is probably the way to go.

If, however, you are out and feel as strongly about your side of this issue as he does (and are not concerned for your safety, obviously), then you shouldn't swallow your pride and pretend like it doesn't matter to you. You should, however, recognize that the kind of person who brings this up with strangers isn't going to be convinced of the validity of your point of view or agree with your arguments because he's already closed his mind. The best you can hope for is that he will recognize that there are people who don't agree with him and maybe he should keep his yap shut in the future, and that you won't have to be subjected to his company again.

Social Q's [NY Times]