Dear Uptight Seattleite, I have trouble communicating with women. I'm just not sure what they mean half the time. What can I do?Doing My Darndest
Dear Darndest, Even if I could claim women as an area of expertise, it would be patriarchal for me to claim I've solved Freud's misogynistic "puzzle" as to what women want. But perhaps it won't cause offense if I simply tell you about something that happened to me the other day at work. Female Co-worker A asked me what I thought about Female Co-worker B. When I said I had no particular opinion, she pressed the issue. Didn't I think that Female Co-worker B was "kind of weird"? After further hints and wordless grimaces, I finally ascertained that Co-worker A thought Co-worker B was funny-looking and a slut, and was hoping I would join her in this opinion. I think there's a clue here for both of us, Darndest—not about how women relate to each other (that cave is too dark for me) but about how we can relate to them. Without resorting to paternalistic generalizations, it's possible to say that one of the things that some women want is simply for you to be their ally. This can entail simply listening sympathetically, even if you don't completely understand what they're saying. But like I said, I'm no expert. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Parking spots marked "Compact Only"—doesn't anyone respect them anymore?Parking Spotless
Dear Spotless, What is a compact car? A car that I'm driving. And a non-compact car? A car that you're driving. Park in a compact-only spot and you can expect a stern glance from me. Decode it at your leisure. While doing so, please also remember that when I park in that same spot, my Subaru Legacy obscures the words "Compact Only," which are therefore not applicable. Seem unfair? Not once you understand the history. Back in the '70s, driving one of the original generation of Japanese compacts was the mark of a progressive, cosmopolitan mind that dared to defy the jingoistic call to "Buy American." They might have laughed at our "toy cars" then, but we were saving money and the planet. The joke was on them as our sensible little CVCC engines buzzed past overheated Mercury Bobcats strewn along the sides of the nation's roads. Even as the years brought us progressively larger and more comfortable Japanese cars, we retained our identities as compact-car drivers. After all, the important thing isn't the pollution produced by an Acura TL, it's the bumper sticker that says, "Hey, you on the bike! Thanks." Indeed, it has become clear that "compact" refers not to the car but to the mind-set of the driver. In honor of our tolerant, forward-thinking ways, there are spots in every garage reserved just for us. If you have to stop and wonder if you're allowed to park there, you're not. Dear Uptight Seattleite, My dad is a piece of shit.An 8-Year-Old
Dear 8-Year-Old, My first instinct is to argue along these lines: The state of being you characterize as "a piece of shit" may be only a brief stop on a journey toward new spring growth. You seem to be a bright young person, so perhaps you've followed my past discussions of the golden value feces has in Gaia's manure-for-daisies-based economy that we're all part of in some way. Therefore, my argument would go, your piece-of-shit dad may have more to offer than you think. But instead, I would like to tell you about a friend of mine and his daughter. I'm guessing you and your dad may be like these two. If so, your dad is sometimes unable to cope with the speed and energy of your mind, which is a magically sensitive instrument sorting through the rich experience of being alive, from Pokémon and best friends to astronomy and cursive L's. His mind is a bit sluggish in comparison. This difference in speed may sometimes make him irritable, especially when he's out of vodka. But your burgeoning powers light him up with an incandescent joy, even when you're reading the phone book instead of getting dressed for school, or testing the water resistance of his iPod. When you beat him at chess for the first time the other day, it was a defeat sweeter than a thousand victories. And that's no shit. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.