Dear Uptight Seattleite,I brush my teeth at work, and I worry that my co-workers take this as a subtle dis regarding their own dental hygiene. Should I start hiding my habit?One Barb A-Brushing
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Dear One Barb,Well, hello there! Aren't you a tuneful little thing! That's what I said to a little sparrow on my neighbor's roof this morning. I've been paying attention to sparrows recently because of an article I'm doing for Green Lake Bird Notes. Strictly on a volunteer basis; I believe in sharing my literary trifles with the world as the freely as the sparrow shares his song.You, too, should share your song, Barb. I'm talking about the wakka wakka sound produced by rapidly opening and closing your lips while brushing your teeth. Try doing the William Tell Overture and the Hawaii Five-O theme. This will set the right tone of goofy non-judgmentalism and show your co-workers you don't think less of them just because your mouth is a paragon of tingling minty-ness while theirs are dank caves with partially masticated food particles mashed into every crevice.Dear Uptight Seattleite,Is there a good way to compliment someone's Lord of the Rings tattoo when he's sitting next to you in the sauna at the gym?Sweating Steve
Dear Steve,"I love your Lord of the Rings tattoo!" Q: Why does that have such a clunky sound to it? A: It's too direct, especially in the close confines of a sauna. You have to figure out a way to go in this guy's back door, so to speak. I recommend discussing the particulars of his tattoo in a supportive and discerning fashion. "That version of Gollum was indeed the most visually successful of Peter Jackson's adaptations!" you could exclaim, or, "OK, my Elvish is kind of rusty: Does your neck say 'One Less Car'?"Dear Uptight Seattleite,We're so broke we're going to have to take tenants. How can I get my son to give up his room?Belt-Tightening Terry
Dear Terry,By making it fun for him. Play a round of his favorite board game, and tell him that this time the winner will get a secret prize. After you defeat him you can show him the prize: a certificate that "entitles the bearer to kick [your son's name here] out of his room and rent it out to a stranger."If—despite your best efforts—your son manages to win the game, substitute a different prize: a license to sleep in a tent in the living room for the next 11 years.Dear Uptight Seattleite,The fifth anniversary of my divorce is coming up, and I've been thinking about my former wife. Not that I want to get back together or anything. I just want to wish her the best and tell her I hope she's happy. Is it possible to do this without causing offense?Reflecting Raul
Dear Raul,Wounds are stories written on our bodies. Your own wounds may have faded to pale blotches spelling out a wistful tale, but there's no telling what drama may burn on your ex-wife's skin. What are your motives here? I suggest you invite them out for coffee and a friendly little interrogation session. Perhaps there's some guilt involved. If so, remember that it's not your ex-wife's responsibility to edit out your guilt. And it's not your right to propose alternative interpretations. For better or for worse, your stories are now separate ones, so you might want to send good wishes silently through the ether and leave it at that. Direct contact may cause her nothing but inflammation of the narrative.Dear Uptight Seattleite,Are we obliged to pick up the poop of other people's dogs when we see it?Sarah and Kenji
Dear Sarah and Kenji,Yes. But here's why I myself will not be picking up any poop that didn't drop out of my own dog: I've synched Georgina's bowels with the delivery of The New York Times. A single blue plastic bag containing the paper arrives every morning, and I immediately reuse it that morning during our walk. Environmental blame instantly disappears in a poof! of exact symmetry between my needs and my level of consumption. The routine of taking a walk at the same time every day has also been good for my relationship with Georgina. She thinks I've been spending too much time with birds lately.Wanna be BUFFs? Find the Uptight on Facebook! Or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.