Is There a Way I Can Take Back Giving Someone the Finger?

Is There a Way I Can Take Back Giving Someone the Finger?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I got one for you:

Me: Knock, knock.

You: Who’s there?

Me: I fucked your mom.

Larry White

Dear Larry,

It would’ve been great if you could have given me a little bit of context to work with. But that’s OK. You’re more of a details man, and I can hang with that. I like details. Or maybe you’re not talkative in a conventional way. Maybe you’re more of a ruminator.

You know who else is, literally? Giraffes. They’re part of the class of mammals with a rumen. Cud chewers. I bet the giraffes in Woodland Park Zoo look forward to the changing of the season, since they’ll be able to see a lot farther when the branches are bare. When they stand on the highest point of their fake savanna, they’ll probably be able to see the Olympics. Will the sight trigger in them genetic-level memories of African mountains? I don’t know, but I hope you’ll consider joining me in I Think It Willville.

The coming of autumn can be a particularly ruminative time even for us mammals who aren’t four-footed, hoofed, even-toed cud-chewers. I know it is for me, especially after recent events. See, I had these two cactuses, Tim and Puppy, who lived together in the same pot. Well, one day Tim buckled over. His bottom had gone all gray and rotten. To make sure this didn’t spread to Puppy, I used my multitool to hold Tim down and cut him off at the base with a steak knife. Tim lay on the veranda for a week, clinging in vain to the last vestiges of greenness—his prickles standing yet at proud attention—before his surface went dark, his turgidity gave out, and he sank limply into the soil of the planter in which he lay. Puppy was alone.

You can never count a cactus out, though, that’s the takeaway here. Repotted and given a new window, Puppy is today the happiest of cacti. If I’d done the repotting earlier, could it have saved Tim? I don’t know, but I’ve got a proposition for you: How about you not play the blame game with me and I won’t play it with you? I don’t think any of us came here for that. You might also consider growing up a little bit, Larry. That’s what your mother would want. Believe me, I’m an expert on that topic. Then again, who isn’t?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I’m slowly evolving into a true Seattle driver. I go the speed limit, politely yield to pedestrians, etc. But I’m from Cincinnati, and my roots still express themselves, especially when someone cuts me off. On those occasions, I sometimes flip people off. I always regret it, though. Is there a way I can take back giving someone the finger?

Bird Woman

Dear Bird Woman,

Yes. Make exactly the opposite gesture: Extend every finger except the middle one, and turn your hand upside down. To show it’s a taking-back that you intend, scoop your upside-down hand toward your heart five times. This action will strain the tendons of your fingers and arm. Please don’t consider this discomfort as some kind of “punishment.” Let’s go with the much healthier “consequence” instead.

Of course, you’ll also have to deal with the possibility that people won’t understand what you mean. But remember, well-behaved women seldom expand the gestural lexicon. Instead of shrinking from the struggle, embrace it by propagating other useful gestures. Like when someone’s left their blinkers on, open and close your hand in rhythm with the signal. Never mind if they don’t get it the first time. That’s no reason for you to feel funny about that.

You also shouldn’t feel funny if you leave a gap of 20 feet between yourself and the person in front of you at the bank. It wasn’t because you weren’t paying attention. Maybe you simply wanted to hold on to that delicious moment of anticipation between when the line moves forward and you move with it. Also, if you ask for chopsticks in a Thai restaurant, people shouldn’t assume you don’t know that they use forks and spoons in Thailand. Of course you knew that! You just happen to be a chopsticks person, that’s all! Is that so strange?

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