13 July 2008

A Well-Preserved Gentleman

Dear G&G,

I am a gay gentleman of a certain age and I frequently find myself seeking company on those long, lonely weekend nights. Recently I was privileged to spend the evening with a scrumptious young lion, but as I was leaving his apartment, I noticed something that continues to bother me, even now.

Every single pair of his shoes, from tennis shoes to Bruno Magli leather loafers - had been neatly stowed in individual Tupperware containers and accordingly labelled. Indeed, everything about this gentleman’s domicile was similarly neatly and, might I even say, obsessively arranged.

What I am wondering is this: is it possible that my erstwhile lay date is a serial killer or some other sort of miscreant? And should I worry about running into him during a game of tennis or, God forbid, a working weekend in the country? How does one introduce a serial killer to one’s friends, without putting the absolute kibosh on the festivities?

I await your wise response.

F. W. Fluppertare, Esq.

My dear gentleman,

You’ve worried Miss Verity on your behalf, although not, she confesses, enough to make her cut short her vacation and return to the keyboard to answer this sooner. Yes, I should say it is not merely possible but extremely probable that what you have there is a serial killer, of the organized type. Before you proceed any further with this relationship–always assuming that you have not, in Miss Verity’s absence, proceeded so far that you are even now residing in a freezerbox somewhere, carefully dismembered and labelled–you must ascertain what his motivations and, if I may risk the word, tastes are. Are you, in other words, quite safe in his company? Serial killers are one of those instance when one doesn’t want too much of the other person’s attention.

Having determined that you aren’t in his target socioeconomic class or division of haircolour or whatever group his guiding principle applies to. Miss Verity sees no impediment to the relationship other than his ghastly unspeakable habit of buying Tupperware–vile plastic stuff! If you can overlook that, you are undoubtedly possessed of an accommodating nature (just possibly too accommodating, but then it isn’t Miss Verity’s job to chide you for your taste) that will make the relationship run smoothly.

As a point of etiquette she does urge you to, wherever possible, forgo introducing him to your friends. If one of them ends up in a neatly-filed box of some kind, the rest are almost certain to level the cut direct your way, and you frankly have enough cutting to be worried about at present.

yours as ever,
Miss Verity

I Smell a Rat

A Good Christian writes:

Dear G&G,
I found “Ratatouille” to be extremely offensive. There were a few scenes in which the rat pranced around the kitchen wearing no undergarments. In fact, I find a lot of things offensive. What should I do about this?
A Good Xtian

Dear ‘Good’,

One wonders why a self-professed follower of the Christian faith is writing to an advice column that boldly and without reservations advertises itself to be written by ‘inebriates.’ Or is it true that certain members of your faith pride themselves on unique interpretations not readily supported by fact? Do enlighten me.

I have not seen the film of which you speak; there is no cinema here in Casablanca and even if there were, my duties as Prefect of Police would not allow me to spend time in such idle pursuits. No, in my off-hours I prefer to imbibe heavily, flirt unashamedly with whores and other women of dubious virtue, defy the local authorities, and cheat at roulette in the casino that adjoins the cafe owned by my (male) lover.

Indeed, Madame, were you to stumble upon my lover and myself some dark Moroccan night, we both might be prancing round his kitchen sans undergarments, drinking Veuve Cliquot and kissing each other—with tongue—and behaving in a generally offensive manner.

I would also point out, Madame, that the rat, being in fact an animal, would not have been naturally endowed with undergarments while in its original, pre-Lapsarian state in the Garden of Eden. If you wonder why, I suggest you contact your God. I find a speedy telegram, dispatched at once, usually clears up the matter nicely.

If this is not satisfactory to you, you may wish to round up all the rats in your immediate vicinity and fit them with such undergarments as may seem suitable to you in your current dérangement.

I trust this answers your question.



Much-needed Restraint

Dear Gin and Gentility,
I am a gentleman “of a certain age” who enjoys a close and companionate relationship with a gentleman who is perhaps ten years my junior. Despite the difference in our ages, we appreciate one another very much. Indeed, he is always very tender to me, despite his sometimes uncouth behaviour and his unfortunate tendency to cynicism and melancholy, both of which are aggravated by an extremely painful love relationship he experienced some years before.

My problem is this: when my companion is in his cups, he becomes extremely foul-mouthed and yes, even verbally abusive towards me. If I attempt to placate him while he is drinking, he tells me off in the most disgusting language imaginable - indeed, I can hardly reproduce it for fear of offending your sensibilities.

As soon as my friend is sober, he apologises profusely and showers me with affection. Yet, as soon as he is again under the thrall of the vine, his personality again changes for the worse. He picks fights with everyone around him, (most notably a competing business owner, just over the way) snaps at his employees, and is generally dreadful towards me. Worst of all is his behaviour towards the ladies: when my friend is drinking, women become for him the lowest and vilest form of life!

I have attempted many times to explain to him that his behaviour is hurtful and that he should attempt to curb his intake. He insists that he can “handle himself.” I insist that he cannot.

Apart from this admittedly small problem, he is the kindest, gentlest and most amusing companion one could wish for…forever surprising me with loving words and tokens of his affection.

What should I do? He is only like this when he drinks, but when he drinks, he becomes another man completely.
I crave your wise advice.


Monsieur Sûreté

My dear Monsieur,

Miss Verity grieves to hear your problem, because the only sure solution is to avoid the gentleman in question whenever he is drinking, and this, of course, places dreadful limitations on the relationship. She shudders to think what would have become of several of her own relationships had she insisted they only be conducted outside licensed establishments–presumably they’d have been reduced to some sort of penpalship, which would have been sad indeed.

But really, it’s hard to see what else you can do without resorting to handcuffs and a gag. Miss Verity suggests the type of cuffs that close with velcro–they’re less likely to cause physical injury, and can be removed quickly if you need to reposition him. Since you say he is generous with tokens of his affection, I suggest you present him with a short list of the necessary equipment.

~Miss Verity


A Lady Writes:
Dear Gin and Gentility,

Some years back, during my university days, I entered into a friendship with two other young ladies of my own age. While our first several months of acquaintance passed happily and without incident, one of these two young ladies, who I shall call Miss A, soon proved to have abominable taste in women.

To wit, she became entangled with a neurotic dancer.

During the course of this unfortunate tendresse, Miss A’s behavior became quite inward and distraught, but I and the second young lady, our mutual friend Miss B, put it down to her unfortunate romantic circumstance. After all, when one is constantly coping with a neurotic (and rather sadistic) dancer, one has little time for other concerns.

Luckily, in time this interlude passed, Miss A recovered, and Miss B and I breathed a sweet sigh of relief. The happy days of our friendship returned, and we even came to room with each other.
Indeed, Miss B and I found it a hopeful sign when, a year later, Miss A fell head over heels for a promising young female pre-medical student, and we gladly encouraged her.

Unfortunately, once happily ensconced in a relationship, Miss A’s behavior deteriorated once again and as to rooming with each other - she left us in the lurch. She even had the temerity to ask us to make an appointment to enjoy the pleasure of her friendship!

Needless to say, the acquaintance cooled. But neither Miss B nor I had the heart to cut off relations with the friend of our youth.

After several years of only contacting Miss B in order to protest her romantic woes when things with the lady medical student were going badly, or to use Miss B as a source of useful trivia in the fashion of an almanac, Miss A has apparently used up the last of Miss B’s patience. Miss A appears immune to all gentle hints by Miss B on the subjects of etiquette and time spent on the gentle joys of friendship.

How may I assist my friends in resolving this difficulty of communication? How does one deal with a young woman who is convinced she is the star of a romantic drama?

- A Perplexed Correspondent

Dear Perplexed Correspondent,

Miss Verity apologizes deeply and sincerely for the time it’s taken her to post anything in response to your dilemma. She hasn’t, she wishes to assure you, been ignoring you. Rather, she’s been puzzling over how best to advise you. Because this is, she confesses, a problem she has faced before, and she has never quite found the perfect solution.

The current vogue to encourage people to believe they are “the stars of their own lives” is, she believes, largely to blame. Society would benefit hugely if people would leave off such overinflated notions and consider the humbler but worthwhile possibility that they are, in fact, minor walk-on characters who may still, by doing their very best, win the accolades not merely of the sympathetic circles of friends that surround them but even of that Eternal Critic whose review matters most in the end.

The problem lies in convincing self-crowned drama queens that their co-stars deserve their share of stage-time and curtain-calls–and that friends are co-stars, not merely convenient people to send running for extra vases when one’s dressing-room is filled to overflowing with roses. Reminding her of how very much you value friendship because it allows you to discuss other things than love affairs might work, particularly if you write it out in a note she could be encouraged to tuck into her mirror-frame (or have it tattooed on her hand, possibly), but in extreme cases such polite hints often go unheeded.

And so Miss Verity is throwing open the floor to her colleagues, and asking them to assist in suggesting solutions.

~Miss Verity

Sit, Stay, Give Paw!

A Lady writes:

Dear G&G,
My gentleman friend has an unfortunate habit of making teensy social errors. I believe his assertions that he is well-meaning, but an idiot.

Is it socially acceptable to deal with this well-meaning idiocy by chaining him to the wall so he has less range within which to cause me distress? Or is there some other method you would suggest? I’m very fond of him, so do not wish to see him harmed, but if he keeps on as he’s going I may well harm him myself.

~Besotted But Annoyed

My dearest Madame,

It seems an unfortunate Law of Nature that, just as there are dreadfully clever and socially well-adjusted people in the world, there are also dolts, as well as those who are simply oblivious to the needs and welfare of those around them. I often think that such persons ought to be taken at once into custody and remanded into some sort of Etiquette Training Camp, where they might be instructed in the social niceties, with the ultimate goal being that no one would ever again have to suffer the sort of indignities you appear to have suffered, according to your charming letter.

But, until such an Institution is raised, by sheer dint of public hue and cry, we must muddle through as best we can. You say that your gentleman friend is “well-meaning, but an idiot” in which case I wonder whether education can possibly help him. My aide, Lt. Casselle, is similarly stupid when it comes to social mores; as a result, I make it a policy never to take him anywhere if I can avoid it. A person who is stupid in social situations can be likened—if you will permit me the indelicate metaphor—to a dung bomb: likely to go off at any time without warning, with the result being a foul-smelling mess for anyone within range.

I fear that your friend’s unfortunately stupid behaviour can only be curtailed by constant vigilance, Madame, on your part: you must check him, and check him hard when he errs; this is the only way in which he can be made aware of his faux pas. If you are entertaining guests in your domicile and he messes, then you must immediately seize him by the collar and shake him, as one would shake a recalcitrant puppy; at the same time, declaim loudly, “BAD BOY! BAAAAAAAAD BOY!” If your guests look askance at this display, merely explain that you are training him, and that such correction does not hurt him; rather, it teaches him to recognise his errors on his own. In time, he may come to realise that indiscriminate behaviour is wrong, that chatting up tarts is inappropriate, and that social diseases, despite what he may think, do walk amongst us on two legs! (To that end, I have some excellent brochures in my office, detailing the ravages of venereal disease. These can be yours for the price of a self-addressed, stamped envelope; send same to me in care of the Palais de Justice, Casablanca.)

It is important to remember, Madame, that you reward your gentleman friend for his good behaviour, when and if it occurs. I find it helpful to keep a small packet of biscuits in my desk drawer, for those rare times when Casselle rises above his native stupidity and does something useful. These can be had from your local grocer for only a few francs, and I find a biggish box lasts me for rather a long time!

I trust, Madame, that these suggestions will be useful to you. When in doubt, I find a rolled-up newspaper, whacked hard on the floor very near his nose, will immediately put a stop to embarrassing behaviour, should other methods of correction fail.

Tout a toi,


O, Wax Indignant!

KWK writes:

Gin and Gentility:

My dear friend and next door neighbour knows I love candles, but am desperately allergic to most scents. For some reason, she gives me one of the offending scents for every occasion, which means I’ve accumulated quite a collection of sickening-smelling wax in a box under my sink over the years. No matter how many times I try to subtly steer her in the direction of something inoffensive - say, vanilla - she continues to spend copious amounts of money on the candles that affect me worst.

Do I find a way to politely refuse? Do I continue to re-gift every candle from birthdays, Christmases, St, Patrick’s Day, Flag Day and so on? Or should I accept that my sweet neighbour secretly hates me and is trying to poison me via toxic wax?

Being killed by kindness,

My dear K:

It would seem that your neighbour suffers from a disease called Oblivion. It is a heinous infection, and one which is unlikely to be cured, even by repeat visits to the most skilled medical practitioners in our midst. To advise one’s friends that one is indeed violently allergic to scents ought to suffice—indeed, with most sensible people, such an admonition against scented products would immediately call forth the most heartfelt repentance and floods of bitter tears. Not so with your neighbour who, it would seem, is desperate to inflict her tastes upon you, regardless of your own feelings in the matter—or your swollen mucous membranes.

What is called for is something I like to call “Pointed Tact.” This is a social tactic which has served me very well in the past, and, when correctly implemented, can inflict the most damning wounds with the greatest of ease. Its tenets are simple: say precisely what you mean, but say it in such a way that your true feelings are abundantly evident. I myself like to use it when I or my staff are graced with yet another visit from some representative of the Vichy government—an almost-daily occurance here in Casablanca, as you can imagine—or when my idiot aide-de-camp manages to spill something on my uniforms.

Here is what I want you to do: the very next time your ‘friendly’ (I use the term advisedly) neighbour presents you with yet another stinking cylinder of wax, accept it graciously. Smile broadly and croon, “My! Another scented candle! How…thoughtful.” You see, Madam, the efficacy of this technique lies in its delivery; by placing the emphasis on the word ‘another’ your neighbour is immediately advised, albeit very discreetly, about the growing collection of stinking wax carcasses now rotting beneath your sink. The slight but unmistakable pause before the word ‘thoughtful’ gives you a thespian’s edge. Only the dullest and most unresponsive audience could fail to understand precisely what you mean! And if your neighbour proves still recalcitrant, your can bring out the final weapon in your arsenal: handle the odiferous lump as though it were indeed a stinking clot of foul matter. Do this in her presence. Directly you are shot of it, scrub your hands at once—and vigorously, Madam! Now is no time for a lack of courage!—on your clothing. Excuse yourself immediately to wash your hands, preferably in her presence, and while scrubbing, make repeated exclamations of disgust.

I guarantee, you will receive no such plug of foetid tallow ever again. Yes, your neighbour may find herself somewhat in distress by your admittedly dramatic demonstration of disgust, but needs must, Madam. To preserve yourself I fear that you must wax indignant…


S’Not What You Do; It’s How You Blew It

Hilary writes:

Hi, G & G:

I’d like to know what you think of this.

A dinner guest, who has a cold, blows her nose at the table and casually places the tissue beside her plate. She continues to eat without excusing herself to wash her hands or to dispose of her mucous-ridden Kleenex.

Can I ask her to remove the disgusting wad of tissue, wash up, or should I simply start including a bottle of Purell in her place setting?

Healthfully yours,

Dear Hilary,

What do I think of it? I think your guest ought to be placed immediately under quarantine until such time as she is capable of containing her bodily effluent in a manner conducive to polite social intercourse! What utter lout discharges a clot of mucus into a square of paper and then places the offending substance upon the table board? One who has complete and total disregard for human health, safety, and the social niceties, of course. Anyone with a cranial capacity larger than the common house sparrow knows that one does not expel nasal mucus at the dinner table or indeed, within view of others. A polite person excuses herself and does such nasty personal maintenance in the lavatory! Your guest obviously feels it is appropriate to hork up (as an American of my acquaintance is fond of saying) enormous clots of phlegm while others are eating; one wonders how she would feel if a biological sample of another sort were deposited next to her dinner plate! Perhaps a local lady of the evening can be compelled, by dint of money changing hands, to bring along a prophylactic filled with a sample of her own, and leave same beside your friend’s plate; one hopes the message would be clear.

I fear that tact and subtlty will not serve you in this case, Madam, so you must resort to desperate measures. Buy the largest bottle of Purell you can find and, while your butler is serving the soup course, serve this lady a heaping ladle-full of sanitiser.

One hopes she will get the message.

Your servant, Madam,

Louis Renault