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The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine


Submitted by on April 22, 2010 – 9:36 AM55 Comments

"Hap-py anniversary! Hap-py ann-i-versary to you!" (That will get stuck in your head now. Sorry.) (Sort of.)

I realized yesterday that The Vine is ten years old. It appeared for the first time on April 20, 2000 — and if Jane Lane is out there anywhere, I'd love to know what she ended up majoring in. …Ten years. Dang.

Let's celebrate! I'll clear the entire Ask The Readers backlog between now and the end of the month, and one randomly-selected commenter per day can win a prize: choose between Garner's Modern American Usage, the 17th (!) edition of Emily Post, or Getting To Yes.

If you've got a mystery book, home-repair problem, or discontinued sock, send an email to bunting at tomatonation dot com; if you've got an answer, let's hear it. And thanks for your many contributions over the last decade (…!!).

Jack! Jack! Jack! Jack!

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  • tulip says:

    Happy Anniversary Vine! And thank you for using that awesome picture from Welcome to the Dollhouse. I will always have a weak spot for Heather Matarazzo because of that movie. I even watched the Princess Diary movie since she was in it. I think she's fantastic. :)

  • Happy Anni-vine-sary! I keep meaning to pick up a copy of The Garner. And by "pick up," I don't mean steal, Jack.

  • Katherine says:

    The advice is always pretty awesome. But Jack – that's just priceless!

  • Jaybird says:

    I swear: The Jack letter, or rather your response to same, is my favorite Vine thing EVER. I'm too sissified to get a tattoo, but if I ever did, it would read "A MERE BAGATELLE!". As it is, I'm thinking of putting that on a T-shirt.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I sometimes wonder what my response to Jack would have been if that letter had come in at a different time — June of 2001, or June of 2003.

    As it was, I was extra not having it.

  • Katie says:

    Wow, I had never read "Jack!Jack!Jack!" before! It's amazing. Obviously.

  • Leslie says:

    I hadn't read Jack in a long time, I just laughed out loud at my desk. I feel like this should be required reading in high school.

  • Jen says:

    Happy anniversary! Thanks for all the years of entertaining and dead-on advice, even when you get asked the dumb things. :)

  • Lisa says:

    I love to hate Jack. It sustains me.

  • attica says:

    Let's rename it: change Earth Day to Vine Day! Happy Annivinesary!

    I often wonder what became of Anarch-hole Jack. Hee.

  • kategm says:

    Oh Jack. Your nutty brand of social activism never fails to bring a smile to my face. And then to wind up in the Vine again because you almost got your roommates evicted for not paying rent! Ah…good times.

    Has it really been 10 years? Wow. I first found this site in 2004 (I think). I was already a fan of Mighty Big TV/Television Without Pity and must have stumbled onto Tomato Nation through there. The Vine letters were a great way to ease homesickness while studying abroad in Australia.
    Sars, I think if you'd gotten that letter in 1999, before the Vine was even born, you'd still have rightly roasted Jack. As well someone should.

  • Annie says:

    I remember having read Jack before, but it's still hilarious. It reminds me of a guy I know who doesn't work and receives welfare because he doesn't want to be a part of "the system". Receiving welfare is very much "being a part of the system", dear.

    Like a band says in a song (in French, so obviously it's a translation and may not be perfect): "Liberty is ashamed of what is done in its name."

  • Kristin says:

    Aw geez, I'd nearly forgotten about Jack. Heh.
    Happy Anniversary, Vine!

  • Colin says:

    @Jaybird: I would buy that t-shirt. That line kills me every time. Every time.

    Ooh, I've been wanting a copy of the Garner for a while now. Quick, somebody send in an Ask The Readers I can actually answer! …Maybe?

    (Also, I don't think I've ever seen such a concentration of pastels as in Amazon's "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section for Emily Post. Except Easter candy, maybe. I mean, dang.)

  • Leigh in CO says:

    Woooo Jack! That letter made me a Tomato National for life.

  • Terry says:

    Oh how I've missed Jack.

  • shanchan says:

    Happy Anni-vine-sary! I love how straight you are with people when they need that pop on the forehead, and I try to think about how you'd answer my question when I'm figuring out what to do.

    Ahhh, Jack. Hope you're not somewhere holding court as a jailhouse lawyer!

  • Marv in DC says:

    Congrats on the Anniversary!

  • Cait says:

    Wow, congratulations Sars! I'd love to know what happened to Jane Lane, too. When I started reading TN (in 2001, I think) I was still in high school, and it's kind of lovely to have been following you and your writing through a number of different stages of life. (I remember reading '25 and Over' and thinking about whether I'd measure up to that in several years' time; funny to go back and look at it now.)

    On Jane, her question (& your advice) reminds me a bit of Felicity (Porter)'s ongoing debates about medicine vs art. "I know some day when I grow up, I'll have to make a decision if I'm going to be an artist or a doctor. I'm just glad that day isn't today." Ah, Felicity: another love that has carried on since high school!

    [/end nostalgic rant]

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I'm totally rewatching Felicity right now (it's my current "have it on while I'm sewing" go-to)! Circle of love!

  • Tisha_ says:

    Yay for Special People!

    Happy Anniversary, Vine! Thanks for all the great advise over the years, Sars and the Tomato Nation (which I first wrote as Tomation – LOL)

  • Grainger says:

    Is it time for another "Best Vine Letter" contest?

    I still think that "fucking chainmail" was the best one.

  • Rebecca U says:

    Happy anniversary! I remember Jack too. I think I first found TN through the old hissyfit or maybe through DHAK, can't remember it's been so long.

  • Aunty Pol says:

    Happy Anniversary to TN

    Egad…I've been reading it for 10 years..ummmm…it appears to be so to my middle aged eyes.

    Bless you for the " Jack Jack Jack Jack " linky…I am having a truly great day at the office where my pooping " Rainbows and Unicorns" has again saved the day,…..NOT and I needed a good snerk.

  • ferretrick says:

    Oh, Jack. Cost of a can of tomatoes? $1.50. Being immortalized on the internet as the stupid arrogant dillweed you are? Priceless.

    Happy Anni-vine-sary!

  • Natalie says:

    Oh yes Jack and the tomato liberation! You should put up a link to Robert/Roberta, the one vine to rule them.

  • Jaybird says:

    Does anyone have a link to that "chainmail" one? Because apparently it was NOT to be missed, and I…missed it. CURSES.

    Life being what it is, I've always hoped that Jack somehow managed to own something, and then had it stolen from him. Preferably by someone who thought of the act as "social justice" or something. What goes around does come around, and it usually picks up momentum on the trip and arrives somewhat hairy, disheveled and pissed-off.

  • Jen S. says:

    I'm singing "Happy An-ah-Vine-sar-ree!" to the tune of that Flinstones cartoon where Fred bought Wilma the piano!

    Oh, Jack, you and your tomatoes will never be old! I'm sure he's organizing his local Tea Party right now, demanding that the government stay out of his Medicare.

    Say, any news on the T-shirts front? I seem to recall an idea of collecting the various sayings that sprouted on the Vine (hee) onto one or more of them–my cash is still at the ready!

  • Susan says:

    Woo! happy vineaversary! Yes, Jack and his world-saving can of tomatoes has always been a favorite of mine, as has Chainmail guy.

    And saying "fishcakes!". :)

    Here's to 10 more fantastic years!

  • Sandman says:

    Congratulations on ten years of astuteness! In my head, Jack and Chainmail Guy are buddies. Or possibly even the same entitled dolt. Speaking of TN's history of awesome, I note parenthetically that Bet Red's totals still appear to be climbing a little bit, well into 2010.

  • Sandman says:

    @Jaybird: I think this is the one –

  • Grainger says:

    Sars: So how many people did post links to Chainmail Guy? ;)

  • Jaybird says:

    Oh. Oh, DEAR. Chain mail. Buttnuts. I…

    That poor girl.

    OTOH: Heh. "Buttnuts".

  • Noelle says:

    Congrats! I've been reading through the archives at work for ever, finished all of them about six months ago and… started over. (What? I KNOW there's more internet.)

    I've always wondered…how did the Vine get started? Did someone accidentally email you and you thought, "alright, I'll give this a try"? For serious, though.

  • Carena says:

    Happy Happy Day!!!

  • e says:

    If we've submitted an ATR question before and it hasn't been published, should we resubmit it, or just wait with fingers crossed?

    My book-search description was wordy and probably seems like it should turn up in about 30 seconds of googling, but it remains a mystery. I have my fingers crossed that the TN will help me solve it so I don't want to miss out by an overlooked or misdirected email, but I also don't want to bug you with a duplicate submission when you're already trying to clear out the backlog.

  • Meagen says:

    Sars, one thing I've always wondered about in the Jack letter is what was the dumbest thing you heard that week? And I quote…

    "That's not the dumbest goddamn thing I've heard all week but it's definitely in the top five."

    Must have been a real doozy to top Jack.

  • Lisa K says:

    Oh. My. God. I had not read Jack before today. Awesome.

    Congrats on ten years!!

  • Sarahnova says:

    Hey, if we're doing the Vine rolls of fame, then we shouldn't leave out T's Mama and the lovely "SO freakin' wigged…"

    T's Mama

    Husband's Hispanic roommate

  • Marie says:

    Congrats on 10 years of help and wisdom. I've said a couple of times recently that the advice I've learned between you and Dan Savage are all the things you need to know in life.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Noelle: I think this is in the FAQ, but basically, I was reading Garrison Keillor's Mr. Blue on Salon and HATING it, and I didn't understand how he could be bricking such easy questions, so I decided to start my own column. I thought it would be cinchy. I was very much mistaken.

    @e: I'm not seeing a question from you in the queue, so I'd resubmit it.

    @Meagen: I don't know what the dumbest thing was, but it was, what, five days after 9/11? I heard some dumb shit for sure. I was living in Toronto at the time; 98% of the TOers I ran across were incredibly sweet and supportive when they found out I was a New Yorker (see: my seatmates at the Jays game, who realized I was going to hiccup-sob through the entire American anthem, and sang along with me not really knowing the words, to provide covering fire). But a few people thought it was a great time to sniff that American foreign policy's chickens had come home to roost, like, whether or not that's true, I had the remains of the dead in my hair that day, FRIEND, so maybe a rephrase.

    …Joe's sister, the bitchy one:

  • Soylent says:

    Congrats! I've been taking this as an opportunity to delve through the archives (even though I wanted to get an early night, dammit) and it's fascinating to watch the evolution of your advice giving acumen.

    But it's got me curious. Is there anything from the early days you'd do differently? Not that I'm fishing for an "I gave the wrong advice here" moment, because you rock, but just that in some of the earlier columns I reckon you responded in a way that was slightly different from the way you would answer the same question today.

    Lord knows I'd react differently now to things than I would a decade ago.

  • Jaybird says:

    I am still not believing that either T's mama OR "So Freakin' Wigged" actually sat down, typed out those little screedlets, and did NOT have a "I am clearly dumber than a can of corn" moment. Apparently, doing so would have required a level of self-awareness that would have precluded the problems themselves. Wherever these women are today, I sincerely hope they're nowhere near anyone I care about.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Soy: Yeah, I'd probably do a bunch of them differently, just like I'd address various essay subjects differently. Every time I relaunch the site, I'm tempted to "lose" a few essays from the archives because they're embarrassing: know-it-all-y, trying too hard with a motif, pretentious and declamatory in an unearned way, immature, pick your poison. But I never do it, because I think it's good to have that reminder that I thought I knew everything, once.

    I think — I hope — it's evolved from "let me tell you what to do, because I know everything" to "let me tell you what NOT to do, because 1) I did that thing and it didn't work, and 2) experience has informed me in no uncertain terms that I do not really know anything." This is probably less helpful in terms of confident instruction, but more helpful in terms of compassion…and I don't think people really write in to advice columns to be told what to do, as much as to be told that they aren't alone with whatever it is.

    Everyone's just trying to get through the day. If I could change anything from when I started, I would remind myself of that, I guess. Not that it would do much good, because: knew everything. Heh.

  • Sarah says:

    I'm with @e – I sent something in a few weeks (maybe a month) ago. Resubmit or hope to see it in the next few days?

  • Sarahnova says:

    @Jaybird: I must admit, the more I read "T's Mama", the more I think Mr G. wrote it himself.

    I think "SO freakin' wigged" actually is that obtuse, though.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Sarah: I don't see yours either, so — resend. Thanks!

  • ferretrick says:

    Ohhhhhhh, T's Mama. I'd forgotten that one.

    Well, as long as we're doing Favorite Old Vines, this isn't my all time favorite (either Torn Between Four Stupids or RenFaire Douchebag) but its in the top five-especially in the Your Boyfriend is an Asshole Wake Up You Idiot variety.

    Favorite phrase: Until "your shit" and "together" have something resembling a speaking relationship.

  • Bea says:

    Happy birthday, The Vine! You're my favorite! I've always liked the advice and a couple of times, a particular Vine letter was SO close to something I was going through that I sort of wondered if I'd written the letter in my sleep or in a fugue or something. At least, I don't THINK I did…

    But as for Vines and follow-up, I sometimes wonder about the young lady in the third letter down on this entry:

    I hope things worked out well for her!

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