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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

The Vine: September 19, 2001

Submitted by on September 19, 2001 – 8:57 PMOne Comment

I met a guy through a personal ad. We emailed and IM’ed each other for a month or so, but because we live about an hour away from each other we didn’t meet until recently. We have a really good connection and I considered him a friend even before we met.

So when we met there was an attraction, and we acted on it and we slept together. Now it wasn’t stars and rockets, but it was fun and I liked it and it was what I wanted and so I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Here’s the question: He hasn’t been very communicative since this all went down, and I’m wondering how much time I should give him before I ask him what’s up. I don’t want to play the “I’m not going to email you until you email me first” game, but I also get the feeling he’s not as into talking about things as I am. I also don’t want to overreact to his lack of contact (it has only been four days), since in the past he has been out of touch due to extreme busy-ness. So what do you think? I’d hate to see a good friendship ruined over post-sex freak-out.

Your Own Personal Hussy

Dear Hussy,

It’s hard to tell from your letter what “not very communicative” means. Not responding to emails or calls at all? Terse, inscrutable responses that you sense mean “go away”?

It’s entirely possible that he’s freaking out, and it’s also entirely possible that that freak-out has less to do with you than you think.

So, give him a week. Lie low. You don’t have to make a big production out of it, and if you feel like emailing him or calling him, you should, but keep it light. I know that sounds kind of Rules-y, but that’s not the idea — it’s that, as you’ve said, he’s not into talking about it. If a week goes by and he’s still acting weird, tell him what you just told me and hope he gets over it.

A lot of people just don’t like analyzing these things or taking the temperature of situations every five minutes. That’s not what you’re doing, but if he doesn’t want to discuss it, he doesn’t want to discuss it, and you’ll have to decide how much that matters to you.

Hey Sars, your site is tops! Please help me with the following dilemma.

My flatmates and I are all fairly liberal minded, e.g. FOR: multiculturalism, understanding, environment, et cetera, and AGAINST: bigotry, exploitation, sexism, cutting down trees — you get the idea. One — let’s call him “Jack” — is a freelance designer working from home, so his income is a little patchy.

Last weekend, I was cooking and didn’t have any tomatoes for my pasta sauce. I asked Jack if he had any I could use. He handed me a can from his cupboard, and I said thank you and assured him I’d buy him a can of tomatoes the next time I went shopping. Jack said, “Don’t worry about it, I stole them anyway.” I said, “You stole them…” “Yeah, it’s only Coles [our local large national supermarket chain], what’s the problem?”

Me: “I don’t think it’s right to steal.”
Jack: “But they’re a huge company, it’s not like it hurts them.”
Me: “Yeah, but they lose millions of dollars each year because of people stealing stuff, and that just ends up hurting the people who work there.”
Jack: “Nah, it doesn’t.I do it all the time.”

Anyway, this turned into a huge debate about the ethics of stealing from enormous companies.My argument was that it’s wrong.Stealing causes a financial loss to the company.The supermarket wants to keep its shareholders happy, and the easiest way to do this is to keep dividends up. So any loss has to be absorbed within the company. The easiest way to do this is to pass it on to the workers in the lowest layer — the shelf-stackers, the check-out operators, the floor sweepers. The supermarket will do this by refusing to raise wages, or cutting entitlements, or forcing workers to work longer shifts. So therefore, by stealing, you are hurting the people who are already the most exploited. If you want to protest against supermarkets, go buy your food at the co-op or grow tomatoes in your back yard.

Jack’s argument was that it’s wrong to make a profit out of food, because food is a basic human right. So by preventing the supermarket from profiting from food, you are striking a blow for human rights.

I then retracted my offer to buy him a can of tomatoes. He called me bourgeois. The argument then descended into a typical share-house argument where everything from the phone bill to the state of the bathroom was invoked.

So which of us is right?

Young Nanna

Dear Nanna,

You are right. Jack is wrong.

Listen up, all you young anarchists. Shoplifting is not cultural rebellion. Shoplifting does not Stick It To The Man. Shoplifting is stealing, period, full stop. I mean, sure, some of us have found ourselves broke and stuffed a couple of sticks of jerky down our pants, and some of us have taken dares from our new bad-girl best friends and pinched make-up from the drugstore or whatever. Nobody’s perfect. But stealing for the sake of stealing is not a defensible position. It leads to price increases, wage freezes for lower-level employees, and a general atmosphere of distrust, and Jack believes otherwise, he’s as stupid and naive as he is self-absorbed and insufferable.

And excuse me for just a moment here, but — “striking a blow for human rights”? “STRIKING A BLOW FOR HUMAN RIGHTS”? Oh, but of course! Let’s hoist Jack up on our shoulders for stealing a can of fucking tomatoes, shall we? Jack, a hero for our times! Chinese dissidents languish in prison, but Jack stole a can of tomatoes! Women in some cultures undergo female circumcision against their wills, often bleeding to death if they don’t contract HIV, but Jack — Jack stole a CAN of TOMATOES! Writing letters for Amnesty International? That’s for amateurs! Joining the Peace Corps? Hardly makes a difference! Volunteering at refugee camps in Southeast Asia? A MERE BAGATELLE! Why bother with those trifles, when we can all follow the shining beacon of Jack’s example and PINCH CANS OF FOOD THAT ONLY COST A BUCK AND A HALF TO START WITH? Jack’s contraband tomatoes inspire us all! Jack! Jack! Jack! Jack!

Pffft. Fuck that shit. Buy Jack his can of tomatoes, jam them straight up his ass to keep his head company, and tell Young Karl Marx that he owes your bourgeois ass a buck twenty-five.

I mean, Jesus Christ. That’s not the dumbest goddamn thing I’ve heard all week but it’s definitely in the top five.




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