Q: My friend just started a blog and e-mails me—and countless others—whenever it’s updated. The problem is, it’s just plain embarrassing, filled with wide-eyed accounts of the parties he crashed (“Bret Easton Ellis was there!”) and long ruminations on Howard Dean and cherished old Sigue Sigue Sputnik records. The other day, he even wrote (without asking) about a conversation we had about Cold Mountain! The guy’s cool in person, but on his blog, he comes across as someone I’d rather not be linked to. Now he wants to know what I think of the thing. What do I say?
BLOGGED DOWN, LOWER EAST SIDE
A: Rousseau’s friends probably never had to deal with this, did they? It’s often startling to find that someone’s prose doesn’t square with your perception of his personality. But while “The Ethicist” would no doubt find this advice deeply suspect, just white-lie already! If your friend were showing you a book proposal, a cover letter, or a screenplay, it might be a different story, but he’s merely engaging in a more or less harmless pastime—verbal knitting!—that seems to be giving him some pleasure. And you’d never tell a friend, “You can’t make a scarf to save your life.” There’s no need to say the blog’s great, but you can say, “I think it’s great you’re doing it,” then pick out one thing from the last 457-odd entries that you don’t have to feel like a total hypocrite for praising. That said, you’re well within your rights to distance yourself from his online operation by explaining that you’re kind of shy about seeing your take on Renée Zellweger disseminated on the Web (he’ll be flattered that you’re thinking of his blog—which, let’s face it, is probably read by no one—as such a public forum). In the meantime, consider this: Perhaps your embarrassment for him masks your regret that you aren’t ballsy enough to put all your opinions online (though there’s nothing wrong with feeling morally superior because you don’t).
Q: I just got an e-mail from an acquaintance who took over my college apartment a year ago. Now he’s moved to New York, he’s broke, and he wants $120 for utility bills that came the week after I left. Not only have I never heard of or seen these bills, but he had every opportunity to tell me about them much sooner, since I left all my contact info on the coffee table when I moved. Even though I’ve been in a similar situation myself, I’ve chosen to ignore him—it’s been a whole year, after all. When does the statute of limitations run out?
BILL BAILOUT, WILLIAMSBURG
A: If they really are your bills, it never does. Of course he should have hit you up as soon as they came, but give him a break: Procrastination is practically a religion in college. Now that he, like you, is on the brink of adulthood, he has a new set of financial concerns. This isn’t a bank error in your favor; this is a guy in a jam—one you’ve been in yourself. And the fact that you’re even asking for advice suggests that you’re not as glibly calculating as you seem, so remember: There’s no statute of limitations on a guilty conscience, either. Pay up.
Q: My former live-in boyfriend was quite the artiste. In his spare time (which he had no shortage of), he would whip up large-scale paintings and hang them around our apartment. When we broke up and he moved out, I inherited many of these colorful canvases. I now have a new, serious boyfriend and need to replace the paintings with art of my own choosing. But it would cost a fortune to ship them to my ex, and as much as I’d like to just chuck them, that wouldn’t be very nice. Help.
NOT A GALLERY, PARK SLOPE
A: Tell your ex you’re redoing your place and have to get rid of the paintings. If he wants them back, he can pay for the shipping. If he doesn’t, you can throw them out. Or, better, whitewash them and paint some of those way-stylish brown-on-brown faux-Rothkos over them the way Thom does on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. That way, you can be fashionable, thrifty, and vengeful in a single stroke.