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Ask Allen


Man talking on telephoneOccasionally, I receive e-mails from readers soliciting my advice. These are people who appreciate my profound intelligence. (They’re few and far between.)

When I can, I try to send a response. Below are some of my exchanges. I was surprised none of the readers wrote back to thank me.

Dear Allen,

My 9-year-old daughter recently attended a friend’s slumber party. Later, I found out they’d watched an R-rated movie. I’m furious. My daughter’s allowed to watch only G- and PG-rated films. Should I talk to the parents about what happened?

Sincerely, Hannah

Dear Hannah,

You strike me as the type of person who thrives on finding things to complain about. So your daughter watched an R-rated movie? Boo-hoo. If you’re so offended, try watching your daughter yourself, instead of pawning her off on somebody else and then complaining about their parenting.

Also, instead of blindly relying on an arbitrary rating system, why not be an actual parent and judge a movie on its individual merits? Ignorant people like you would lump Silence of the Lambs and Schindler’s List into the same category without bothering to watch either.

Bottom line: Your daughter’s friend’s parents were doing you a favor by hosting a slumber party. You got a night of freedom while they fed and supervised a swarm of noisy brats. Rather than spewing and sputtering, you should try showing a little appreciation.

Personally, I think your daughter would be better off watching a whole slew of R-rated movies than growing up to become a miserable wretch like you.


Dear Allen,

A co-worker of mine has really bad breath. What’s the best way to let him know?

Sincerely, Janice

Dear Janice,

The next time your co-worker talks to you, you might try fanning your nose and saying, “Holy cow, your breath smells like my dog’s ass.” Then, offer him a mint.

I’m sure he’ll get the message.


Dear Allen,

I love my grandmother, but she tells the same stories over and over again. I’d like to tell her that she’s repeating herself, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings. What can I do?

Sincerely, Barry

Dear Barry,

Why should you care about your grandmother’s feelings? She’s already lived her life. The babbling corpse-in-waiting should start caring about your feelings.

The next time she starts in with one of her little anecdotes, interrupt with a story of your own:

“Hey, Grandma, did you hear the one about the old windbag whose grandson put her into a nursing home because she kept telling the same story over and over and over again?”

I imagine your grandmother will start keeping her stories to herself.


You’re having a phone conversation with an old friend. At one point, you find yourself complaining about your spouse. Suddenly, you remember your friend’s husband died six months ago. What do you do? 

Jennifer from Ohio says: “I would immediately apologize and ask how she’s coping.”

Kathryn from Montana says: “I wouldn’t say anything and pretend I didn’t know. Why bring it up if they don’t? Awkward.”

Fred from Maine says: “I would switch gears and say I’m grateful to have my spouse, and I’d tell my friend that she’s always in my thoughts and prayers.”

Allen says: “No need to apologize for such an innocent blunder. Besides, the dude’s been dead for six months. The woman needs to stop milking the role of the grieving widow already.

“A great idea would be to ask what she’s doing Friday night. After all, she’s clearly available. If she says no, tell her her husband would have wanted her to. This tactic also should work for getting her drunk and into bed.

“Afterwards, if she asks you to stay, remind her to think of her husband. Would he have wanted her to have fun? Of course. But would he want her to jump into a relationship right away? Not a chance. She needs to respect his memory a little better.

“Let her weep into her pillow as you pull on your clothes and let yourself out.

“If she tries to call, gently remind her that you’re still married. Unlike her, you’re not free to live the swinging single life. Tell her also that you’d love to carry on a relationship, but that marriage to you is the most important, sacred bond a couple can share.

“You may not ever hear from her again, but that’s OK. The grieving need their space.”


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