How Do I Compete With a Wide Stance?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

Given that this city is so full of photographers who can shoot your wedding in artful black and white, how can I possibly excuse those of my friends who persist in the tacky pose-in-front-of-a-turquoise-curtain thing?Pho-tos but All Five Fingers

Dear Pho-tos,

Wear a veil. Walk the aisle. Cut the cake. People stagger like zombies through the overpriced obstacle course laid out by Big Wed. But the oppressed masses cowering in the pristine white streets of Wedding Land have recently felt a breath of liberating air from the lungs of those brave enough to stray from the beaten aisle. Knock, knock, who's there? A bunch of lesbians by the punch bowl, that's who! And anyone invited to one of these new, offbeat weddings better be ready to check their preconceptions at the door of the funky old retro ballroom. They otherwise might be shocked by a "minister" with tattoos or a punk-rock (female!) rabbi. All this offbeatness can, of course, be captured with the kind of photos you mentioned. Classy black-and-white candids. Bridesmaids laughing in the dressing room with a dog looking quizzically up at them, quirky little moments like that.

Just the other day I found myself at a wine-and-cheese thing in a Queen Anne bungalow, perusing the tasteful nude profiles of my hostess framed next to the iPod cradle. Standing serenely in front of a timeless black background, she had her right hand laid modestly over her left breast and her left hand cupped over the soft swell of her pregnant belly. Of course I've seen the other kind of photos you mention, especially when visiting out-of-town relatives. The artificially bright colors of a photography studio, children in polyester suits smiling tensely next to a Roman column or other silly props.

But what you wanted to know was how you can excuse friends who stick with regressive, non-ironic, Sears-style photography. One strategy might be to reflect that everything goes out of style eventually, even the things that you now do and wear with confidence. So forgiving your friends' tackiness now could someday help your future self forgive your current self.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

I'm a big guy, but I'm very aware of my "footprint" as I sit on a crowded bus; I try to keep my limbs pulled in tight. Often, though, I'm seated next to a dude who feels compelled to spread his legs in a wide V-shape, taking up more than his fair share of space. What should I do?Got My Sit Together

Dear Got My Sit,

You must undertake a persistent and stealthy campaign to reclaim your space. When the next bump tosses your neighbor slightly out of his seat, gently but firmly scooch over and reclaim a few dusky turquoise centimeters of Metro vinyl. (This works best beyond the articulation, in the bouncy second segment of the coach.) After a few such maneuvers have won you the ground game, it's time to go after your airspace. Pretend you're about to stretch out in a wide yawning gesture. This will make him flinch a little and withdraw his left elbow slightly from its place above your lap. That's when you abandon your yawning feint and with your right forearm deftly take possession of the space he's just vacated. Try to make these actions seem as natural and spontaneous as possible. If he does shoot you a questioning look, offer up a goofy smile as if to say, "Isn't it funny how you didn't even notice you were in my space?" If you find that your skillful scooching and feinting has won you not only all your own space but some of his as well, magnanimously restore it to him. Taking more than your fair share of territory is the first step toward colonialism.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

Why did roads become "surface streets"?Plain Talkin' Jack

Dear Jack,

I know some people might retain an attachment to the practice of referring to roads as "roads." The word does have a certain folksy charm, doesn't it? And roads have poetic resonance. You can ponder their long and windi–ness, take a less-traveled one, and ask how many of them a man must walk down. Unfortunately these grim, gridlocked times call for a more serious-minded appellation, one that evokes impact studies, policy debates, and words such as "impermeable." That's why, Jack.

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