Dear Uptight Seattleite, On the way to my building's laundry room, I often pass my neighbor having a cigarette midway through his nightly transition from man to woman. It's an elaborate process that apparently requires 20 or so smoke breaks. My question is, at what point during this transformation do I start using his/her female name? I want to appear nonchalant and smoothly conversant.Mr. Cool
Dear Mr. Cool, Got a gay relative? This can be a great way to start a dialogue with a gay neighbor. Talk about your relative at great length—where he lives, what he does for a living, that everyone used to call him "Sparky"—to showcase your comfort level with the whole gay thing. After you've warmed up to the subject, drop in the word "queer," a term reserved for advanced users, to show your neighbor that he really is among friends. But is your neighbor actually gay? He may dress like a woman, but is he a transvestite or some other type of cross-dresser? A drag queen? Pre-op tranny? To navigate the mine field of false assumptions, embed a triangulating, subtextual investigation into your conversation. Be subtle, though. Perhaps you could solicit recommendations for jock-itch medication. If he says, "I don't worry about that anymore, honey," you've just narrowed the field. Oh, and that reminds me—the answer to your more immediate question is that you should switch from "Gary" to "Gertrude" when your neighbor starts calling you "honey," "sugar," "darling," or "sweetie." I want you to pause here for a moment with me and consider how this question of yours shows just how high you've climbed up Mount Tolerance. Congratulations! Enjoy the view and pass the oxygen, brother! Too much oxygen can make you dizzy, though. Maybe even too dizzy to remember your secret strategy for talking to your neighbor. In that case go to Plan B: Forget about trying to deduce his whole life story and simply wish him a pleasant evening. You might not be a certified climbing guide like me, but no one needs a special license to say hello to a fellow human being. Dear Uptight Seattleite, I need a mat for outside my door, but all the ones I've seen say "Welcome," which seems to me to send the wrong message.No Welcome From Old Man
Dear No Welcome, Whatever you do, don't get one with an eagle on it. The next thing you know, a Fox News crew would jump out of the bushes, and we'd see you in a segment about how Seattle liberals hate America so much they wipe their feet on its most sacred symbols. You could always get one of those brutal, metal-reinforced coir fiber mats if your life is lacking in chunky textures. I myself don't have one at all. My no-mat strategy prepares the way for my no-shoes policy. Let them wipe and they start to get ideas. Dear Uptight Seattleite, I went to a naturopath the other day, and she wrote me what looked like a prescription. I got it filled at a little window that looked like a pharmacy counter. But my "prescription" turned out to be for vitamins. The whole thing was vaguely embarrassing, like I was part of some overgrown child's dress-up game. Am I missing something?Not So Supercalifragilisticexpial-Holistic
Dear Not So Supercalifragilisticexpial-Holistic, You might have the wrong idea. Going to a naturopath is sort of like going to a masseuse. Or a manicurist. She makes you feel valued, pampered, even. Her office smells of herbs. The potted plants filling her windows practically purr under her nurturing touch. She has infinite patience when it comes to discussing your diet and even your poop—she's more patient, in fact, than your own mother. You're comforted by the gravitas of her white lab coat as she patiently explains why your qi may be having issues with your meridians. You savor her expression of approval when you happen to mention that you regularly practice yoga. You leave her office clutching an economy-size jar of echinacea and blazing with a renewed fervor for your enlightened lifestyle. There may be times, however, when you want the non-noninvasive option on the table. If you have a piecing pain in your side or some other actual health problem, I recommend one of those evil mainstream doctors, the ones with the scalpels and pain killers. Dear Uptight Seattleite, Do all men imitate Bruce Lee in the bathroom mirror?White Belt
Dear White Belt, Yes, imitating Bruce Lee in the bathroom mirror is something that unites men of all ethnic and economic backgrounds. Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.