United States News New York Dear Pepper: Interruptions, Hostess Gifts, and Toilet Clogs

Dear Pepper: Interruptions, Hostess Gifts, and Toilet Clogs


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Dear Pepper,

My husband and I have a wonderful marriage. He is kind, funny, and generous to me. My one problem is that he’s always interrupti—

Dear Interrupted,

(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) That’s a big one—although I think a common one—and a hard one to solve. Existence, as well as being recognized by your partner as existing, is a fundamental right of all dense matter. Do I sound like I’m joking? I’m not joking.

You mention in your e-mail, which I so rudely cut off, that your husband rarely asks you questions and often talks at length about his own life and issues but makes no effort to listen when you try to tell him about yourself.

I believe that listening is a quality that’s learned, rather than innate. And, if your husband hasn’t learned it by now, he might not be motivated to do so at this point.

You also say in your e-mail that you’ve talked to him about this but that it doesn’t help. You mentioned that he doesn’t listen when you bring things like this up.

It’s hard to make anything work perfectly when there isn’t coöperation, but I do have some partial measures I can recommend: train yourself to speak more loudly and to not stop speaking when interrupted.

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Do as Kamala Harris did repeatedly during the Vice-Presidential debate and firmly say, “I’m speaking.”

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Good luck,


Dear Pepper,

So-and-so said to bring nothing to her party. Should I️ actually bring nothing?


Dear Kaneís,

This is actually a very tricky problem, as I’m sure you’re aware.

“Nothing”—nada in Spanish, niente in Italian, rien in French, shum davar in Hebrew—can mean many things, depending on the circumstances of the person who has asked you to bring nothing to her party. It could mean that she does very much want you to bring something but knows that she’s not allowed to ask, because she has a kind and selfless persona. It could mean that she’s prepared a very specific and fancy meal and doesn’t want you messing it up with some random carrot-and-raisins dish that she’d have to serve if you brought it. The reality is that there is no way to tell what is in the heart of a host.

Wine is usually safe. It’s something that hosts can keep rather than serving, if they so choose. How much the wine should cost and what color and type it should be is for a wiser dog than I to help you figure out.

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In case you can’t tell, I don’t miss dinner parties very much. Or socializing in general.



Dear Pepper,

I clogged a public toilet in the building where I rent an art studio. There is no plunger in the bathroom. Is it my duty to go out and buy one? It would probably take an hour or so. I can’t remember what the social norms are anymore. I want to do the right thing. But I know that I can’t do everything.

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Can’t Help But Mess Everything Up

Dear Can’t Help,

There’s a fine line between being a good person and being an obsessively correct person. My rule of thumb is that if some form of kindness takes less than, say, ten minutes and costs less than, say, ten dollars (this is a sliding scale—choose numbers that are right for you), you should go the extra mile. Otherwise, be bad. I speak as a dog who has always had her poop picked up for her. Please direct all hate mail to [email protected]


Your Pepper

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