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My brother called today; I turned down the radio to hear him better. As usual, we chit-chatted to start.
“What’re you listening to?” he said.
“Lady Gaga,” I said. “Did you know the first time I heard Lady Gaga on the radio, I thought it was Madonna?”
My brother gasped. “You can’t say those two names in the same sentence! You’ve just lost your gay card for ninety days.”
“That girl has totally wrecked Madonna’s career." He sighed. "It’s such a delicate issue. Lady Gaga is good. But Madonna’s got one hit left in her and she’ll go on tour with it: She’ll reinvent the Re-Invention!”
As I considered the prospect of a veiny Madonna writhing around stage with flappy breasts and knobby knees, my brother continued: “I’m calling to run an ethical dilemma by you. You’re always so good at these. Today I had my house insulated, and they did a really good job, but they must have banged really hard on one outside wall because when I came home, one of my antique clocks had fallen off the shelf and it broke all over the place. Do you think I should say something?”
I thought about it. “Well, it was definitely an accident, but then again they could have warned you to take down your delicate items, so I think you should point it out. Maybe they have insurance to cover things like that.”
“I’m a contractor,” my brother announced, which is true. “When I break things—when I’m in a client’s space and something goes wrong—I’m responsible for that. I always pay for things I break.”
“That’s because you're Catholic,” I said. “Most people don’t feel that guilty. Just tell the insulation guys about the broken clock and see what they say. If they fix it, great; if not, no harm in asking.”
“You’re right,” my brother said. “Now what’s up with you?”
“I too have an ethical dilemma,” I said. “I got a massage yesterday and my massage therapist was obese. She was massaging me with parts of her body that should never have touched mine. Plus, she was sweating.” I paused so we could pretend-retch together. “And she had a cold!” I said. “She sneezed and coughed and sniffled the whole time. Do you think I should complain?”
“Oh, absolutely! That’s got ‘free massage’ written all over it.”
“But I’ll feel bad about saying she’s fat.”
“You can’t say she’s fat!” my brother warned. “That’s an invitation to bad karma that will manifest itself in a vaginal infection or something else horrible. You can only say she had a cold and practically wiped it all over you. My God, that’s bad enough.”
“You’re right,” I said.
Pleased with our decisions, we said our I-love-you’s and hung up, saints for the day.