Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Ethicists

Click here, then read.

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.


  1. Outstanding writing. LOVE IT(shouting).

  2. The video doesn't work in my country...damned YouTube censorship! And ewwwwww to the image of the massage therapist. But when you can create such a vivid picture, disgusting as it may be, you deserve a hats off to your great writing.

  3. You got me to laugh out loud again. Here is the line that did me in--"I paused so we could pretend-retch together." I'm laughing again just re-posting it--brilliant.
    As you mention siblings, you remind me to love my sister a little bit more and to focus on these kinds of moments together. Thank you.

  4. Nicely done Kate. I agree that I'd mention the broken clock to the insulation guys, they should have warned. The overweight sneezer is a trickier sitch, you don't want to get her fired in this economy. Although maybe she can get a job repairing antique clocks. Anyway, love the candor of your posts (and the great writing.)

  5. You know, Lazarus, I have not been able to call the massage place and complain about this therapist, for exactly your reasoning: I don't want her to get fired. I'm SO fortunate to have my good job; I can't spread bad karma like that. But I CAN avoid her in the future, how about that? :-)

  6. I don't know how you sat there for longer than 5 seconds with her breathing all over you. Not that I'd have the nerve to say anything, but I would have made a big deal about covering my face. So gross!

    I really love your blog and your stories. Your relationship with your brother reminds me of a book that I'm working with called "Born Under a Lucky Moon" by Dana Precious. It’s a really cute and fun read about a dysfunctional yet loving family from Michigan, and a story that spans from the Great Lakes to Hollywood and back. It’s a touching story and is based on some real life events of the author that include a surprise wedding and, sadly, a murder.

    The author grew up in Muskegon, which is very Minnesota-esque to me. And, her relationship with her siblings is very similar to yours.

    You can read sample chapters and the prologue at before its released on February 8th.

    I look forward to hearing if you check it out!