Putting the Vice in Advice

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

To the fine, well-muscled student body of Swarthmore College:

Greetings. As you perambulate the confusing labyrinth of college life, your time at Swarthmore has no doubt inspired you to contemplate grand existential questions. Why are you here? Where are you going? What is your place in the grand scheme of Life? You have, no doubt, turned to the Great Philosophers of Olde for counsel. Aristotle. Plato. Socrates.

We are not those philosophers.

So who are we, you ask? To be very frank, we’re still working that bit out ourselves. We’ll fill you in on what we do know: we’re two humble Swatties (Ankhi Thakurta: Homo sapiens, Lang Haynes: sapiens Homo) on a mission to answer the littler questions in life…the ones that would have made Aristotle laugh himself silly or driven Socrates to take another swig of that hemlock. Blech. We’re here to answer the strange questions that pop into your seminar-addled brain at 3:49 PM—when Freudian psychology doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as Lady Gaga’s latest bubble wrap kimono (although, you never know, there may be a connection there).

For instance…

L: I’ve made tuna melts in Sharples. But how do I make that cutie in Comp Sci melt?

A: Where is my mysterious professor headed after seminar?

L: What inspired the cover art of my Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies Textbook?

A: Am I a bad person for thinking that Eli Roth looked kinda hot while bashing in heads in Inglourious Basterds?

L: Am I a bad person for finding Mr. Hyde so much hotter than Dr. Jekyll?

A and L: Am I a bad person?

L: How can I improve my Christopher Walken impression?

A: Teal hot pants on Monday—fashion faux pas, or fashion faux SHO?

L: How will I tone down my BAMFery? (Seriously, it’s scaring the children)

L: How the heck do you pronounce “Nietzche?

A: I think he likes me, and I definitely like him. But I’m not sure, because sometimes we make eye contact (it’s, like, EXPLOSIVE) and I definitely like him but I’m not sure if I definitely LIKE like him or if he likes me either but I definitely like him and he sat down next to me this one time, at least he acknowledges that I’m human, I think, right? I guess what I’m asking is…what will our babies look like?

If Galileo stood on the Shoulders of Giants, you’ll find us wading through Their Toe Jam. So don’t sweat the Big Stuff- Nietzche (pronounced “Inglourious Basterd”) has got that covered.

Question 1:

Hi Lang and Ankhi:

Thank you for the sage and godly advice you dispense. Aristotle couldn’t have run this column better. I’m writing to you because I am deeply worried about a very dear friend of mine. Normally, he is a jolly and happy soul, but as of late, I notice that he is deeply preoccupied by something. Should I ask him what’s wrong, or give him space? I’m worried—most of the time, he looks really pissed. Yesterday, he kicked a tree stump.

-Sensitive Sean 900

Lang: Hi, Sean! As I’m sure you’ve found, college is a time when folks will (hopefully!) encounter a variety of things that challenge them emotionally, intellectually, and artistically. Some people respond to this with anger. It sounds to me like your former Teletubby has gone all Sid Vicious for reasons unknown. You know your friend better than I, and your friend knows himself better than you, so I’m going to share a couple of strategies that let your friend come to you on his own terms. Trying to solve other people’s problems often ends up being Bad News Bears, so the best thing is to wait until you have some privacy and then ask him what’s up. A number of things might happen at this point: a) he will disclose the source of his angst in a tragic manner; b) he will ask for more time; or c) he will clobber you with his bass guitar. Depending on which of these scenarios occurs, mention that you’re there for him, and simply listen to what he has to say (unless you’ve experienced scenario c). If he doesn’t want to share, at least he knows you’re there.

Another strategy is to come to him for help with an issue that you yourself are dealing with—you’ll bond, and then hopefully, he’ll open up about his own issues. Although this is a more active way of finding out what is bothering Sid, it may be helpful if he’s especially withdrawn. I know in my own experience as someone who people can rely on to be a “jolly and happy soul” that it’s often hard to be a “downer”—initiating a conversation that focuses on your issues might create the perfect space for your friend to open up about his sub-par guitar skills. Or whatever he’s working through.

Ankhi: Hello, Sensitive Sean. I approach your friend’s dilemma as an English major hailing fresh from a seminar discussion on this very topic.

Has Sid expressed any desire to avenge his father’s wrongful death? Has he been chatting up prop skulls in “Foundation Drawing”? When you ask him about his day, does he soliloquize?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, Sid must either slay his adulterous uncle or have sex with Hamlet’s mother. As far as I can tell, this is a textbook case of “The Danish Doldrums”. Toss him a copy of “The Graduate” and let things run their, um, natural course. Thanks for writing in.

Ankhi and Lang will be answering reader-submitted questions every two weeks. Please submit your queries to sketchy.questions@daily.swarthmore.edu.

The Phoenix