"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
In this week's column: Should one diary one's infidelities? Should one buy women on the internet? Should one lie about one's billable hours? Should one write for advice to the New York Times?
My father, a translator, was hired by a man who suspected that his wife was unfaithful and married him only to get a green card. He had my father translate photocopied pages from her diary. Family members think this was unethical. My father maintains he simply did his job. You? (Incidentally, the diary confirmed the devastated man's suspicions, and he is initiating divorce proceedings.) — Nicole Schou, San Francisco
With the possible exceptions of Anne Frank and Samuel Pepys, I've never understood diaries (and who am I kidding, fuck Samuel Pepys. Dude suuuuucked.) Everyone has their little secrets, some of us just don't have the impulse to write those secrets down in an ugly book from the Barnes and Noble gift section. Hot tip for Valentine's Day: if you're cheating on someone, the memory of that betrayal should be enough, you don't need some permanent record to revisit years from now in a nostalgic trip down "I Was a Fucking Asshole in My Personal Relationships" Lane.
That being said, here's another hot tip for Valentine's Day: Cash Rules Everything Around Me. Did you enjoy having a bed to sleep in when you were growing up? How about all that food on the table? Maybe it's time to get off your dad's back. He doesn't come down to your work and slap the dick out of your mouth. Not to mention the fact that we're talking about PAGES FROM A DIARY. That amounts to a "big fucking deal" in any language. Just ask Harriet Le Spy.
Incidentally, the devastated man should keep his chin up! Hot tip for Valentine's Day #3: How to Get the Woman of Your Dreams Using the Internet! At least with a mail-order bride you know for a fact that all she wants is a green card. White Slavery, so hot in 2007.
My son is an athlete at a small college. He and many teammates have jobs supervised by assistant coaches who encourage them to "round up" the number of hours they work — to say they worked longer than they did. My son is efficient enough to finish his work faster than the time allocated. Is he an "honest sucker" if he alone reports accurately? — name withheld, San Francisco
Please refer to Hot Valentine's Day Tip #2: Cash Rules Everything Around Me.
The obvious answer to your question is yes. Yes, your son is an "honest sucker" and a "newsie" if he alone reports accurately. His teammates will ridicule and rape him for being such a "schmoe" and a "fag."
It's cute that you're trying to teach him a valuable lesson in honesty and integrity, but he's in college now, so unless the lesson has a lot of references to beer pong and date rape, eh. How about you just tell him to double bag it and call it a day. A Valentine's Day! Zing!