"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.
This week, a high school teacher gets all Big Fun, and Joan Shore, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is what the French call "an asshole."
I am a schoolteacher. A teenager told me about her thoughts of suicide. To offer her hope, I told her that I had contemplated suicide decades ago and survived with the support of friends and doctors. She told her therapist about this — fine with me — who told our school social worker, who criticized my conduct to our principal, perhaps endangering my job. I'm not the therapist's patient, but was it ethical of her to discuss me? — name withheld, Conn.
It should go without saying that outside of international espionage, fanatical religious "Comet God" cults, and Tim Allen, I do not advocate suicide. Not because I have any problem with you taking your own life—if you actually feel that is your only option then you might as well go for it because you're probably a horrible conversationalist, and, like, cry after sex. But suicide is basically just an extreme form of being a cutter, and being a cutter is just taking enthusiasm for My Chemical Romance albums and Hello Kitty paraphernalia to its violent conclusion. It's lame. And I do not advocate being lame.
That being said, if you really wanted to help this emotionally troubled girl, maybe showing her that if she just toughed it out a little while longer she too could be a school teacher giving half-baked advice wasn't the most effective deterrent. You feel me, Mr. Rosso? You're just lucky that when you asked her what store at the mall you could get some jelly bracelets and raccoon eye-liner because she looked "really cool...like a really cool, really unique, artsy girl who's just totally being, like, herself" she didn't take both of you out.
Of course, as far as the therapist is concerned, the best way to get back at her for her indiscretion is to kill yourself. She'd probably feel guilty for, like, two whole weeks. And this advice does not conflict with my afore-mentioned anti-suicide stance because you have proved yourself to be so lame that in a sea of lameness, your suicide would be a drop of lame too small even to cause a lame ripple.
Last summer, I visited friends at their chateau in France — good company, excellent food, but a lumpy mattress full of bedbugs. Badly bitten, I said nothing, but I know I'll be invited back. How can I politely tell them about their infestation? Or more politely, must I remain silent and simply decline the invitation? — Joan Shore, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
I forgot about the part in the Princess and the Pea where the Princess turned out to be a total twat. Ooh la-la, yearly visits to your friends' chateau in France. You know, even in spite of your gauche I'm-not-just-an-asshole-I'm-an-international-asshole thing, the fact that you got bed bugs would normally have put me firmly on your side because that is some bullshit (nice chateau, Scabies Depardieu), but that you can't even talk about it without the bourgeois complaint that the infected mattress was "lumpy"? Go le fuck your le self.
If I was in charge, we would chain you up and force feed you until your liver turned into human foie gras, like some kind of set piece from Saw VIII: Jigsaw Prends Paris.
Je hate you.