My stepfather regularly phones me for tech support, whenever his PC stops working properly. The PC is riddled with viruses, despite being only a couple of months old (he only bought it because his previous one had so many viruses that it just stopped working). He's paid for several anti-virus programs, he's got a firewall, he knows not to open suspicious emails, and he claims to only use the Internet for news, Wikipedia, and shopping.
I literally don't know how the PC could have so many virus problems if he wasn't looking at porn. How do I know he looks at porn? a) he's a man, b) there's a box of Kleenex near the computer desk, c) during a previous attempt to revive the computer, I discovered files with names like BustyDebby.jpg and LustyLaura.jpg in the Deleted folder.
Aside from the general feeling of "ewwww", I'm annoyed that I have to listen to endless tales of computer problems which are, as far as I'm concerned, his own fault. I'm considering somehow telling my 75-year-old stepfather that he can have either a virus-free computer or porn, but not both. Is that okay?
A word of caution: While the deleted files with charmingly antiquated names like BustyDebby.jpg and BetteDavisNoods.bmp are pretty rock hard evidence he spends his computer time trawling the internet for proof of boobs, the presence of name-brand facial tissues on the computer desk does not. The maxim is not:
Red in the morning, sailors take warning;
Kleenex in sight, sailors' delight (PORNOGRAPHY).
In fact, as Slate pointed out in 2012, a recent Symantec Internet Security Threat Report found that porn sites were only the tenth most malware-infected class of websites, behind such categories as "education/reference" sites, "entertainment & music" sites, and blogs. The report hypothesized that the reason for porn's relative safety was that "pornographic website owners already make money from the internet and, as a result, have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free – it's not good for repeat business." So if your stepdad is getting viruses from porn, he's either the world's most gullible web user, or he's putting a little effort into it.
The fact that he's paid for "several" antivirus programs may indicate the real problem. One computer should never have two such pieces of software (let alone several) running simultaneously—best case scenario, it'll slow down operation for no reason; worst case scenario, they'll conflict and leave the PC vulnerable to attack. It's possible he accidentally purchased rogue (fake) security software that is itself a virus. Maybe he keeps building upon that by purchasing more and more viruses for himself. You may want to tell your stepdad to stop paying for additional anti-virus programs, and start redoubling his efforts not to click on that link, even if it swears it will take him to Obama's REAL birth certificate.
If you are still fairly confident he's getting viruses from porn, (you do mention "online shopping,"—is he online shopping for real freaky blackmarket porn?), you can tell him that's the problem. You can put it bluntly, if you have that kind of loosey-goosey, talkin' about blowjobs at dinner, sex-positive relationship. (Maybe advise your stepdad that he could combine his dual loves of the Online Encyclopedia and busty women into a porn workaround by bookmarking the Wikipedia entries for "breast," "areola," and "French postcard.") You can also bury the observation in a list of potential culprits: "Well, Ron, you only get these kinds of viruses from fake banner ads, cheap personally-hosted blogs, porn, and Katy Perry lyrics websites."
If you have a flair for the dramatic and a talent for lying, you might try to scare your stepdad off internet porn by telling him you're installing a program that will run in the background of his PC (sounds legit) and track his web history so that the next time his computer becomes infected, you will be able to identify the exact source. However, just as kids who have been told a chemical in the pool will turn their urine a fluorescent green will eventually take their chances and pee anyway, this solution will probably prove a temporary, ineffectual fix. You might be able to get him to kick the habit for a week or two, tops.
A fourth option is to avoid the confrontation altogether by telling him that, since millions of people successfully read the news and shop online every day without their computers becoming virus-laden to the point of nonfunction, whatever mysterious issues he's having are simply beyond your expertise. Let the smug teens at the computer repair store be the one to tell your stepdad his wild libido is destroying his computer. (If he's going to keep porn-ing his computers to death, they might encourage him to buy a cheap netbook when this one becomes too full of erotic jpegs to turn on.)
Whatever route you decide to take, be grateful he isn't searching for anything more extreme than busty, lusty ladies. Your discovery could have been way, way more uncomfortable than it was.
My husband and I are avid cooks, and we host a lot of dinner parties. But cooking for them has become difficult because people are now in the habit of asking us to accommodate their diets. I've always done that for serious vegetarians or people with allergies. But now, we're also asked to accommodate vegan, "paleo," low-carb, low-fat, high protein, gluten-free, cruelty-free, etc. On top of that, we get lists of foods the guest simply doesn't like (mostly long lists of vegetables, or instructions like "no casserole-type things"). It's become impossible to satisfy everyone unless we cook a massive number of dishes.
Most annoying is that many of our friends aren't even that strict about these rules they ask us to work around. Often the specially prepared dishes go uneaten when they decide that all the other "forbidden" foods are too tempting. I was taught that when you go to someone's house for dinner, you eat what they serve. To me, it's just plain weird to tell someone you're coming to their party, but you hope they're not serving any genetically modified foods.
Next time, I'm thinking about taking a hard line approach and simply telling people I can't customize the menu for each individual guest. Is that okay?
A good rule of thumb for is that if you probably won't be doing something in six weeks, you shouldn't let it affect other people around you. Your idiot friends will not be on paleo diets forever. That's why you don't meet people who have been on the South Beach Diet since 2002. (Another good rule of thumb for picking your novelty diet that has no real scientific backing: Choose one where you'll be able to find something to eat in most situations. Otherwise: avoid situations.)
If you are on an uber-restrictive diet that is motivated neither by allergy nor religion, you can cheat on it. (For the record, vegetarianism does not qualify as "uber restrictive.") If you are entertaining someone on such a diet, you can lie to them. The interesting thing about the food you are serving is that, as soon as a neighbor asks if it was genetically modified, it turns out it wasn't! The farmer's market is hopping now that Bagel Bites have come into season.
According to Emily Post, the polite thing to do, if you have a dietary preference that generally prevents you from eating food that has not been prepared expressly for you according to a specific set of moral and medicinal parameters, is notify your host of your restriction and say you would love to contribute a dish to the meal. Note that this does not translate to bringing a single serving of your own food and eating it hunched over your chair like a squirrel. You are contributing a dish to the meal, so bring enough for everyone to try some, should they want to. (No one will want to, but the host will have a serving out of politeness.)
A cruel irony of entertaining is that, while people are much more grateful if you let them crash on your air mattress overnight than if you have them over for a meal, it takes way more time, effort, and money to keep a person fed and drunk for four hours than it does to let them have weird dreams in your living room. Hosting dinner parties is fun, but by the time everyone is scheduled to arrive, there's always a small part of you that hopes they don't, so that you can live for weeks off trays of bacon-wrapped dates and recoup your losses.
It is a testament to your and your husband's restaurant-quality cooking that people have begun treating your home like a restaurant. In fact, it is more accommodating than a restaurant, because restaurants sometimes impose restrictions like "no substitutions" or "20% gratuity automatically added to parties of 6 or more." But your home is not a restaurant, as evidenced by the lack of a health inspection grade hanging by prominently the front door, and chilling absence of an "employees must wash hands" sign taped to the bathroom mirror.
When hosting a dinner party, treat the night like Valentine's Day at a mid-level fancy restaurant with a prix fixe menu. No alterations; no substitutions; the staff are stressed out and miserable and cannot wait for the evening to end.
As for the friends who make particular food demands, and then eat the regular food anyway: stop being friends with these bad friends. There is nothing cute about saying, "I was trying to go vegan but these steaks smell toooooo good. Fine, I'll cave!" That is a fuck-you dressed up like a compliment. The goal of the host isn't to persuade or trick the guests into eating the food he or she has prepared.
If people want to dictate a paleo menu, they can host a paleo party. Otherwise, they are free to forage anything they like from the yard before and after dinner.
Don't ever let anyone stop you from making a "casserole-type thing."
Thatz Not Okay is a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions (max: 200 words) to email@example.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay." Image by Jim Cooke, photos via Shutterstock.