Thatz Not Okay: Eating Food Off the Street; Name-Robbing a Dead GirlWelcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions to caity.weaver@gawker.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."


I was walking home today after a night out. I'd ingested a decent amount of whiskey. On my way back to my apartment I saw a box, a box wrapped in a ribbon, sitting on a traffic cone. If it were a present, I would have left it alone, but it was a take-out box. So, I picked it up, looked inside, and found chicken wings. I did not eat them this time, because I am waiting on your advice. I'd like to eat wings found in a similar situation in the future. Is that okay?

Thatz not okay.

First off, I appreciate the boundless optimism that has led you to believe you are #blessed enough that you will encounter a gift-wrapped box of hot wings on the street more than once in your life. Hot wings are like miracles; they're all around us if we know where to look.

Human life is a legacy of risk. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors walked around pulling things out of the dirt and eating them. Some of them ate hemlock and some of them ate cilantro; you pays your dime and you takes your chance (or, in the case of mysterious boxes of food you encounter in the wild, you pays no dime and you takes your chance). Your hesitation to eat the food you found in the street is a triumph of evolution; the fact that you did seriously consider eating it proves that evolution is an on-going process.

Let me be clear: I empathize wholeheartedly with your desire to eat the traffic cone's chicken wings. Off the top of my head, I can come up with a half-dozen explanations for how those wings could have gotten there and still been safe to eat. (1. Random act of kindness from stranger. 2. Someone ordered unwanted wings to meet credit card minimum. 3. Someone drunkenly ordered wings then decided they didn’t want them. 4. Someone ordered wings then decided they were too spicy. 5. Someone ordered wings as a surprise for his girlfriend and then walked in on her cheating on him—with a woman—and, in a state of shock, left the wings on a traffic cone. 6. Someone ordered way too much food for a party and didn’t want the wings to go to waste.) However, it’s not unreasonable to worry that the wings were tampered with in some way. Ask yourself: would you give up a piping hot box of delicious buffalo wings unless you had a good reason? This worry—this very real chance that something is wrong—is why we do not eat the food we find in the street.

I once found myself in a situation very similar to yours. A couple years ago, I was walking home to my apartment, when I happened upon a dozen cupcakes sitting on a cardboard tray. Written in icing on the cupcakes was a phone number. I wanted so badly to eat the cupcakes. I stood there for a good 15 seconds debating whether or not to eat the cupcakes. (I should mention that they were next to, but not touching, a trashcan.) I thought about calling the phone number, but I worried that the cupcakes had been put there as a means of contact by drug dealers, or that the person on the other end of the phone would try to convince me to eat the cupcakes and then I would feel even worse about letting them go to waste. In the end, I left them for a braver soul and proceeded to walk home where I probably already had cupcakes waiting for me because I seriously love cupcakes.

Thatz Not Okay: Eating Food Off the Street; Name-Robbing a Dead Girl

I was proud of (and a little disappointed in) myself for not eating the street cupcakes, just like I am proud of (and a little disappointed in) you for not eating the traffic cone wings. People like you and I who hunger for life or, more specifically, for free food we find in the street, yearn for stories about fearless urban explorers coming upon inexplicable plates of tacos and eating them with no negative consequences because that will make us feel better about behaving in irresponsible ways. But we know, in our hearts, that eating food we just find in weird places is a recipe for disaster.

Incidentally, situations like these prompt the question: How far away from the point of origin can you find the food and still consider it safe to consume? Let’s say you find the wings on the counter of the wing place and an employee says “A guy ordered those but then left them here.” These wings, I would probably eat. Now let’s say you’re walking by the wing place and find a ribbon wrapped box of wings on a bench directly outside it. These wings, I would debate eating. If all appeared normal/hairless, I might eat one and not enjoy it anyway because I would be so nervous. I would not eat the entire box of wings in case something was wrong with them. Now what if the box of wings were located a block from the wing place? These wings I would want to eat, but ultimately would not. Distance makes the wings grow darker.

By contrast, if you do happen to find a sealed box of girl scout cookies or a bag of chips or an unopened soda on a traffic cone, totally, go for it. Enjoy your amazing life.


Recently a friend of mine called me up to tell me that she had discovered that one of our mutual friends was doing porn. I don't have any qualms about that (although it is a niche type of porn that I'm not into), but the issue is her porno name. The three of us all went to high school together. During our time at school a terrible car accident resulted in the death of a young girl that we knew. My porn star friend has appropriated the dead girl’s name as her stage name.

Originally my question was going to be whether it was okay for me to mention to her that I know she does porn, which on it's own is an odd conversation, but now with the name detail it has gone past awkward into the realm of bizarre. Is it okay that she uses the name of a girl we knew in high school that got decapitated to do porn?

Thatz not okay.

I suspect that you know it’s not okay, and are therefore presenting this not so much as an earnest “Is this okay?” and more as a rubbernecky “Isn’t this crazy?!” (Is the detail of her decapitation integral to the story? It is not.) You are right. It is crazy. What a strange, sad thing to have happened.

In answer to the question you sort of asked, it's not okay to surprise your friend with the knowledge that you know all about her porn career. You say yourself you have no qualms about it (even though it’s not the kind of porn you like — bummer), which suggests you don’t believe she’s in danger. You would only be bringing it up to “Gotcha!” her. Don’t “Gotcha!” your friends. Let her introduce the subject. If she doesn’t, you can bet that she hoped to keep it a secret. It is unlikely that it simply slipped her mind to tell her friends she does porn now.

Maybe one of the reasons she wanted to keep it a secret is because she is using a dead girl’s name as her porn name which, as you have surmised, is weird. Possibly indicative of some deeper psychological issues. Possibly just incredibly poor judgment.

To avoid this question in the future, here is are some good tips for aspiring porn stars to use when selecting their names:

1. Avoid the classic “Pet’s Name” + “Street You Grew Up On” formula, because these are common security questions, and you don’t need your answers plastered all over the internet. (You should be using fake answers for these anyway, by the way. The bank doesn’t care if your dog’s name was really XFj7!n. It just cares that you can provide the response "XFj7!n" when prompted.)

2. Don’t appropriate the name of anyone you know, living or dead, for your sex work. It’s just in poor taste. What is the best case scenario here? That they feel honored? Chances are, the only person who’s going to feel honored you adopted a real name for your porn name is another porn star, and you can’t use another porn star’s name for your porn name, because a porn star by that name already exists (them). The worst case scenario is that you will horribly offend someone and permanently fuck-up their SEO. (On that note, it was a doubly weird move on behalf of your friend to pick this particular young woman’s name, because searches for her porn work will also turn up news articles and memorial pages related to a horrific tragedy.)

3. When in doubt, pick a given name and surname from the top of the census. Welcome to the world, Sophia Miller. Today you are a porn star.

If your friend does decide to mention her new career to you, and reveals what name she’s chosen, you are welcome to express your surprise at her choice of moniker. You might tell her that the use of this name makes you uncomfortable, given the circumstances. You might ask if she’d consider changing it, out of respect for the girl's survivors.

Now. All of the name weirdness assumes that your friend has adopted the exact name—first and last—of the high school acquaintance in question. If that girl’s name was, say, Amanda Stoltzfus, and your friend’s new name is Amanda Dicksalot, you can’t really accuse her of naming herself after a dead person.

Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here. Image by Jim Cooke; source photo from Shutterstock.