Anonymous Mailbag

It’s Tuesday, rejoice, the anonymous mailbag is here.

As always you can send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

Here we go:

“I’m a twice divorced father of four children.  I have two daughters from my first marriage and two sons from my second marriage. I do have a decent income in that I make just over $100k/year however, I still pay $1000/month in child support for my two sons.

I took loans from my 401k to pay half of both my daughters college tuitions, and I’m still paying for my own college tuition (I didn’t finish college till I was in my 40’s). Maybe needless to say, I live paycheck to paycheck for now and my savings are disappointing for a man of my age.

My daughters are both very successful in their young careers and my 24 y.o. is now engaged to be married in just over a year. Shortly after her engagement, she asked me for $10k for the wedding. I was devastated and didn’t know what to do because I would do anything in the world for my children but this is a figure I can’t come close to being able to contribute and I cannot afford another loan. I called my daughter and told her I would do what I can but I will not be able to come close to this amount of money. I’ve not yet committed to a dollar figure yet but I’m thinking maybe $1k even though that too will hurt financially.

My ex-wife is re-married now and has reaped the benefits of marrying someone with his own very successful business. Last night, I received a text from my ex and ccing my daughter saying, she heard I wasn’t going to pay for anything and her and her new husband will pay for everything. She went on to say this will affect the number of people I’m able to invite. I don’t have an exhaustive list of people to invite outside of immediate family anyway so I’m not really sure what this means.

My question is two-fold.  1) how do I respond to the text? 2) How would you suggest handling the finances of the wedding? It is eating me up inside to not be able to help my daughter have a beautiful wedding. Looking forward to your advice.”

First of all, your ex-wife is being a total bitch here by sending that text to you and your daughter.

I mean, an absolute and total bitch.

Her text wasn’t sent to alleviate your daughter’s financial concerns, it was sent to embarrass you and make you look bad in the eyes of your daughter.

It’s great that your ex-wife has the financial wherewithal — thanks to her husband — to help your daughter on the wedding but she could have told your daughter this in a phone conversation and she could have also phoned you to convey the same information.

As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also lording over the fact that she’s paying for the wedding to try and limit your invite list to the wedding. That’s absurd. You’re the father of the bride here. In theory the people you’d be inviting are the people your daughter should be inviting anyway.

The way I’d handle your wife’s text message is just to respond simply, “That’s great. I’m glad you and (insert her new husband’s name here) are going to be able to give (insert daughter’s name here) the wedding she wants and deserves.”

Then you’re out of the conversation.

You get a nice dig in there by pointing out that it’s her current husband who is paying for the wedding, not actually her, but you also keep it cordial and classy. Then as long as your ex-wife doesn’t try to block your family members from your daughter’s wedding because you aren’t paying enough, I think you’ll be fine here.

Now, for the second part of your question, I’m not sure how your daughter asked for $10k from you for the wedding, but she sounds like a bitch too based on the way this email is written.

You paid for half of her college and as a result she has a good job and appears to be doing fine. Why should she assume that you’re just going to give her $10k cash for the wedding? Granted, I know it’s commonplace for the father of the bride to pay for the wedding, but I think this is an outdated custom and your daughter should have at least a clue about your financial situation.

The average wedding costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $27k now.

I’ve got three sons so theoretically thanks to my sperm which only produce male heirs, I totally get to dodge this cost. But that doesn’t seem fair. Why should I get to dodge all wedding costs just because I have three boys? And why should the dad and mom who have three daughters be on the hook for all of them? I think what should be the common custom for weddings is the couple are responsible for coming up with half the costs and each of the parents come up with a quarter each.

If the couple can’t come up with half the costs themselves then they get half the wedding they would prefer, with each of the parents paying for half. (The original quarter each). And if the couple and the parents can’t pay then you elope.

This seems like a perfect solution to me.

It’s time to change the old school custom that only the father of the bride has to pay for the wedding. That’s rooted in the idea that the dad is paying you to take responsibility for his daughter off his shoulders. It clearly doesn’t fit our modern society any more and deserves to be updated.

Having said all of this, it’s also possible your daughter thinks you have more money than you do and are just choosing not to help her with the wedding costs. So I’d have her over for dinner and walk her through your finances in detail. And by “in detail” I mean show her bank statements and your financial obligations as well as your financial assets.

I’d point out again that you paid for half of her college tuition — along with her sister’s, a decision that led to you breaking into your 401k. I’d also let her know that you have two young kids and have substantial alimony payments to their mom for years to come.

Make sure she knows you simply don’t have the money she’s asking for and can’t obtain it between now and the wedding, but that you will do what you can and want her to have the best wedding possible.

Good luck.

“So I want your opinion on something.  One of my friends ended up eating dinner with a small group of people, in that group was a professional athlete. This guy makes about $30k a day, not including any endorsement deals.   

It wasn’t a super fancy dinner and there was only about 5 people in the group.  So the check comes and he says he will pay and the others can just Venmo him.   

Is there a point where you pick up the tab for a dinner because of how much you make? On one hand I completely understand that you can’t pick up all the tabs. But also would kind of suck when this guys makes in 2 days what my friend makes in a year.

Our friend group is torn and need your opinion.”

There’s a fine line between drawing attention to your wealth by picking up a check and being a dickhead for not picking up the check.

To me, that line is determined based on how well you know the people you’re out to dinner with.

For instance, if I’m out to dinner with friends of mine who also make good salaries, I think it’s more insulting for me to pick up the check. In those situations, I think the check should just be split evenly.

But if I’m out with a group of people I don’t know that well and it’s clear that I’m in a better financial position than they are, I’m more likely to just pick up the check.

For instance, I had a large group with me in the new bar downtown a couple of months ago. I knew some of these people well, but not all of them. And some of them ended up being former radio interns on my show, guys and girls who are still young and just starting their careers.

We ordered food and drinks all night and I picked up the entire tab.

Could I have said, “Hey, can you break this check up 14 different ways?”

Sure, but I’m a partial owner of the bar and everyone, even if I didn’t know them all well, probably made substantially less money than me.

Similarly, I’ve been out for drinks with people who work on the TV show several times. I try to pick up the check there quite a bit because those guys — and girls — tend to be younger than me and I think I should be picking up those checks.

But if I’m out to dinner with the three people on the show — Todd, Sal and Rachel — we’d evenly split the check.

So you’re wanting a definite answer here and I don’t think I can give you one because it depends on the circumstances.

The pro athlete might have felt as if he was showing respect to everyone else in the group by not assuming that he was head and shoulders above them when it came to income.

Or it could have been that he’s just a dick.

My feeling is if you’re fortunate enough to have money it’s better to err on the side of overpaying than underpaying. Just like I always over tip in restaurants or for valets now. People might say bad things about me, but anyone who argues that I under tip, is lying. (Exception to the rule: a couple of times in the past year I’ve used a valet and not had any cash on me at all. How do valets not all have square readers for this? Even worse, I used a valet recently and only had $100 bills in my wallet. I felt like such an asshole then because I told the valet, “Can you break a hundred, sorry, it’s all I have.” He said he couldn’t. Well, it’s not like I’m going to give the guy a hundred dollar bill. So I didn’t give him a tip and said I’d get him next time. If you’re reading this, I mean it!)

But, honestly, I probably think about this more than most people do because unlike most people, I feel like my tipping decisions might be talked about after I leave. Or, god forbid, even go viral like some rich cheapskate dinner tickets have in the past several years.

Finally, my parents still insist on giving me gas money when I come by their house. I could fight them, but it seems like more of an asshole move not to take their $20.

And my dad will still sneak away checks at dinner.

I make more in two weeks now than my parents make in a year.

But parents gonna parent, y’all.

I bet Jeff Bezos’s parents, if they’re alive, still try and pick up dinner checks for him too and he’s the richest man in the world.

“I’ve been dating a girl for 2 and a half years now and we’ve been discussing the possibility of getting engaged/married recently. We are both 28 years old and a perfect fit for each other in most every aspect besides the fact that despite having a college degree, she chooses to bartend 4 nights a week on Broadway in downtown Nashville. She will admit that she hates the hours and lifestyle but needs to bartend to make ends meet (she has a degree in Communications and claims she can’t make much money in that field). I want to move forward with this girl and get engaged but I’m afraid that she will never quit and only get further behind in establishing a real career. I’ve recently considered telling her that we can’t get married until she quits bartending. Am I being unreasonable?”

Well, two questions here what career do you want for her and how many kids do you want once you’re married?

First, if you don’t care about having kids then I think a discussion about her future career is warranted. She probably doesn’t want to be a bartender at 45. So figuring out a career path makes sense. (I’m sure she has considered this before, by the way, lots of people get sucked into bartending or waiting tables because the money is good and they keep expecting to leave and they just never do. So it’s not like you’re discussing an idea she hasn’t contemplated already).

But if you are thinking about having kids, especially if you want to have multiple kids, then I don’t think a career move is imperative provided you make a decent salary yourself.

She’s 28 now so let’s say she’s 29 at the absolute earliest when you get married. If you want to have multiple kids — and not rush them — that means she needs to have her first kid, probably, by 34 or so.

That would leave her about three or four years to establish a career before she gets pregnant with a first kid if she quit bartending today.

But how far can you really advance in four years if you are going to have multiple kids over the next several years. At best, honestly, you’re probably staying at about the same level as where you start.

Then what do you want to do for child care once you have these kids? Is she going to go back to work or will she stay home with them? Clearly, working in a bar with late night hours isn’t a good plan for a new mom, but what if her plan is to quit bartending once she has kids?

Have you discussed this with her at all?

Honestly, if I wanted multiple kids with her, I’d be more focused on making as much money off my career instead of worrying about hers. Because then you could tell her to keep making good money as a bartender for the next several years — save as much of it as you guys can — and then to quit when the two of you decide to have a kid.

The bigger issue here is this — if you are giving job ultimatums in relationships then you probably should find someone new to date.

You want something — a girlfriend with career drive and ambition — that you’re not getting from your current girlfriend. If that’s the case then instead of trying to get her to bend to your will, why don’t you find someone that better fits what you’re looking for?

Because the big question is this — do you love your girlfriend enough that you want to spend the rest of your life with her no matter what she does for a living or not?

And that’s honestly a question for you, not her.

“I have a bathroom etiquette question for you.

For some context, we have two community bathrooms (multiple urinals and stalls) and two single use bathrooms (just a room with a toilet) in our building at work. There is a guy that never locks the single use bathroom when he’s in it. I’ve had the misfortune of walking in on him, in all his glory, with his pants around his ankles sitting bare ass on the toilet. I can’t imagine how many others in the building have experienced this nightmare inducing sight. He maintains it’s on the person entering the bathroom to make sure it’s not occupied. My stance is he’s in the more embarrassing situation so the onus is on him to lock the door. What’s your stance?”

Here’s the question for the bathroom guy who doesn’t lock the door — what does he gain by this decision not to lock the door?

Is he terrified of there being a fire and him burning to death because of the one extra second it takes him to unlock the door? Is he worried the door is going to lock, refuse to unlatch, and he’ll be locked inside forever?

The question you guys are debating is fine — knock vs. lock — but the more interesting question, to me at least, is what is he gaining by his decision vs. what you are losing by walking in on him sitting on the toilet taking a poop?

And ultimately I don’t think he gains anything by his decision and you certainly lose.

When you have a situation where one side loses and the other side doesn’t gain anything, then there’s a clear winner — he should lock the door when he poops at work. He’s in the wrong here.

Plus, in this current me too era, do you really want to risk exposing yourself because you’re pooping? Especially if it happens multiple times, I could see a woman complaining about this and HR getting involved and you could end up losing your job.

And even if that’s draconian, no woman has ever wanted to bang a guy she sees pooping.

But back to your original question, your presumption is a reasonable one — if the door to the bathroom is unlocked, there’s probably no one inside.

Most people don’t knock on the bathroom door to see if it’s occupied.

They assume that if it’s occupied the door would be locked.

(Sidenote: this is why airplane lavatories are premised on this exact concept. You see either a green or red notation based on whether the lock is engaged on the door. That is, most people use whether the lock is engaged as a signifier of use. The same thing is true in portable toilets, almost all of which let you know occupation status based on whether the lock is engaged or not. Sidenote two: on my most recent plane flight, I locked the door, but then we hit turbulence and the lock became disengaged while I was mid-pee. What happened almost instantly? The door swung open and a woman was standing there, aghast, while I was peeing. Fortunately, I wasn’t mid-poop — my back was still to her as I peed — but I was horrified at what she would have seen if I’d been pooping, me sitting on the toilet down beneath her, waving her away looking like a small hobbit protecting my cave.)

That’s why I think there’s a clear poop vs. pee distinction here.

If you’re a guy and you’re just going to pee, I can see not locking the door — or stall — behind yourself because you don’t want to mess with the time spent on the lock because you aren’t going to be there very long and someone seeing your back while you pee isn’t a big deal.

But there are few times when a man or woman looks worse than while pooping on the toilet. Most people would kill to avoid being found in this circumstance.

The fact that your office worker is perfectly fine being caught mid-poop — MULTIPLE TIMES BY YOU ALONE! — is psychotic behavior on his part.

If I ran the business, I’d fire him.

He can’t be trusted.

“My neighbor (nice guy) has two cats that he just lets free roam the neighborhood. My dog hates cats and the other weekend one of the cats got into my garage, my dog gets out, and there’s a holy war in my garage. I’m talking blood, shrieks, hissing, barking, the works. 

Then, this week, one of the cats murders a dove that has a nest on my porch. This isn’t such a big deal to most people, but this dove has been coming to our home for several years to nest and have its babies. My wife is very fond of said dove. What should I do Clay? Part of me thinks I should just trap the cats and then take them to the pound. The other part hopes my dog succeeds into getting to one of them as revenge for the dove slaying.” 

First, you can’t kidnap the cats and take them to the pound. This is a potential disaster for you. It’s probably illegal and if you got caught your world would end when social media put you out there as a cat-nabber.

Seriously, these animal people wanted to kill a man for killing a LION, can you imagine what they’d do to you if you kidnapped your neighbor’s cats and they got put to sleep in the pound?

Furthermore, I know there’s a leash law for dogs and it’s now rare to see dogs roaming freely in most decent neighborhoods — back when I was a kid every dog, it seemed like, roamed free in neighborhoods, by the way — but don’t most cats roam freely unless they are indoor house cats? So I don’t think you even have a pound argument here.

I’d just do nothing and hope your dogs get a chance to even the score on behalf of the dead dove.

But, honestly, cats are gonna cat, man. Cats have been killing birds since the both species started to exist. Can you really blame a cat for killing a bird?

I think you secretly hate cats.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but just own it.

You’re a cat racist.

Send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

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