Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash, Vol. XIV: Tetris addiction, jaded icons, and Mary Ann and Ginger underwear mash-ups

Matt Labash Columnist
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Have a burning sensation? Consult your doctor. Have a burning question for Matt Labash? Submit it here. just informed me I’ve visited their site 245 times in the last month. I haven’t enjoyed it since game 86, but I have to keep playing to “stay well.” I think the Russians (or whoever it comes from) invented Tetris as a sort of electronic heroin to fatten the calf before the slaughter. Thoughts? I have a similar theory with lead paint and China. I think you can put two and two together. — KillTruck

Look, Kill – if I may be so presumptuous as to use your first name – I’m not the most up-to-the-minute guy. I don’t pretend to be hep to the latest mind-Quaaludes the kids are tuning in, turning on, and dropping out with. But I’ll refresh you on some advice that stands the test of time, from the poetess Whitney Houston: “Crack is whack.” Put down your pipe or your Pong paddle or whatever you control this Tetris thing with. This addiction isn’t the fault of the Russians or the Chinese. It’s the fault of the woman you shave in the mirror every morning. I mean if you shave. I expect you don’t. Because you’re a woman. And that would be weird. Unless you were some sort of carnival-exhibit bearded lady. But even then, you wouldn’t shave, because you might lose your job. Though you could be shaving further south. Which would be totally acceptable, and even desirable. But you probably wouldn’t use a mirror for that. Maybe a hand mirror… We’re a little off track. Let’s start over.

What I’m trying to say is, I grew up in the ’70s. So I know firsthand the satanic power of these fantasy role-playing games like this Tetris you speak of. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Dungeons & Dragons. The rest were lost to Pop Rocks. If you too don’t want to become a statistic, I suggest implementing my Hierarchy of Mental Healthiness. The following rankings represent facets of my life in order of importance so as to achieve something close to perfect balance:

  1. Fishing
  2. Jesus
  3. My wife
  4. Work
  5. My mistress
  6. Scrapbooking
  7. My children
  8. Satanic role-playing games like Tetris

You can mix up your hierarchy however you’d like. Maybe scrapbooking means more to you than our Lord and Savior. That’s between you and the Good Shepherd. Just keep Satan/Tetris in last place where they belong, as Jesus Himself did when The Tempter tried to feed Him Kraft Lunchables in the wilderness. (My bible is one of those modern translations.)

Ed. Note: My editor just informed me that Tetris is not, in fact, a Satanic role-playing game. Fair enough. Just think about the role it plays in your life, Kill. And whether that makes Satan happy. Time to do some soul-searching, and to take a hard look in that shaving mirror.

What’s it like to be an icon? — Darin

That’s a tricky question with no easy answers, Darin. If I sugarcoat it, I’m lying. If I tell the truth, I sound ungrateful. But when Tucker had the idea for this column, I told him that if I didn’t permit the readers to see behind the synthetic exterior, so that they could gain an unfettered look at my artificial interior, then there’s really no point. “This thing has to be all about transparency,” I told him. “Yes,” Tucker seconded, “all about aberrancy. I completely agree.” He was looking at Selena Gomez photos on his BlackBerry when we had this conversation. I suspect he wasn’t listening.

So about this icon business: I’m fortunate. I’m blessed. I realize this. Still, it’s a burden. When you live your life under the 24/7 media microscope, people you’ve never met think that they know things about you. It’s easy for them to assume that the life of an advice columnist at an internet aggregator is all fast cars and faster women. But that’s only a small part of it. I mean yes, there are perks. I can get the corner booth at Subway whenever I want it. They’ll hold it for me unless Jared’s doing an in-store promotional appearance in his old fat-pants. But I usually just eat in the car. Because for me, it’s about the work, not the trappings.

Here’s what you don’t see, however: You don’t see the third-world humanitarian missions that I quietly go on, that nobody but me and my personal photographer and the subscribers to our Flickr page and the foreign and domestic journalists on my publicist’s leak list know about. You don’t see that I’m not made of granite. I’m just a flesh-and-blood human being like you, Darin. One who has insecurities and fears and who puts his pants on one leg at a time. Sometimes two legs at a time, if I’m sitting on the bed. You don’t see the days and days of research that interns have to put into this column, research that I have no choice but to discard without ever reading because I’m more pictures-focused than words-oriented. You don’t see what it’s like when I come home after a taxing 25 minutes of answering reader questions. Am I greeted like a conquering hero? Hardly. I’m just the guy my wife barks at to go cut the grass. Or rather, the guy she barks at to pay the illegals to go cut the grass.

So it’s nice of you to say, Darin. But please, don’t think of me as an icon. Think of me as they do at home. There, I’m not “Matt Labash,” sage advice columnist, decorated war hero, and author of “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader,” which friends tell me was the Oprah’s Book Club “Book of the Century” (I don’t verify these things because it’s not a big deal – the century is only 10 years old). I’m just a regular guy. I’m one of you. I am Joe. Not Joe The Plumber. That guy gives me the creeps. I’m Joe Everyman. Jose Everyman, if you’re on my lawn crew.

So Matt, the world is dying to know, boxers or briefs? — Tom T.

Mary Ann or Ginger? Don’t mess this up. There’s an objectively correct answer — Paul Lewis

Tom, Paul, because I am the outlaw of advice columnists, I’ve decided to take your two questions, and to integrate their answers. Some call that “breaking the rules.” I call it “industry innovation”:

I would prefer to see Mary Ann in boxers, Ginger in briefs.

Mrs. Howell? Try none of the above, if you catch my tasteless double entendre. Thurston Howell III called her “Lovey,” and that’s precisely what I’d like to do to her.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is just published from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.