Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Getting distracted, dismissing Obama talk, and rolling down your sleeves

Matt Labash Columnist
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Editor’s Note: Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here

Dear Matt, you haven’t written a column since April. What the hell have you been doing? — Jonathan M.

Oh, you know. A little of this, and a little of that. Kicking ass. Taking names. Handing those names over to Homeland Security, as a patriot/hero in the War on Terror. Taking personal inventory. Realizing I was overstocked on ennui, while clean out of ambition. Looking at the man in the mirror. Wondering why he had a beard. Realizing that I had an intruder. Calling the authorities. Raising dyslexia awareness. Or “raising awareness dyslexia,” as we in the dyslexic community say. Volunteering at church. Organizing food drives. Eating the canned peaches from said drives. Because feeding myself helps take the obsessive focus off of other people, and helps get it back on me, where it belongs. Doing Glass Tiger lip dubs, uploading them to YouTube, getting no views. Burying my houseboy Tristan in a shallow, unmarked grave in the backyard. Running through the sprinkler in my Spanx, because I enjoy the extra support when wet. Weed-eating. Writing, producing, and starring in my own one-woman show, even though I’m a man, because breaking gender barriers is what I do, as anyone who has ever seen me sit down on a urinal in the men’s room can attest. Reading the New York Review of Books. Digging Tristan back up as I hear his muffled screams, since he wasn’t actually dead, he was just resting his eyes. Offering Tristan some canned peaches, to atone for the mix-up. Hosting a Zumba Fitness Party. Learning how to live again, laugh again, and love again. Licking and re-licking the back of PETA’s new Natalie Portman stamp, since it’s as close as I’ll ever get. Working the lemonade concession at my underground fight club. Writing Shep Smith sayings down in my wisdom journal with a quill and animal blood. Finishing up my koala at the local Build-A-Bear — even if the koala is technically not a bear but a marsupial — though the Build-a-Bear attendants don’t have the balls to stop me. Hitting Red Lobster for the Shrimp Lovers Feast. Waiting for death or inspiration, whichever strikes first.

So I’ve been keeping pretty busy. But I’m back now. At least until I once again grow easily distracted. Wait, is that a pretty butterfly?…………

Can you please give us a refresher on the recent history of Obama’s budgets? I keep seeing arguments that the GOP’s filibuster is the reason there have been no Obama budgets passed. I thought budgets were filibuster proof. Also I read arguments that Obama’s budgets won’t pass because the House is controlled by the GOP. Exactly how many Obama budgets were defeated in the House? Thanks — O.B.

I’m sorry. Were you talking to me? What do I look like? The Schoolhouse Rock guy? Budgets … filibusters … this is Ask Matt Labash. Not Ask CongressDaily. I’m lucky if I can keep tabs on my own budget, especially with so much of it going straight up my nose. Not cocaine, Yankee candles — I like to smell fragrant things, particularly Autumn Lodge, Christmas Cookie and Riding Mower (the last of which is part of their new Man Candle collection.)

As the title of this column suggests, you can ask me about anything in the world. And yet, you want to talk even more about Barack Obama? One of the most over-talked about persons in the history of over-talked about people? I’m not knocking you. Everybody needs a hobby. But I suggest trying one of the several hundred thousand other forums on the Internet that provide for that opportunity. In the meantime, give the guy (and me) a break already. In 2008, a post-partisan Barack Obama vowed to unite this country. And he largely has. Now, both his most acrimonious detractors and his most ardent supporters can objectively agree that he’s failed us all. Why belabor the point?

When I drive past a grisly car accident on the side of the road, I too slow down, stop and stare, get out of my vehicle, upload a few photos to Flickr and rake the ground for the loose change that might have gone flying from the victims’ pockets. I might even call 911. But eventually, the show’s over, and it’s time to move on and get to my destination. Time for you, too, O.B., to stop obsessing over Barack Obama, and to move onto your destination. The days are growing short. The barn is on fire. The empire is in decline. Obama won’t be here forever. But human misery will. So let’s contemplate it in all its myriad variations, and not limit ourselves to a single predictor of doom.

Working jacket cuffs — how does one roll them up stylishly? I feel that if I roll them up while wearing a long sleeve shirt, there’s too much shirt cuff showing. But I don’t want to roll my shirt sleeve up as well; that’d just look silly, especially in the morning. I come to you with this since you’ve said you love your working buttons. And if I can have just an ounce of that Labash sprezzatura, I’ll be a happy man. — SPAZaturra

Dearest Spaz, as you correctly state, there is no greater fan of working buttons/buttonholes than me. I won’t buy a jacket or suit without insisting on their inclusion. They are not only desirable, from a utility standpoint, in providing extra breathing room for the massive musculature of my forearms, particularly when I wear French cuffs. But leaving one unbuttoned on both sleeves is like sending a Bat Signal to fellow aesthetes, one which says, “I might look devil-may-care, but I didn’t buy this suit down at the Nordstrom Rack. I had it made, albeit, by a guy who keeps fabric swatches in his trunk and has you mail the check to a P.O. box. … Still, I am a refined gentleman of taste and means.”

That said, never, ever roll up the sleeves on your suit jacket. It’s perfectly acceptable to take off your jacket, and to roll up your shirt sleeves, as politicians do when they tour what’s left of Midwestern factories, while pretending that they understand blue collar hopes and dreams. But unless you want to look like Rick Springfield during the Jesse’s Girl era, Jon Cryer during the John Hughes years or Kirk Cameron in pretty much any photo he’s ever taken, leave the sleeves where they belong — down. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. “But the buttons unbutton, and therefore I must use them,” you protest. No, you mustn’t. I don’t know what else you’re into. Just for illustration’s sake, you might like wearing jaguar-fur man-thongs underneath your suit. Doesn’t mean you go traipsing around the streets, showing them off. The quiet confidence they afford you is internal reward enough. Same with working buttons. They’re there for you, not everyone else. Some secrets derive their power from remaining untold.

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 now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.