Ask Dr. Wombat
Advice for the Lost

Confused? Forlorn? Not sure where you left the car keys?
Send your questions to Dr. Wombat at
You'll be glad you did.

I'd like to thank all of you who took the time to write in. I'd also like to thank all of the other advice columnists who sent me the letters they couldn't handle. Without you, there could be no Ask Dr. Wombat. As always, I will faithfully answer every question sent in. Or at least the good ones.

Q: I recently met this woman via the Internet, and we really hit it off. Our conversations are fantastic, and after a month of some heavy cybertalk, she wants to meet. The problem: I'm in a serious relationship with someone else. Our conversations started as a diversion, but now I'm curious to meet her. Bad idea?
A: Putting hydrogen gas in the Hindenberg is a bad idea. Stepping into a boxing ring with Mike Tyson is a bad idea. Meeting someone you've been chatting with over the Internet isn't bad per se, but in your case, I predict nothing but trouble.

Why do I have such a grim outlook of your future? Because I'd wager my entire commission for last month's column that you are being na´ve and deep in denial. But don't run off yet. Dr. Wombat is here to help.

Let's start with the denial. There's a lot of it going on, but we have to sort it out before we proceed. You obviously would like to think of these on-line conversations as nothing more than the harmless heart-to-hearts that good friends have. But if that was true, you wouldn't feel that it threatens your current girlfriend, now would you? The truth is that you were out chasing skirt. That raises the question of what this "serious relationship" means to you. I see three possibilities. The first is that you care deeply for her, and find yourself stuck in an embarrassing situation now that harmless "diversion" has become real. But don't kid yourself; if that was true, you'd have no dilemma. You'd have ended your little e-fling long ago.

The second possibility is that she's just a piece of meat to you. You're a bounder, a rake, a playa, a ladies' man, a cheatin' bastard -- take your pick -- and are looking for your next conquest. But if that were true, Don Juan, you wouldn't be on-line lying about your weight, you'd be in singles bars after calling your girlfriend to tell her why you're working late. And back in high school, you'd have actually scored with that cheerleader instead of resorting to sneaking old copies of Playboy out of your father's closet.

Which brings us to possibility three -- The Truth. The truth is that there is something wrong between you and your girlfriend, and you're too chicken to do something about it. Wish she'd start spending more time with you, stop bitching about sports on TV or be a little less tame in the bedroom? Talk to her about it. If you love each other, you can figure out a solution to the problem. Not in love with her anymore? Tell her and break it off. It's scary, I know, but do it.

But before you throw her away for a meeting with this on-line goddess, let's talk about naivete. Take a minute to read the personal ads in your local newspaper. From the descriptions that people give of themselves, it sounds like your neighborhood is full of swimsuit models and buff, yet sensitive, millionaires. Not very accurate is it? You know why? Because people lie, that's why.

Your sexy cyberhoney might just be ugly enough to scare rocks. And even if she's of better-than-average looks (and if she was, she wouldn't have to fly in from Cleveland to get a date), you've been engaging in a fantasy romance with her, and have probably imagined her to be a cross between Marilyn Monroe, Heidi Klum and Jessica Rabbit. You're going to be disappointed and very, very sorry that you broke things off with someone who actually is attractive.

And since she probably isn't the only one telling little lies -- not to mention your being less than forthcoming about your halitosis, massive credit card debt and your beat up '91 Hyundai -- she might run screaming from you, too.

So figure out what's going on between you and your girlfriend and fix it. And don't count on your on-line romance to be the panacea you want it to be. I know it's hard, and I know this isn't the answer you wanted to hear. But they pay me to tell the truth, not make you happy.


Q: What does the phrase "hoisted by his own petard" mean? I heard someone use it to describe President Clinton's situation.
A: First of all, the phrase is "hoist by his own petard." And it's a far better applied to the Republicans than to Clinton. "Hoist" means to be thrown up in the air. A petard is an explosive charge that engineers would put at or under castle walls to knock a hole in them. But back then, explosives safety was pretty much limited to "pray for rain," so the petard was likely to go off at an inappropriate time. When the engineer was standing right next to it, for example.

So, if someone is hoist by his own petard, it means that the plan he laid has backfired and he now feels its ill effects. That, along with the fact that "petard" comes from a root word meaning "flatulence," makes it quite apropos to that recent nastiness in Washington.


Q: On more than one occasion, I have been seated at a bar smoking a cigar when someone complains. What should I tell them?

A: If their complaints focus on your ashes falling in their beer, then apologize and buy the next round. But if it's the smoke they don't like, remind them that bars are smoking zones almost everywhere, and if they don't like it, then they should just drink at home. It's cheaper, quieter and they can control everything to their anal, domineering and solipsistic heart's content.

And if one of you Grumble readers is considering opening a bar, please, pretty please with sugar on top, open a nonsmoking bar so that those of us who like drinking but don't like lung cancer can enjoy an evening out without having our clothes smell like a firefighter's armpit the next morning.


Q: I've read where ballroom dancing has been added as a "sport" to the 2000 Olympics. What's next? Darts?
A: It pains me to report this, but it's true. Ballroom dancing is currently slated to be an exhibition sport in the next Olympic "bribe? What bribe? I found this Porsche" Games. Why has it been added? Who knows? It isn't a sport, that much is for sure.

I can already see the angry e-mails coming. I'll bet all of you ballroom dancing supporters think figure skating is a sport too. Neither one is, and I'll tell you why.

A sport is an athletic activity in which a person or team competes against other people or teams by specific, concrete rules to attain an objectively measurable result in excess of what their opponent(s) can do. Anything that fits that definition is a sport. Boxing: the contestant who lands more punches or knocks the other unconscious wins. Soccer: the team that kicks the ball into the net more often wins. Hammer toss: the person who throws a giant piece of iron farthest wins. These things are not open to debate, opinion or mood. Figure skating and ballroom dancing: whoever doesn't fall down and is most aesthetically pleasing wins.

See the problem? Whose aesthetics? It's subjective. It cannot be measured. Is ballet a sport? No. Is rock & roll performance a sport? No. Neither are ballroom dancing or figure skating. Yes, they're difficult and athletic. So is mime.

But until Dr. Wombat can buy each member of the IOC vacation homes in Cancun, we'll have to put up with this sort of chicanery.

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