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Whine and Dine

By Mink Stole | Posted 5/23/2001

I'm very proud of my son for maintaining good grades throughout high school, and I want him to go to college. His mother and I were both high school graduates, and, although we have a good life, I want better for our boy and have put aside money for his tuition. But he wants to go to cooking school! I told him I wouldn't pay for that, and he said he'd work his way through. I don't understand how someone who is smart enough to be a lawyer or a doctor would give up that chance just to work in a kitchen. How can I convince him?

Perplexed Papa

Dear Papa:

While it might be hard to understand his unconventional choice, be glad your son is motivated. Plenty of high school kids can't see past the next time they get drunk, stoned, or laid, much less have real career goals. If he's smart enough to be a lawyer, he's smart enough to know he doesn't want to be a lawyer. I've known plenty of lawyers, and while most of them aren't ambulance-chasing sleazebags, few are lucky enough to make a living without having to do work they hate for people they despise. As for medicine, now that HMOs have taken over the world, it's hard for even good doctors to get rich. Even if they were willing to schedule the unnecessary visits and procedures required to pay for lavish lifestyles, the accountants running their practices won't let them. Some doctors can barely pay their greens fees these days.

But chefs don't just cook--they sell cookbooks, open restaurants, have their own TV shows. Think Wolfgang Puck. Think Julia Child. Think Emeril Lagasse. (On second thought, don't think Emeril--he may be a huge celebrity, but all that "bam"ing makes me want to bitch-slap him with a three-quart saucepan.) Being a chef is not only respectable, good ones make good livings. And if he stays at home while studying, you get to eat his homework.

If you're still unsure about his decision and unwilling to finance his culinary education, here's a possible compromise: Test his determination by letting him work to pay for his first semester or so. If he's still committed after that, kick in with the bucks for the rest of it. As a punster pal of mine once said, one man's lawyer is another man's liar, and one man's medicine is another man's poisson en croûte.

A friend of mine, Rosalie, seems to have just gone nuts. She's always been independent and self-confident, and she has a good job and plenty of friends. When her best friend Allison's five-year marriage was on the rocks, Rosalie was there for her all the time, being incredibly supportive and helpful. Then, two weeks after Allison filed for divorce, Rosalie began dating Allison's husband! Now she's getting ready to move in with him and is talking about getting married as soon as the divorce is final. Her friends are horrified, but Rosalie doesn't seem to care how bad this looks. She walks around like a blissed-out teenager going to the prom with the captain of the football team, like it doesn't matter that she's stabbed her best friend in the back. How can I knock some sense into her?

Appalled and Concerned

Dear Appalled:

Alas, poor Rosalie. Teenagers aren't the only ones whose hormones can turn brain cells to cake batter. Even a smart woman can be bedazzled by intense sexual attention, and it can be easy for her to persuade herself that a lonely and confused man's need for consolation (or revenge) is a deeply committed passion--and doesn't she deserve some happiness? Friendship is a regrettable but acceptable sacrifice to make for such great love. That this exalted and eternal romance will almost inevitably deteriorate into humongous disenchantment cannot be anticipated. I've been there (though fortunately not with a friend's husband), and I'll tell you that when cloud nine dissolved I fell to Earth with a deafening take-me-to-therapy thud.

Criticizing her won't work, nor will disparaging her intended. Try telling her that it would be in bad taste to rush into marriage with this man, or that waiting a few months might help convince her remaining friends that this is no mere infatuation. This could give her time to come to her senses, but chances are she won't hear you through the wedding bells ringing in her ears. If that fails, the kindest thing you can do is reserve judgment--she'll be self-punished enough--and keep dustpan and broom handy to help clean up the mess she'll be in when she crashes.

On the other hand, Rosalie could be a slick, conniving little hussy who's been carrying on an affair with him all along, or is taking advantage of his vulnerability to seduce him. In either case, she neither needs nor wants your help. And then, of course, we could both be all wet, and she truly is the luckiest woman in the world and her marriage will prove to be the envy of all. But I wouldn't count on it.

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