Annals of the Flesh

“Ask Papa Ratzi”

by Pope Benedict XVI

Infallible advice from the Vatican’s very own love doctor!

Dear Pope,

I really like Brad, but so does my best friend Emily even though two days ago she had a big crush on Griffin, and I used to have a crush on Griffin but then he fingered Taryn on the bus when we had a field trip to the science museum and Taryn is such a slut I was like “Ew, Griffin, I don’t like you anymore at all!”, and Jeff was like “Wait but I fingered Taryn too, does that mean you don’t like me either?” and I was like “EWWW JEFF YOU ARE DISGUSTING I WOULD NEVER LIKE YOU,” because Jeff kind of smells you know?  But then he said he was going to ask me to go to the dance together, which was soooooooo embarrassing, and Emily made fun of me for it, so I think maybe I should just make out with Brad to make her angry because she kind of deserves it, don’t you think???!?!?!?!  Plus also Brad looks kinda like Justin Bieber and even though he used to go out with Elizabeth she dumped him because she’s a stupid b-i-t-c-h and I wouldn’t be like that, because I read “Twilight” so I know how to be a good girlfriend.  Right?????


OMG in Omaha

Dear “OMG”,

It seems to me as though Emily mocked Jeff’s desire to ask you out because she is herself insecure; perhaps she feels that, although she likes Brad, she is not so capable of you as being a good girlfriend. (Has she also read “Twilight”?  All the way through “Breaking Dawn”?  Bella’s sacrifices in the name of marriage and motherhood are truly inspiring — such lessons for modern women!)

Regardless, teenage love can be a beautiful thing, but do not mistake hormones and betrayal for a genuine, Christlike commitment.  Elizabeth and Taryn, for example, are clearly pawns of modern-day moral decline, and deserve your forgiveness and your efforts: if you are able to bring Elizabeth, Taryn, and Emily to the light of the Church, then surely Brad — if he is as pure of heart as you claim — will recognize the beauty of your spirit, and cherish you for eternity like Edward Cullen and his dear Bella.

Yours in the Eucharist,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Defender of the Roman Faith

Dear Pope,

You never call.  You never write.  What gives?

I sent you borscht and potatoes, but you didn’t reply.

I swam shirtless with dolphins, just for you, and I didn’t hear a peep from you.

I’m running for President again.  JUST FOR YOU.  Will that get your attention???

Your number-one admirer,

Vlad “My Dick Is The Impaler!” Putin, Prime Minister of Mother Russia

PS: Here is a picture of me with the dolphins, so you remember how striking and barrel-chested I look.

Dear Vlad,

I apologize for my lateness in responding.  Like you, I am a man of obligation to the world and to its institutions — this is, I suspect, why we understand one another so well.

I heard the news of your presidential run, and I confess, my heart sank.  My dearest Vlad, when will you learn that your truest power lies not in an iron fist, but in a loving heart?  The Way of the Cross teaches us that the path to righteousness is sacrifice.  If you would sacrifice yourself to Christ, then I might trust that you know what love truly means.

Yours in the Eucharist,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Defender of the Roman Faith

Dear Pope,

My wife and I use the rhythm method of family planning (Church-approved!), but she just got pregnant for the ninth time.  WE CAN’T AFFORD MORE KIDS!  Seriously, dude, can we use some birth control, or what?


Desperate in Des Moines

Dear “Desperate”,

Children are a gift from God. Condoms are a trick of the devil. Deal with it.

Yours in the Eucharist,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Defender of the Roman Faith



“An Open Letter to the Couples in the New York Times Wedding Announcements”

by Michael Wolman

Dear Newlyweds,

When news of Afghanistan, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Mexico, Congo, Pakistan, Burma, Somalia, Iraq, and Iran becomes too much for me — not to mention the economic, health care, energy, and environmental crises that make up the National Report– I turn to you and your marriage announcements in the Sunday Styles section for respite. Then I get more depressed.

In theory, your three or four pages of vows — those anecdotes of courtship and epiphany, those couply photos of your smiling faces pressed together — provide the only regular dose of cheer in the paper. In theory. In actuality, these theoretically happy announcements just make the rest of us feel worse about our own lives. I promise you. The anecdotes of courtship and epiphany make us bitter we don’t have an anecdote like that ourselves, and the photos just remind us that you are better looking than we and our hypothetical-future spouses will ever be, even if we did have an anecdote like yours to begin with.

I’m not alone on this, trust me. There is good reason to hate you. With the exception of a few that include anecdotes about your meet-cute scenario or the elaborate treasure hunt the groom-to-be concocted for his proposal, every announcement lists the same prosaic details in the same prosaic prose. Do you think we care, Richard Primus, that you went to Harvard? You’re 37. You graduated during the Clinton Administration. Tell us something unique instead, something criminal. Tell us how you received that eight-inch-long scar on your leg. Tell us why you made six trips to Bangkok in a three-year span in the mid-’90s. Tell us anything other than the fact that your mother is a retired allergist and clinical immunologist who practiced in Groton, Conn.

Then there are those of you who make us wonder why you’re in the Times at all. Oftentimes your connection to the Tri-State Area is tenuous at best. The groom can be from California and the bride from Texas, the wedding was in Coral Gables, and you will be settling in Chicago, and you post in the Times because the bride’s stepfather lives in Poughkeepsie. Cut us a break, will ya. Just invite the stepfather to the wedding and leave it at that.

Mostly, though, we hate you for the same reasons we hate Tom Brady or Scarlett Johansson: for being young and rich and successful and talented, and for being far more attractive than someone who is young and rich and successful and talented deserves to be. We hate you for going to Princeton, like one-third of the people getting married in the New York metropolitan area apparently did. We hate you for having your whole perfect lives perfectly planned out by the time you’re 27. And yes, there is this as well: we hate you newlyweds for announcing your newlyweddedness to the world in the first place.

I condemn you weekly. I grouse beneath my breath. I declaim, I inveigh. I sing it from the altar of my 400-square-foot studio where I live — alone:

Fuck you, Daniel Yaron Maman — sorry, Dr. Daniel Yaron Maman — for being a 28-year-old plastic surgeon with an MBA from Oxford, and for marrying an absolute hottie like Stacey Robin Harris despite obviously being a giant nerd yourself. And fuck you, Victoria Kathryn Potterton, who, after finishing at Dartmouth, are now graduating from Yale, at 26, with a combined medical and MBA degree. And fuck you, also, for holding the wedding at the Yale Club, whatever that is.

Fuck you, Yus — yeah, you, Helena Yu and Anthony Yu — who begin your medical residencies next month at Penn, and who coordinated your life together so expertly that you married partners with the same last name. And fuck you, Andy Bellin, the author of Poker Nation, whose mother was a model with Wilhelmina Models in the 1960s, and whose maternal grandmother, Countess Alicia Spaulding Paolozzi, helped Gian Carlo Menotti found the Spoleto Festival USA and also drove for the winning women’s team in the 1958 automotive Tour de France.

Fuck you, John Marter Timken Jr., for mentioning that you are a descendant of John Adams and J.P. Morgan. Fuck you, Boji Wong and Benjamin Berkman, for having David Dinkins officiate your wedding even though you also needed to hire a rabbi/cantor to handle those tricky Hebrew bits. And fuck you, Minor Myers III, for being named Minor Myers III, and also for getting married at Anderson House, the home of the Society of the Cincinnati, an association of the descendants of officers in the American Revolutionary War, of which you are a member.

I hope you all get divorced.




Michael Wolman

Brooklyn, NY

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