Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Gazebo

This week, Danny M. Lavery and special guest Calvin Kasulke discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the gazebo.

Daniel Lavery: The last two sentences feel like an attempt to wrest a particular concession out of a reader:

“If I don’t call people names, and I keep my tone civil, no one can take offense or dislike what I’m doing, a neutral affect and politeness at the level of the sentence is the same thing as kindness and respect”

and I just have to think on some level she knows this is the letter and not the spirit of positive human interactions

Calvin Kasulke: I agree this is a very letter-of-the-law framing of the conflict

Right. “If I’m polite about it, is it okay to risk subjecting people of color to state violence?”

Daniel Lavery: like, you wanted this gazebo at all costs and you called in some park rangers to get it,

and yet that did not make you feel good

so I’d like to encourage this letter writer to ask herself, “What did I want from this situation?”

because it sounds to me like what she wanted was not only to get the gazebo, but for this other family to say “You’ve handled this beautifully; thanks for calling the park cops to move our picnic to a different gazebo”

and that is not a realistic expectation to have

Calvin Kasulke: it sucks when someone cuts you in line or takes the best gazebo because they got there first. It’s not pleasant. But it is a Seinfeld B-plot level annoyance

Daniel Lavery: right! And they didn’t do it to antagonize you; they showed up in the morning and there was no one there, so they put their stuff down.

You don’t have to like how they handled their end either

but at a certain point you have to ask yourself what’s more important during an interaction like this one: Do I want the biggest gazebo, come hell or high water, or do I want to let this go, and take my kid and her friends to a medium-sized gazebo

Calvin Kasulke: If they did not immediately move their stuff and say “oops, wrong gazebo” when you pointed out you’d rented it, that sucks, but you had a choice in that moment: take it as a momentary loss and go to the smaller gazebo, or call in the authorities to forcibly remove a family of color

And you chose the option that could have resulted in violence, arrests, or death, for gazebo-squatting

Daniel Lavery: I don’t know if this was a federal or a state park, but federal rangers usually carry firearms and can make arrests

Calvin Kasulke: Yeah, they may very well have been armed

The letter writer doesn’t get to call this a personal best just because she didn’t accompany the call to the rangers with racial slurs

Daniel Lavery: And let’s say both parties had been white and none of the rangers were armed — I still think the better response would have been to say “Right-ho,” move on, have your party, celebrate your kid, let it go

you can be right, or you can focus on having a good time, and you chose the former and I think that’s why it’s sticking in your craw

getting the biggest gazebo did not in fact make your party that much more fun

Calvin Kasulke: Yes I fully agree. If they don’t say “oops!” and move after you ask politely, just… go to the other gazebo

Man I’m getting worked up the more we talk about this.

Don’t call park rangers because you can’t resolve a gazebo dispute!

Daniel Lavery: I feel like the LW’s complaint is, essentially, “The park rangers successfully got me my gazebo, but they did not successfully convince this other family to think well of me”

Calvin Kasulke: Which indicates that, on some level, the LW knows she did something wrong,

And is not exempt from feeling guilty

Don’t call state or federal authorities on people of color because they won’t move out of a gazebo you rented

And honestly, this family was well within their rights to heckle you after you called the park rangers on them.

Daniel Lavery: I have less interest in saying whether or not heckling was the best response available to them

but they didn’t write to me, you know?

what was at stake here was “biggest gazebo” or “different gazebo”

Calvin Kasulke: Heckling is rude, but rudeness and the power to cause physical harm are not the same thing

Daniel Lavery: you still had the whole park, you still had the water play area, you still had a bunch of kids to keep an eye on and make sure they’re wearing masks and not hitting each other or trying to jump off of big rocks

Calvin Kasulke: The size of the gazebo seems like a relatively low-level issue in an outdoor space large enough for a water play area

Daniel Lavery: you had an opportunity to move on and privately think to yourself at the end of the day, “That was kind of annoying, but inconsequential”

Calvin Kasulke: Right. Ultimately this decision probably will–and should–gnaw at you longer than having used a different gazebo

I have decided “gazebo” is one of the funniest words in the English language

Daniel Lavery: yes! let this discomfort inspire you to look for opportunities to de-escalate in future low-stakes conflict

Find ways to be okay with letting strangers occasionally “get away” with not having a gazebo permit or being slightly rude

and don’t use “Well, I didn’t call anyone a bitch” as an argument for why people should have to like that you called in some park rangers to bust up their picnic and move all their stuff 60 feet away

Calvin Kasulke: A polite tone doesn’t mean you’re doing the right thing. And frankly it’s lucky that nothing more than discomfort happened

Danny, I have news. Apparently the word “gazebo” itself is a joke word

Daniel Lavery: come again

Calvin Kasulke: It’s a combination of the word “gaze” and a Latin suffix “ebo”, according to the Internet

Daniel Lavery: that can’t possibly be right

Calvin Kasulke: I am willing to believe the “joke word” conclusion because it is extremely silly, conceptually and phonetically

Daniel Lavery:

well according to,

screenshot of the etymology of gazebo, with "perhaps of the word gaze"

in 1752 someone announced, “I shall gaze on what I shall see”

BUT according to,

history of gazebos


Calvin Kasulke:

Hm. Contention.

Well, now we have a new conflict to get to the bottom of. Do you have any final thoughts for the LW?

Daniel Lavery: mostly I just want to encourage her to treat her discomfort as inspiration to explore other possible reactions to non-life-threatening conflict with others besides just “call the cops or the nearest cop equivalent”

a man was shot and killed by park rangers at Carlsbad Caverns earlier this month after he got pulled over for speeding

It’s not worth the risk! A gazebo is not worth the possibility of state-sanctioned violence

make different choices, you can do this

Calvin Kasulke: You can! And you must!

It is actually your responsibility as a human being to do better