What are the guidelines for male friends helping each other apply sunscreen?
What are the guidelines for male friends helping each other apply sunscreen?Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: What are the guidelines for male friends helping each other apply sunscreen? I was recently down at the coast with a buddy of mine. My girlfriend wasn’t there, so when I was putting on some sunscreen, I asked him if he’d mind doing my back. He nearly had a conniption fit and acted like I had made some sort of depraved request. Did I err?
Name withheld

A: Blessed with a preternaturally bronzed (the fact-checkers say orange) and perpetually glistening (the fact-checkers say unwashed) beach-friendly physique, like that of Hercules film series star Reg Park (who, the fact-checkers say, succumbed to skin cancer in 2007), the Texanist has never himself had much use for sunscreen. His position vis-à-vis ultraviolet radiation shares much with the president’s onetime stance toward Islamic extremism: Bring it on. But he is keenly aware of the medical establishment’s point of view regarding the harmful effects of the sun’s rays and knows well the strong bonds, but equally strong boundaries, of male friendship. It would be nice if these forces never collided, but male-on-male sunblock application is hardly the only case of fellowship’s leading to manly activities that can be misconstrued. Has your friend never hugged a man after a victory in sport? Slapped a man on the buttocks for a job well-done? Pinned a man to the floor during a night of drunken Indian leg wrestling that gets a little out of hand? As long as the summer sun shines on Texas’s beautiful beaches, men will share shirtless moments frolicking beneath it. If your friend is resolute in his reluctance to “do your back,” maybe next time you should bring the girls.

Q: I don’t consider myself a cheapskate, but I was recently labeled such for pointing out an offensive trend in restaurants throughout Texas—charging for chips and salsa! I think establishments that do this should be punished with organized boycotts. Does that make me a tightwad?
C. H. Ramirez, McAllen

A: My God! Charging for chips and salsa? Is there nothing in this world that cannot be measured in dollars and cents? From the dawn of time, a basket of golden-fried, piping-hot, well-salted tortilla chips served with a bowl of fresh salsa “on the house” has symbolized the bountiful good neighborliness for which this part of the world is known. Nothing says “Bienvenidos, mis amigos” like this bit of local lagniappe. A chips-and-salsa surcharge says something entirely different, something the Texanist, a gentleman by trade, reserves for those rare instances when cattle rustlers and horse thieves knock at his door. Boycott? A boycott is too good for these vultures. Their wanton disregard for old-fashioned hospitality makes the Texanist sick. You, my friend, are not the tightwad. The tightwad is the Tex-Mex restaurateur who puts the grubbing of a few measly dollars ahead of the social good.

Q: How long is it acceptable to loiter in a grocery store’s produce section to avoid the heat?
Hannah, Via e-mail

A: Since the store pays to run its massive AC unit whether you partake of its glorious refrigerated air or not, there is no time limit on this activity. In fact, the Texanist would encourage you to broaden your horizons. Consider whiling away the afternoon in a nearby ice rink; see what a few hours spent prone on our Capitol’s chilly basement floor does for your constitution; kill four hours on a bench in an art museum pretending to look at a painting. If produce sections are your thing, try the United Supermarket on Tennessee Avenue in Dalhart or the H-E-B on Boca Chica Boulevard in Brownsville. The Texanist has spent countless hours communing with the fruits and vegetables at these and other glacial Shangri-las. No one minds. The security guard will not be called unless you remove your shirt and hug a week’s worth of frozen provisions to your chest. Although this is a very effective technique for beating the heat, the Texanist can say with authority that it is frowned upon by the managers of the Piggly Wiggly in Sulphur Springs, the Central Market in Southlake, and the Brookshire’s in Sweetwater.

Q: I was recently invited to a girls’ brunch hosted by a friend. I happily RSVP’d yes, thinking it’d be a fun social gathering, only to find out upon arrival at her house that the get-together was in fact a Mary Kay party. I felt pressured to buy products I didn’t want and came away feeling betrayed by my friend. How can I tell her that I don’t want to be tricked into any more of her sales efforts?
Anna Smith, Richardson

A: The Texanist has never been to a Mary Kay party, but he knows a racket when he sees one. This so-called friend set you up, and your feelings of betrayal are warranted. You should be blunt with her and simply explain that you don’t appreciate the false invitation. Undoubtedly, this would be the most appropriate course of action. The Texanist must confess, however, that were he in your shoes, he might succumb to the childish impulse to retaliate, and if you feel drawn to do the same, he may be able to help. You see, the Texanist has an acquaintance who is a top official of a contract review panel interested in the importation of goods with funds that are presently trapped in Nigeria. This acquaintance has been delegated to look for an overseas partner into whose bank account the panel would transfer U.S. $21,320,000. Perhaps your friend, with her business acumen, would like to get involved in this exciting and lucrative international opportunity.