Letters of retaliation, cult culture and anal homies

Letters of retaliation, cult culture and anal homies

Dear Rachel,

A former employee of mine asked me for a letter of recommendation for some kind of scholastic intern grant program. Whatever. I haven’t read the details because this person was truly horrible as an employee, and nearly as bad as a person. I have to think he hasn’t improved any, because he worked for me like seven years ago and I’m the one getting asked for a letter. And I can’t lie. Do I write an honest letter, or ignore these emails until he disappears?

– Seven-Year Letterman

Dear David,

What if this new scholastic intern grant program is the roundabout that will turn his life around? You would deny him that opportunity when all it takes is for you to write a generic, to-whom-it-may-concern, honesty-by-omission letter? You hired him, so there must be something positive you can say. If he always cashed his paychecks, you can praise his financial aptitude. If he didn’t trash the office, single out his contributions to ongoing operations. If all you can say is that he didn’t die on the job, commend his liveliness. 

– The one whom it concerns, Rachel


Dear Rachel,

I think my sister is in a cult. I’m not certain, because if it really is a cult, it’s a sneaky one. The members are allowed to leave the house and choose their own clothes and stuff. But there’s not a sentence she posts on Facebook that she wrote herself, and there’s a weird devotion to the “inspirational speaker” leading it, down to the way she feeds her toddler. Is there like a quick-result test for “is this a cult?” and if so, how can I find out?

– All Cult, No Classic

Dear Frank N. Furter,

Your only choice is to go undercover. I heard once that cult recruiters look for signs of weakness, like they will bump into you on purpose, and if you apologize for their mistake, they know you’re a sucker. So apologize profusely to your sister every time she says some crazy thing, and see if you get a welcome packet in the mail. But she’s probably fine. If every crazy thing said on Facebook indicated cult membership, at least half the country would be in one. And that’s ridiculous.

– Take me to your leader, Rachel


Dear Rachel,

I am dog/plant/housesitting for a very close friend. But I did not realize how controlling she was until I showed up on Day One and read the eight-page detailed letter. It outlines all the helpful stuff, but to an unhelpful degree. Does it matter if the plants are watered at 10 a.m. on Saturday? Can’t it be just “sometime over the weekend?” Isn’t it enough to keep everyone and everything alive, and the house un-burnt-down, until she gets back?

– Home Alone

Dear Kevin,

You signed up for the gig. It’s on you if you didn’t ask for details. But I highly recommend you not only keep everything alive and un-burnt, but that you sweep the floors and dust the trim and power-wash the exterior while you’re there. Because this – this is the woman you want writing your letters of recommendation.

– Respectfully yours,

 Rachel

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