Ask Terri Stivers
Written by Valeria

NOTE: You may or may not remember that a ways back, Jackie made mention of Terri Stivers's character being reduced in season seven to "a combination of Chuck Woollery and Ann Landers." That dead-accurate passing observation inspired me to dust off this half-finished fic I started ages ago, clean it up and post it for your perusal. Enjoy, I hope. Feedback welcome.

DISCLAIMER: H:LOTS characters property of NBC and Baltimore Pictures. Ann Landers property of...the Tribune Corporation? I think. No profit made.


A Confidential Column for the Congenitally Clueless


Dear Terri: I'm a guy in my fifties going through the standard midlife crisis--started pricing sports cars, dumped the old-bag wife, etc. For a few months now, I've had my eye on this woman, "Bobbi Sue," who must have some kind of millennium bug in her B.S. detector because she's dating a complete freak. "Jake" is a sick, twisted, smart-ass, butt-ugly piece of draft-dodging Commie crap--and here's the real problem, Terri. I think I want him. Yeah, I mean THAT way.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm not some goddamned fairy or anything--we're talking straight-up, two hundred percent heterosexual MAN here, you'll never catch me mincing around Mount Vernon in a dress. However, I'm having these dreams about Jake where we're both on this pirate ship and...well, let's just say I'm changing the sheets a lot these days, and not because my ex isn't doing my laundry anymore. What the hell should I do? Don't they have aversion therapy or something for this? Or should I just tell Jake I wanna jump his bones (yeah, right)? And what about Bobbi Sue?

--Say It Loud, I'm White and I'm Proud

Dear Whitey: My usual advice in situations like this would be to slip into a plus-size Betsey Johnson original, sashay-chantay down Thames Street and soul-kiss Jake into a swooning frenzy--but frankly, you scare me. Beg on bended knee until Mrs. Whitey comes back, buy a nice ranch house in Hayden Lake and bottle up every errant emotion until your cerebral cortex explodes all over the north forty. We'll all be real glad you did.


Dear Terri: I just got engaged to be married for the fourth time. (Out of the blue one night, she says, "We should really think about making it permanent," I say, "Yeah. Sure," and the next thing I know she's sending out engraved invitations. Why does this crap always happen to me?) There is a serious problem here, though, that goes far beyond the looming specter of the imminent crash-and-burn disaster every fiber of my being just screams this marriage will inevitably be. I swear I didn't mean to do it, but I've gotten involved with someone else.

I know--shoot me. But I couldn't help it. We're soul mates, destined for each other, for now and all times. The instant we met, the electricity was there; we were on the same wavelength, thinking the same thoughts, seeing the world the same way. His shark-toothed smile makes my heart race. His wit is like a surgeon's scalpel, slicing through all the insidious hypocrisies and rotten, contemptible inequities that constitute the miserable charade we call life on this benighted planet. Plus I almost look handsome standing next to him, and he thinks my theory about Lee Harvey Oswald, the Cuban transvestite, the carload of cheese popcorn and Wallis Simpson's pet llama really has something to recommend it.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm not gay--I admit I did experiment a little (okay, a lot--okay, pretty much constantly) from the mid-sixties to the late seventies, but that was a long time ago, and I always had to get really drunk or get a good buzz on first, so it's not really the same thing. But now it's like I can't think about anyone else, and even that formaldehyde smell that whole bars of Lava can't entirely eradicate isn't putting me off. Help me out here, okay? How do I get out of this whole mess?

--Existentially Engaged, Libidinously Enraged

Dear EELE: Uh...could you excuse me for a minute? I'm sorry, but it's hard to type when you're laughing your ass off, and...okay, anyway. You enjoy duck-pin bowling? You better learn to, because it sounds like you just met the person God destined you to grow old with, whether you like it or not--call it poetic justice. Whatever it is, I call it a hell of a...look, you want me to call the bride-to-be and break the news? I don't mind, I swear to God--I'm a professional, after all. Sorry, but could you excuse me again for just a second here...


Dear Terri: I know stories like these put your younger readers to sleep faster than forty Nembutal and a brick to the skull, but I'd like to tell you how my wife and I met. It was 1926 (I think). I had just boarded the Number 96 trolley bus going downtown, and when I took my seat, I heard this crunching sound. I had sat on someone's groceries, and their carton of eggs got crushed. Then this nondescript woman in the other seat turned to me. She looked pretty annoyed.

"Hey," she said, "those were my eggs."

"Oh," I said back. "Sorry."

We got married a week later, and have been together ever since. Don't that beat all?

--Ain't Love Grand in Annapolis

Dear Ain't Love Grand: Uh...boy, lifelong monogamy is really, really...just soul-crushingly dull, to be honest. But I'm here to help, not to judge.


Dear Terri: I could really, really use your help. About a year ago, I left Baltimore for LA to pursue what looked--at the time--like a pretty promising filmmaking career. Well, suffice it to say that Barton Fink had better luck out here than I've had. In the space of three months, I was dead broke and reduced to peddling my body on street corners to buy food and film. I've been trying to chalk it all up to gritty life experience that will help me grow as an artist, but frankly certain parts of the human anatomy can only take so much wear and tear. Also, finding that dead woman who was cut in half was kind of unpleasant.

Anyway, I finally found some people to crash with for a while, in exchange for all my savings and worldly possessions ($3.35, a camcorder, two peppermint-flavored Trojans and half a pack of Trident). And as it turns out, my new "friends" are actually a millennarian cult that advocates the replacement of the current United States government with a council of Druid dictators who will be marked with the holy sign by the angel Tamristi when the apocalypse finally comes. Until then, Sacred Father (sometimes he lets me call him Jim) will be in charge of the provisional government.

This wouldn't be a big deal, I guess, except that there's enough guns in the main compound alone to arm the entire population of Bangladesh, and also none of us are exactly allowed to leave, and the twelve-hour indoctrination sessions without food or water make me a little dizzy. Also, the other night, Sacred Father's favorite wife was on the phone, and I distinctly heard her say, "Yes, that's right--two tons of ammonium nitrate." Should I call the police? I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but it all sounds like it could be trouble or something. I'm probably overreacting, right?

--Wondering in West Hollywood

Dear Wondering: Ssshhh! Hear that noise? No, listen closer...yes, that soft little sound. It's the angel Tamristi, by God--teacher says every time you turn a crazed gang of terrorists in to the Feds, an angel earns his wings. And then a bell rings.
Or it may be the other way around, but does that really matter right now? Are you going to just sit there and leave poor Tam without the equipment to shoot straight on back up to heaven when he's done making things right here on Earth? Go on, my son...pick up that phone and call. The Lord wants you to. Bless you.


Dear Terri: About six months ago, I wrote to you about problems with my dad, and you advised me to move from Washington back to Baltimore, take the job he offered me and try to reconcile with him--lots of guilt-tripping stuff about blood and family and parents not being around forever, as I recall. Well, it's not working out. I have nothing to do all day--I just hang around and wait for the phone to ring, and it's never for me. Everybody hates me, and I think they think I just got this job because of my dad. There's this flaky Buddhist guy who I think wants me or something; I just try not to make eye contact. Plus Dad is always giving me crap, and Dad's boss is always giving me crap, and it's just one bad hair day after another. It's all your fault. Who the hell do you think you are, handing out such lame-ass, stupid advice? Screw you!

--Jumpin' Jivin' G-Man

Dear Jumpin': I screwed up, and I'm woman enough to admit it. Forty lashes with a wet noodle. And for you, a good sharp stick right up the ass.


Dear Terri: I'm a widow and single mom in my late thirties. After my husband died, I was shy on romance for a long time, but I finally ended up getting involved with a co-worker. (Yes, I know--stupid, stupid, stupid.) In truth, we never really got along that well; in fact, it's fair to say we had virtually nothing in common. The sex, however, was beyond wonderful. Without getting too indelicate, the phrase "best ever" does spring to mind...and that's all I thought it was about.

To make a long story short, we broke up, I had some unfortunate career reverses and I ended up marrying again and leaving the country. My new husband is a wonderful man, and I know I should be completely satisfied...but I keep thinking back to that long-ago, doomed-from-the-start liaison and realize--too late--that I left behind the love of my life. Should I just forget all about this, and let bygones be bygones? Or should I bite the bullet, and finally tell "Kate" how I really feel about her?

--Perplexed in Paris

Dear Perplexed: Hey, I'm sympathetic, but "doomed from the start"? Doomed is doomed, babe, sorry to disappoint...and let's face it, true love is all well and good but it won't keep you in Camembert and Hermes scarves.

Then again, you are living someplace where getting some on the side is pretty much the national art form, so how about splitting the difference and setting "Kate" up as your mistress? I know some other so-called experts like to say that nobody wins in a threesome, but you just look 'em in the eye, sneer arrogantly and say, "Ce n'est pas un 'threesome,' c'est un ménage à trois, mon vieil imbecile!" Or something like that, I got a C-minus in French. Anyway, whatever you say, could you call up during this guy's show and say it and make him look like a moron? I'm the one who should be on television instead of flogging this goddamned newspaper column, I've got ten times more charisma than that weaselly old priss and Adam flake-boy whatshisname (I'd kick his ass, girlfriend!) on a bad day. Anyway, best of luck!


Dear Terri: I'm not sure why I'm writing this letter. I mean, a complete hot superstud like me sure as hell doesn't need some broad who probably never gets laid herself lecturing me about how to get some tail, y'know? But what the hell. So anyway, I'm nailing this babe I work with pretty regular, she kinda looks like that little Taco Bell dog when you squint but hey, who's lookin' at the face, right? I'm more interested in the head. (Get it? Head?) Anyway, when she starts bitching about I-want-a-family and blah blah, I just tune out. I ain't in this for conversation anyhow.

Okay, so what happens is that this new chick joins the department, and I mean, WHOA!! If I thought the babe I was nailing looked like a dog before, y'know? This chick just leaves her in the friggin' dust! So naturally, I figure I just give her the usual moves and off come the panties, but it's like she's not even interested in me at all or something! I mean, I know she's just doing the hard-to-get thing, but it's getting on my last frickin' nerve. I'm a man, y'know? I don't have time to screw around, I need to screw! So how do I get this new hottie to quit being such a bitch and start giving it up for me? And what do I tell the chick I'm doing now if she starts getting suspicious? Also, there's this one chick in fugitive who looks like she's probably a dyke or something, but she wants to do me too. Sheesh, I gotta get a scorecard to keep track of all this! (Get it? Scorecard?) Anyway, what do I do?

--Hot, Hard and Heavy (You Know It, Babe!)

Dear "Hot": Oh, I know exactly what you should do. That "chick" in fugitive? As soon as you get a chance, go up to her (make sure it's in front of a roomful of witnesses), unzip your pants and say, "Babe, I got it and you want it, so get your sweet little ass over here and start suckin' on Daddy's lollipop!" Women love a man who's strong and forceful like that--she'll go wild! Trust me, that's all it'll take, and after that I'm thinking your problems with Hottie and Taco Bell should pretty much solve themselves. Don't hesitate--go and do it today!


Dear Terri: I'm a doctor who recently inherited a large estate in rural England. Four months ago, I visited the place for the first time and I don't know whether it was the shock of becoming an heiress, or just being thousands of miles from home or what, but I'm afraid I got a little...uninhibited. The itching and swelling have started going down (I'm amazed--those cucumber poultices weren't just an old wives' tale!), and I think I've pretty much decided I'm heterosexual after all, but I really do wish I could pinpoint just who the father of my unborn child could have been...I hope it was that nice American hitchhiker. His Mexican poncho was really groovy!

Anyway, I was looking at my vacation videos and I was thinking of just splicing together some of the, shall we say, juicier moments, and sending a tape of them to that miserable pockmarked self-absorbed motormouthed smirking sneering piss-stinking quick-draw BASTARD who passed for my last boyfriend--and really make him see what he's missing! What do you think?

--To the Manor (and the Morgue) Born

Dear Manor: Uh...I'm honestly not sure how to break this to you, but that "best-of" video you were thinking of producing? I'm afraid somebody beat you to the punch, and a five-volume compilation of your vacation, er, highlights is now available for $49.95 plus $7.50 shipping and handling at (Personally, I suspect Groovy Poncho Boy--he didn't seem to take your admission in tape #2 that "Well, no, it's actually not the biggest I've ever seen" very well at all--but that's just a theory.) Knowing your last boyfriend as I think I do, I'd say he's already gotten an eyeful and then some...but hey, 50,000 hits in the first week alone! You're a superstar, babe!


Dear Terri: I'm a bisexual man in my late thirties whose love life has pretty much been one fiasco after another. Just when I had decided I was destined to spend my life alone, I went on vacation to California and fell head over heels for a wonderful man--and for once, it was mutual! He's smart (a librarian), charming, funny, romantic and, to top it off, has one of those great English accents that makes your heart melt into your shoes.

I'm over the moon, except for two small problems: 1) the long-distance thing is getting to me, and 2) I'm beginning to seriously think he may be a complete lunatic. Every conversation we have seems to revolve around blood, hexes, ancient curses, "circles of power," demon invocations...I don't think he's one of those Wicker people who celebrate Daylight Savings Time and all that, but I mean, you know, California. You can never be sure.
Also, as far as I can tell, his only friend is this teenage girl who dresses like a Sunset Strip hooker and is always hanging around his library for "training sessions" (no, I don't think it's what you're thinking, but it's still pretty weird). Also, I've started getting strange phone calls from someone who keeps insisting that "there's so bloody much you don't know about Ripper, you sorry puppy-dog!" (Don't ask me who the hell Ripper is--some ex-boyfriend of his? Anyway, I always hang up right then.) Plus he hates computers--I mean, I busted my butt working on that website and he only looked at it once. What should I do?

--Seeking Nirvana, Will Settle for Something Vaguely Resembling Not Wanting to Throw Myself Under the Nearest Passing Train

Dear Seeking: Awwwww, honey, you're breaking my, charming, funny, romantic and you're gonna give it all up 'cause he's not interested in some website you threw together? For Aphrodite's sake, quit sitting around waiting for your life to change and just take a damn chance for once! I mean, come on--California! Riding down the Pacific Coast highway without a worry on your mind, sunroof open, the music blasting, the wind blowing in your hair and Mr. Wonderful by your side--what the hell are you hanging around this sorry pigsty for? Don't worry about the other stuff, English people are all eccentric. You go, boyfriend!


Dear Terri: I'm a mortician, which needless to say makes it pretty hard to meet women. Plus my jerk older brother always seems to beat me to the punch (don't ask me how!). Anyway, about six months ago I met this incredible, intelligent, artistic, witty, HOT woman--and for the icing on the cake, she's a twisted death freak! Needless to say, I thought I was in clover. Then, the other night, we're getting busy in the Slumberland 5000 model when she suddenly begins screaming, "Tim--TIM--TIM!!!" As you've probably guessed, my name isn't Tim.

Well, "Emily" was pretty embarrassed and apologized about ten thousand times, but I can't get the whole incident out of my head. Should I just laugh it off? Should I look for this Tim guy and kick his ass? (Okay, I probably couldn't, since we're all pretty much pencil necks in my family--but it sure would feel good!) Or should I break it off? There's this blond lady bartender at a bar I sometimes go to who's always "accidentally" sticking her hand down my pants--maybe I should ask her out. What do you think?

--Pissed Off in Pikesville

Dear Pissed: Does this blond lady bartender have a Southern accent, wear lots of sequins and crushed velvet and play the double bass? If so, STAY AWAY. Don't ask me why, don't ask me how I know--just STAY AWAY. It's for your own safety.

As for this Tim fellow, I think you should track him down--but instead of kicking his ass, why not invite it home with you? There's nothing quite like a hot, throbbing threesome to really cement a relationship and solve every possible problem. Could you call up Mr. Nobody Wins and tell him that, live on the air? I'd really appreciate it.


Dear Terri: I'm a regular, straight-up guy, enjoy a good cheese steak and a couple of beers after work, no Einstein but smart enough, no saint but nice enough. I just got divorced, and I had some trouble at work too. (Okay, I got suspended for a while, but it was a complete misunderstanding.) I can be kind of self-centered sometimes, and I've said and done some things I wish I could take back, but I'm trying to change my ways. Nighttime comes, you know, after you've had a long, long day at work? You go home, there's nobody there to talk to, be kinda get lonely. Start wondering what it's all really supposed to be about, when you've got nobody to share it with.

I just want to meet a pretty little thing I can cuddle by the fire with while the Teddy Pendergrass plays softly in the background and we whisper sweet nothings in each other's ears. She doesn't have to look like a model or anything, just has to be nice and a little understanding. Also, I wouldn't complain if she was a halfway decent cook. How can I meet someone like that? Am I asking for too much or what?

--Just Another Mook Tryin' to Make It in This Crazy Mixed-Up World

Dear Mook: 443-555-6713. Call any time, day or night--I WILL pick up. You won't be disappointed. That's 443-555-6713.


Confidential to S. B. in Hampden: No, it is NOT normal. You are a sick, sick man and need immediate professional help. Write back and tell me how you're doing--and be sure to give DETAILED descriptions. I care.


Are you a drug addict? Would you like to be? Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to "The Skinny on Skag," c/o Ask Terri Stivers, c/o Schism Community News, c/o E. F. Lutt, 18 Rupee Buildings, Baltimore W. 12.