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Q: What is it?
A: Suicide is the practice of taking one's own life. Although it has much in common with other premature causes of death like homicide and old age, suicide is a self-directed action, while homicide is just a sugarcoated name for murder.

Q: Who can take part in it?
A: Committing suicide is a personal choice that any individual is free to make, just like wearing a certain style of clothing, having an abortion, or running for president. However, unlike running for president, it has no age minimum, and unlike wearing a certain style of clothing, it doesn't involve staying alive.

That said, suicide makes considerably more sense for some people than for others. If one is about to be executed by an approaching army, suicide is a clever idea that will surely frustrate them, whereas if one is momentarily distraught because of some minor setback, it's a tossup.

Here is a brief list of circumstances under which suicide may be warranted:

• end of a romance
• loss of a grandparent
• ready for a change
• getting older
• tired but don't want to sleep
• leap year

Q: How does it work?
A: Although a detailed discussion of pathology and human anatomy is arguably beyond the immediate scope of this primer, most people choose choking, drowning, stabbing, or shooting. Those who want to stand out from the crowd often employ a clever twist on an old theme; for example, instead of jumping off a skyscraper with no parachute, they jump off a skyscraper with two parachutes, both of which are fake. The best suicides are quick and to-the-point: Passersby like to be entertained, but they don't have long attention spans. The best suicides are also economical: It is a foolish man who blows his entire life savings on a one-time thrill.

Q: Are there any potential risks involved?
A: As with any human endeavor that requires individuals to overcome their instincts of self-preservation and rationality, there is always the possibility that an attempted suicide will fail. This is as true today as it was in 1883, when prominent Southern belle Angela Matteson tried to strangle herself by wearing a comfortable necklace. Instead, she was proposed to that very evening by a curmudgeonly sheriff who will remain anonymous because that's the way he would have liked it. Everything in life involves a certain amount of risk, and any individual who chooses to avoid risk entirely can hardly be considered alive at all.

Q: Are there any potential benefits?
A: Beautiful flowers for mom.

Q: Should I leave a note?
A: Although not essential, many suicide hobbyists find it useful to put down some of their thoughts on paper before the "big event." In much the same way that keeping a personal diary helps one clarify experiences and solidify life's lessons, writing a suicide note is a great way to let others know what they did wrong and how much guilt they should carry until they pass away themselves. However, not everyone likes to read, so be sure to include some comic relief. One possibility is to start with the lines: "By the time you read this, I will be gone. If only you weren't such a slow reader!" Another is to end with a smiley face before your signature. Finally, it often deepens the impact to throw in a hidden message or two; for example, try using the word "death" more than you normally would in your correspondence.

Q: I'm having second thoughts—is it really such a good idea that I kill myself?
You're putting me in a very awkward position as both a concerned
citizen and a comedy writer.

Q: Well, I guess I'll be off to the bridge, then.
A: You're not going to jump, are you?

Q: No, that's just where the race begins.
A: Oh. Well, good luck.

Also by Noam Weinstein:
Name That Baby
Positive Prank Phone Calls

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