Monday, June 18, 2012

Dear Abby

Abby's life must be really easy because she can make any problem into practically nothing! For example:

"Report your sister to Child Protection Services. It could be the wake-up call she needs."

"Have a discussion with your 16-year-old daughter about why she feels the need to lie about everything."

"Try volunteering for your local hospital or baking a cake for a family in need. That should help you get your mind off your problems."

"Quit smoking."

"Go to counseling."

People must know this is the kind of thing an advice columnist will tell them if they write in, even if in a real live situation, it might sort of be impossible to call Child Protection Services on your own sister. And volunteering at a local hospital? Actually, I don't even need to volunteer at a hospital because I am so easily distracted from my problems that I already forgot what they were. So thanks for that, Abs. And quit smoking? I bet whoever asked the question wasn't expecting that one! I mean, everyone knows professional advice-givers love smokers, second only to serial cheaters and insensitive atheists.

In light of this, I find myself wondering: what is it that makes people write to advice columnists? Are they hoping, in some small, secret, highly irrational way, that the columnist will somehow do the dirty work for them, and they won't have to actually go and quit smoking themselves?


  1. I like reading advice columnists, though I agree that their advice is sometimes batty. The "get counselling" advice is the ultimate cop-out, and also the most boring for the reader, particularly as so many columnists use it so often. One of the reasons I like Dan Savage is his willingness to tell advice-seekers that ending the relationship is the only solution. In fact, he does it so often that he even has an abbreviation for it - DTMFA (dump the motherfucker already).

    A lot of advice columnists - especially Dear Prudence - tend to advise writers to initiate strange confrontations. I would probably be a boring columnist because so often my advice would be "do nothing." In fact, I think I would probably alternate 50/50 or so between "do nothing" and "DTMFA."

  2. You're totally right about ole Abby, but I can't help but read her column every single day! It's as essential as the news, it feels like.

  3. I never read advice columns and I'm also convinced I'd be the worst one of life. All my advice would be passive aggressive or tied to eating chocolate.