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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Advice Columns

Call me old fashioned.  I've been doing it for years.  I'm talking about reading advice columns in the newspapers.  Ann Landers ( and Dear Abby ( are the most traditional ones.  But there's one that's popped up in recent years called Ask Carolyn (, and there's another one showing up in Reader's Digest ( these days.  It's called Ask Laskas ( 

Some of these columns are written by people who are known, others are simply "pen names."  Either way, the concept is that readers send in their quandaries and dilemmas and the these advice columnists tell them how to handle it.  They give advice.  Why is it that I find these columns so interesting?  I guess because I find life and people so interesting.  In addition, I've done a fair bit of self-examination in my day, trying to figure out my own quandaries and dilemmas in life. 

I have to say, that Carolyn Hax is the columnist I tend to agree with the most.  She isn't particularly religious and doesn't exhibit any type of bias or specific world view.  Most of her readers tend to write about relationships (on her blog) and her responses quite often display an incredible ability to dissect the relationship issue and expose the truth of the situation.  Moreover, she's very direct and can even be confrontational with her readers when she thinks they need a wake-up call.  (I'm particularly fond of that approach!)

But there are other times when I read these advice columnists and want to scream.  Dear Abby and Ann Landers have both printed some real clunkers in my opinion.  In fact, I can confess to having written to both of them at one time or another to take them to task for the crappy advice that they dispensed.  As you might imagine though, such letters were never acknowledged, and I'm not aware that they ever printed a retraction or even offered to add my brilliant perspective to what they'd already printed.  (So I don't plan to spend much time trying to hold them accountable in the future!)

The thing is, the more I read these columns, the more convinced I am that I could be an especially good, popular and effective advice columnist.  With all humility, let me just say that I am more in touch with reality than some of these so-called advice columnists are.  Really, I am!

Let's look at one example that I read this week.  A woman wrote in about a trip she is planning to take with her fiance.  He's from France and is taking her home to meet the relatives.  However, he's a tall man and is not comfortable in coach class, so he's purchased a business class ticket for himself and a coach class ticket for his fiance.  The woman is irked about this and finds it so disturbing that she doesn't even want to go at all.  She implored him to suck it up and sit with her in coach, but he refused.  So she wrote to ask for advice.

The advice she got?  Suck it up and realize that he probably would be very miserable in those cramped, coach seats.  So pay the difference to upgrade yourself and sit in business class with him.  Gosh, I thought that was awful advice!  Quite frankly, the man should have planned to put both of them in business class if he's not comfortable in coach.  That he didn't even think of that or consider it would be a huge red flag for the future of this relationship.  I mean, what woman wants to be married to a man who sees life through a series of double standards ... where his personal comfort is accommodated first --- and then everyone else gets what's practical and most fiscally responsible? 

So what advice should have been given?  This fiance should simply provide a mandate that she will not travel alone to meet his family.  He can either sit with her in coach or seat her with him in business class.  But if they are not seated together, she is not going.  And if conditions exist that result in her not going, then she must re-evaluate the whole future of this relationship.  Put simply, the lunkhead should get a clue!

So where are the syndicates, ready to set me up as an advice columnist?  It's high time I be positioned to rescue societies from all of its challenging quandaries and dilemmas.  Don't you agree?

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