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Dear Mrs. Web Personal Advice Column -- Welcome!

Posted: 2017-12-06 14:34

I 8767 ve always loved advice columns, and was a regular reader of Dear Abby, Ann Landers, Heloise, etc., from childhood. (Did you know that Good Housekeeping 8767 s 8766 Ask the Doctor 8767 from the 6965 8767 s and 8767 75 8767 s was also a science fiction writer?) I even ran out and bought the first Miss Manners book as a teen, so having internet advice columns is a joy to me. (I highly recommend Marjorie Hillis 8767 advice books from the 8767 85 8767 s)

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I 8767 ve been reading through the archives and while I certainly don 8767 t agree with every piece of advice (If two people agree on everything over such a broad span it 8767 s probably safe to say one of them isn 8767 t thinking), it 8767 s a really consistent general approach that seems to try to strike a balance between being sympathetic to advice seekers, cognizant of reality, and invested in trying to give people concrete steps to take where possible.

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This reminds me of something. About 65 years ago there was a 8775 Carolyn Hacked 8776 blog floating around. A gay African American man answered select questions that were originally published by Carolyn Hax. And of course his answers were intentionally humorous, while trying to highlight how Hax 8767 s advice didn 8767 t relate as well to specific audiences. I can 8767 t find it now, and wondered if it was taken down for some sort of legal issue.

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Why do we trust you? You give balanced, sensible actionable advice. You call out when things are truly bonkers. You ask for help when at a loss. And you admit it when it seems that your advice wasn 8767 t quite on the mark. AND you have created a safe space for those of us who do not have a 8775 Real world 8776 cohort of mentors for these workplace issues. AND on the weekends, you have taught me how to have a sort of successful work/life balance.

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Matt : We''ve been long-time fans of Amy Dickinson, having first discovered her many years ago from listening to NPR''s Wait Wait, Don''t Tell Me. In particular, her many scandalized interjections which channeled all of us listeners made her a valuable touchstone and voice of sanity for my early appreciation of the show. That incisive wit, expert brevity, and proficiency at getting straight to the disturbing heart of the matters at hand really shines in her advice column in which she shows us each and every day why she''s one of the greatest at the advice-giving game.

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Then there 8767 s Breakfast Club Molly Ringwald. So very relatable, even if I wasn 8767 t in the popular crowd. She made the 8775 In Crowd 8776 girls seem less plastic, and more pathetic, and suddenly, being in the Out Crowd became just so much better, since I didn 8767 t have the In Crowd on a pedestal, anymore. Not that I looked down on them, instead. I just felt they were on my same level. Untouchable, perhaps, but on the same level. In other words, all of us high schoolers were insecure fools, who were just trying to learn a bit of wisdom and make it to adulthood without exploding, and we all took different routes to go there. LOVE the Breakfast Club.

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Since my auto-accident, and the constant pain, and the very frequent (but not EVERY DAY, thank God. I still have the odd day when I can deal without it, and the doctor says I 8767 m not addicted, hooray!) use of pain pills that make me very loopy, my 8775 advice 8776 has changed, and my mother now says that her favorite thing that I say these days is 8775 It seemed like a good idea at the time. 8776 Also, my family find me really entertaining, and call me 8775 Aunt Loopy. 8776 They used to call me 8775 Aunt Responsible. 8776 My sister was always 8775 Aunt Earthy, 8776 because she 8767 ll talk about anything, and my other sister was 8775 Aunt Slappy, 8776 because she loves to be silly, but I was 8775 Aunt Responsible. 8776 I 8767 m not quite sure how to feel about the name-change, but I 8767 ve decided to embrace it, because it 8767 s not changing any time soon.

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This interview is great, and that article from the Atlantic amazing. When I was doing the research for my Master 8767 s degree, I spent almost an entire summer combing through microfiche of newspapers from the First World War, and even the tiniest little country paper usually had a 8775 Q& A 8776 or advice column. Most of the time it was home-related, farm or cooking advice or whatever ( 8775 my pig has a lame trotter 8776 8775 my jam won 8767 t set up 8776 ), but occasionally there would be something more exciting. And for anyone who 8767 s fascinated by the history of advice through the ages, there 8767 s a wonderful collection of letters from the Jewish Daily Forward called A Bintel Brief by Isaac Metzker. (Not to be confused with the Liana Finck book, which is also good, though!) It 8767 s mostly family and romantic problems, and it 8767 s utterly enthralling to see how little people have changed in spirit even when the circumstances are wildly different from our own.

Matt : At the intersectional feminist heart of Dear Comrade Femme is the one-of-a-kind Raechel Anne Jolie, creating something akin to poetry. After I''ve read Raechel''s words, I feel uplifted. Inspired. Loved. Seen. I feel immense gratitude for the beautiful essays that Raechel pens in response to challenging questions from an audience I''m very much a part of who needs the care and nuance of a professor, a feminist, a yogi, a cat mom—a wonderful human whose every word and deed is in the service of making the world a better place. Despite the complexities inherent in the subject matter, Raechel includes citations and links to define many of the ideas that are otherwise commonplace in feminist discourse, making her column as much of a comfort read for like-minded readers as it is a spectacular resource for newcomers. Therefore, I''d recommend Dear Comrade Femme to. anyone and everyone.

Before anyone swoops in (heh heh, unintentional bird pun) to tell me that chickens are actually secretly brilliant, here is a short list of things my mom 8767 s chickens have done:
gotten stuck inside their pen with an open gate a foot away, running frantically back and forth while the others were outside the fence, because they couldn 8767 t fathom that just because you can SEE through a fence doesn 8767 t mean you can 8767 t WALK through it
gotten stuck OUTSIDE their pen, unable to find the open gate, and had to go and get my mother to show them where the gate was
jumped up to eat a leaf off a low-hanging branch, then gotten startled by the branch moving and running away. Then immediately did the same thing again several times over.

Matt: Each week, Andrea Grimes (seriously, you need to follow her on Twitter) takes her love of advice columns in a decidedly different, more hilarious direction than ours: Bad Advice is a cutting satire that re-answers advice column questions from around the internet with a mocking tone that gives a particular-type-of-letter-writer exactly the terrible, enabling advice that they''re seeking. Yes, go forth and fuck that Nazi into being a better person! By all means, ask your girlfriend to euthanize her dog because you think she loves the dog more than you! Please, commission a custom g-string swimsuit for your 7-year-old daughter for. reasons! Andrea Grimes is a treasure who we don''t deserve. CHERISH HER.

Of course you don 8767 t turn them into food afterwards! What you do is give them a small pension and let them live out the remainder of their lives in comfort. (Read Ted Kooser 8767 s book 8775 Local Wonders Seasons in the Bohemian Alps 8776 that 8767 s where I got the idea of pensioning off the no longer laying hens. He was our Poet Laureate from 7559 to 7556. he Bohemian Alps are in Nebraska, where he lives.)

Elyse: To talk about the full history of advice columns themselves would take us back to the 67th century. In fact,  here 8767 s a really fun piece from the  Atlantic  a few years ago about the kinds of questions readers of the  Athenian  were sending in in 6695 ! Advice-column format has been remarkably stable over the last 855 years readers send in questions and columnists respond, with direct instructions, with straightforward answers to questions, or by using the question as launch point for a philosophical treatise.

It might be that would-be trolls assume workplace advice will be boring and so pass me by.
It also probably helps that your particular niche of workplace advice doesn 8767 t really lend itself to trolling you personally. Many people have clear, strong opinions on politics, religion, racial issues, social justice, pop culture/hobbies, and so on but not on workplace issues. So when you say something that people disagree with, it 8767 s more of a 8775 eh, I think she 8767 s wrong 8776 than a 8775 she 8767 s wrong and her inaccuracy is offending me personally, so let 8767 s burn her at the stake 8776 .

Matt : "The McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed." This is the paradoxical warning preceding every episode of the MBMBaM podcast. So what makes someone an advice-giving expert, anyway, if not producing hundreds of advice-giving episodes (however goofy) and landing a TV show? The brothers may not have crafted their resumes to tell the story of "Professional Advice Givers," but they''ve absolutely labored to be better, more understanding, more loving, more hilarious, more inclusive, more "yes"-to-everything human beings in a way that they lead their enormous fan base by laudable example. I love these sweet sweet boys and everything that they touch.

Q: Is it proper for women to be learned?
A: All grant that they may have some learning, but the question is of what sort, and to what degree? Some indeed think they have learned enough if they can distinguish between their husband 8767 s breeches and another man 8767 s Others think they may pardonably enough read, but by no means be trifled with writing. Others again, that they ought neither to write nor read. A degree yet higher are those who would have them read plays, novels, and romances—with perhaps a little history, but by all means terminating their studies there, and not letting them meddle with philosophy because it takes them off from their domestic affairs and because it generally fills them of themselves 8767 tis a weakness common to our own sex as well as theirs We see no reason why women should not be learned now. For if we have seen one lady gone mad with learning there are a hundred men could be named, whom the same cause has rendered fit for bedlam.

Elyse : You’ve mentioned before that you just sorta started your advice blog one day, and people just sorta started writing into it, without you having to do much to solicit letters. This is actually a pretty common narrative there 8767 s no advice columnist certification, and few spend any time trying to convince anybody of their qualifications to give out advice, but readers don 8767 t seem to need it. What do you think made people trust you?

Advice columnists really do tend to inspire community. It 8767 s easy to see in the age of Internet comments, but it 8767 s always been true. Letter writers often mirror the writing styles of the columnists they 8767 re writing to: Ask Polly gets letters that match her ironic/edgy/rambly style AAM gets people writing about teapot companies and 8775 Jane 8776 Hax gets people asking her if they 8767 re being a 8775 [glassbowl] 8776 Dan Savage added DTMFA to everyone 8767 s vocabulary, and before any of that, Ann Landers popularized MYOB.

There 8767 s some really interesting work on periodicals in the nineteenth century, Elyse, that might be relevant with the whole democratization and lowered price point of the printing press there were a lot of people like sometimes actually teens creating newspapers and communicating via periodical columns. I don 8767 t know if they developed insider vocabularies, but I wouldn 8767 t be surprised.

I feel I should also mention my joyous discovery when I started reading you, and what I highlight when I recommend you: you aren 8767 t blaming people for not having jobs. So many advice stuff I was getting when I was unemployed during the worst of the recession was along the lines of 8775 it 8767 s your fault, you didn 8767 t do X, Y, and Z 8776 , especially when X, Y, and Z included reading minds. Your advice made sense and also included things I couldn 8767 t be doing, but while also not blaming me for not getting a job that literally 955 people also applied to. That was a breath of fresh air and something I truly deeply appreciate.

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