“Ask Amy”, “Ask Polly”, and other agony aunts are hanging on in the American landscape, despite the demise of the printed word. In case you aren’t familiar with these two, they are the heirs to twin “agony aunts”— Dear Abby and Ann Landers — who helped America through rough waters during the 1960s. You can read Ann’s obit here.
Everyone needs advice at some point. Professional advice columnists exist so that anyone who wants to can air their problems anonymously, without fear of consequences. Then, the rest of us can read and learn. Sometimes, misery loves company. Sometimes, you just want to see all the little horrors that go on in other people’s lives. Either way, it’s a beneficial experience.
To be a professional advice-giver, you must respond to every problem in a measured, non-judgmental fashion. It helps if you think before you speak. It helps if you can bring the wisdom of experience to each situation, and view all sides of a question before weighing in with advice. “Ask Amy” is especially notable for her empathy and circumspection.
Here in New York, we also have those values….we just deploy them a bit more sparingly. After all, there is such a thing as common sense. If you’ve taken leave of your senses, you probably already know it – but if not, I’m here to help.
For comparison, let’s see if you can figure out which answer is Amy’s and which one is mine? These are all real problems from real people who have written to “Ask Amy” from around the U.S.A. I may have edited a bit here and there, so please note that if I’ve violated any copyright laws, you should contact my lawyer immediately (don’t forget to watch their ad here).
Brokenhearted writes: Nine months ago, our daughter told us she had a girlfriend and thought she was bisexual. She asked me not to tell others in the family. For emotional support, I called my sister who then told everyone else. I’m so furious with my sister for this betrayal of trust!
Answer A You need to untangle your feelings. You should start with a simple admission and apology to your daughter. Your message to your daughter should be “I love you as you are”. Therapy for you, your daughter, and your sister may help the transition.
Answer B Who are you kidding, lady? You’re the one who blabbed. And what’s the big secret anyway? It’s legal to be gay these days, so get over yourself. And tell your sister to mind her own beeswax: I saw her son in the audience of RuPaul’s Drag Race, anyway.
Cursed writes: 8 years ago, I met the man I thought was Mr. Right. We moved in together, but he broke up with me. I was crushed, but had sex with him anyway for a while. I had no idea he was
already engaged to someone else! Since then, he has a wife and child but I’m still single. Am I cursed by bad karma?
Answer A Stop punishing yourself. It is easy to wallow in your alone state and dwell on ancient hurts. It is hard to put yourself out there, and risk getting hurt again. I hope you are brave enough to try. Therapy might be beneficial.
Answer B You do realize the whole universe doesn’t give a crap about your relationships, right? “Karma” is not just another word for “obsessively neurotic”. Get a hobby!
Millennial Parent writes: Our son graduated with honors from high school, and we agreed to his request to take a year off before starting college or a job. That year has turned into three. He stays home, watches TV, and gets tattoos. If we talk to him about it, he gets upset. What should we do?
Answer A Your son may be anxious and depressed. Tell him you’ll pay for community college or be supportive of him entering the military. A professional therapist might provide him with job coaching and provide you and your wife with parenting ideas.
Answer B Go in the bathroom. Look in the mirror. Can you see the problem now? Just one question: who’s paying for the sofa, the TV, and the tattoos? I assume it’s you – unless the leprechauns are leaving magic gold under Sonny Boy’s pillow every night. Tell the bum to get a job.
Overly Protective writes: My 25-year-old son just found out his girlfriend is pregnant. They had already split up before this happened. The mother told her doctor she doesn’t want the baby’s father in the picture. I’m worried. How will my son navigate this delicate situation?
Answer A Your son should see a lawyer quickly, and yes, he should demand a paternity test. Counseling might help.
Answer B Who asked you? This is not your problem, so butt out.
Former Reader writes: Your liberal know-nothing true colors have finally come out! Your response to the letter from “Uneasy,” equating Donald Trump with a Nazi sympathizer, revealed your liberal feminist agenda.
Answer A I have received scores of questions over the past few months from people worried about how to handle political differences in families during this very heated political season. I did not equate Donald Trump with a Nazi sympathizer; the person who
wrote to me described someone who was both a Trump supporter and a Nazi sympathizer. And, like Donald Trump does on the campaign trail, I let the outrageous association sit there, unchallenged.
Answer B Go f*ck yourself. Did I say go f*ck yourself? Oops, I meant to say go Nazi-f*ck your-Nazi-self. Nazi.