The Agony Antagonist

Monday, March 26, 2007

Or maybe don’t tell me about it; frankly, I can scarcely see that it matters

So, Carolyn Hax, eh? Her column is adorably titled “Tell Me About It,” which upon reading I always enter a state of daydream in which teen girls in cheerleader outfits clap rhythmically and chant “Tell me [clap] about it [clap clap], Carolyn [clap] Hax [clap clap]!” I know, I know … it’s weird. I had a Toni Basil obsession as a child, too.

But enough of that. March 25th’s column contains three letters. Let’s see if I can sum them up here. Letter #1 is from Maryland, who writes to say that she’s a divorced adult woman with no interest in a serious relationship. She’s been emailing a divorced adult man, and she would like to meet him and play out in person the sexual fantasy that’s been developing in their heads. Is that okay, she wonders?

Letter #2 concerns a woman who’s at that age when all her friends seem to be having children, and now their lives are changed … for the worse! They don’t have time for her, they can’t go out and party like they used to, and she just can’t relate to them in the same way. “Is this normal?” she asks.

And finally, in Letter #3, Washington writes to say that after a long period of separation, dealing with attorneys, etc., she and her husband are talking about getting back together. But, she queries, what about their friends? What will they say?

Oh wow. If only my problems were so mundane, or my job so fricking easy. Presumably, Carolyn Hax gets numerous letters (or emails, most likely) asking for her advice every week. I assume that she picked these three letters on purpose, leading me to the further assumption that, sometime last week, after partying a great deal, or catching up on the Jericho reruns she’s been Tivoing, she suddenly remembered that she had a deadline to meet, picked the three least-demanding emails from the pile, and spewed forth the meekest form of commonsense advice she could muster. Oh, you know: Two consenting adults, that’s fine, but remember that fantasies are exactly that and it may be or become something else once it leaves the electronic medium you’ve been using! Yes, it’s normal for new parents to act or be forced to act differently than they used to as childless adults (moron). And who cares about what the friends say, but don’t use what they said in support of you (and against your spouse), back when you thought you were getting a divorce, against them now.

I have no problem with Carolyn giving the lamest, most obvious advice here, since the advice-seekers in this case were obviously so stupid as to not be able to figure out even the simplest, clearest paths themselves. Next in “Tell Me About It”: A 50-year-old man in Boston wonders if he might consider abandoning the practice of inviting the preteens he meets in online chat rooms to have sex with him, and another guy, in Houston, writes to say: “I’m thirsty. Should I drink some liquid?”

Reading these kinds of exchanges is boring. I say, if you are telling me that you have multiple friends who all have new babies and all have changed in the same few basic ways—staying home with baby, say, instead of going to a smoky bar with you to get drunk and go home with random men at the end of the night—and you can’t figure out that that is normal? Then you, my dearest amiga, do not deserve any friends. In fact, perhaps your friends are using the baby as a convenient excuse to get rid of someone whose stupidity-as-comedy appeal got old years ago.



At March 28, 2007 at 12:20 PM , Blogger George said...

This brings up the question of just who the hell writes in to these people for advice anyway? Even in the case of relatively advanced newsprint advice like Dan Savage I have yet to come across a problem that was so insoluble that only writing to Dan Savage could help. I mean I've run across huge whoppin' meaning of life and eternal strife of the sexes type questions that are indeed insoluble, but no one as far as I can tell has the answers to those and I think Dan would be the first to agree.

As for the lesser problems, any number of obvious problem solving strategies suggest themselves before writing a letter to the columnist. So what is the real motive of the person who seeks advice?

At March 28, 2007 at 5:06 PM , Blogger The Agony Antagonist said...

Well, I was mulling over this exact idea earlier today, and came to much the same conclusion: That people at least should be able to figure these kinds of things out on their own. We've all learned the same Life Lessons from the same TV sitcoms, haven't we? And really, the typical bio of the typical agony aunt shows a decided lack of any authentic expertise (Dickinson and Hax appear to have been journalists and Dan Savage worked at what seems to be a book/video store), so why would anyone feel the need to turn to them for help in their most sensitive problems?

I suspect that one type of person wants to get validation; I'm sure you've seen letters that just come out and ask for this, in fact. "My husband says I'm wrong, but I think I'm right!" Then, most likely, there are some who just want to see themselves in print (and apparently don't have their own blog yet). And ... well, I'm still thinking about this. I think this will be a good topic for an upcoming post, though.


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