The Agony Antagonist

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

She's just not that into you

Part of the frustration with reading advice columns is that sometimes one gets the impression that the columnists don’t read their letters very carefully. Amy Dickinson in her April 9 column, for example, addresses the concerns of a 17-year-old girl who has long-standing plans to go to prom with her good friend, who has recently revealed that he is in love with the writer of the letter. Platonic Prom Date asks if Amy thinks they can still go as friends. Or, you know, what she actually says is:

I told him the truth -- that he is a great friend but that I am leaving for college in the fall and don't want to complicate a great and lasting friendship.

Now I don't know whether in good conscience I should go with Joe to the prom.

He seemed to understand and accept my "rejection." However, I don't want to cause any hurt feelings or lead on my friend, especially at our senior prom.

Is it possible for us to still go as just friends?

A close reading of the above query shows that PPD has more than a few concerns. (1) PPD doesn’t want to lead on her friend, Joe. (2) PPD doesn’t want to hurt Joe’s feelings. (3) PPD is concerned—for reasons she does not address—about her “conscience.” Perhaps she feels guilty about possibly preventing him from attending prom with a love interest; perhaps it’s something else entirely. (4) PPD doesn’t want to complicate her friendship with Joe. (5) PPD wants to know if it’s possible to go to prom with Joe, as planned, as just friends.

Amy addresses, umm, basically … none of these issues, instead deciding that Joe may have hurt feelings and as such may not want to attend prom with PPD. Take that, girlie! Then, she wanders onto a weird tangent, telling PPD to “lighten the atmosphere by e-mailing him your latest favorite video clip from or by making a reference to a long-standing joke that you two share.”—that’s what all you kids are always going on about, right? It’s like Amy gets to redress two painful memories from her childhood in three short paragraphs: Instead of feigning any sort of interest in any of the concerns PPD has raised, she’s focused on the bruised heart and fragile ego of the rejected friend, and she also takes the opportunity to show off how hip she still is, even at her advanced age.

The advice Amy ultimately gives—to ask Joe whether he still feels comfortable going to prom with PPD—isn’t bad. It just wasn’t asked for. And frankly, I have a few unresolved issues in that area from my teen years. Teenagers generally aren’t listened to—usually for good reason. All I’m saying is that if Amy wanted to do a service to PPD, she could have started with a little common courtesy and actually tried to understand what PPD’s problem was, rather than forcing her own, sad agenda.



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