As part of a digital detox a while back, I stopped reading TMZ and most (not all, but most) sites of that nature, deleted the TMZ app and made myself a promise to kick my absent-minded habit of scrolling through celebrity pregnancy rumors, infidelity, break-ups, divorce, kinks and deviations, body issues, addiction, and other salacious “news.”
However, in turning my back the shallow celebrity news that gets shoveled, instead I’ve developed a wicked addiction to reading real people’s problems. I’m consumed by scandalous advice columns!
I suppose the signs were always there, the way I poured over the Dear Abby column printed in our small town newspaper when I was a kid, smudgy newsprint clinging to my teen fingertips.
I especially loved the bits of Abby’s advice that my mom and her lady friends would share in the form of a carefully clipped column, neatly held to the fridge by a magnet shaped like a woodland creature or plastic fruit.
I’d peer at them and wonder what that was about, this open window into these ladies’ everyday lives– how would she ask for that raise, or tell her husband to stop being so flirty with ladies at the office?
Whether it was was tidbits like how to handle a monster mother-in-law, cope with an overbearing school teacher, accuse a maid who might be pocketing valuables, or pearl-clutching discoveries of deception and betrayal, there was something compelling about people airing their dirty laundry for Abby to iron out.
Written by Pauline Phillips under the pen name “Abigail Van Buren,” not only was Dear Abby a precursor to my obsession with social behaviors and etiquette, but also the gateway to my first lines of the Candace Bushnell “Sex and the City” novels or scintillating sips of “Desperate Housewives” (only the first season, I swear).
Slate’s “Dear Prudence”, authored by Emily Yoffe [pictured], also shares her wit and wisdom with The Washington Post and does a podcast called Manners for the Digital Age. An accomplished journalist, Yoffe has written about the world-wide disappearance of frogs and the crash of an Air Florida Flight 90 for New York Times Magazine, according to her Wikipedia page. She has written op-eds for The Washington Post on timely topics ranging from global warming and politics to motherhood. But though exquisitely well-written and diplomatic, that doesn’t mean her column is always an intellectual feast.
It’s not as delightfully dirty as Dan Savage’s sex column [NSFW, ever], which I also love to indulge in, but it’s rife with requests for how to handle the stickiest situations. There’s the sort of family and work drama we all go through, or at least anticipate facing in one way or another, that makes me think of how I’d apply her advice when, if, I’m in the same spot. Then there’s unimaginable strife, like the fascinating incestuous twins she once advised who not only were sexually involved, but deeply in love. She handles each plea with grace and dignity, and the utmost respect for the reader. Prudie is gentle but firm, offering her replies with humility and humor.
What’s your smutty little secret indulgence? Do you pick up a National Enquirer in the grocery store check-out line (like my mom still does), or peruse Perez Hilton a little more than you’d like to admit?