On Advice Columns

Aside

I read lots of advice columns; well-expressed opinions of strangers are some of my favorite things about the internet.  (And I’ve linked to most of my regular haunts.)  Love, kink, and politics?  There’s no one like Dan Savage.  (Thanks for santorumn, Dan.)  Etiquette & social blunders?  Miss Manners is pitch-perfect polite, and Philip Galanes at the NYTs Social Q’s is warm, wry and humorous.  Carolyn Hax, who writes the syndicated Tell Me About It, is my perpetual favorite adviser–although she gets cranky when referred to as “Wise Goddess of Advice.”  (Who wouldn’t?)  She’s compassionate, benevolent, with a twist of absurd humor & the occasional snarky remark–although a confessed slow typist during live chats. (Who cares?  She’s trying to help.  And actually, you know, take time to think.)

I also read Dear Prudence–Emily Yoffe writes the column on slate.com

I don’t care for her style, she’s heavy with sarcasm and uses counseling recommendations as a panacea–one for everyone, no matter the issue. Counseling, therapy, confession, it’s all great stuff.  But letter writers surely know counseling exists.  My view of the advice columnist’s job: basic problem solving, a little listening, some empathy, and ideally a fresh practical approach to the situation.  Counseling can be a part of that approach, but if every answer is “seek counseling,” perhaps the questions selected are too complex for the format.  So readers (hi Mom!), preemptively, seek counseling.  And I’ll try to come up with a few other ideas, too.