What the heck has happened to Dear Abby?
Arguably one of the best things about being a Baby Boomer is that we lived in the golden age of advice columnists. In one of those wonderful ironies of pop culture, the two reigning advice columnists during our lives – Dear Abby and Ann Landers – were twin sisters who alternately feuded and made up. When the one who wrote Ann Landers passed away, she requested that the column end as well. The one who wrote Dear Abby brought her daughter Jeanne on as co-author, and Jeanne continues advising to this day.
But not the way her mother did. In fact, she’s beginning to make me cringe. Dear Abby never minced words. Her daughter is a little too non-confrontational for my taste. With the social contract in tatters, we need the few arbiters in positions of power to take a stand and tell it like it is (there’s a Baby Boomer phrase if ever there was one).
While I admit that Abby occasionally gives a tough response, in the month of October alone, she’s given some really soggy advice. Here are a few paraphrases of (1) what people wrote in, (2) what Dear Abby said, and (3) what I would have said.
What Someone Wrote: My sister thinks it’s dishonest that we haven’t told our two children about our previous marriages.
What Abby Replied: There’s no shame in having been married before, so tell your children when they’re old enough.
What Cranky Would Have Said: Tell your sister it’s none of her damn business whether you tell them or not.
What Someone Wrote: My boyfriend and I are both pranksters. He slipped an engagement ring on my finger and then told me later it was a joke.
What Abby Replied: Tell him how badly his joke made you feel.
What Cranky Would Have Said: Run from this sadistic moron now, today, this minute.
What Someone Wrote: My mother-in-law rifles the mail and papers on my desk.
What Abby Replied: Put your papers away when your mother-in-law comes.
What Cranky Would Have Said: Tell your mother-in-law to mind her own damn business.
What Someone Wrote: I met and slept with a woman last Saturday night. We’ve been texting almost constantly since then, but I’m wondering how much is too much.
What Abby Replied: Give her a chance to catch her breath and let her pursue you for a change.
What Cranky Would Have Said: You slut! Put down your phone and go have yourself checked for sexually transmitted diseases.
What Someone Wrote: My 15-year-old stepson is having unprotected sex and my husband and his ex-wife are ignoring it.
What Abby Replied: Your husband is going to have to step up and tell his son the facts of life and that “real men” don’t risk bringing babies into the world.
What Cranky Would Have Said: Forget your idiot husband. Get your stepson condoms right quick, unless you want to be depleting his college fund to support his baby to age 18. If your husband has no backbone now, guess who’s going to end up babysitting? YOU!
What Someone Wrote: I enjoy singing karaoke at a nearby community center, but the DJ’s wife has told me to stop leaving messages on his Facebook page.
What Abby Replied: Take your husband with you and stop leaving messages on the DJ’s Facebook page.
What Cranky Would Have Said: Tell his wife to mind her own damn business.
What Someone Wrote: I’m getting too many invitations to product parties. How do I politely decline?
What Abby Replied: Tell them you can’t attend due to a conflict, even if it’s just watching television.
What Cranky Would Have Said: Tell them that product parties are an annoying, insipid waste of time.
What Someone Wrote: A nine-year-old boy told me I shouldn’t be smoking.
What Abby Replied: That wasn’t disrespect, that was honesty.
What Cranky Would Have Said: Tell him that children shouldn’t correct their elders – and to mind his own damn business.
I just don’t see what’s so hard about this advice columnist work. The biggest challenge is to avoid repeating yourself.