One of the first things I turn to in the newspaper , after I’ve read the sports pages, is the advice column. Or advice columns. It feels like I’ve been reading Ann Landers and /or Dear Abby forever, though it’s actually something like forty years. Ann Landers passed on a few years ago and Dear Abby, her twin sister , is almost ninety and afflicted by Alzheimers. Dear Abby’s column is now being written by her daughter Jeanne Phillips and Ann Landers’ niece , Margo Howard, writes a column titled Dear Margo.
Readers love these columns for many reasons. Some people do read them for advice and information, to find out what they would do in a particular situation if it ever happened to them. People abroad and new immigrants read them to improve their English or to understand American society.Still others read them for the entertainment value, because some of the things people write in about are very funny. I remember there was once a lengthy discussion about how toilet paper roll should be fixed : should the paper unroll from behind or from the front of the roll ? It was amazing how many people felt passionately about this subject and their personal preferences.
What got me started on this post was a question posed to Dear Abby last week. A husband wrote to say that his wife loved to garden but that the wheelbarrow she used had iron wheels and kept sinking into the mud. He said that he loved his wife very much and , having just won a large sum of money in the lottery, he decided to do something for her. He bought her a new wheelbarrow with rubber tires . However, instead of being happy about it, his wife became very upset with him and hadn’t spoken to him in over a week. Why, he wondered ? Duh !
Dear Abby responded appropriately but I couldn’t help wondering about the husband’s obtuseness. He may have bought the lottery ticket but it was They who won and She was understandably upset that he didn’t instinctively see it that way. If he really loved her as much as he said he did he should have realized this on his own.
But then ,thinking about it a little more, I realized that I was being a little smug about it. Who am I to feel this way ? We humans are quick to see others faults and offer advice but slower to hold the mirror up to ourselves. Even Dear Abby and her twin, Ann Landers,who dished out so much advice ( good advice) were not on speaking terms for most of their lives.