Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Secret Shame

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my shameful preference for British crime dramas. I'd like to come clean today and bring up another fascination of mine:

Agony Aunts, also known as Advice Columns.

I read them for, well, a number of reasons. Number one, I am a voyeur. Other people in my major and I used to joke about it in college: anthropologists are just legitimizing pathological voyeurism. I don't read celebrity magazines but (I imagine I am having the same kind of shock-horror reaction that those are designed to solicit). Celebrities are boring and I don't really think it's right to take an active, unsolicited, interest in their personal life. Advice column advice seekers, however, are literally asking for judgement, so it's fair game.

Sometimes, if I'm in a hurry, I don't even read the advice given. This is particularly true of the long-winded and often boring Cary Tennis, who never seems to actually give advice, he just suggests, over and over again, that there isn't much we can do anyway about anything, so just continue existing. I'm not saying it's not good advice, one just doesn't need to read it over and over again.

Prudence from Slate is usually pretty good, except when it comes to anything that is outside vanilla sex problems. But we all know who really should be fielding sex questions and that is Dan Savage, who is mine and probably everyone else's favourite advice columnist.

Today I read the Friend or Foe column by Lucinda Rosenfeld. I'm pretty sure that it's just a performance art piece, because her advice is often so poor. Right now, it's fairly subtle, but I imagine that it's just going to get worse and worse until finally, it's just her answering, "I think you should probably just kill yourself." to everyone who writes in. The idea is that it will be so gradual that no one will notice. Slate's pretty much entirely troll bait anyway. Here's an example of her shitty advice, this one in particular caused a huge stir, but I don't think it's really all that much worse than what she normally advises, it's just the situation was so extreme.

Today, she advised that someone to try talking to their single-mother cokehead best friend and roommate and asking them nicely to make sure not to do coke in the house, after apologising for calling the roommate a junkie. To be fair, I doubt Lucinda has ever spent anytime with a cokehead but there is such a thing as a cocaine asshole which is a very special kind of asshole that can only be created by the careful and steady cultivation of a coke habit. This asshole is not your friend and they do not care about you, although they are in possession of the body of your friend, so it is hard to disconnect the two. They should not live in your house and they should not be allowed to drive your car nor should they be trusted with the deposit on a house (I speak from personal experience). You can feel badly for them but feel bad for the person that they were not the person they are. If you think about it this way, it makes it less painful for you because it is easier to see that their poor behaviour is inarguably not about you, it is about them and it makes it easier to forgive them when/if they finally stop doing cocaine and start attempting to be not an asshole again.

I digress, although, the above is exactly what I do, in my brain, when I read advice columns. I think about the people involved and come up with my own conclusions. I do it over morning tea when Ryan has left for work early or I do it while I'm eating my lunch. Sometimes, if the advice seeker is really crazy, I tell Ryan about it and we both throw up our hands and say things to each other like, "People are idiots!!"

1 comment:

TEZofAllTrades said...

Been following your blog with interest for a while now and I was so happy when I saw your post in my feed today. I happen to be an 'advice columnist' myself but with a bit of a twist!

Like you I've read other columns in the past and drawn my own conclusions. That's when I also said "people are idiots" and started my column, which gives what I like to call "Harder Hitting Advice".

I'd love for you to check it out and maybe even post your thoughts. Hopefully you will find it a refreshing change from what you're used to and might even get a laugh out of it too. This link has all back issues that I've uploaded to my blog after they've been published in Edify magazine:

In Agony! by Terry Smith - http://tezofalltrades.blogspot.com/search/label/In%20Agony