I enjoy reading advice columnists. I check out Dear Prudence at Slate and a couple columns from my local papers regularly and Dear Wendy on occasion.
I do not read them for the advice. The advice tends to be either common-sense (don’t date that abusive, alcoholic, unemployed jerk seems to be a common theme), not applicable to anybody who isn’t insane or living near someone insane (and I try to keep only sane people within my circles), or fem-centric, liberal, and given to secular immorality.
Rather I read them for entertainment and insight.
It is highly entertaining to see the insane situations some people manage to get themselves into or how some people insanely overreact to the weirdest things. There is also a heaping dose of schadenfreude as people somehow manage to screw themselves and their relationships up in such novel ways.
But not only are these columns entertaining to read, they are also informative. You can learn so much about people’s rationalization hamsters, (un)thinking processes, emotional quirks, and such by reading these columns.
One thing you notice about these columns is the female focus of them. Females seem to represent the large majority of the columnists and the majority of those who write into them.
One wonders why there is not a market for a male columnist for male issues. Slate has recently hired one, but, quite frankly, he writes like an overcompensating, intellectually pretentious twat. That and so far the problems he’s had posed have been rather simple and not very entertaining. (Maybe that’s why? Maybe men’s problems are mostly too straightforward and not insane enough to make an enjoyable column). There’s also Dan Savage, but as a flaming, liberal hedonist, I don’t know why any man would trust him.
Roissy, Athol, and some others on the manosphere will occasionally print answers to e-mails they receive, but you wonder if something more systematized could be useful to the manosphere. A place where (an) expert(s) could answer those specific, situationalized life, game, or relationship questions some might have coming from a place of masculine frame.
But that’s well beside the point, I was originally meandering into, which was insight, entertainment, schadenfreude, and mockery.
I’m going to highlight a few letters from columns from the past couple weeks.
Here’s part of the letter that inspired this post. It’s exemplifies too large a part of modern Western humanity.
My older sister is married to an abusive alcoholic asshole. She and I both grew up in a very conservative Christian household and neither of us have a close bond with our parents because they don’t like that we left home and formed our own adult lives that are very different from how we were raised. About 10 years ago, she moved 1500 miles away, met a guy, and got pregnant quickly. They both worked at a Christian school under a signed “morality clause” so they rushed to get married in an effort to not lose their jobs over the unplanned pregnancy. Well, they both got fired anyway and proceeded to have two more kids together.
I brought it up on a recent visit with my parents and they basically said she made a choice so they don’t care what happens to her. That made me so angry.
Revel in the hamster. Bask in its glory.
To fully understand this miracle of rationalization, I’ll run this through my universal hamsterlator:
We rebelled against our wise parents who tried to protect us from the poor choices we might make while young. In our rebellion, my sister ended up in exactly the situation our wise parents tried to protect us from. When, while still in a state of continued rebellion, I tried to force my parents to save her from her own rebellion they treated my sister like an adult capable of agency, just as we demanded they treat us. How dare they treat us like adults when we demand to be treated like adults.
This most perfectly sums up to many modern people. Complain when people don’t give you the rights you feel you deserve as an adult with agency, but complain about cruelty when people treat you like an adult with agency .
Of course, instead of slapping down the insanity of this, Wendy simply ignored the parent-child relationship.
Here’s one letter that exemplifies the misery some people inflict on themselves for the weirdest reasons:
Ten years ago a friend who I’ve known for 14 years told me her husband beats her. Through the years she’s continued to keep me updated but in the past few months she’s started texting me pictures of the abuse. He’s her high school sweetheart, they don’t have any kids, and he’s now the sole provider (which wasn’t always the case). The thing is she won’t leave him because she doesn’t want to leave her pets. I’ve tried to get her to leave repeatedly, but I don’t know what to do. I have these pictures, but no proof that he committed these acts because she won’t put his name on them, something that I gently suggested she should do for evidence or the police can’t prosecute him. I toss and turn, at night worrying that one day I’m going to get a phone call telling me he killed her. What can I do?
Remember that: she doesn’t want to leave her pets.
Insight: Some people don’t want saving. Don’t bother trying.
Here’s one illustrating why you should choose your marriage partner carefully:
My husband and I married a few years ago after just months of knowing each other. I have never once doubted our decision to marry, and on the whole, we are exceptionally happy. He is my perfect partner and an ideal father for our daughter—but, of course, there’s a but. During our very brief courtship, there is one habit he intentionally hid from me—online gaming. Apparently, he didn’t want me to think him nerdy. When he first disclosed this after the honeymoon, I thought it was funny and cute. A couple years later, I’m bitter—we have routine marital disagreements, but this is the only issue we ever fight about. He spends several hours a week (10-20) playing these online games! Every time we fight about it, he’ll cut back or promise to stop … but within a week or two, it’s back to at least a couple of hours every day. This is a man who has quit smoking and quit his pseudo-addiction to energy drinks, but can’t (or won’t) quit online gaming. I can’t imagine life without him, but this is making me miserable. I’m not willing to leave him over it; how can I get him to stop or change my own attitude to accept it? (For clarification, I have no suspicions of any online infidelity—it just bothers me that he spends his leisure time gaming instead of reading a book, watching TV with me, etc.)
2 hours!!! How dare he enjoy himself for two hours a day!?!
What a controlling, insane shrew. If I had the misfortune of marrying her, I’d probably be gaming a good 40+ hours a week just to avoid her.
On the other hand, some men find a keeper:
Re: Husband’s Gaming: My husband did this early in our relationship as well. I took a different tactic … I joined him. That way we spent time together and I learned something new about myself as well. Sometimes it takes giving a little to get a little.
And some women can be reasonable:
RE: Husband’s Gaming: I, too, am married to a gamer. And I’m completely happy with it, because it gives him an outlet to unwind after a stressful day. He’ll often play games while I watch a TV show in the same room. That way we’re still around each other, but we both get to do our own thing. (How much interacting would you do while watching TV anyway?) This really is no different than reading a book—you get lost in an imaginary world there, too.
It’s amazing how not being a crazy, controlling harpy can lead to an enjoyable marriage.
As an aside, what is it about women and TV? How is watching TV somehow better than playing video games?
Here’s one that illustrates the insane pettiness and nosiness of some people:
There’s a young woman at work who uses a ton of hand soap every time she uses the bathroom. If you are in the toilet, you can hear the auto dispenser chug 10 times while she is washing her hands. I never noticed this until someone pointed it out to me, and now it is driving me nuts. I’ll go to the sink and there’s like a foot of soap bubbles that she will have left behind. Should anyone intervene with her about her OCD tendencies and advise her that all the girls are talking about her and think she’s wasteful and weird?
Even more insane is that this is not just one woman, but multiple women gossiping about something so pointlessly insignificant. How this merits even a comment, let alone a letter to a national advice columnist boggles my mind.
Some women are insane.
Here’s a recent one that from which I have no lesson or insight to draw, but it really amused me in a WTF sort of way. It’s the kind of letter you read these columns for:
My parents and I are huge animal lovers and have been feeding a feral cat colony for a few years now (they are all spayed and neutered). Our neighbor however cannot stand them and has been very vocal about it to us. He trapped them for a while whenever they would come into his yard and take them to animal control. However, since they are microchipped to our address, animal control would call us and we would pick them up. Upon their return, the organization that got them spayed/neutered has tried working with our neighbor to no avail. However a last month two of the cats started acting funny. We took them to the emergency vet only to learn they had antifreeze poisoning and there was nothing we could do but end their suffering. We thought of our neighbor, but wanting to give him the benefit of doubt, we dismissed it as an accident. However two weeks ago a third cat acted the same exact way and another vet visit confirmed antifreeze poisoning. We now no longer think it’s a freak accident. Several friends and family are telling us to call animal control and report our neighbor. However we have no proof that it is actually him putting the antifreeze out, only a hunch based on past interactions and experiences. What should we do?
I might have been somewhat unfair earlier. Sometimes, the advice columnists actually do take some idiots to task:
I am a second wife to my husband who for years was married to a very difficult woman. A couple of years ago, he finally divorced her and married me soon after…At the same time, his adult children, a son and daughter, both in their 20s, have been a bit withdrawn around me, and I very much want them to be as close to their new younger sibling as possible…
What is wrong with his kids? Dad finally dumps their shrew of a mother, finds someone younger, hotter, nicer (and fertile to boot!), and they’re not celebrating. What ungrateful little beasts.
Although, really this should not have needed to have been written. Is it really so difficult for a replacement wife to understand why the children of the wife she replaced don’t care for her that she needs to ask a professional?
Anyway, the prime point of this post: advice columns are an endless source of entertainment and insight. Human stupidity is the most boundlessly renewable resource we have; if only we could harness its energy for electricity we’d be set.
The secondary point is simply this, the vast majority of the problems in these columns could be avoided simply by following traditional values: be responsible, don’t be crazy, mind your own damn business, don’t shack up or get knocked up, marry someone responsible, don’t divorce, raise your kids right, and choose decent, responsible friends.