Oh, the advice column: staple of American newspapers throughout the twentieth century, arbiter of etiquette, anonymous ear for the lost, the neurotic, the bored. From the prim counsels of Dorothy Dix and Abigail van Buren to the far-less-prim musings of Dan Savage, it seems our culture has always cried out for this curious service. These days, one conjures Carrie Bradshaw, pushing her goofy rhetoricals out into the Internet. But I want to know, where are the real ‘Dear Abbys’ of this generation?
Some say that Google has stifled our need for an advice columnist (we can presumably ask Siri to tell us if we should get a haircut/break up with the cheating jerk/bring potato salad to a funeral) but certain savvy writers have gone on and elevated the advice column to a real laugh riot, if not a high art form. A recent New Yorker profile even re-defined the office: “Advice columnists are not therapists or pastors. They are performers.”
That said, here are some of the best places on the web to deposit your modern-day hang-ups:
1. Kristin Dombek (of The Help Desk, at N+1.) doles out thoughtful, hyper-intelligent responses to questions running the gamut from the seemingly rote (How can I trust her again?) to the abstract (‘What am I waiting for?’). Her columns are really miniature essays, and they’re eerily fun to get lost in. Soundbyte:
2. Old hat Dan Savage – America’s self-proclaimed sweetheart – is still the reigning king of the kink-centric question. There’s no taboo he won’t touch, and his (typical) lack of judgment endears. Also, the podcast is super funny. Take a listen here.
3. Jezebel’s cheeky-McCheeky “Pot Psychology” is pretty self-explanatory — Tracie Egan Morrissey and Rick Juzwiak get together twice a week to dispense “lowbrow advice from high people.” The columns will soon be made into a book. These utterly goofy video sessions encounter dire q’s like, “How to Deal With Boyfriends Who Won’t Wear Underwear.” Not always life-applicable, but always funny.
4. For writers and creative types in any kind of flux, The Daily Dot’s recent “Ask a Freelancer” provided a mailbox for all those I’m-forging-my-own-career-without-a-template… panic…missives. Writer Melissa Chadburn responded to questions like ‘When Should I Write for Free?’ and ‘To Blog or Not to Blog?’ The lady’s also associated with The Rumpus, site of the very famous but now defunct, Dear Sugar. Soundbyte:
5. “Ask Polly” at The Awl – Polly Esther claims to lend counsel on the internet’s most existential questions. At every turn, this performer is funny, passionate, and pleasingly liberal with the personal anecdotes. Soundbyte, in response to a woman who asked, ‘How Do I Make My Boyfriend Listen?’
6. There’s something so old school about “Ask E Jean” – a distinctly Dorothy Parker vibe eeks through this Elle columnist’s responses. In short, she is your coolest Aunt. E Jean’s main bag is dating advice, but she’s also got notions on etiquette to share. The word ‘sassy’ seems cheap here, but I’ve always loved the way she addresses her write-ins. Take this soundbyte below, from a response written to a woman who worries she apologizes too much:
Images via Jezebel and Sodahead