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Month: January 2013

Advice for Advice Columnists

This month the nation mourned the death of Pauline Friedman Phillips, the author of Dear Abby. For 40 years, Phillips dispensed thoughtful, compassionate, and occasionally wry advice in more than 1,400 newspapers. She received up to 10,000 letters per week.

I’ve always been in awe of advice columnists. They’re astoundingly astute, a rare species of human able to inhale chaos and exhale clarity. Nothing jiggles on them. Nothing flaps. They’re so smart. So sure. So shiny.

I once interviewed Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax, who is perhaps the most shockingly sensible person ever to peck at a keyboard. Star-struck, I giggled nervously and guffawed embarrassingly throughout our chat. She was like the Dalai Lama, and I hoped she would bless me with a sprinkling of her uncanny-sanity dust.

But she didn’t. So let’s call it “her fault” that when I recently began writing my own advice column — Tough Love on — I found the task thrilling and stimulating and fun … but chest-squeezingly, brain-painingly, teeth-grindingly hard. So far, I’ve been hit up for help by a woman with herpes, a man whose wife dresses him funny, and a mom who caught her teen smoking pot.

No to Botox

I don’t know what “natural beauty” is, but if I ever had it, it’s been long since smothered by the increasing mess of products I use to remain presentable as I age: tooth whiteners, lip plumpy-ups, retinol creams. I believe that if nature had intended for us to be beautiful as-is, she wouldn’t have invented tweezers.

So I don’t begrudge people who undergo cosmetic procedures to reverse the ruthless tug of time. Who among us hasn’t fantasized about having a silicone rack up to here and out to there? Who hasn’t stood at a mirror and pulled her flesh up around her hairline, watching in amazement as her skin stretched back to its sublime teenage tautness? Who didn’t recently invest in a waist-cinching, “tummy-taming” camisole called Suddenly Skinny, which is now her very favorite item of clothing and without which she will never again leave the house? (Wait … was that just me?).

But there is one vanity procedure to which I won’t submit: injecting Botox to eliminate the creases on my forehead. It’s not because I have concerns about shooting poison into my face (says the woman who bleached her hair throughout her pregnancies). It’s not even because, at a few hundred dollars per Botox prick, I’d be trading my wrinkled-haggard look for a financially destitute-haggard look.