Sometimes Guys Just Say Things


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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45 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Um… people write to a stranger on the internet to ask major life advice about complicated s**t going on in their lives? That’s a thing?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      You’ve never heard of Ann Landers?

      Talking about Prudie columns used to be a pretty regular thing at HC until my former coblogger and I parted ways.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        To be honest, I always assumed Ann Landers made up letters and then replied to them.

        But more to the point…

        Learning that there is some modern electronic version of Ann Landers is like being told that gynecologists still call up the husbands of their patients to let them know the results of checkups rather than just telling their patients. Of course you know that it used to happen all the time — it’s just bloody hard to fathom that it still does.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I’m really surprised that you’re not familiar with Prudie (Emily Yoffe). She’s been a staple on Slate for years, and became popular enough that Washington Post started running it. Apart from being Prudie, she made some news by outing a priest and politician (Robert Drinan) that molested her, and earned the ire of feminists with her views of college and drinking and rape.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


          How do you feel about the stuff people write or call into Dan Savage about then?

          A sample:

          • Avatar Kolohe says:

            That was my first thought on this subthread, too. “Tod, you’ve never heard of Dan Savage? The man who redefined Santorum?”Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            Seriously, my first encounter with Dan Savage was driving through Columbia, Mo. going through the radio stations, looking for something to listen to, when the radio came to Dan Savage. I listened for a few minutes before I picked up my jaw; but the only reason I kept listening was I thought that I had come across a public access station, and should probably call the authorities to notify them about some psycho.

            I haven’t listened to him since.Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          @tod-kelly — I prefer Captain Awkward, cuz she’s a nerd like me. But yeah, people write in with their problems and she gives them advice on how to deal with it. Her advice is good, even if rather predictable most of the time.

          But on the other hand, it’s predictable cuz I’ve read enough of it and it’s stuff a lot of women have a problem figuring out on their own.

          People really do get into tricky social situations, and often they know what they want, but they need someone to lay it all out for them. Often these people are young and from very messy families, and thus they’ve learned some pretty dysfunctional bullshit. Many are neuro-diverse or otherwise not socially adept. Having a neutral voice break it down is a huge plus. Keep in mind, some people do not have good life skills for various reasons, often arising from the fact they come from terrible families and have bad models.

          In any event, I’ve never felt the need to write into one of the sites. On the other hand, when my g/f was struggling with an abusive roommate, the advice I gave her was basically textbook Captain Awkward.

          Some of it she even followed.Report

        • Avatar j r says:

          I’m surprised this particular column didn’t make it onto your radar:

          It is a question supposedly from a mother whose kid belongs to an exclusive play group and was worried because she was being pressured to bring expensive organic snacks that she couldn’t quite afford.

          If there was ever a candidate for a made up letter, this is it.Report

        • You’re thinking of Penthouse.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      A lot of times people know the answer but reaffirmed by a source without any emotional investment in them. Other times people want advice from a seemingly neutral source. Advice columnists are cheaper than therapists.Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    I guess it’s an internet advice columnists job to over-interpret these things. Otherwise, in the vast majority of cases, with the little information we have, always from one perspective, there wouldn’t be much to go on.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      Moreover, if you’re offering advice to the public (the individual behind the letter has, by the time you’ve responded, undoubtedly got plenty of personalized advice from friends, relatives, etc) you’d want to go generic.

      A response of “Look, probably just him saying ‘Let me compliment the bride in a stereotypical guy way by indicating leaving her was a horrible thing, ergo she is awesome” is pretty bland and most people would get that anyways. So you’d generalize and push the situation out further — what about stalker ex’s and the ones that can’t let go? THERE’s a bigger problem, and people can simplify downwards….

      So I’ve always assumed advice columnists go for an extreme interpretation so people see the bad case, the difficult situation, rather than the relatively harmless.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        My first thought, which is equally ignorant of the facts of course, was that her writing the letter in the first place probably says more about her feelings for him than his making what might have been an offhand remark says about his feelings for her.Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    1. His name is Hugh Laurie.

    2. Dear Prudence/Emily Yoffee seems to get universally attacked by the left and the right. A lot of my friends seem to hate on her for being the world’s worst advice columnist.

    3. I always wonder which letters are real things and which are made up by pranksters trying to get the most outlandish “problems/situations” in. This one seems like a perfectly real scenario if one that is a bit too Hollywood seeming.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I really should have remembered that. I pseudonymed people on Hit Coffee based on his name. Drew a blank.

      I actually like her quite a bit. But nobody’s perfect, and it’s more interesting to talk about her when she’s wrong than when she’s right.Report

      • Avatar Dan Scotto says:

        I’m with Will on Prudie; hers is the only advice column I read regularly.Report

        • I used to read Miss Manners (is she still around?) because I loved her combination of sensible advice (e.g. do not behave as if everyone you work with were a close personal friend) and Emily Post turned up to 11 (of course he didn’t call again after you showed yourself to be a loose woman by wearing the wrong color gloves.)Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Dear Sugar is an Internet Columnist who is more popular among the hipster-literary set but it ended three years ago:

    There was a big to do when Cheryl Strayed was revealed to be the columnist.Report

  5. Avatar Maribou says:

    I’m always wary of people saying “Wow, person X (who you are hearing about what they said 2nd-hand from person Y) is being SOoooo manipulative, don’t trust them.” If anything, strikes me that person Y is being manipulative.

    Though I agree that both those people probably just have brain-to-mouth-no-filter syndrome. Particular as I myself have to fight the symptoms of this syndrome.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Saying it to the mother-in-law is strange because I doubt he has a relationship with her. So unless it was said in a gracious, flattering, “Your son found a great woman,” kind of way, I’d say it is odd. But that is about as far as I’d go.

    I wonder why the MIL decided to share this?Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      unless it was said in a gracious, flattering, “Your son found a great woman,”

      But this is the most normal explanation. I think the idea that it is a passive-aggressive come-on is wildly silly.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I think the idea that it is a passive-aggressive come-on is wildly silly.

        Depending completely on what stage of dress/undress in which the comment was offered.Report

  7. Avatar Pinky says:

    A friend of mine and I used to read Prudence regularly. We came up with the theory that she isn’t so much answering the particular questions as setting up rules for the general audience. For example, if I recall correctly, she’s very critical of people who make drunken mistakes. She’s not being unsympathetic to the writer so much as she’s trying to communicate to the reader that this kind of thing is avoidable. That’s what this response feels like. She saying: guys, don’t do this, because it’s a jerk move.Report

  8. Avatar Notme says:

    Really? With all the stuff in the world to dicscuss, this is what folks come up with?Report

  9. Avatar Damon says:

    Will, why are you trolling old Slate articles from 5 months ago? 🙂Report

  10. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    If he didn’t know the mother, that is a really weird/unconsidered thing to say to her of all people. But I think it says more about Prudie to assume it’s manipulative and not just weird, or said out of a certain shock of realizing your chances with her are over that you didn’t see coming (most likely scenario in my view). Why would it be so important *now* for her to hear that she was the one that got away – and why enlist the mother in law? DM her. Whatever. That just doesn’t make a lot of sense as a theory to me.Report

  11. Avatar zic says:

    First, I’d guess the guy was paying a compliment in the, “you’re son’s found a great partner” mold. If he had other designs on this woman, I doubt he’d have gone to the wedding.

    Second, I think the real manipulator here is the MIL (and maybe with good reason?) because all we know of what old boyfriend said/thought came second hand via MIL. Maybe she sensed new daughter-in-law wasn’t as committed as seemed appropriate considering the man being married was MIL’s son. So she juices up a compliment as a test to see if it sends the new daughter-in-law into a tail spin. And it did.

    That’s the manipulative behavior here.

    I hope this couple moves far, far away from his family.Report

    • Avatar Dan Scotto says:

      This is a really good point. Maybe the old boyfriend deserves some criticism, but the preponderance should fall on the MIL (who should probably be more concerned about protecting her daughter and the new marriage).Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Hell, we don’t know in what context she told her daughter, either. Maybe she intended it playfully as well. Maybe she knows the guy well.

        Based on the information we have, the only person whom we know to have behaved strangely is the bride, who wrote a letter to an advice columnist in 2015. Everything else said in this thread is speculation out of near complete ignorance, and baseless judgement.Report