Monday, October 19, 2009

Dear DoubleX, Hire me as your advice columnist

Friend or Foe, the advice column on Slate's lady-centric spinoff, DoubleX, is the worst advice column I can recall reading. This is saying something, because I am a junkie; I consume advice columns in bulk. (In case you were wondering, thet best ones are, in this order: Carolyn Hax, Miss Manners, Cary Tennis (Since You Asked on Salon), Dear Prudence, Savage Love, The Name Lady (ParentDish), and Dear Amy).

The idea behind the column, focusing on friendships rather than romantic relationships, is great--it fills a niche that I dont think any other column focuses on, and it makes sense on a website for chicks. But there are two major problems, one surmountable, one not.

The fixable: the author (Lucinda Rosenfeld) bases her answers on HUGE unstated assumptions about the letters she's responding to. Recently she got into a kerfluffle with commenters after she insinuated that a woman who said she'd been roofied at a bar had screwed up somehow, and said that she should not have expected her friends to come pick her up from the hospital. She admitted in a response to the pissed-off readers that she had assumed, based on the fact that the letter-writer said her friends were "angry" at her the next day, that the woman must have asked unreasonable favors of them before. But in the answer itself she didn't say that; instead she said that the friends "must think you're lying" about having been drugged, and snidely commented "Only you know the truth."

If the author thought maybe the woman was lying, presumably that would be an important fact to note and discuss in the column. Relegating it to a parenthetical snark is just bizarre, unless the point is to sound a edgily bitchy, in which case I think that's just a deranged approach to advice column-writing. (For an excellent example of how to write a column that points out the holes in the letter-writer's story and talks about them intelligently, see this recent Carolyn Hax masterpiece.)

Which brings me to the problem I dont think can be solved: the answer the author gives to "Friend or Foe?" is basically always "Foe." (Or maybe "Friend, but keep in mind that men are more important than your female friends.") In the roofie column, she said that it would be a boyfriend's responsibility to come get the drugged woman from the hospital, but not a friend's. This makes me quite sad for Ms. Rosenfeld (and her friends). Why write a column about friendship if you think it's basically a bankrupt institution?

DoubleX editors: If you decide to flip the script, I would be overjoyed to write an advice column about friendship that does not assume friendship is a big farce.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hear, hear. i'd read it.