The Village Pickle is a column the News will publish periodically both on the letters page and online at ysnews.com. Readers who find themselves in a jam and in need of some non-proscriptive advice are invited to submit to The Village Pickle at the link below. —ED.
My name is Anisa Kline and I’m your friendly neighborhood advice columnist. What’s that? You wonder why I have decided to dispense advice to the directionless, the lovelorn, or the embattled?
Well, to start with, I do it all the time anyway. I commonly inflict my What To Do After High School lecture on friendly teenagers, with a chaser email of helpful links and names of organizations or colleges. I have waylaid acquaintances with kind words of advice, as well as friends of friends, their cousins, neighbors, and the passing meter maid!
In all seriousness, though, I have spent a long time living in community, and nurturing and maintaining close friendships. These long-term relationships have given me the opportunity to watch people grow and evolve over time and learn from my friends’ choices, both good and bad. I have also evolved through such friendships, learning to appreciate differences and see the world from many points of view.
It may strike some that my young age immediately disqualifies me from telling other people what to do. I will say that I am quite well read in the advice cannon — I read the entire Ann Landers anthology as a child and have read the entire oeuvre of Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. I also follow Philip Galanes, who writes “Social Qs” for the New York Times, and occasionally check out what Dan Savage of “Savage Love” has to say.
The common theme of a good advice column is that it is not proscriptive. Instead, the columnist provides a different perspective and some emotional distance, allowing the writer to consider multiple points of view. When the response does include actions, it is usually in the form of suggestions or ideas for alternative ways to deal with the writer’s problem (think: answering prying questions from relatives, responding to backhanded compliments by a mother-in-law, dealing with an overly competitive friend, etc). Even if they’re not followed, such suggestions provide examples of tone and content that the advice-seeker can refer to when deciding how to address their situation.
Fundamentally, an advice column is an examination of human nature. It is not uncommon for people to see their own situations reflected in a letter writer’s dilemma, or perhaps in the life of a friend. Even when the advice isn’t applicable in one’s personal life, the issues can enlarge your perspective and increase your understanding of unfamiliar terrain. A good advice column provides a hopefully useful perspective for the letter writer, contributes to a larger conversation about how we navigate the complexities of modern life, and provides some entertaining reading on a Sunday afternoon.
I look forward to starting this dialogue here in Yellow Springs, and I hope to address all questions with respect, wit and grace. Here’s to advice, solicited or otherwise!