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The Village Pickle

Some local advice to brine in

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This is the first installment of the Village Pickle, 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 akline@ysnews.com or at ysnews.com under “Submissions.” —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!

QUESTION: My boyfriend and I have decided to move in together. How do I tell my current roommate/best friend who is already excitedly hunting for our next apartment? To complicate matters, my roommate and I have been having issues because of her high stress and exhaustion from being a nurse, making living with my boyfriend all the more appealing. Do I tell her that that is part of my reasoning?

VP: Telling your best friend her bad mood is one the reasons you want to change your living arrangements is

A) adding insult to injury
B) rubbing salt in a wound
C) all of the above

It seems that while moving out has become a more attractive option in recent months, adding this last bit is, fundamentally, unnecessary. Why make a hard conversation worse? Also, since your main reason for switching abodes is moving in with your boyfriend as opposed to moving away from her, you can still be honest with her and omit this one particular factor.

As for how you tell her, I recommend applying the Golden Rule while also being highly strategic about timing. If you were in her situation, and anticipating a future that was not to be, you would want to know sooner rather than later, no? Better to have short term disappointment with plenty of time to adjust one’s expectations than long-cherished plans with only a short time to make new ones.

In terms of timing, pick a moment when she is at her least stressed. I also suggest having a trip planned so she can do her fuming/grieving/seething alone. For example, talk to her on a Wednesday and go visit family for the weekend. That gives her enough time to respond while you’re still around but limits your exposure to any initial negative reaction. Generally speaking, people will adapt to changes in their plans but the initial adjustment can be tricky.

As to what exactly you say, I would be straightforward, acknowledge her feelings, and focus on the positive of both this next step with your boyfriend and your friendship with her. “Mr. Man and I have been talking and we both think it’s the right time in our relationship to move in together. It wouldn’t be until our lease is up, but I wanted to tell you now so you could have enough time to find a really good place on your own. I’ll miss [insert fun roomie activity here] so hopefully we can still do dinner/get drinks/walk our dogs on a regular basis.”

Click here to read all the ‘Pickles.’


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One Response to “Some local advice to brine in”

  1. Amy Magnus says:

    I’m a fan of Carolyn Has too. Reading the stories of families not sure how to they’d get through Christmas was sobering. Our village is like a close family. Best wishes, Alisa, helping us through the rough patches.

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