Links: Advice From The Masters

by Symptom Advice on January 21, 2012

We all know that most advice columns are more about entertaining readers than about giving useful, logical counsel, and that’s fine, but, believe it or not, sometimes those two things can exist symbiotically.  Advice columns have gone from exclusively being the domain of prim and prudish agony aunts to giving realistic, down-and-dirty real-talk answers.  The expectations and morals of both readers and writers are changing, and it’s making for some really good articles.  If you’re a little voyeuristic, like me, then advice columns are a perfect read. if you’re at all savvy to alternative newspapers, then you know that the figurehead of this trend is Dan Savage, who writes a sex-advice column, “Savage love.” His column’s been running in “The Stranger” and in syndication by other publications for almost twenty years now, and for good reason – he gives funny, kinky sex-positive advice that often goes against the grain (e.g. advocating cheating in some situations and celebrating weird fetishes) and satisfies curiosities that readers can’t indulge elsewhere, especially not at the myriad knockoff columns that emerged in the wake of “Savage love,” like The L Magazine‘s “The Natural Redhead” and Time Out new York‘s “get Naked.”  Trust me, go with the original.

Relationship junkie Lesley Arfin is a relatively new player in this line of work, but she writes in a way that has established her quickly in the field.  Her column, “ask Barf” at Street Carnage gives rational advice in answer to people’s irrational friendships, relationships, and living situations in a way that’s simultaneously sweet and hilariously realistic.  Sample line to a woman who’s got boyfriend anxiety: “I think you have a case of what my friends and I call ‘hate you first.’  When you diss someone first or come up with excuses of why you don’t like them, you never have to get dissed.  You’re protecting yourself from the pain of getting hurt.  It’s pretty common.  Everyone on Seinfeld is a good example of it.”  Her column’s best feature is its accessibility to people who wouldn’t normally write to something in its vein.  Viva Barf!

Jezebel’s long-running video column “Pot Psychology” has a simple, but winning premise: Tracie Egan and Rich Juzwiak get stoney bologna and answer questions from the masses, which are often dirty-minded and usually pretty funny.  There’s always some kind of winning 1980s single accompanying their advice in the background, making it that much more attractive to yours truly.  In some of the most recent installments, they’ve examined the ChatRoulette phenomenon and given advice about, um, maxi-pads.  Although I’m not as experienced as these two in the advice-giving world, I feel that I can safely counsel you against watching the videos at work.

Emily Yoffe  combines the old school of advice columnists with more modern ideologies in Slate‘s “Dear Prudence” column (great name, right?) – think “Dear Abby” with a clue.  She comes off like a concerned parent who keeps a level and loving perspective in the face of some truly insane questions, even managing to do so spontaneously in a live chat that she holds with readers every Monday.  Prudie’s column has become one of the biggest draws for Slate, and rightfully so.

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