How to Stop Being A DoorMat

When I was a kid and first started reading the newspaper I read the comics and Dear Abby. I loved Dear Abby. She always had an answer that seemed kind and practical and in certain pitiful cases she’d end with: Write again, I care. She really cared. I always tried to think of advice I might need so I could write to her and maybe see my letter in the paper.

At some later point I also had access to Ann Landers which I also liked.

Eventually I got old enough to have my own opinions about how people should solve their problems and these two columns became a source of great irritation. Ninety percent of the letters were some version of, “I’m acting like a total doormat and everyone steps on me, what should I do?” and the response was always some version of: “Stop acting like a doormat and people won’t step on you. Get help if needed.” The rest of the letters were always some sort of warning about incredible danger from random items or places if you weren’t careful: dental floss that could kill you, standing at the bus stop could prove deadly, etc.

I stopped reading this type of advice column for many, many years. Then, a few years ago, for reasons I can’t make sense of, I started to glance at them now and then, perhaps with the slim hope that there might be some advice worth reading. This reminds me of my cousin Jennifer and the comic Family Circus. It used to be a big joke on Sunday morning to say to her, “Family Circus is funny today.” She’d say, “Let me see,” and grab the paper hopefully and then frown and say, “It is not. It’s NEVER funny.”

Several years ago there was a shake up in the Abby/Ann world. Ann died, taking her column with her (and aside, an advice columnist that I like Dan Savage bought her desk.) Meanwhile, Abby became ill with Alzheimer’s and her daughter took over her column and she was beyond awful. I was happy when the Oregonian dropped the column even though I never read it.

The Oregonian brought in two new columns. “Tell Me About It” by Carolyn Hax is one of my favorites. It’s targeted more for 20/30 somethings and relationships and no matter how convoluted and unsolvable a problem seems, she always has sane and useful advice that’s usually based on honesty and communication. She’s also not shy about telling an unreasonable person (say, a bridezilla) that’s she’s being a complete ass and to knock it off.

The other column is the whole reason for this post. It’s called Ask Amy and She Is Dreadful.

Remember when you were a kid and there was a kid that wasn’t really your friend, but you ended up playing with him (or her) now and then because of a birthday party or some sort of carpool to swimming lessons or something like that, and that kid had a prissy Mom? She would be a rigorous disciplinarian and say things like, “at our house we don’t wipe our nose with our sleeve” or “in our family we say please and thank you” and her kids always seems a click off, like maybe paralyzing shyness or a subtle sadistic streak. And you never felt like this was a wise and authoritative grown-up you wanted to listen to, you felt like she didn’t know what the hell she was doing and you wanted to make fun of her because she was such a priss. This is what I think about when I read Ask Amy.

I think of her sitting, at the right hand of James Dobson. A perfect example is the column this weekend where a person wrote in to say that her husband was trying to set up a business service and when the service person told him how long it would be, he exclaimed, “Jesus Christ!” The service person was completely offended and refused to do business with them. The person seeking advice thought the service person was acted inappropriately and asked for Amy’s opinion.

Let’s set aside the whole question of what kind of person writes to an advice columnist on a matter like this. Prissy Amy said that she wouldn’t want to do business with a person who exclaimed “Jesus Christ” either because she wouldn’t want a customer who was a hothead. Then she goes on to praise the free market, telling the person they can find another service person.

What a moronic response.

That service is running a business not a church picnic. People exclaim all kinds of things in frustration or exasperation. It doesn’t make them hard to work with. The business person should be happy he didn’t say “bite me f&*king c#@ksucker.” And yes, the letter writer should seek another service person. That buckethead isn’t worthy of your money.

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