By WALLACE BAINE
We here in the newspaper business are all wearing black armbands in memory of Dear Abby, who along with her identical twin sister Ann Landers, formed a kind of two-headed Platonic ideal of the advice
columnist. You could make the case that each of them sold more newspapers than any other single individual in history.
I often wondered how Abby, who died Jan. 16 at the age of 94, endorsed all those checks she received from newspaper syndicates, given that she had a lot of names. She was known as “Dear Abby” as shorthand for her pen name, which was Abigail Van Buren. Her “real” name, however, was Pauline Phillips, which was, alas, a married name. As a child, she was known as “Popo,” but she was born Pauline Esther Friedman – not to be confused with Esther Pauline Friedman, who became Eppie Lederer, who became Ann Landers. Both multi-named women, we should add, were born on the Fourth of July in 1918.
If you draw it up on a flow chart, it makes more sense.
Anyway, back when Abby retired from the advice game more than a decade ago, I threw my hat in the ring to be her successor, though I had one fewer identical twin that she had, which must have been a factor since I didn’t get the job. You certainly must remember the cut-throat free-for-all that followed the announcement that the Dear Abby gig was up for grabs. The roster of competitors included everyone from Gary Coleman to Arianna Huffington to Arnold Schwarzenegger – though they might have been another media circus from 2003. I get confused some times.
So, I include here my “audition column” that I had submitted to the search committee. They started calling me “Dear Crabby,” obviously because my zodiac is Cancer and for no other reason. Eventually, they went “in another direction,” but I thought I did pretty well. You be the judge:
Dear Crabby: My daughter is now a 22-year-old grown adult. But she has made an appointment to have an enormous tattoo put on her back, some of kind of burning she-devil in fishnet stockings, or something similarly awful. I am in high distress over this situation, and she won’t listen to reason. What can I do to stop this terrible mistake? Signed, The Abominable Mom.
Dear Mom: I assume you’ve tried all the usual motherly extortion techniques – though I’ve found through hard experience that “It’ll just kill your father” has the opposite of the intended effect. Be warned. The only reasonable path open to you is pre-emptive action. Have the offending tattoo applied to your own saggy, pasty middle-aged backside. Your daughter will be appropriately horrified and get nauseous at the smell of tattoo ink for the rest of her life. The only superpower we parents possess is the power to make things instantly uncool. Use it. I do it all the time, aping idiotic behavior I don’t want my daughter to adopt, and she’s turned into a properly mature young lady. In fact, yesterday she grounded me for three weeks.
Dear Crabby: Last week, I found on my husband’s computer a link to a very disturbing video involving several nude women and a waffle iron. I don’t know exactly what it is, because it wouldn’t download properly. I am extremely upset and frustrated. But I don’t know whether I should confront him about it. What should I do? Signed, No Longer Loving Waffles.
Dear Waffles: This is an easy one. If you’ve already refreshed your browser and your video won’t load, the problem is probably with your wi-fi router. I found that if you turn off the router, then turn it back on, it will re-establish a strong connection and you’re back in business. No need to trouble the hubby! You’re welcome.
Dear Crabby: This guy I used to date in high school says some pretty obnoxious things about Obama on Facebook. I decided to unfriend him, but now he’s following my Twitter feed and my Tumblr page, and is trying to connect to me on Linked-In and Instagram. I just want the guy to go away. How would you handle this situation? Signed, Creeped Out.
Dear Creeped Out: It’s 2003, and I have no clue what any of this means. Have you tried messaging him through Friendster?
Dear Crabby: I have an identical twin sister with whom I have some rather severe sibling-rivalry issues. She and I are in the same line of work, competing for the same audience in the same space. Every time I give her advice to go into some other business, she gives me the same line. I can barely be civil to her these days. What to do? Signed, Dear Abby
Dear Dear Abby: Obviously you need something to separate yourself from your sister in the mind of the public. Have you considered changing your name? I’m kind of fond of “Popo.”