Advice columnist Amy Dickinson faces her toughest challenge yet
Dear Amy: As you probably know, I’ve been writing the nationally syndicated advice column “Ask Amy” for over a decade. Every day. For over a decade. Yes, that’s right, every single day in my daily column every day, I, Amy Dickinson, respond to three people who send me emails about their problems. Three people. Every single day.
Sometimes people send me detailed descriptions of their various troubles and predicaments, their trials and tribulations, literal litanies of everything wrong in their lives. And I have to respond. Sometimes they send me short little comments criticizing me for every “wrong” or “incomplete” bit of advice I’ve ever given. And I have to respond. No matter what, I have to respond. I have to respond with sound, responsible, compassionate, empathetic, practical and helpful advice that can actually improve people’s lives. But sometimes this can be pretty damn hard. You know why? Because it turns out you Americans are actually really f**ked up! I know that as somewhat of a mental health professional myself, I’m not supposed to say things like this, but sometimes people like me need to f**king vent too! So let me be the first to tell you: All of you Americans are crazy! You’re bats**t crazy! Every last one a’ yas!
When I first started this job, I thought it would be more of a lighthearted, silly and humorous little gig. I thought I’d come to be known as a comedic personality by writing clever and witty responses to amusing but only mildly unfortunate stories from otherwise happy people. But this job has really destroyed my faith in humanity. Before starting my column, I genuinely believed that most people were “mostly happy,” “happy enough,” “just about happy” or at least “not unhappy.” I thought that people didn’t really have that many serious concerns in general. But NOPE! That is far from the truth! Y’all are coping with some serious s**t! And you’re not afraid to share it in the newspaper either! I mean it. People are surprisingly willing—much more willing than you’d think—to actually write in national newspapers about some of the most serious, deep, problematic, real, heartbreaking and messed-up s**t that used to be inconceivable to me!
I had to counsel a wife on whether or not to leave her husband who got caught going on sex benders after he was sent an email receipt for leaving an online review for a prostitute. I had to help a woman whose Catholic family was harassing her for not baptizing her child. I had to tell a couple whether they should ghost the friend who incessantly accused them of asking her to be in a threesome with them when they never made such a request. I had to explain to a woman that her husband was most likely not trying to ruin her life by telling her negative information about everything that she likes. I had to respond to concerns about a potentially racist dog! I had to coach someone on how to politely get a neighbor (who potentially had mental health or substance abuse problems) to stop going on their property and watering their lawn and windows. I had to mediate a spousal argument about whether sneaking up on each other in the house is funny or traumatic. I had to address someone who feared that they were facilitating adultery at their church fellowship group after noticing some “funny business” under the table and while “doing the dishes.” I had to set some wacko straight after he claimed it was “a farce” and not “morally right” for his wife’s niece to get married while wearing a white gown given that she is not a virgin.
Some of this may sound funny, but I have to deal with these things every day! And you people aren’t getting any saner, despite my years of hard work! You see, I quite literally have people’s lives and future happiness in my hands. Sometimes, it can be tempting to play God and purposely give people bad advice so I can sit back and watch the show, knowing that I am the puppet-master behind the fortunes and misfortunes of a disturbingly large number of Americans. And sometimes, it can be tempting to just crank out the daily column in a minute or two, just throwing random advice at the wall to see what sticks.
But I know I can’t do that. I used to think that this column might one day lead to a better job opportunity, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that having the mental health of the entire country in my hands is nothing if not a dead-end job. Help! What do I do, Amy? Can I quit this Godforsaken job at last? Or would the entire country collapse if I did that?
—Disillusioned as f**k about the fact that my advice is quite possibly the one and only thing keeping a disturbingly large number of Americans from kidnapping their boss, vandalizing their neighbor’s car, stealing their ex’s cat, murdering their in-laws with their bare hands, finding themselves on the wrong side of a race riot “by accident,” passive-aggressively rearranging their housemate’s spice cupboard and/or drinking themselves to an early grave, a grave who’s eventual location would have to be determined in court after years of dispute between the Catholic and Jewish halves of their extended family.
Dear Disillusioned AF: It’s great to hear from you (me), Amy. It’s been a while. You (I) certainly have a demanding job and are under a lot of pressure to do your (my) job well. On one hand, I (you) hope you (I) might be able to take some of your (my) own advice from your (my) recent column titled, “If I’m ‘lucky to have a job,’ why am I miserable?” In this column, I (you) stressed that having steady employment during the pandemic is definitely something to be happy about, not miserable.
On the other hand, I (you) would advise you (me) to consider a sabbatical. Or, in other words, to go on a long break from your (my) relationship with your (my) readers. Based on all of the evidence that you (I) have presented to me (you), it seems like you’re (I’m) not in a “dead-end job”—rather, you’re (I’m) in what is best described as a psychologically and emotionally abusive relationship with America—and by extension, the millions of Americans who count on you (me) to help them with their problems.
I (you) also encourage you (me) to realize that most people may not realize how stressful this job can be, so it might be healthy if you (I) gave them the benefit of the doubt. Start by having a heart-to-heart with these millions of people, every last one of them, and encourage them to empathize with your (my) unique position. If that doesn’t work, then you (I) need to get out of this relationship as soon as possible. Based on your (my) unfiltered and hysterical letter to me (you), it is possible that you (I) could be the crazed advice-seeker that finally pushes me (you) over the edge. Wait a second, if I’m (you’re) writing this to you (me), does that mean that I’ve (you’ve) already failed?? Oh no, I (you) think I’m (you’re) finally losing it! I (you) mean it! For your (my) own good, you (I) need to quit this job RIGHT NOW before it’s too la—
Written by: Benjamin Porter— firstname.lastname@example.org
(This article is humor and/or satire, and it’s content is purely fictional. The story and or names of “sources” are fictionalized.)