Being middle-aged and rapidly ascending the slopes of Mount Geezerhood, I find myself in the increasingly awkward situation of not knowing what I want to be when I grow up. Like any strapping, red-blooded American boy, I went through much of my life more than a little concerned about what it meant to be ‘strapping’.
I also went through the typical childhood process of determining my future profession from my consumption of 1970s television. Over time, I weeded out many of these options based on the information I gleaned from my expert friends at school who seemed so much more worldly than I—the very same ‘experts,’ I later realized, who ate boogers and paste.
Through them, I discovered that bionics are not real, cowboys have to work really hard with very few shootouts, private investigative work is largely tedious also with very few shootouts, and perhaps most disappointing, there is surprisingly little money to be made driving around in the General Lee.
Now that I have mostly survived into adulthood, I am thinking that I want to be some sort of consultant. This seems like easy money because the only thing people like better than being left alone is being told what to do. They do this so that when a decision is made, there is someone to blame other than themselves and they can thereafter feel good about themselves until the next agonizing decision throws them back into the unseemly world of seeking council in a never-ending swirly of overconfident incertitude.
The only apparent requirement to opening a consulting business is to have previously accomplished something about which you can consult. My idea is to be a headstand and Twinkie-dunking consultant as these are the two things I can point to as having accomplished, albeit not at the same time.
Perhaps a better way for me to tell people what to do is to be is an advice columnist. I have discovered through the past grueling ½ hour of doing research in my pajama pants that much like being a politician, there are no official qualifications required to be an advice columnist, making it something that I am unequivocally qualified to do.
An advice column is where people write in and ask a stranger to tell them what to do about their mother-in-law who is always telling them what to do.
Dear Abby is probably the most famous life adviser whose real name was Pauline. Abby/Pauline was suited to give out advice in that she was a writer and thus able to type. When Pauline died, her daughter Jeanne took over as Abby, leaving her previous employment as an interior designer to wax eloquent about human relationships:Dear Abby, My uncle always gets drunk and spoils family gatherings. What should we do? Signed, A. Noid Dear A, Try moving him next to the armoire where there is plenty of light and dressing him up with a colorful chiffon throw.
Abby’s rival and twin sister, Ann Landers (whose name was Eppie), also made it big telling people what to do. Other than lying about her name, Ann’s qualifications stand out in that she had a BS degree in psychology whereas most advice columnists just have a degree in BS.
For example, Carolyn Hax has a degree in Liberal Arts, which means she majored in paintings and sculptures of Nancy Pelosi. Amy Dickinson is a journalist and former producer for NBC News, so she has experience in editing out problems that might be unflattering or too truthful. Both of these women are uniquely qualified to dispense relational advice in that they are divorced. I have never been divorced but I did once hit a girl with a snowball, which put our relationship on ice.
Jeanne Marie Laskas is a professor of creative writing and even puts a disclaimer in her column that she is not an expert but that she has “uncommon sense.” I have a few rare coins stashed away somewhere and so also have “uncommon cents,” which is close enough.
I suppose if I go this direction, I need a catchy name. Popular these days is to use one’s first name and put ‘Dr.’ in front of it: Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr. Teeth, etc. Even Ozzy Osbourne has an advice column called Dr. Ozzy. Besides occasionally shrieking, “All Abooooooaaard!” Ozzy has the added gimmick of being able to dispense his advice using only the letters m, n, and u. (“Mumn un munmun nun. Mumunun.”)
The name Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby fame was created from a biblical first name followed by a presidential last name. This strikes me as a good idea but I would have a hard time choosing between Artaxerxes Roosevelt and Michael Jackson, though the latter would be patently more entertaining:
Dear Michael Jackson, My girlfriend’s ex still calls her all the time and often spoils our time together. What can I do? Signed, Threatened
Dear Threatened, 2 Bad about your P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing). You Can’t Let Her Get Away. Say, Say, Say to Heartbreaker, “We’ve Had Enough. Don’t Be Messin’ ‘Round. The Girl is Mine. Beat It!” Ah-shhhhhh. Shamo! Whoooooo!
One time-saving idea I have for my column is to have a coded response list. This idea stems from the fact that every advice column I have read could be answered one of five ways:
- Stop being stupid
- Quit whining.
- It’s called a conversation; have it.
- People are idiots. Acknowledge and move on.
- Stop being really stupid.
Q: What should I do if I just moved in with my boyfriend and found out he does drugs? A: 1
Q: What should I do about my relative who drives me crazy? A: 2-4
Q: What if I’ve just spent the last four years as Vice President? A: 5
So if you have questions and need to be told what to do, be sure to send them in to Dr. conTIMplating Methuselah Fillmore. All Aboooooaaard!