My friend Wendy’s advice column, Dear Wendy, is not only a relationship advice column, it’s a tight-knit on-line (and frequently in person) community, a cottage industry, and a literary cult experience. Wendy receives dozens of letters a week, chooses the ones that strike the deepest chord with her, and responds to two or three a day.
Both advice columns and relationship sites are places I don’t habitually visit. But when I got to know Wendy, quite a few years ago now, I went to check out what she was writing. Immediately, there were two things that really caught my attention. Almost whatever I thought Wendy would advise, she advised the opposite. And it wasn’t because we differed in our views. It was that Wendy is very skilled and very practiced at seeing what’s written between the lines, and catching the letter-writer in their omissions, biases and purposeful inattention to salient details in their relationships. Sort of like a good therapist who supports your wants and needs, but forces you to re-think some of those staid ideas. The other thing I enjoyed and squirmed about right away when reading Dear Wendy is that she’s totally opinionated. I know, people are writing to her for advice. But still, I am reticent to give people unasked for advice- again, they’re asking Wendy- and I have trepidation about giving friends relationship advice, so it struck me as refreshing and audacious that Wendy could give out such strong, opinionated….opinions. Again, I know- advice column! But still, it’s very fun to voyeuristically listen in when someone is seeking relationship advice and someone is so artfully and skillfully doling it out.
Dear Wendy is very well written. Wendy has perfected the perfect mix of caring, humor and constructive criticism. It goes a long way too that she shares her personal life in meaningful, rewarding anecdotes and she does not hide any warts. She shares her own insecurities and uncertainty, and she’s lived and experienced life and has acquired a lot of wisdom.
Another thing you can’t miss on Dear Wendy is the comments. It takes about five minutes to ascertain the extent to which her readers are devoted. Wendy smartly posts at regular times of the day, I think three times every day, and her regulars, of whom there are many, check in for each post and talk to each other about EVERYTHING. Her readers have made friendships through Dear Wendy. They even regularly meet up in NY, Chicago, St Louis, California, anywhere, often with Wendy coming out for the drinks or picnic as well.
About a month ago I began to imagine writing a personal essay about celebrating and talking about the holidays with my four year-old son. I wanted to write about how hard and confusing this has been, and to be able to laugh at my stumbling. Very quickly, I thought of and hoped it was something Wendy would accept for her site, as she frequently publishes guest writers. I try to keep this blog writing–related, and my Santa conundrum is decidedly not.
Here today, on Dear Wendy, please find another side of my life in progress. And good luck with your holiday myth-making this year!