So Amy Dickinson…..she’s had a colorful and successful career as a writer (and radio contributor), often in large part due to the challenges and triumphs she’s had as a single mother to her only daughter, now in college.
She was always up front about her “status,” relating to other single parents, discouraged spouses, and frustrated singles just looking for a date. And now….unbeknownst to me (how COULD she???) Amy went ahead and got married about a month ago! Now, it’s not like she was secretive about it…there’s a giant NYT feature. Although I never would have found it if I hadn’t been googling her, certain that chicagotribune.com was not keeping her columns up-to-date (they weren’t).
So….congrats Amy! (Or, as Miss Manners would insist, best wishes for a lifetime of happiness, Amy, and congrats to your groom). And I mean that with all sincerity. She has worked hard, come far, and done it pretty much all on her own….she (well, and everyone!) certainly deserves to have happiness and companionship.
I guess I just feel a little disconcerted because she didn’t let me, and her thousands of other readers, know. No “Oh, I’m getting married, so we’ll be running ‘classic Ann Landers’ for a few weeks until I get back from my honeymoon,” nothing.
One could argue that it’s no one’s business…..but when you’re an advice columnist, and people turn to you for guidance and, well, advice, it does matter. Especially in this day and age. There was a time when the advice columnist’s persona was just a name and a writing style (indeed, the original “Dear Prudence” was a man), and “the advice columnist whose real life is totally counter to his/her trusted column” trope has certainly succeeded in plenty of novels and movies.
But that doesn’t really fly anymore. People don’t trust who they’re reading without a bio and a resume–readers wanted a picture with two heads in it when both Pauline and Jeanne were writing Dear Abby, and only one head when Jeanne took over for good.
Amy’s entrance to the Tribune was marked by a column titled, “She’s here to help” (um, I only remember that because it was linked on her advice page for years, and now of course it is gone…true to Trib form these days), which was basically nothing more than a reference and letter of recommendation, from a trusted figure (naturally now I can’t remember who) to the Trib readership, describing exactly why Amy was qualified to replace Ann Landers.
Advice columnists can’t get away with anonymity any longer, and I’m not sure how far they can get with privacy–ok a certain show of privacy–around their major life choices. Does Amy’s marriage undo the fact that she was an ambitious and successful single mother for 17 years, who can sympathize with and guide her readers as she always has? Of course not.
But, as I learned from the New York Times feature, it does mean that she’s just gained four stepdaughters, two of them adopted from foreign countries.
It seems she had also moved from Chicago back to upstate New York, where she was born (this is how she reconnected with her now-husband, who was a friend from her childhood), to care for her elderly mother.
All of these major changes make her a richer, wiser, and more complex person–and probably a better advice columnist. I hope she intends to incorporate them into the body of experiences she’s willing to draw upon and share for her columns. And that she’ll do that by telling the readers what’s up, and not just mentioning, five years down the road, that her youngest stepdaughter and she have disagreed about dorm furniture.