Found: Tales from the Front

In the early days of this blog, I was often inspired (enraged? amused?) by Cheryl Lavin’s column, “Tales from the Front,” which was housed by the Chicago Tribune and syndicated at least regionally (I found out last night it used to be in the Detroit Free Press) until recently. Known for writing way too many columns on “nice guys and overweight wives” and making whole columns out of reader anecdotes without dispensing any advice–no matter how badly it’s needed, the column was dropped from both the print and electronic editions of the Chicago Trib last fall.

But now Cheryl’s back, convieniently, on creators.com, the same site that hosts Dear Margo, Classic Ann Landers, Annie’s Mailbox, Advice Goddess, and others. In honor of her return, I present you with a breakfast blend of disasters, heartbreak, and attempted sass, in honor of my friend JZ’s friend (haaaa JZ), a recent advice column enthusiast, who inspired me to go looking for Cheryl one more time.

Dear Cheryl,

I’m going out of my mind over my current situation. I met my wife three years ago in a chat room. We talked a bit, exchanged phone numbers and eventually met. It was love at first sight. We got along great, same interests and all that. I moved in with her and her five kids not long after that. We got engaged a year later and married soon after, in October 2007. We had the wedding at the house. Lots of family and friends came. It was a wonderful day. We had our honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains.

Everything seemed to be going just fine. Everyone got along. My family even came over for Thanksgivings. I met the kids’ fathers. My wife had been married twice before me, and I got along with her ex-husbands just fine.

I knew she had issues with her dad growing up as well as self-esteem issues, but she seemed to be handling them well. She would always tell me how glad she was that I was with her, how great I was with the kids, how much I loved her and how much she loved me.

Then I found out she had an eating disorder. She would purge. She shared the information on a Website for mothers. She told me to just deal with it. I let it go thinking it wouldn’t last. I also didn’t want to upset her. I wasn’t working for a while, and she worked part-time, so I did the whole Mr. Mom thing, taking care of the kids, the house, cooking, cleaning, etc.

Then she started getting distant. One day, I came home from a funeral, and out of nowhere, she asked me to leave.She just told me to get out. She said she didn’t want to be with me anymore. I moved out a day later because I didn’t want to upset the kids who really love me, and I didn’t want her making any false accusations about me and have me arrested. She has a mean streak.

I’ve tried to talk to her since, but she wants nothing to do with me at all. She doesn’t want to work on our marriage or try to save it. I just don’t understand how someone who I thought loved me so much could turn so cold. — CONFUSED

Dear CONFUSED,

Get on a plane, fly directly to Las Vegas, and start playing the slot machines because you are one lucky dude. Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be rid of this nutcase? Buy a couple of lottery tickets, buster, because you’re getting away with just a broken heart and whiplash. You could have had a baby with her, and you’d be tied to her for life.

She’s certifiable. Trust me. Any woman who allows a man whom she’s just met to move in with her and her five children is so unfit it’s not even funny. I really hope the kids have decent fathers because they need them.

Lack of self-esteem, daddy issues and purging are just the tip of her particular iceberg. She has some major personality flaws, and the sooner you’re legally divorced from her the better off you are. No going back, even if she begs you!

And by the way, someone with a mean streak might deliberately say something cruel. Someone who would falsely accuse a man of sexually abusing a child is evil. And that’s who you know she is.

Put five bucks on red for me.

Wow, for me the sexual abuse thing came out of left field….I suppose (maybe) that’s what he was implying when he said he left quickly before she could make any false accusations, but to be honest that hadn’t occurred to me until I got to Cheryl’s response.

The only problem I have with this kind of snarky response is that it doesn’t actually offer any help. Every columnist has their own style. Amy tends to be all business, while Carolyn has a knack for empathy interwoven with wit. Amy Alkon will mock you openly, but while she’s at it, at least she tells you what to do. Cheryl, on the other hand, is too busy playing out her “lucky” bit to dispense any practical advice. That in and of itself is not a bad thing….it might help this guy get his head around the fact that it’s GOOD that this is over. But she says nothing about finding a lawyer and getting divorce proceedings underway immediately (just that a divorce would be good) or at least filing for a legal separation. Nothing about ensuring that his wife has no access to his finances, nothing about talking to the other ex-husbands, which might not be a terrible idea if they had met and been friendly before. Nothing about ensuring that the kids are protected from abuse and manipulation…..

I mean, I know she’s a love columnist, and so here she focuses on the love: it was a bad, false, dangerous and manipulative love. It’s over. Yaaaaaaay.

But if that bad, false, dangerous manipulative love led to a bad, false, manipulative marriage, then there are all kinds of practical and legal implications that are now inevitable. Since this guy still seems to be holding his head in his hands, heartbroken, I wish she had given him some steps to make sure he doesn’t wind up with his credit rating stomped on, as well as his heart.

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