Last Friday and this morning both featured duplicate letters. Last week, Margo published a letter that appeared in Prudence’s live chat a couple of months ago. This morning, Amy published a letter that Prudence published yesterday. Hmmmm…….
Last Friday’s Dear Margo:
Dear Margo: I am a young (early 20s) Muslim woman. For more than 10 years, I chose to wear a scarf on my head, but my problem is that I don’t want to wear it anymore. I started wearing it on my own because I believed in it, but I’ve been reconsidering for several years now after much thought and study.
I wish I could just take it off, but there are problems. One, my family is very religious and would freak out if I did. (I tried to bring up the subject once, and they were horrified.) I am a college grad currently looking for a job but haven’t found one yet, so I’m stuck at home and, therefore, financially dependent on them. Two, should I take it off, the small, tight-knit Muslim community in which I live would talk endlessly about it, which would “ruin” my family’s reputation. At the moment, they are held in high regard, particularly my dad, who is seen as a religious leader. I don’t want to shame my family or alienate myself from them, which is what would happen if I took it off. We are close. Just to make it clear, my family members are not religious extremists in any sense, just devoted to their religion and terrified that I am drifting away from it. What to do?
— To Wear or Not To Wear
Where, or where, had I heard this before? Google to the rescue! See: Dear Prudence Live Chat, June 21 (it’s the second question).
For the record, Prudence advised this woman to continue to wear her scarf at home, but venture away from it while out and about. Margo suggested that while she’s living at home, she should continue to wear the scarf (all the time), and wait until she moves out to set it aside.
Yesterday, Prudence ended her column with this question:
I recently began working at a temporary job. One of my co-workers is an elderly man who is a permanent employee. He’s friendly, albeit fairly eccentric. He recently asked me to bring bread and fruit to him at the office on a continuing basis and said he would pay me back. Last week, I noticed another temporary employee bringing food in for him, as well. He lives a very short walk from work, and I’m guessing that he has physical difficulties getting to the grocery store and no social support network. I’m concerned for him, but I don’t want to run his errands, and it’s not a sustainable solution. What’s my obligation?
And the same one appeared again this morning in Ask Amy!
Prudie suggested that this LW involve HR (or someone at work), mention that she’s concerned her colleague is struggling to get food, and seek help in finding him a “dignified, permanent solution.” Amy encouraged the LW to “step up,” think of her grandparents, and help the co-worker out by bringing food for him (getting a list and money in advance) at least for a few weeks.
These questions are both interesting (and fairly unusual) ones, and since the columnists each have something different and thoughtful to say, I don’t think there’s any problem with the fact that they’re recycled. I do wonder, though, how this happens.
In the case of the first letter, Prudence presented the question as though it came in during her live chat. If that’s the case, and it was answered during the chat, it seems unlikely to me that the LW would have submitted it again elsewhere, unless she didn’t like the answer (playing advice columnist magic 8 ball?).
In the case of the second letter, Prudence and Amy published them both in their regular column, within a day of each other–that sounds more like a letter that was sitting at the top of each of their (virtual) stacks, that touched on an unusual issue, and caught their eye. Amy’s columns are filed well in advance, as you can tell if you follow her Chicago Tribune RSS feed–you can almost always see columns there for several days before they’re “published” by the paper–so I don’t think she lifted this one from Prudence yesterday.
Do people really submit their questions to four advice columnists at once (does anyone besides me even read four or more advice columnists)? Is there some kind of advice letter hopper, like a Santa mailbox, where all the letters go? Do they snag from each other after the responses have been published? Or do they share letters with each other, seeking input and sharing ideas?