Step Up to the (Dinner) Plate!

Here’s another one from my drafts folder, originally written in December 2009, and polished up a bit for you all today.  This one was almost totally done.  Why didn’t I press the button a year ago?  I haven’t the slightest idea.

Hey Cherie” is a column written by Cherie Bennett, who looks (from her picture), like she she’s probably in her 40s, and aimed at teenage readers. Sometimes the this-is-for-the-kids schtick feels a bit forced (for example, every letter starts with “Hey Cherie!,” which adds up to a lot of exclamation points early in the morning). For the most part, though, she does a decent job. She doesn’t tell kids to shut up and listen to their parents, or to just do whatever they want, but guides teens to respectfully, thoughtfully develop selves independent from–and sometimes even at odds with–their parents’ established worldview (and, of course, related rules).

Unfortunately, in this column, she missed the mark:

Hey, Cherie!

I have a problem with my mother’s cooking. She is a terrible cook. I didn’t know this when I was younger, but now that I am in high school, there is not a dish that my mother can’t ruin. Her roast beef tastes like leather, and she makes fish that tastes like newspaper soaked in water and then baked for five hours.

How can I tell her she is an awful cook and should start buying food from the takeout counter at the supermarket?

— Gagging

Hey, Gagging!

I want to know how you know what soaked and baked newspaper tastes like. But I digress.

This is a very tough problem, because telling your mother that she is a lousy cook is like telling a bride that she is ugly. Maybe you could buy her some cookbooks for her birthday and work with her to follow the recipes exactly. I’m grasping at overcooked roast beef here. Maybe this is your sign from On High to become a vegetarian?

Wait, so she didn’t give this person any help at all? Um….the answer here seems obvious to me: it’s time for this teen (henceforth T) to give cooking a shot T’sself–maybe once a week to start, and it needn’t be fancy. Sandwiches, soup, and salad or something.

This might solve what T perceives as the most immediate problem: getting a break from inedible food–that is, if T can in fact cook better than mom. Either way, it’s a win–T might be a natural, really enjoy cooking, and T & family would benefit from a variety of new, delicious meals.

Or T might be absolutely awful–and through the experiment might come to understand how much planning, effort, imagination, and hard work it takes to produce a tasty meal day after day, for an (unappreciative?) family.

Most likely T’s food will be edible, and improve over time, with practice.

Which brings us to the other problems this would solve–the ones T doesn’t seem at all aware of:

-T’ll give his mom a break from a task that, most likely, she doesn’t particularly enjoy or find very fulfilling

-T’ll learn….how to cook–a valuable skill by any standard.

A for Improvement….

Holy wow!  Remember Graham Norton’s “agony aunt” column in the Telegraph?  I used it as an example last month to sum up what I look for when I read a new advice column for the first time–and while I was at it, I griped a bit about the interface (which featured dozens and dozens of identical images of Norton’s face)

The column never showed up again in my advice feed until October 8th, and I confess I didn’t check it until today, when another new column appeared.  And imagine my surprise and delight to discover a totally redesigned page!  It looks more like, well, like any of the other mainstream columnists, now.  In fact, the style of the cartoon reminds me more of Savage Love than anything else.

Nice work!


Hi readers…

I’ve been a bit preoccupied this week, and nothing much in the columns has been leaping out at me, so I’ve decided to dig through some of my (oooold) unpublished drafts and see what I can make of them.  Inspired, as always, by Maria Von Trapp, I decided to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). So, I scrolled to the bottom of my draft posts, and found this one from September 18.  September 18, 2008.  That’s, like, two weeks after I started this blog.  The draft was titled, simply, “toilets.”

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A timely example

Yesterday, I claimed confidently that it’s common for people to remain indifferently in pleasant-but-directionless relationships for years, only to break up and marry the next person they meet. And as substantiation, I offered…..When Harry Met Sally and 500 Days of Summer.  Solid examples, I’d maintain, but fictional ones.  So, how convenient that this morning, Carolyn Hax’s column provides a real life scenario!

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Stranger and Stranger

Well, that’s curious…..

Looks like the “fresh advice” feed over on the right, which includes Dan Savage’s column in The Stranger, is now somehow picking up everything in The Stranger’s blog. Will investigate.  In the meantime, enjoy reading about the changing leadership of the Cascade Bicycle Club…..?

If you’re not sure you’re sure, you’re not

I was deeply troubled by Abby’s response to a not-quite-affianced woman last week:

DEAR ABBY: You probably have heard things like this before, but I don’t know where to turn.

I have been dating “Jeff” for five years and we have a lot of fun together. Last week Jeff proposed marriage and — I choked! Now I’m having doubts about everything, and he’s getting impatient with me because I haven’t given him an answer.

Things are not going the way I had hoped, Abby. Everything is falling apart. Does this happen often? How do I know if he’s the right one? — PANICKED IN PITTSBURGH

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Ask Amy chat–tomorrow!

Tomorrow at noon, Chicago time (1 p.m. Eastern), Amy Dickinson will be hosting a live chat!

Yes, it will conflict with the weekly CHLC.  But that’s why God made browser tabs!

Strongly worded letters

Expert writers and researchers showed up in two columns today, fretting that they hadn’t been properly recognized for their efforts on behalf of others.

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On distracting/misleading ads

What’s wrong with this ad?

Hello bright and busy ad. Clearly you are annoying, but are you also nefarious?

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A Little Help Please: Savage Love edition — “It gets better”

In this week’s Savage Love, a reader asked about Billy Lucas, a high school freshman who committed suicide this month after being seriously bullied by his classmates, who harassed him because they believed he was gay:

I just read about a gay teenager in Indiana—Billy Lucas—who killed himself after being taunted by his classmates. Now his Facebook memorial page is being defaced by people posting homophobic comments. It’s just heartbreaking and sickening. What the hell can we do?

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