I owe a debt to Dear Abby, who died a few days ago. The original advice columnist, Abigail Van Buren, was actually Pauline Phillips. You have to wonder what was wrong with her real name - it certainly has marquee appeal. Maybe she was afraid of reprisals for bad advice.
For decades, her musings were a fixture in thousands of newspapers. So successful were they, that many, many emulators (I prefer that term to imitator, thank you, sniff) myself included, took at whack at professional meddling. The most successful imitator was "Abby's" fraternal twin sister, Ann Landers. Together they dispensed more wisdom than a boxcar full of Dutch Uncles. Along with the advice came a good helping of humor. Sometimes the question was unanswerable, and she just went straight for the laugh, as in this exchange:
Dear Abby: I am 44 years old and would like to meet a man my age with no bad habits.
Dear Rose: So would I.
Perhaps the most overused word de jour is "iconic," but in the case of Abby, the adjective would be fitting. She was a slice of Americana that was universally enjoyed. Nobody needed to acquire a taste for her style.
As Abby and Ann faded in popularity we saw a concurrent rise in professional mentors and coaches. They have them for careers, exercise ,weight loss, de-toxing, anger, spiritual development, dating.... I'm not making this up and the list goes on. You have to wonder about this - seems like people are just as underemployed, lethargic, overweight, addicted, furious, and shallow as they ever were. But, now they can say they're working on it.
In Abby's day, advice was imparted to someone and, assuming it was the right advice, it was incumbent upon the afflicted to act on that advice. Now, it takes a team of coaches to help us break our "behavioral patterns." And an app. There's always an app.
Abby would have said "snap out of it," administering a smart literary slap to the face. If we really dig deep and face the truth, that's probably all most of us need.