Abigail Van Buren died last week and it's made me want to read your column and study it. Almost like I'm trying to channel her back. Granted she was a professional, doing it for years but there was something really honest about her advice and I'm searching for it somewhere else. I didn't know her, but her writing made me feel like I did.
Life really does throw curve balls every other day, and something about reading her responses, even if she was responding to something you'd never actually been through felt like you gained the wisdom to possibly deal with it in the future.
Anyway, the loss of Abby feels really hard, lucky me for having a few friends who can offer a similar in-person ear. Are you suffering from her loss? Is it odd that I'm taking it so hard?
-Miss Her None-The-Less
Dear Searching for Abby,
Yes, I am mourning her loss, just like you. She was and still is the mama bear of all of us amateurs out here. She taught us lessons about being human and not presenting advice in a know-it-all way and her advice lacked snobbery.
Pauline Phillips (her given name) fancied herself nothing more than a happily married woman who was dealt a great hand in life. Her credentials were modest, she wasn't a writer but believed deeply that she could write a better advice column than that that she was reading in the "San Francisco Chronicle." She was not shy about her voice and told the editor that she could deliver a better column, one that would connect with its readers more authentically. Of course, the editor thought this humorous and to make her wrong he gave her a stack of letters to respond to. As it has it, she had responses to all letters in a matter of 30 minutes. Her responses were fantastic. The editor was wrong.
It must have been quite a life, going from a stay at home mom to a famous columnist, writing the most widely syndicated column in the world. Each morning there must have been a few precious milliseconds before reality set in and she remembered who she was, what her obligations were and what she gave people. For most people it might be a burden to bear, but Phillips did not see it that way.
It's kind of like having a great friend who doesn't view helping close friends as an obligation but rather a joy. Phillips was just this, she was your friend. Her advice came without stress, it wasn't forced, it was more her gift.
I think we miss her because not many have come up behind her that delivered advice in such a fiercely human, sassy, and real way. She wasn't telling you what you wanted to hear, she was committed to giving real talk.
I heard a great quote recently, "Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." (Erica Jong). True.
Phillips did what she could to compassionately confirm all those things we already knew to be true.
I have a friend or two like her. They are invaluable and I would have strayed far off my path should they have not offered honesty and loving advice along the way. In the absence of Dear Abby, someone will surface who will not replace her but might take a crack at it.
Rest in peace, Pauline Phillips. And Search for Abby, we're all quite upset but what will come from this is closer relationships with those friends who we saw bits and pieces of "Dear Abby" in.
In the meantime quench your advice thirst with another one of my favorites, E. Jean, she's saucy, smart and sarcastic, my favorite combo.