One of my favorite things is to have lunch at Panera, here in St. Louis it is called St. Louis Bread Co because they are based here in town.* I'll get my favorite delicious salad with extra wontons and an iced tea, sit down alone, and read the Everyday section of the paper.
No, I don't read the news section of the newspaper because I get plenty of news everywhere else! But I love the comics, the word games, the crossword puzzles, and I really used to love Dear Abby. When it was Abby. But now I find myself snorting and shaking my head with disgust nearly every time I read it.
Why am I disgusted?
Because her advice is ridiculously shaming and personally disempowering to so many of the people who write to her. For example, here's one of the letters from this week:
DEAR ABBY: My husband is very outgoing. He loves chatting on the phone for hours, and talks with all the neighbors up and down the street. He's retired, so it's fine -- up to a point.It just seems disappointing to me to not address Fed Up's feelings and her frustration, her hurt feelings, her anger. No, instead Fed Up is advised to simply delay dinner. This woman is feeling disrespected by her husband! It's a big deal for her or else she wouldn't have written in for advice. How lame is that advice?
We have a set time for dinner, which is 6:30, and he knows it. Invariably he'll be on the phone or up the street when it's close to dinner. I always remind him 10 to 15 minutes ahead, which gives him time to be here to eat, but he'll keep chatting until he's anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour late to dinner.
I put time and effort into preparing my meals. I grow my own vegetables and think of creative things to fix. He always comments how great the meals are, so it's not that he doesn't like my food.
If it's not eaten promptly, it's overcooked/mushy/wilted, etc., so I go ahead and eat if he's not here. I'd like him to be with me when I sit down at the table.
I feel it's incredibly rude for him to be late. When I tell him that, he laughs like it's a big joke. Short of treating him like a 2-year-old and throwing his food away if he doesn't show up on time, I'm not sure what to do. Can you help?
-- FED UP IN NAPA, CALIF.
DEAR FED UP: I can't force your husband to the dinner table and neither can you. To toss his dinner into the garbage would be too overtly hostile and a waste of food. Try this: Tell him dinner time is 6:30, but prepare the food as if it's for 6:45 or 7.
But the reason I'm even bothering to write about how much I dislike Dear Abby is this letter, also from this week:
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 72-year-old married woman. My husband has atypical Parkinson's and can no longer talk or walk.
I exercise six days a week, but I need someone to talk to, to share life with. I tell my husband what I do each day, but of course, there is no feedback. He's at home, and we have 24-hour care.
Can I date? If I explained to him how I need companionship, he might agree. But am I being selfish? This has been going on for six years. I figure I have only 10 productive years left -- maybe fewer.
I feel like my life is over. Please help me. I feel like I'm dying.
-- REQUIRES COMPANIONSHIP
DEAR REQUIRES COMPANIONSHIP: I think it would be not only selfish but cruel to tell your husband you need companionship and want to seek another relationship. How would you feel if you were in his position, unable to walk or talk, and he said that to you?
If ever I heard of a person who needs to join a support group, it is you. The American Parkinson Disease Association (apdaparkinson.org) can help you locate one. The toll-free phone number is (800) 223-2732.
As to my giving you permission to date, that's something that should be between you and your conscience or higher power, not Dear Abby.
P.S. Couples who face this kind of diagnosis should have this conversation in advance.
Dear Abby, actually Jeanne Phillips, daughter of the original Abigail Van Buren, has no right to tell this desperate woman that she is not just selfish, but cruel. This woman who has been the caregiver of her husband is looking for someone to say Yes, of course you can and should locate support and companionship anywhere and everywhere you can find it. Every word of this response suggests to Requires Companionship that she has not continually thought of the needs of her husband for however long she's been caring for him during this lengthy and difficult experience with Parkinson's Disease.
Requires Companionship actually wrote
Please help me. I feel like I'm dying.
Does that not require some response from Dear Freaking Abby? I'm disgusted with her column and I think she is incredibly dangerous writing on a nationally syndicated column like that when she is giving such potentially hurtful advice like this.
Don't you want to give Requires Companionship a freaking hug?
* Panera can send my free gift cards anytime for this endorsement. 😊