Service of Advice II

July 1st, 2021

Categories: Advice, Bully, Employees, Families, Family, Mentoring, Work

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Pauline Phillips, the Abby of “Dear Abby,” had just died at 94 when I first wrote about advice in January 2013.

I loved being a mentor to college students which is vaguely related. I devour advice columns and like to read Philip Galanes’ “Social q” column in The New York Times. What fun to be responsible for such a column as long as the questions–and my answers–don’t involve life and death.

Here are a few topics of recent Galanes columns:

  • “How can I tell my mother-in-law to buzz off?” [She intrudes on the writer’s little time with her parents on a visit home.]
  • “My son is being bullied, and I don’t know what to do.” [He’s a teenager.]
  • “How do I get  parents to stop bankrolling their adult son?” [Query from a sibling.]
  • “Do I really have to tip?” [carpet cleaning service staff.]
  • “Can my kids forgive their brother for his secret wedding?” [It was a surprise to both sets of parents who, along with one best friend, were the only ones in attendance.]
  • “I shouldn’t tell my employer I’m vaccinated, right?” [The writer was leery of the company. It gave gift cards to those who shared photos of vaccination cards.]

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in the Times recently “Why is it OK to be Mean to the Ugly?” He noted that “We live in a society that abhors discrimination on the basis of many traits. And yet one of the major forms of discrimination is lookism, prejudice against the unattractive. And this gets almost no attention and sparks little outrage. Why?” I’ve seen it in action. All female employees of a company with which I was once familiar were remarkably beautiful–8 level attractive at the very least.

Brooks also wrote: “In survey after survey, beautiful people are described as trustworthy, competent, friendly, likable and intelligent, while ugly people get the opposite labels. This is a version of the halo effect.” He lists the interviews, preferred jobs and bigger salaries they attract, the better grad schools that accept them–even the number of times they are quoted by media. He praises Victoria’s Secret that has opted to change its strategy by switching out its body-perfect models for women with a range of silhouettes.

What questions would you ask an advice columnist? Would you enjoy that gig? What have you observed about what David Brooks called “lookism?”

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

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13 Responses to “Service of Advice II”

  1. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    Sometimes I feel like an advice columnist. I’m annoyingly practical and friends call me for advice all the time. I’m very flattered. The funniest thing is. Some ask me to ask my daughter Lisa for advice. Lisa has a disability and as a result was exposed to doctors and therapists at a young age. Sometimes she gives better advice than I do. Either way both of us like giving our two cents worth when we’re asked to but I wouldn’t want to do it for a living.

  2. ASK Said:

    I would not want to give advice for a living and if hired, I would be fired after the first column: I’m too practical and no-nonsense. Without being specific, I’m amazed at the questions Galanes gets asked by the sometimes overly sensitive and/or the overly entitled. For those who are familiar with both, there’s quite a difference between Pauline Phillips and Philip Galanes.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your friends are lucky. One of the hardest things to do is to be quiet when you see a friend heading for a fall and they have not asked you for advice, so you must zip your lip. Sometimes a friend simply needs to vent and isn’t looking for anything more than a shoulder or a hug.

    When I mentored students, in the first meeting I always told them that they should take nobody’s suggestions or advice unless they felt right. This applies to a change in a resume or job search strategy. The same goes for counsel about personal matters. Most adults know that and follow only the suggestions they are comfortable with.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Practical is best I think says the poster person for pragmatism. An advice columnist should have an opinion and isn’t there to mollycoddle the reader/questioner. I think you’d be great–and succinct.

    As for those who seek Galanes’s advice, we’ve all met people whose concerns are trivial and they don’t realize how lucky they are to have them.

  5. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Never OK to be mean!

    As for “looks,” they’re totally subjective. Some attracted to tall, some short, some blond, some brunette…you get my drift. So makes no sense to judge anyone on their looks–after all just your personal opinion.

    Not big on advice columnists — do they even still exist? If anything I’ll seek out opinion of smart, trusted friend. I’ll offer advice, but hopefully only when it’s asked for.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I imagine you are referring to the words “buzz off” relating to the mother-in-law question. I agree, being mean is not a great way to make a point. In this case, the couple lived on the west coast and their parents on the east. They divided their vacation time equally between both sets of parents but the writer’s mother-in-law was always at her parent’s home so she never had alone time with hers. Being mean wouldn’t work. However, if the in-law is mean, silence is the best response.

    When I entered the world of work I devoured “how to succeed” articles, some shared the symbolism of power vis a vis where an office was placed, how you could tell the boss in a room by where he [mostly he] sat at the conference table, etc. At that time a study of CEOs–again all men–indicated that most were tall, thin and blond. Fortunately those days are over but I suspect that if there was a choice between two candidates for middle or beginner level jobs, both with stellar backgrounds, the prettier/handsomer one would most likely get it if only because “easy on the eyes” is an expression with some truth.

  7. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Not referring to “buzz off.” It should be SOP that being mean in any setting is wrong and really doesn’t get you any further ahead. That said, however, silence is not necessarily the proper response either. What ever happened to adult behavior?

    As for your “easier on the eyes” analogy, I think that’s called a sad truth.

  8. Jackie Said:

    Jackie on Facebook: If I could be a columnist, my pick would be Carrie Bradshaw.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Fun choice!

  10. EAM Said:

    I’m a big fan of Philip Galanes’s column and also Carolyn Hax who is published in The Washington Post. She is forthright, practical and equitable with her advice. The illustrator and ex-husband, Galifianakis, also accompanies her daily column. I guess my question might be about people’s lack of communication of miscommunication and how to handle it.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    While I’ve been in one or another aspect of communications all my life I think it is one of the trickiest specialties to master. And I mean both professionally and personally. Remote learning and working has dealt it a frightening blow as has the disconnect forced on friendships also due to the pandemic.

    One thing that might help: Listening should be a college course as is speech.

  12. lucrezia Said:

    It’s wise not to give advice, but if pressed, it pays to stress one’s answer may not be the right one for a given situation. One sticky issue could attract as many reactions as there are people present to analyze.

    Lookism has been brought down a peg or two over the years, but it stands never to go away. Columnist Brooks is on target here.

  13. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: Life is unfair as is the distribution of “good genes” (however you define that). Human nature is flawed therefore many will pay the price in the many ways mentioned in David Brooks’ column (and that isn’t the half of it). Sad.

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