Monday, April 14, 2014

Agony Aunts

I've just found out there is no such thing as an Agony Aunt in the United States.  Well, there is, but they’re not called agony aunts – they’re called Advice Columnists.

I was talking to a work colleague and mentioned so-and-so was a really good agony aunt.  Again I got the blank look and I could almost see a question mark above her head.  (I think this is becoming a theme). What’s an Agony Aunt? I was asked.  You know, I said, the person you write to in the newspaper and they answer your questions.  “Oh, an advice columnist” she said, “agony aunt  sounds so much nicer.”  And it does.
There seems to be a bit of a difference between the questions and type of Aunt/advisor in America too.
Marje Proops, Agony Aunt
I grew up reading Dear Deirdre, Marjorie Proops and Claire Rayner.  These women covered questions on sexual topics and various women’s issues which may have been taboo to some.  There was also relationship advice, usually in the theme of “What do I do when my boyfriend wants to tell my husband about us?” or other similar problems.   

In the case of Claire Rayner, while advising teenaged girls in 1972, she was accused of “encouraging masturbation and promiscuity in prepubescent girls.”  Later, she was one of the first people used by advertisers to promote sanitary towels. {}
 American advisors, however, seem to be more directed towards etiquette, manners and social situations and skills by the likes of Ann Landers, Dear Prudence and Dear Abby.  I don’t make a habit of reading these columns, but always see them in the Sunday paper.  There’s even one column with questions like “If I had two cars and one got this many miles to the gallon and I drove to Texas…. etc”  Not really agony aunt stuff at all.
So really, I’m glad I grew up in England.  I got all the advice about any personal problems and issues  I needed (real or imagined) from the daily newspaper and magazines and I never, ever had to do the oh so embarrassing thing of actually asking my mum questions.  I’m not sure who would have been the most embarrassed. 
And you know, everything you read in those columns is the absolute truth.   And quite obviously, if you have a serious problem, the first thing you should think of doing is write to the newspaper!

Oh Dear...boys will be boys!

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