Once upon a time, in a Garden State far, far, away, I spent my high school summers working in my old elementary school as a janitor and enjoyed a fair amount of free time during the workday between my daily routine of scraping gum out from under desks, de-chalking classroom erasers, and feasting upon the remnants of half-used jars of discarded paste. I spent most of this free time trying to sneak in naps whenever and wherever possible, thinking of ways to improve upon the Dewey Decimal system (use exclamation points instead of decimals, e.g. Reading! is! fun! Math. is. not.), and doing crossword puzzle after crossword puzzle from whatever newspaper truck the union bosses had hijacked the weekend before. On days when I had extra free time and finished my crossword puzzles early, I would turn to the next page in the “Today” section and see what kind of sage advice “Dear Abby” offered to her readers.
Reading these columns I was struck by a few things. First, “Abby” is short for Abigail Van Buren, which itself is the pen name of Pauline Phillips. Why hide behind the pen name, Pauline? To show solidarity with your pseudonymous readership? Or is it to cover up some horrific secret from your past? Like the fact that you are not a clinically-licensed lifestyle columnist and once gave erroneous advice to a farmer who sought a way to transport a fox, a chicken, and a bag of grain across a river on a boat that could fit only one item at a time, leading to levels of macabre not seen since the Oregon Trail Fording Fiasco of 1834?!? Aha! I’m on to you, Pauline/Abby! Second, “Dear Abby” responsibilities were later taken over by Jeanne Phillips, Pauline’s daughter, so 1) don’t let “Abby” give you any crap about nepotism, and 2) readers seeking the wisdom of Pauline-Abby rather than Jeanne-Abby would be advised to consult a Ouija board.
Last and most importantly, according to the Dear Abby website, what makes Dear Abby “the most popular and widely-syndicated column in the world” is its “uncommon sense and youthful perspective.” Well I’ve got news for you, “Abby.” My sixth and strongest sense is uncommon, and I radiate so much “youthful perspective” I’m not even allowed within 500 feet of the elementary school I used to clean. So consider the gauntlet thrown down. Starting this week, I will be usurping a “Dear Abby” column of my choosing once every month and offering her readers my own advice. So let me start this off with a bit of free advice to you, “Abby.” Watch your back. There’s a new advice columnist in town, and he abides by no rules, be logical, they or syntax.
With that out of the way, on to our first letter. Here it is, quoted in full:
DEAR ABBY: A friend’s husband gave me a ride to the airport, and when I went to hug him goodbye as I have always done when we parted, he grabbed me by the arms and kissed me on the lips several times. I wasn’t expecting it, and I certainly hadn’t invited it. I made light of it, but it made me very uncomfortable and I don’t want to see him again.
My problem is I don’t know how to end my friendship with his wife. I would never tell her, and I do not wish to have this standing between us, so I’d rather just end the friendship. How should I handle this? She occasionally contacts me for lunch dates. — DISMAYED IN MANHATTAN
You can read Abby’s advice if you want, but it’s basically “blah blah blah, I’m so cool because I have an advice column, I will sever the man in two and only his true owner will reveal themselves by stopping the procedure.” Whatever. Here’s my response:
DEAR DISMAYED IN MANHATTAN: I’m very sorry to hear about your predicament. Would a hug help at all? See, don’t you feel better already? What if I grab you by the arms and kiss you on the lips several times? No? Ok your call, but I thought that’s normally what friends do.
See, this is where having a male’s perspective can really help shed light on the situation that has you so dismayed. Let me ask you three simple questions about your friend’s husband: 1) is he a cab driver? 2) Does he work and/or live at the airport? 3) Does he only shop at duty-free stores? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then his motivation for driving you to the airport is quite clear: he wants to have sex with you.
Allow me to offer you a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the male psyche. Aside from the ride to the airport you cite in your letter, there are three other things that fall in the category of favors done only for a very close friend. These three are, in no particular order, 1) helping a friend move, 2) feeding a friend’s plants while they are on vacation, and 3) watering a friend’s animals while they are on vacation. If any of these deeds are done by a male in your life, you should know that if they are not done out of a genuine platonic friendship; they are done out of a genuine desire for non-platonic sex.
Given that you don’t seem to be that close of friends with the wife, who only “occasionally” contacts you for “lunch dates,” I’d wager dollars to airplane donuts that her husband doesn’t fall into the category of “best friend forever.” Also, regarding those “lunch dates”, you should probably pull the plug on those as well and stop dating the wife. Haven’t you done enough to wreck this once happy marriage?
One more piece of advice before you board your flight. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that your little trip to First Base with the husband at passenger drop-off was unintentional and not in fact a recurring episode in your life, whereby you are forced to flee a city when your chronic pattern of home-wrecking finally catches up to you, leaving you friendless and hollow inside, with no one left to turn to–except for a barely literate lifestyle journelist [sic]. Assuming this was all just a big misunderstanding, it’s possible the husband may have just gotten mixed signals from you. This would be through no fault of your own. Again, this is where a male perspective that only “Dear Ryan” can provide is so key.
Women are all about subtlety, indirect but powerful signals, and beauty products that make their hair smell worryingly delicious. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more direct, a bit dense, and attracted to shiny objects like glow-sticks and breasts. Deflections a woman might use such as “I’m already here with somebody” may be taken by a man to mean “Sweet, maybe her friend is hotter!” Or a drink thrown into a man’s face may fail to convey the intended “Get away from me, creep” message and instead translate to “I want you to buy me another martini, sugar daddy.” So if you want to remain friends with the couple and get your point across to the husband, you need to be very, very direct with both your actions and your words to him.
The next time you see him, I would suggest pulling him aside, looking him straight in the eye, and saying “I value our friendship and respect you as a person, but there is no amount of money and no conceivable scenario where I would have sex with you. I basically think of you as a eunuch, a gay one at that, and if you didn’t have a car I wouldn’t even bother to remember your name, Stan. Or is it Hank? See, my point exactly.” If that doesn’t get your point across, there is always the universally recognized sign of rejection: a swift but firm kick to the groin. There is no other way to read that. Unless you’re into that kind of thing. In which case, hug for the free advice? Ok fine, maybe next time.