You know what the problem is with advice columns?
The first two issues are obvious, of course: People write in about some urgent issue and the advice arrives months later when it's too late to do any good. Worse, it's pretty clear the the people asking the questions are too dense to benefit from the advice.
Dear Aunt Esmerelda: My neighbor is upset that my dog is leaving gifts in his flower bed when he should really be grateful for the fertilizer. How do I get him to be happier when Poopsie visits?
Dear Aunt Esmerelda: My son is a Navy Seal who is often away on secret missions. How can I get the Navy to schedule him to be home for my birthday?
Dear Aunt Esmerelda: My niece has a peanut allergy, so I put some peanut butter in her turkey sandwich to help her develop some tolerance. Now she’s in a coma and my brother is making a big deal about it. How do I get him to drop the restraining order?
Yes, the questions are entertaining, but the answers are the archetypes for missed opportunities. Instead of starting the replies with, “Dearest Idiot,” the advice columnists almost always express sympathy and try to comfort the people who are too far gone to be reached on this planet.
“Perhaps your neighbor doesn’t appreciate the close relationship you have with your dog.
I agree that the Navy and America’s enemies should both be more considerate when it comes to family.
Give your brother time to recognize your good intentions, and maybe for his daughter to come out of her coma…”
And there we have it, the biggest flaw in advice columns: too much respect. Contrary to the popular myth spread by consultants everywhere, there are stupid questions and there are bad ideas. It would be a truly healthy development if advice columnists called out their correspondents for both transgressions.
Clearly, it’s time for the Dad Writes help desk, where we suffer only wise people and set the fools on the true path to enlightenment. We’re drawing our inspiration from Bob Newhart, who set the standard for all psychology, psychiatry, and consulting today. We’ll build on his groundbreaking technique, but we will never stray far from the words of the master.
Your wedding is in three days and you’re sending me a question now? Too late for that, but here are some ideas for divorce court. You poisoned your niece and you’re not in jail? This would be a good time to move to another country. If you're gonna let your dog roam around without a leash, let your neighbor poop on your lawn to even things out.
See how easy that is? Advice columns would be much more entertaining and educational if we avoid all the “respect” and “courtesy,” especially when those considerations are 100% undeserved. Our new column is going to be so refreshing for readers, and very therapeutic for me. I can’t wait to hear from the first doofus with a question.
Now that Dad Writes is new and improved with free advice, you’ll definitely want to click here to subscribe for our amazing wisdom.
For the love of God, is there no end to this elder abuse? Every day, I’m victimized again by some media outlet that decides they have nothing better to do than to shame me.
I wake up every morning (so far) with a sore arm or back or leg or toenail and there’s nothing to do but ease into the day with the latest news and my social media feeds. By the time I’m done with my third cup of coffee, the aching has receded and my vision is finally clearing up, but there’s a new pain that will envelop me for the rest of the day.
That’s because my morning read invariably includes a story about some young snot who’s achieved more at 17 than I’ll ever achieve in my life. And I’m not even talking about Greta and Malala here. There’s also the kid who invented a portable dialysis machine for his middle-school science fair and the pre-teen who turned her lemonade stand into a multinational restaurant chain.
Even worse, my feed is overrun with really old people, people much older than I am, who are doing things I can’t do already. In the latest installment of “People Who Are Both Older And Better Than You,” some 104-year-old woman set a new record as the oldest person to parachute out of an airplane. Even worse, she's a Chicagoan like me. Well, clearly not like me, and vice versa.
The abusers in the media say these are “feel-good stories” that encourage the rest of us to think of age as just a number, but they’re really gaslighting us with tales that make us feel less accomplished, less capable, and much more ready to die now. Because nothing gives me hope for my future like another person’s achievements and the certain knowledge that those achievements will never be mine.
You wanna know what gives me the will to live? I love reading about the Chicago Cubs blowing their playoff slot in September and the Chicago Bears losing so many games in a row that they’ve set up a suicide hotline for their players and coaches. I want to learn about some dope who won the lottery and invested all her winnings into cryptocurrency or the fools who got convicted of sedition on the basis of their own selfies.
I draw the line at the Darwin Awards, because stupidity shouldn’t be a capital offense, but I’m almost invariably inspired by the wrong turns and dumb choices that other people make. Those are my feel-good stories, the sagas that let me know I’m not the feeblest failure of the day. I might be a loser, but at least I’m not a Chicago Bear.
And I’m not alone in this, either. My social media feed is filled with posts that mock the Bears and the Cubs, but nobody is celebrating the 104-year-old woman who thought it was a good idea to jump out of a perfectly functional airplane. My friends only share uplifting stories, and that is definitely not one of them.
It’s time to stop the gaslighting of all us seniors, to demand an end to the abusive shaming, and it's absolutely the perfect moment to donate large amounts to my crowdfunding account. I promise not to invest the proceeds in crypto or to take skydiving lessons.
Will I become a paratrooper when I’m 104? The only way to know is to click here to subscribe and keep reading for the next 34 years. It will be so worth it.
Question: When is an apology not an apology?
Answer: When it’s on Facebook.
This is the week when many of my Jewish friends post blanket apologies online as we sprint past Rosh Hashanah and race toward Yom Kippur. The Days of Awe are an intense period if you take it seriously, but all the religious rites are reserved for our relationships with God. When it comes to other people, any beefs have to be addressed directly with the individuals involved and there’s no prayer that lets us off the hook.
That’s where all these Facebook apology posts arise, as our modern transgressors adopt a wholesale purge of guilt by saying oopsie online. “If you’re one of the people I’ve hurt in the past year, I’m sorry. If not, feel free to move on. And my work here is done.”
I sympathize; really, I do. With so many aggrieved souls in our circles, the list of required apologies is endless. I have to apologize to Ed for being late and to Andrea for being too early; to Bill for ignoring his birthday and to Gwen for reminding her how old she is; to Stacy for calling too late at night and to Robert for waiting until the next day to give him the news. Maybe I can’t do anything right or, maybe, my contacts are simply looking for a reason to feel slighted.
Either way, the tally of bruised psyches multiplies until it would take more than a decade to deliver all the groveling demanded from me. I understand the temptation to call on Facebook to deliver a simple, high-volume solution for pique response.
Except that’s not how it works, and it’s not just my coreligionists who appear unable to offer a proper mea culpa these days. Nobody seems to know how to make amends, especially those sensitive souls who begin their pseudo-confessions with, “If I hurt you,” or “If I offended you.”
“If you were hurt when I stole your car and ran off with your spouse and emptied your bank account and slandered your name all over the place, I’m sorry. Of course, you’re way too sensitive about the whole thing and it was really not that big a deal. But, if it bothers you so much, then I’ll be the bigger person and apologize. Are we good now?”
Non-apology apologies seem to be the norm and not the exception, focusing on the fact that someone took offense and not on the offense itself. Does anyone know how to apologize for what they actually did? Apparently not.
Maybe the problem starts with childhood, when parents tell their kids to, “Say you’re sorry,” without insisting that they actually be sorry. Maybe It’s the mantra that, “I’m a good person,” so anyone who is offended is sadly unaware of my kind and giving nature. Or, maybe, we’re just a bunch of selfish and insensitive jerks.
A real apology is the most counter-cultural thing we can do, rejecting all the norms of our current age. There are no apps, no websites, no intermediaries or filters available to do it right. A real apology has to be direct, one to one. We have to speak directly to the person we’ve harmed, specify what we did, and express real remorse for our actions. Hard to believe, but most people actually did that a long, long, long time ago, at least when they weren’t dueling at dawn.
It's much different now. Everyone’s offended about everything and, quite frankly, I’m just a bit offended at their insistence that I somehow owe them an apology for absolutely nothing. I’ll apologize to them after they apologize to me, first, and some anodyne disclaimer on Facebook ain’t gonna cut it.
What else? Oh, yeah. To anyone who posted a generic apology on Facebook in the past year, please know that IF I HURT YOU by sharing my opinions, I am so very, very sorry.
If I actually do owe you an apology, please send me a detailed message, including receipts and warranty cards, and I’ll get back to you right away. If not, just click here to subscribe and I’ll consider us even.
We haven't had a ton of traction since 2019, but that's only because of that whole "Covid" thing. It's time to get back to work and make Labor Day THE biggest issue of the 2024 Election Cycle. Forget global warming, inflation, abortion, and all those woke Chinese pandas at the National Zoo. This is the issue of our age, and it's not aging well.
Revived from September 1, 2019...
All of us at Dad Writes are about to begin a national movement. It’s a movement that will gladden the hearts of all Americans and heal the wounds of our universe.
This is the one common goal left to humanity in the internet age. We are divided irrevocably on pretty much everything, but we finally have a cause to unite us and restore our faith in each other. We must rise up in an unrelenting and ultimately victorious campaign to move Labor Day to October.
As it stands, Labor Day is a depressing holiday, a last three-day weekend to mark the end of summer. Everyone slumps in their lawn chairs and talks about getting back to work while they complain that the fireworks were better on Independence Day. When it’s time for all the guests to leave, nobody talks about their plans for the week ahead, because everyone is planning to be in the office on Tuesday morning.
Alas, what began as a celebration of the labor union movement has deteriorated into a celebration of Mondays. Yep, we get this one off, but then we’re working every Monday until MLK Day 21 weeks from now. But Labor Day can be much happier, and more apt, if we make the logical choice to move it back a month. The reasons are compelling and, dare we say, irrefutable.
First, the equinox won’t come until September 23, this year, fully three weeks after we bury the season with a holiday marking the “official end of summer.” Insanity!!! Summer is a gift to treasure, not a curse to be canceled. Much like our participation trophies, regrets, grudges, and sixteen, we should hold onto summer as long we can.
Second, the weather is going to stay summery well into October in most of the country, because that’s how weather works. Temperatures will still be warm, humidity levels will drop from their August peaks, and mosquito swarms will finally subside. We won’t notice it, though, because we all went back to work four weeks too early. What are we, nuts??
The sad reality is that September barbecues are never as relaxing or enjoyable as the same gatherings before Labor Day. Something is missing, and the missing ingredient is summer. We bury our best season prematurely at the start of September and then we just go through the motions. So sad.
But when we move Labor Day to October, we can finally return the holiday to its rightful role as a celebration of working stiffs, the people who build the buildings and plant the plants and assemble the assemblies. We can transform Labor Day into an upbeat extension of summer, rather than its forced execution. “Yeah, the days are shorter now that it’s officially fall, but we have about two weeks left until Labor Day,” we’d say, and we would be happier as a result.
When should the new Labor Day occur? We humbly propose the first Friday in October, which is the perfect date for a national holiday. Slotting Labor Day on a Friday will preserve the tradition of three-day weekends while dulling the sting of returning to work a few days later. At long last, people will have a real justification for all those TGIF memes.
Admit it. This is such a great idea that you’re already wondering two things:
We understand how you feel. The brainstorming team at Dad Writes is very proud of itself for this earthshaking idea and we are fine with sharing the credit with all the fans who inspire us to be creative geniuses. Or genii. Or whatever.
Enjoy your holiday and take heart. By this time next year, we will have achieved our goal and we will all be looking forward to another month of summer weekends.
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I’m really tired of people who complain that adulting is hard.
First, adulting isn’t even a real word, just a mashup where lazy people turn a noun into a verb by adding -ing at the end. Second, it’s one more way everyone whines about how tough life is and how their own lives are the toughest of all. Bunch o’ wimps.
You know what’s hard? Childing, that’s what. In fact, it’s second only to high-schooling on the list of things people never want to relive in life. Nobody says, “If I had my life over, I’d learn to poop on the toilet sooner,” or, “I really miss the active shooter drills. I made some great friends while hiding in the closet.”
No, they do not.
It all starts when it takes you eight months to realize the thing that keeps bopping you in the head is your own arm, and a bunch of giants pass you from one to the other until you just know one of them is going to eat you. Worse, you develop specific crying noises to let them know whether you’re wet or hungry and the giants always guess the wrong opening.
Then you’re two years old and you’ve already made the leap to adulthood. You complain, you whine, you’re stubborn, you’re demanding…just like them. The giants hate it, of course. They call it the terrible twos and punish you for the crime of premature adulting.
You persevere, though, and try to speak like the giants, but they keep saying things like “ooogy cutie baby boogey yumyum” and it becomes clear they never want you to learn how to speak at all. Eventually, you figure out how to communicate with them without ever saying “ooogy cutie baby boogey yumyum,” but every time you ask for something, the answer is, “No.”
You don’t get to choose where you’ll go for dinner, what you’ll eat, or how many hours you’ll have to sit in the car on the way to Aunt Jenny's house. You don’t get to choose your clothes or where you’ll go on vacation or which shows you’ll watch or when you’ll go to sleep. Yeah, the giants will sometimes pick things you like, but it’s never really your choice and you know it. Meanwhile, they sound so brave and caring as they tell everyone, “I’m doing it all for my child.”
Being a kid is tough, 24/7. No, you don’t have to pay any bills or deal with the homeowners’ association, but you’re essentially a pinball careening from bumper to bumper. If you survive, you gain some sense of who you are and where you fit in, but then it all falls apart as you plunge into the two-headed hell-scape of puberty and high school. Plus, more active shooter drills, because nothing says carefree childhood as convincingly as hiding from strangers who want to kill you.
Then you arrive at adulting, the stage you’ve been envying since you were three. Yes, you have to work for a living and pay for stuff, but you get to choose where you live and what stuff you buy, what you’ll have for dinner and what movies you’ll watch. You get to share your opinions online and you control the music you’ll listen to in the car. You aren’t trapped in the back seat, pleading for “Baby Shark” while your father tortures you with Phish.
I haven’t started decrepitude-ing yet, but I’m 100% sure adulting will be my favorite life stage. I’m old enough to have survived a million mistakes and I’ve learned the lessons from at least a few of those errors. I don’t need permission from my parents if I want to go to the park or see an R-rated movie and I can make my own choices when I’m fooding.
It turns out that adulting is the easiest part of life. The complaint department is now closed.
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Yet another note popped up in the email a few weeks ago, alerting me that one more classmate had taken his final breath. The pace accelerates as we age and it’s cold comfort that I’m the reader, not the subject, of the message. It’s just one more reminder that the bell will run out of other people to toll for one of these days.
As is almost always the case, I remembered the departed only vaguely and hadn’t spoken to him in at least five decades, so I searched online for the latest deletion from our reunion list. It turns out the guy was well known to other classmates, and not in a good way.
One after another, they recalled growing tired of him, fed up with his political intolerance, giving up on any useful engagement and, ultimately, had blocked him on social media. It was brutal, because you cannot “confide” anything online. Many of his online posts weren’t visible when I checked, so I still don’t know much about the guy, but it’s public record now that he was disliked by many onetime friends.
All the posthumous slings and arrows can do no harm to their target, of course. He’s beyond the point of knowing or caring about his favorability ratings. His family and friends could be saddened by the outpouring of, um, whatever the opposite of grief is, but he is blissfully immune.
That’s now, though, in the after, and this post is about before.
For him, for everyone, there absolutely is a before. There’s a time when the world is more open, when friends and strangers offer the benefit of the doubt and a willing ear. In the days before, the world is larger and more varied, more interesting and less predictable. Before, there is possibility and opportunity for us to accept…or reject.
Every day, we make a choice about how big and open our world will be, how lively and interesting our conversations will be, how much we’ll be challenged to expand our perspectives and build our wisdom. Some choose to grow, while others choose a path that is smaller, more limited, more constrained.
I really don’t know the details about this guy, but we know the process. We’ve all watched friends dissolve into humorless, angry warriors, sacrificing their own before for a new reality and a new persona.
In the time before, my onetime friend made a choice, or several choices, to take on a new crusade and dissolve the ties that bound him to the world he’d known. Perhaps he was happier in his new surroundings, more certain of his own worth and his rightness. Almost certainly, he was insulated from those who would challenge his view of the world and of himself.
I don’t really know, and it really doesn’t matter now, at least for him. For the rest of us, though, it’s still before. How big do we want our worlds to be? How much do we want to grow? How many people will we block—and how many will block us—on our journey from before to after?
We won't be posting about the inevitable next email, but maybe we'll say something interesting anyway. You'll be the first to know if you click here to subscribe.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.