Arts & Leisure

Taking the personal route to advice in the modern age

Close your eyes and image a time, long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Close your eyes as I bring you back in time, almost back to the dinosaurs but not quite. Close your eyes and focus as I bring you to a white picket fence, to the American nuclear family, complete with a dog in the yard, to a blurry time warp of suburban living. Welcome to the year 1956! Elvis Presley is just entering the U.S conscious for the first time, the Interstate Highway System has just been conceived, the crisis over the forcible reopening of the Suez Canal is headline news, General Electric is introducing the groundbreaking “snooze” feature for its model 7H241 alarm clock, and the first Dear Abby column appears unassumingly in the shadows

Pauline Phillips, the woman behind the penname “Abby,” catalyzed the new social acceptance for straight-talk. She stopped beating around the bush, as was the pre-1950s convention, and cut to chase. From social decorum to the taboo, Phillips answered her readers and writers with grace and sass. Dear Abby started with one column in one paper, but it soon became an international and global phenomenon. Dear Abby, because of Phillips, became the world’s most syndicated column; it has appeared in 1,400 newspapers and boasts a daily readership of more than 110 million.

On January 18, 2013, America’s beloved incognito adviser died at the age of ninety-four. With the death of Pauline Phillips, we must consider if her era of straight-talk–and the earnest advice-seeking that came with it–has also passed.

While Ask Abby and columns like it persist with wide readership, where and to whom do we, as the up-and-coming generation of Americans, go for advice? The information era allows us access to answers in a mere instant. However, although we are able to “Wikipedia” and “Google” and “WebMD” to our hearts’ content, this type of answer seeking lacks a human touch and provides an instantaneous answer. A digitized and overburdening of information presents a counterproductive environment for us to seek advice or answers to our questions. It is too easy to forget, avoid, or regard why we sought an answer in the first place and to be satisfied simply with a quick and easy answer.

As a tribute to the type of open discussion of social or personal issues Pauline Philips fostered and the difficult situations she mediated, The Bates Student is proud to introduce the addition of an advice column. Like Pauline Philips, Savvycat will answer quandaries and promote thoughtfulness in an equally straightforward and amusingly sassy manner. All inquiries emailed to Savvycat (writetosavvycat@gmail.com) will be answered regardless of whether they are published in The Bates Student. Complete confidentially is, of course, Savvycat’s mantra.

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