Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reflections: Some Free Advice


Before People Magazine and reality television, children, just about all we had, by way of socially licit voyeurism and church sanctioned schadenfreude, was Abigail Van Buren: “Dear Abby.”

Distraught, confused Americans, trying so hard to be good, but needing a wise word, blown like a kiss from the palm of a helping hand, scribbled their angst on drugstore stationary and mailed it off to Abby, each tortured soul hoping against hope that Abby would post their shame and anxiety for syndication in her daily column: instant, though anonymous, celebrity (signed “Porked in Pittsburgh” or “Hosed in Harrisburg”); posterity’s stamp of authentic existence.

By way of example, Abby once famously advised a gum-snapping adolescent female—plagued by panty-drenching lust and agonizing over whether or not she should resort to “the Pill” and submit to her boyfriend’s frantically urgent probing— that she should hold the Pill between her knees; she should preserve all that heat for a husband-to-come.

Never mind that enterprising chicks from coast-to-coast immediately launched practical experiments proving that defloration would be quite possible although one’s knees were welded together; Abby’s sardonic meme, once launched, lived on and on.

Consider, for instance, these lines from Sandra Agricola’s poem, “Nocturnes: The Gift of Suicide” included in her 1988 collection, White Mercedes:

Xxxxx We rarely give in to beauty.
Xxxxx As if we held aspirin between our legs, saving ourselves
Xxxxx for that special Beauty.

Xxxxx Yet how quickly we spread our legs for grief.

And that, children, is the meaning of life.