Just Nasty!

Am I a bad person because I like to read the advice columns in the papers? I admit that I am amazed by the range of human behavior that gets exposed. From the couth to the uncouth, the merely weird to the bizarre. And that’s just the advice that pours in from column readers. Of course, the advice columnists try carefully to parse their answers, and there are a lot of suggestions that counseling or therapy might be in order.

I never write advice in the comments sections. I enjoy my schadenfreude, that pleasurable feeling from witnessing someone else’s humiliation in a safe place. Besides, it’s fun to read the screeches of the commentators as they advise, “leave the creep; he’s no good,” or ” she’s nothing less than a tramp!” So why should I hinder the Madame La Farge’s of the self-help theatre from pushing an already stressed individual over the edge?

Recently there was a significant blowup regarding what a grandmother-in-law would be called. The commentary ran to dozens of comments, and the entire thing radiated vitriol.

So why do I read this stuff? Back when I was an anthropologist, I heard all the goodies going around town. And I guess I’m looking for a replacement. But this stuff has nothing on what I used to hear: The strict temperance lady who vilified all and sundry for their drinking habits. She snuck into the pantry every hour for a couple of shots of cough syrup. Everyone in the church was surprised when she was diagnosed as a severe alcoholic. Or the big bruiser about town whose tiny wife beat him up, and he was only allowed to smoke crouched behind the wood stove.

Those were the days!

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