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Dear Abby: Two men who claim to be father and adopted son just bought an old mansion across the street and fixed it up. We notice a very suspicious mixture of company coming and going at all hours — blacks, whites, Orientals, women who look like men and men who look like women. This has always been considered one of the finest sections of San Francisco, and these weirdos are giving it a bad name. How can we improve the neighborhood? –Nob Hill Residents
Dear Residents: You could move.
There it is—the salty one-liners we all grew up with. I know I’m a bit late on sharing my remembrances on the great Pauline Phillips, but I feel compelled nonetheless.
In case you’re a few decades too young, Dear Abby was a long-running newspaper columnist revered for her pithy advice and sarcastic charm. Yet, despite her blunt writing style, there was something quite sincere about her counsel. She was compassionate. And entertaining.
Growing up in New Orleans and attending an all-girls school, I often needed entertainment. I can remember us all sneaking a cigarette before school and cutting loose with laughter as we read her column aloud.
Dear Abby: Which is better? To go to a school dance with a creep or to sit home? –All Shook Up
Dear Shook: Go with the creep, and look over the crop
How else were we supposed to get through high school, but with her wisdom and camaraderie? Of course, she wouldn’t have approved of me smoking a cigarette, as she was a lady. I’m sure she could have given me punch line to put all my high school pressures and qualms into perspective. Yet, we weren’t the only ones to whom she related—that was the amazing thing about Dear Abby. Her advice transcended age groups, socio-economic groups and gender. She was like a mother, a psychiatrist and a comedian, but always in the right combination.
Dear Abby: I’m 19 years old and not very experienced, but my mother told me to be careful of men with mustaches. Is there any truth in this? –Anita
Dear Anita: Yes … and also be careful of men without them.
I think what I admired most about Pauline Phillips was her gumption. She became a columnist in the first place by calling up the San Francisco Chronicle and telling them that she could give better advice than their columnist. Turns out she was right.
During a time of much cultural change, Dear Abby was hardly afraid of the taboo. She addressed all sorts of topics, from people of all walks of life. She had progressive social views, yet held onto all that was good about the conventional. She projected a certain spunk and witty intelligence for a woman, which was not widely accepted at the time. She rewrote the rule book, and she did it with humor, compassion and a little common sense.
Dear Abby: Thanks for all your advice over the years. There are just as many people up in heaven that could use your help, so I’m sure you will be kept very busy. We will miss your inspirational words, but now it is time for me to have the confidence to take it from here. God Bless. –Simone
Dear Simone: Get back to work.