BOOK REVIEW - I SEE RUDE PEOPLE by Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess.
Some good advice about advice columnists… Or Why Amy Alkon is Now My GO TO Girl.
Over the course of my life I have devotedly read various “Agony Aunts” - Ann Landers and Dear Abby being the most recognizable. In decades past, if one wanted good sensible advice, one wrote a letter to Ann or Abby, and “Cheated on in Illinois” might or might not get a reply in the paper.
Then the niche advice market started to open up. Advice was everywhere. Advice columns for pet owners, for the religious, for work-related issues, etc. An upstart, Miss Manners, wrote a general guide to decent behavior and dutifully answered in a light, entertaining way. Her gentle readers troubling and lingering issues of etiquette were fairly mainstream, ie: ‘Is it acceptable to answer your cellphone whist simultaneously answering the call of nature’.
For steamier issues came the sweet old ladies, Dr. Ruth and Sue Johanssen, the hip, yet aged, aunties where where one went for honest sexual advice. And this was a good thing, as with each passing generation it became obvious that the problems of the public’s pubic area remained rather constant with minor variations. But there were folks out there with less mainstream issues.
However, the decent and mainstream syndicated ladies mentioned above simply do not tackle such subjects as: “What is the best way to explain to my significant other that, to be truly fulfilled, I want to be tied up naked, slathered with unpasteurized honey and eagerly licked clean by a hairy sailor in a bee suit?” For those sort of dilemmas there is Dan Savage of Savage Love , who is essentially Dear Abby for Kinky, Sexual Pervy types. However you will not find Dan Savage in your community newspaper anytime soon.
So as the columns of dependable Ann and Abby faded away, mainstream media (And I am looking RIGHT at YOU Sun Media!) tried to fill the gap these lovely, sensible women with less than stellar replacements. The advice offered was useless, dangerous or outright appalling! The writing style clunky, whiny and overbearing.
The pretenders to Ann and Abby’s thrones came and went in pathetic droves. (Yes, YOU Sun Media. Sit down and listen to this. It’s for your own good!) It was clear that the giving of Good Sensible Advice was a sacred duty, and not all are called. I wept for all the “Confused in Kalimazoo”s out there, people who simply needed a good shoulder to lean on in matters of the heart. I began to fear for society itself! Years passed. I fell into despair… until I happened upon an issue of SCENE magazine in London and read the column of ADVICE GODDESS, Amy Alkon.
And yea verily, the angels didst sing, and the people rejoiced and the clouds didst part and there was much heaving of relieved bosoms because Alkon’s advice is sensible yet delightfully snarky and hilarious.
She is a rare entity in the Advice World. She entertains as well as helps with good solid advice. Amy is also very, very good at explaining WHY people behave the way they do.
Amy's book, “I See Rude People” is a useful and fun read. As modern technology and rude societal behavior seep like bleach on to the delicate fabric of our sanity, we find ourselves behaving badly unless someone calls us on it. And God help you if it’s Amy. (Pro Tip – NEVER steal her car or her money, because… damn!)
Anecdotes include Amy confronting banking corporations who treat concerned customers like criminals, oblivious parents who blithely change funky poo-filled diapers in the middle of a crowded restaurant and the run of the mill cell phone abusers. Whether one is gently explaining to a guy on a cell phone that no one else in the café wants to hear about his genital wart issues, or boldly tracking down a car thief who snatched one’s beloved wheels, Amy teaches us that calling attention to someone’s lack of social respect is rather like confronting a school bully. Yes, it’s scary, but if enough people stand up to them, it gives strength to the rest of us. We get the society we tolerate. Sighing and eye rolling isn’t enough.
She also reminds us that a good deed has a positive ripple effect. Being nice and/or random acts of kindness are paid forward many times. If someone is nasty to you, don’t carry that negativity with you for the rest of the day. Dispel it with a decent act to some else. Otherwise, the rude retain their power over you. Which sucks, right?
In solving any problem, whether in matters of love, general etiquette or dealing with a crass stranger, clear communication is the key. It’s amazing how many of us require permission to say something simply and directly.
AKA “Excuse me Sir/Madam? You are behaving badly. Please desist immediately.”
Amy’s book, “I See Rude People.” is available at Chapters and Amazon.com.
Her columns and blogs are online at www.advicegoddess.com . You can learn more about her book there.
And SUN MEDIA, here’s some free advice for you. Run Amy Alkon’s syndicated column in all your papers coast to coast. Your current advice column is, frankly, drab and awful.