Monday, September 1, 2008

In Media Res-ume

For reasons unknown to me, many writers (OK, I need some help standardizing my vocabulary here...when you see "writer," do you think, the person with the question, or the columnist? How should I differentiate between them in a concise and consistent way?)...

Anyway. For reasons unknown to me, before they even ask their question, many advice seekers feel the need to qualify themselves, proving that they deserve an answer, a better lot in life than they've got, and a shot at being printed (albeit under alias) in a syndicated column, by summarizing their perceived best qualities and major accomplishments.

I see this most often in the love columns, especially Tales from the Front. People griping about their horrific romantic experiences want to know why they, intelligent, solvent, reliable, honest, affectionate, hilarious, well-traveled, loving dog-owners and community leaders, etc., can't find a decent date. This litany has the opposite effect on me than the seeker intends for it to have. I grow immediately suspicious and contemptuous, and can't help but feel that the seeker doth protest too much. I sometimes write a critical letter about him or her to the columnist. But at least I understand why they've chosen to include their resume--it's part of their question: "Given this, why not this?"

But today Amy featured a writer (oops, there I go again) who did the exact same thing, for no apparent reason. The advice seeker (there MUST be a better term out there) here is a middle-aged gay man in a long-term committed relationship. He has come out to everyone in his life except his elderly mother, and wonders whether or not he should, how he should approach the subject, and even wonders why his mother has never brought it up with him first.

Inexplicably, his letter started like this:

Dear Amy: I am a 45-year-old man, own my own business, sit on the boards of several charities, and enjoy sports and travel.

I am also gay, and I have been in a committed relationship for more than seven years.

Um...congratulations on managing to be both gay, an athlete, and an entrepreneur? Are we to assume that your active lifestyle has made you too busy to arrange this heart to heart with your mother?

I don't see the connection here.

"Out, But Not Out" could have started his letter in its third paragraph (with his actual problem) and gotten right down to business. Considering that these letters are edited, I'm surprised Amy's people, or the Trib's people, didn't do it for him.

That he began his letter with a list of his accomplishments makes me wonder what he's trying to make up for. His dishonesty toward his mother? His homosexuality?

Would his question be treated differently if he were not on the boards of several charities, or if he were not in a long-term relationship? Or does he just fear that it would be?

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