Saturday, October 24, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Wandering around the other day, I noticed a new advice link (ok, maybe not since I'd spent any time at the trib). It appeared to read "Ask Me!!" which seemed excessively exclamatory, but I clicked anyway. Turned out it was actually "Ask Mel." Mel is a 16-year-old blogger for Chicago Now, who handles questions that "only a teen can answer." Curious, I took a peek at a few of her columns. I began skeptical, and then became horrified. For example, in response to a writer who can't stay awake at school, Mel offered the following sugguestions:

Dear Tired Eyes,
I feel your pain.
Every morning, my alarm goes off at 6:30, and I hit the snooze button 6, 7, 8 times. I end up getting up around 7:15, frantic because I don't have enough time to do my hair and makeup, etc. So I fall asleep in class a lot. (Trick: When teachers yell at me, I just tell them I was "resting my eyes". Not sleeping.)
Alright. Here are some tips.
-Put your cell phone across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn the alarm off. (I do this, but somehow I always find myself back in my warm, cozy bed. Weird.)
-Take a freezing cold shower. That will definitely wake you up.
-Drink coffee! I have a cup o' joe every single morning, loaded with sugar, of course. Yeah, it makes me feel more mature.
-Wear uncomfortable clothes to school. Whenever I wear sweats and a t-shirt, I doze off. But, when I wear jeans and a nice top, I somehow stay awake. Go figure.
-Chew energy gum! Do they still make that stuff? When I was a freshman, I think I OD'd on it.
-Eat sugary snacks. Cookies and candy.

If all else fails, just start bringing a video camera to class. That way, you can nap while your teacher rambles about the Cold War and pronouns. Good idea, right?

Coffee? Sugary snacks? Uncomfortable clothes? And then more sugar?? But these kids need rest, exercise, nutritious meals, and less pressure to perform well on standardized tests! Not junk food, tomfoolery, and sass!

But then I realized....they already know that. Of course they do. If they wanted boring, old person advice (which apparently is what I would give), they'd write to Dear Abby, or, um, ask their moms. They WANT the opinion of a peer. A smart, thoughtful teenager, to be sure, as her blog reveals, but a teenager nonetheless.

One of my favorite posts of hers is a list of ways to deal with boredom while grounded. She just seems like a regular kid, who gets into regular trouble. She's not making a big fuss about establishing trust and respect between parents and kids, nor about defying them and sneaking out. Just how to get through the boring weekend at home that you know you probably deserved:

Dear Trapped Inside,
You know, I happen to be an expert on this stuff. Here's a list of non-school related things that you can do this weekend to fill your time:
-Learn to juggle
-Count how many stairs there are in your house
-Pretend to be a dog and spend your day crawling on your hands and knees
-Annoy your siblings/parents
-Put a fly on a leash. Click here for detailed instructions.
-Play DDR nonstop
-Write a song and then sing it
-Organize your closet
-Watch some good movies (Breakfast Club, anyone?)
-Bake a cake
-Eat the cake
-Plot to escape your house when your parents are sleeping [well, Ok, i missed that one]
-Style your hair differently
-Speak Spanish
-Learn the entire "Thriller" dance
-Dress up your dog


And she finally won me over with her latest post, responding to a writer who's sick of doing chores at home:

Dear Annoyed,
Um, do what they want you to do? How hard is it to keep your room tidy and help out in the kitchen once in a while? No offense, but you need to be less lazy. The answer is simple, hence this short response. Sorry, no shortcuts here.

Mel gets my vote. She's a good writer and seems like a smart kid. She's 16 all right--she's into Gossip Girl, Jamba Juice, boys, and occasionally picking a fight with the parents if it's about something "really important" like TV. But she seems like someone other kids her age would like and trust, and turn to for a specific kind of answer. We've got lots of moms in the world--including most of the major syndicated advice columnists. Mel is a welcome breath of (smoothie-scented) fresh air, for her own demographic at least.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Advice Columnists in the news!

Thanks to ML for this! Commentary to come.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another Professional Opinion on "Professional Women"

Earlier this summer, I (along with many other readers) objected to Kathy and Marcy's (of Annie's Mailbox) use of the term "professional woman" to denote "sex worker." Originally, a female lawyer wrote in to protest, and M&K insisted the term was a "common" way to refer to sex work. I had never heard it that way, and a Google search revealed no connection between the two. Today, another professional woman--this one a scholar--weighs in:

Dear Annie: Your reply to "Professional Woman," who complained about your use of the term to refer to a stripper, was way off base. Sure, most people probably knew that you were referring to some sort of sex worker, but how sexist is that?

In the 19th and even 20th centuries, the phrase "public woman" was used to refer to prostitutes on the assumption that any woman who would occupy public space without a proper male escort must be a prostitute. It provided a handy way to exclude middle- and upper-class women from public spaces, stigmatize working-class women (who appeared regularly in public spaces), and render as sexual prey all women who went out in public.

The double entendre implicit in the phrase "professional woman" undoubtedly serves a similar purpose, insinuating that sex work can be a profession for women and also that "professional women" are sexually available. It's sexist and discriminatory. — Leigh Ann Wheeler, Associate Professor of History, Binghamton University (SUNY)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On Curing Cabin Fever

OK, OK, it's been a lot of Dear Abby lately...but her column seems to be the one that's raising the most questions in my mind these days. Today, I'd like to know what you think. (Well, I always want to know what you think, and usually intend to close with a question--but then start ranting and forget. This time I intend to stick to my plan!)

DEAR ABBY: Since my daughter left home several years ago, I have become extremely anxious on Sundays. In the afternoons it feels like the walls are closing in on me. I feel so depressed I have to leave the house.
If I go someplace that is open and unconfined, with lots of people around, I feel fine. When I return to my house in the early evening and dote on my pets, I get back to feeling normal.
Abby, some people have said I suffer from "empty nest syndrome." Others say it's "cabin fever." Any thoughts on what I can do about this? -- PHIL IN PHOENIX

DEAR PHIL: If your daughter left on a Sunday, that may be the reason you become depressed and anxious on that particular day of the week. Or because you are less busy and distracted on Sundays, you become more aware of the fact you are alone. Whether you're experiencing "empty nest syndrome" or "cabin fever" is irrelevant. Discuss your feelings of depression and claustrophobia with a licensed mental health professional so you can be properly diagnosed and receive help for your problem.

Since the writer specifically mentioned the words "anxious" and "depression," I see why Abby probably felt compelled to recommend seeking a doctor's intervention. But I can't help but wonder if she's not jumping the gun a little bit.

This man's description of Sunday evenings is actually remarkably similar to how I feel at the same time of the week. I hate Sundays. For me, I think it has to do with the end of the weekend, and the feeling, held over from my recent student days, that I'm forgetting to do some pile of work that's due tomorrow. Lately it's also often meant that I have a long, boring, drive ahead of me. I tend to feel restless, irritable, and yes, a bit trapped. But the feeling passes, and Monday morning all is back to normal.

If once a week his body and mind are craving something that's easy to provide, and not damaging (in this case, an open, crowded, public place), and he can do that thing, and feel better afterwards, I guess I don't see what's wrong with that. Sometimes we have to feel bad so that we know we're supposed to do something different.

If we're hungry, we eat. If we're sleepy, we sleep. If we're jumpy and antsy, we go for a walk. If we're sad or angry, we seek comfort in whatever way we can (and of course some ways are better than others). To me, it follows that if you feel trapped, and going out for a few hours makes you feel better--you should just do that! "I feel so depressed I have to leave the house" doesn't sound that unreasonable to me. What's wrong with leaving the house? This, to me, suggests he hasn't left the house all weekend, that he considers being in the house "the norm," and leaving, an aberration. If this is the case, that might explain precisely why he's feeling so trapped by his own four walls. His body and mind are craving to get out--so he should get out!

Do you think I'm being too glib about this? Was Abby right to recommend a mental health diagnosis? Or do you think that in today's society we're sometimes too eager to perceive any uncomfortable feeling as a symptom of mental illness, rather than a signal that, if followed intuitively, will lead us to a healthy change?

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Family Archives: Preservation AND Access. PLEASE!

DEAR ABBY: After we laid my mother-in-law to rest, my wife discovered a box of letters her parents had written to each other. Her father was stationed overseas during WWII.

My wife is agonizing over whether to read them or destroy them. Because her mother's passing was unexpected, no instructions were made. Should my wife read them as a way to share the experiences of my in-laws' love for each other or consider them so private they are inviolable? -- STUCK FOR AN ANSWER IN OHIO

DEAR STUCK: Reading them might give your wife new insight into her parents, the challenges they faced and an opportunity to view them in the bloom of their youth. They could also be historically significant. That said, however, if she thinks her mother would have preferred that the letters be destroyed, she should follow her conscience.

Wow, it seems like this woman either has an overwhelming sense of privacy (not to mention self-control), or a secret fear of what she might find if she reads the letters. Almost anyone else I can think of, without explicit instructions not to read (or even with them), would have already flown through these.

A single letter can be a wonderful treasure--capturing the writer's language, sense of humor, priorities, handwriting, and perspective on her world. And if you're lucky, cool stamps and funny doodles. Having a whole collection of letters between two correspondents--especially if they shared a long and loving marriage--increases the value of such a single treasure by, I don't know, a million-fold.

The archivist--not to mention the granddaughter--in me, asks this woman, please please PLEASE don't destroy these in an attempt to honor your late parents' privacy. These are the only ones of their kind. If they're gone, they're GONE, and there's no way to ever get that history back.


After my grandfather's death, my mom found a collection of letters his father (her grandfather) had written during the first world war. He wasn't married or in a relationship at the time (or at least, these weren't those letters). These were his letters home, to his parents and siblings--so the element of privacy and intimacy wasn't such a concern in this case. But my mom, who's not necessarily a history buff, learned so much about her own family, and about the world at that time. She bought a scanner and digitized most of the letters, sending images of them to me at school and to her sisters on opposite coasts.


If both parents are now out of the picture (I'm assuming they are, otherwise, why wouldn't they just ask dad?), there's no one to be hurt or made uncomfortable by the letters except the living daughter--so really, it's up to her. I can imagine not wanting to share private, intimate things with my children while I'm alive, but nevertheless wouldn't mind them knowing, later, that I had those feelings and experiences--that I had been young, in love, and struggled and triumphed just like them.

If her parents' marriage was happy, this might be a wonderful experience. But even if it wasn't, it still might be a comforting, or at least an eye opening one. My mom remembers her parents' marriage as not a particularly happy one. There was a lot of tension, not a lot of joy in each other's company, and they divorced when she was in college. So when she recently found a big collection of pictures of them together in their early 20s, I think it brought her a lot of comfort to see how happy and in love they once were--to know that, even though they changed, and their relationship changed, it was at the start a good and happy thing.

But even if this woman is not comfortable reading them herself....


Take them to a local historical society or history museum to at least see if they want them.

I had the opportunity to comb through a vast collection of personal correspondence at the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington Illinois. In 2007 I processed (though not very well, in archivist terms...I had no idea what I was doing) something like 8 boxes full of nothing but family correspondence--dating from the 1850s through the 1970s. The very best bunch in here were the letters between the woman who donated the letters and her husband, starting from when they were in high school and he spent his summers riding his bike around Illinois and sending postcards, to his being stationed at various posts in the U.S., to their marriage, and her letters to her parents about making their family budget and living far away from home. I came to care deeply about these people, and cheered for their triumphs. I'd go home from my internship each day and tell my roommates what each of them was up to that month in 1932.

There was nothing particularly graphic or alarming in them, though there were plenty of private and intimate thoughts--but since they weren't my family, it didn't make me uncomfortable.

If the museum doesn't have the space or the staff to take care of the collection, she shouldn't be offended--but she shouldn't turn around and toss them, either. She should consider herself a custodian of this inheritance, and even if she can't or won't make use of it, save it for a relative, friend, or cultural institution who will.


As technology changes, archives of handwritten letters like this one are going to be fewer and farther between. I've already begun to fret about how I'll preserve the email collections that chronicle some of my closest friendships. These are the kinds of things that I'd love for my grandchildren to have one day, to see what it was like being a young woman at the turn of the millennium. But for that to happen, I'll have to take active, careful steps to ....I don't even know what...but to do something to pull these stories and thoughts out of inboxes and into some kind of archive. The days of correspondence that survives on its own, under a bed, just by virtue of being ignored, are numbered. To willfully destroy these, when so much family and personal correspondence of the 20th and 21st century will almost certainly be lost just by virtue of its electronic medium, seems almost sacreligious.

So please....PLEASE.....dont. destroy. the. letters.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who's the Boss?

This letter to Annie's Mailbox really hit home for me:

Dear Annie: I work for a family company and am grateful to have a job in this economy. But while we employees have had benefits drastically cut, the owners have bought new luxury homes and cars and just returned from an overseas vacation that included a safari.
I am a loyal employee, but it seems we are the only ones making sacrifices for the good of the company. Morale is low, and I can no longer be the cheerleader I once was.
I want my employer to know that, despite how they have treated us, I will continue to do my best, but there are other employees who don't feel this way. How can we get the boss to take a closer look at the message he is sending before everyone walks out? I still love this company and want it to succeed. — Unappreciated

Dear Unappreciated: The problem is, your boss knows that no matter how he treats his employees, it will be difficult for them to find another job in this economy. He takes advantage of the fact that, despite the grumbling, they are not likely to leave. This is a terrible way to treat the people who work for you.
Since you care about the health of the company, appoint yourself the spokesperson for the staff and see if you can get a few people together to speak to the boss privately. (There is safety in numbers.) Tell him he deserves to enjoy the fruits of his labor, but you've noticed it lowers morale when he appears to be flaunting his wealth at the expense of his struggling employees. Say that you want his company to be successful and a great place to work, and consequently, you worry when your fellow employees don't feel valued and appreciated. Then ask how you can help.

While I understand why this person would feel frustrated and resentful, I see this situation from the other side, as well. My dad owns a small business and over the years has had many tough decisions to make about providing benefits for his staff, supporting branches in one, two, or three locations, all while keeping the company afloat.

At the end of the day, does he take home more than his employees? Yes he does. He also assumes all the risk, all the responsibility for keeping the company's head above water. It's his name on the lease, or the deed. It's his catastrophe if the building floods or burns down (he's been through both).

This writer's situation is not the same as that of a bitter middle manager not caring to support the luxurious lifestyle of a high-powered exec. making 10-times his salary when they work at the same publicly traded mega-corporation. The rules are different.

This writer mentions a drastic cut in benefits--my dad personally feels the weight of trying to fairly provide benefits for his employees and their families. For small businesses, this is not easy, and it's not cheap. He negotiates the best plan the company can afford, and no, it's not great. And, yes, I'm biased, but to me that doesn't mean he should put his personal investments and family savings--whether they be for the mortgage payment or for a vacation--into providing a cheaper insurance policy for 15-20 other people. (Not to mention that the cost of one personal vacation hardly equates to covering such business expenses over any ongoing period of time).

The business owner is not your parent, personally responsible for your expenses. He or she is your boss, and their first responsibility in that role is to the company. The line between a small business and its owner is a tough one to define. The owner takes on a great deal of personal investment and risk, and hopefully has a personal and personable relationship with his or her employees--but the owner's number one job--at the risk of everyone's unemployment--is keeping the business afloat.

Benefits have not been cut so the owner can pocket the extra cash and take a safari vacation. The fact that he took a vacation and has a nice car does not mean he's "flaunting his wealth" at the "expense" of anyone. Almost certainly, benefits have been cut in order to make rent, utilities, and payroll. In other words, benefits have probably been cut so that jobs won't be cut. And by the way, if the business owner is on the company plan, HIS benefits have been slashed, too.

In the end, it's not the employees' place to tell the owner how to spend his own money--just as it's not the owner's place to tell the employees how to spend theirs.

If the pay and benefits offered at this position aren't enough to get by on, or are no longer worth the work, then it's time to start looking for a new job. Yes, times are bad. But if your job is unworkable, that's what you do. But if you like the job, the company, and the boss, you might try losing some of the bitterness.

K&M's advice to ask the boss how to help boost up fellow employees and make sure that everyone feels valued is good, but it comes on the tail of stating, without any evidence, that the owner is Mr. Potter-like, sneering ironically from his wheelchair about his employees' job-paralysis--it's misleading (not to mention just made up), and certainly doesn't give the writer the right attitude to take back to work.

Personal rant aside, what really bothers me about this is the way the employees seem to have turned on their boss. The boss has almost certainly always made more than the employees, so it's not fair to be upset that that's still the case. If he or she was fair-minded, honest, and treated employees well in good times, it's also not fair to suddenly grow bitter and suspicious when things get rocky. If, on the other hand, the boss was a tightwad and a jerk all along (and that could be the case), they would have known that already, too--it's not the vacation that makes that relevant.

The only specific change in the workplace that these disheartened employees have noted is the cut in benefits--which affects the boss just as much as the employees. Things are bad, but that's not their boss's fault. They seem to be looking for a scapegoat, someone to take the fall for the fact that things are rough all over. And unfortunately, that's yet another common downside to being the boss.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nothing is Certain but Death and.....Taxidermy

People are always writing to the columnists for validation of their excuses not to go to relatives' homes--they drink, they smell, they're slobs, they're packrats, the pool isn't fenced in, they post controversial political and/or religious propaganda, their dogs are overly affectionate and/or overly aggressive....the list goes on and on, but here's one I've never seen before:

DEAR ABBY: My oldest sister has just married a very nice man. (It's her second marriage.) My only problem is that "Norman" is a taxidermist. Going to their home frightens my daughter and makes me feel, frankly, a bit nauseous. I have avoided going there since the first time, but have been getting questions from family about why I keep turning down invitations.

How do I answer these questions without hurting my sister's feelings? She's a great sister, and I really like Norman. But their house gives me and my animal-loving daughter nightmares. Please help. -- CREEPED OUT IN ARIZONA

DEAR CREEPED OUT: Be honest, but be gentle. Tell your sister that you love her and think her new husband is terrific, but the stuffed animals (etc.) make you uncomfortable. Make sure she knows that when she's having a barbecue or a swimming party (thank God you live in a state with a mild climate), you'd love to come over. But you're not up to another trip through the gallery of the living dead because it gave your daughter nightmares.

I think this is a cop out. I understand that a child might be a little creeped out by a house full of preserved animals. I've felt that way myself. And I think it's ok for the mom to say to her sister, in grown-up-to-grown-up kind of way, "Please don't mind Susie...the animals make her a little nervous."

But I don't think this is grounds to reject wholesale her sister's homestead (p.s. why bother noting that this is her second marriage? Trying to justify that the new husband isn't really family perhaps?)

The mom needs to be a grown up here, and use her daughter's nerves as a learning opportunity, not an excuse for herself. Susie gets a pass, for now--but her mom needs to explain to her, and then exemplify with her behavior, there there are all kinds of people (and careers) in the world, and that they need to be gracious to all of them--especially to "very nice" people, and to family!--even if they're not completely comfortable.

Animal lovers or no, the only legitimate way to make an honest stand about this is if they're also vegetarians, and avoid the butcher counter at the grocery store because it upsets them. In fact, many an animal lover has had taxidermy done on the bodies of their beloved pets. It's not something I'd choose to do myself, but it's it important to note that taxidermy and love or at least respect for animals are not mutually exclusive.

As long as "Norman" isn't engaging in graphic shop talk, after a few visits the "decorations" will hopefully fade into the background.

Speaking of which--don't know if the writer or Abby's editors picked out the pseudonym but "Norman"? Really? That's out of line--just because Hitchcock gave taxidermy a bad name with Norman Bates doesn't mean that Abby should encourage the stereotype. Come on, Abby, stand up for taxidermists everywhere!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Are you serious? (Because you should be)

Margo's got me scratching my head again...her perspective on online affairs seems to be straight from 1998:

Dear Margo: My wife and I regularly play an online video game. Since I work full time and she doesn't, she plays more than I do. A few weeks ago, she asked me if I had a problem with her spending a lot of time playing the game with an online friend, who happens to be male. I said that as long as he was "just a friend," it was no problem. Over the past few weeks, however, I noticed behavioral changes in her that made me think something was amiss, so I read her game logs on her computer to assure myself that their relationship was "just friends."
Long story short, I found enough in the logs to become very upset. I confronted her, and she admitted that she is in love with the online guy! She says she also loves me, is confused and doesn't want to hurt either one of us. I love her, and the thought of her leaving makes me ill, but I want her to be happy. I also want her to hurry and make a decision because the stress of not knowing if she will leave me for him is killing me. But she doesn't want to be rushed into making a decision. — Nice Guy Who Doesn't Want To Finish Last

Dear Nice: I am having trouble with this. Your wife is playing an online game and thinks she's fallen in love with Online Gamer Guy? Sheesh, it doesn't take much, does it? The Internet being, well, the Internet, for all she knows, her game-boy could be an elderly lady who writes romance novels. No offense, but your mate doesn't sound as though she's wrapped real tight. Either that, or there's not much going on in your marriage. It just seems addled to me that anyone could think she's fallen in love with an unseen partner playing a computer game ... and she's telling you to hang on until she decides. I think if this happened to me, I would begin a new game called "Let's Separate." But in your case, I would suggest you both stop with the video games and instead go to a couples counselor to see what is wrong and what can be salvaged.
— Margo, amazedly

Amazedly? Frankly, I'm amazed that she's amazed. Although of course it's true that people can embrace imaginary identities online, and some do, that's no longer the majority of folk. Most people, it seems, no longer have a clear divide between their real and virtual lives, but rather find their online presence--on blogs, social networking sites, gaming communities, message boards, etc.--to be more or less integrated, and indeed a major facet of, their "real" lives.

Child molesters posing as teens trying to pick up other minors? Yes, still (and always) a legitimate danger. Extrapolating that to predict that a longtime gamer is in fact an elderly woman pretending to be a man playing a game....? Come on, Margo. Get real. The situation this writer is in is hardly uncommon. In fact, these days, marriages wrecked by very real virtual affairs are probably far more common than affairs wrecked by false identities.

"It just seems addled to me that anyone could think she's fallen in love with an unseen partner playing a computer game ... " shows a total ignorance of the changing social world in which she lives....which I can only imagine will leave her readers wondering why she has any business advising about it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Disgrace period?

As my own student loan grace period draws to a close, and as SK and I keep vague tabs on, but don't interfere with, each other's loans (we both have them, though we don't carry any other kind of debt) I was interested in Abby's response to a woman who questioned her boyfriend's refusal to marry her while she's paying hers off:

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of several years has just told me he won't marry me as long as I have student loan debt to pay off. I have always been upfront with him about the amount of money I owe. It's a sizable sum, but my credit is good.
He says he loves me but cannot, in good faith, start a life with me owing that much money. Abby, am I wrong to think that student loans should not stop two people who love each other from getting married? -- LOANED OUT IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR LOANED OUT: No, you are not. And furthermore, I suspect that rather than the money being the issue, it's that your boyfriend has had a change of heart.

I'm inclined to agree with Abby and the writer here, in thinking that the boyfriend sounds less than ideal. However, I also wonder if she couldn't have done a better, more informative job with her response.

I always like when the columnists call in an expert--I wish she had called a bank, or a lawyer, to confirm whether the guy has anything to fear, before assuming that he's just looking for an excuse to leave.

Based on my quick-n-dirty google searching, he wouldn't be responsible for her loans, since they were incurred before their marriage (interestingly, I couldn't find any reliable answer to this on the directloans website). In fact, he would only become responsible for them if she consolidated or refinanced (which constitutes taking out a new loan) after they were married. But if he didn't understand this, marrying someone with tens of thousands of dollars of debt (or more) might seem like a scary thing.

If I were her, I'd point out to him that student loans are a very particular kind of debt. Credit card debt, for example, still might not become the spouse's responsibility, if they keep their finances separate (debt incurred after their marriage would). But even if you won't be held responsible, your partner's debt gives you insight into how they live and manage their assets. I could see choosing on principle not to be with someone who has tons of credit card debt, because it suggests they can't live within their means. Student loans, however, seem to be in a different category: almost everyone has them, and they suggest a desire to learn, improve, and (one would hope) pursue gainful employment.

Which raises another question. Did her loans allow her to complete schooling that led to a job that allows her to support herself while making regular loan payments? Or did she rack up debt pursuing a string of graduate-level degrees, in order to defer both her loans and reality?

Does he, or has he, had loans of his own?

Is the problem simply that he doesn't want her contributions to their hypothetical household to be limited because her first priority is to pay down her debt?

In the end, it seems that all of this moot, because of one key factor: that he didn't seem interested in asking any of these questions. If he doesn't even want to find out what their circumstances would be, or discuss how they'd handle responsibly handling her debt, then why bother trying to explain it to him? I guess that's what Abby's trying to get at.

I think what bugs me a bit is the writer's argument that people who love each other shouldn't be seprated by the cruel drama of student loan debt. Something about her argument that love and money have nothing to do with each other needs revision--and if that's how she truly feels, maybe her bf is wise to step back. Abby may have been right to suggest that this pair is doomed, but I wish she'd given the writer some tools to make that decision herself (such as questions to ask of herself and the guy about their debts and their attitudes), rather than just writing him (and the relationship) off as a bad investment.