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Living With It

By "Guido Veloce"
Illustration by Wally Neibart

Over the past several months, Americans received an enormous amount of free advice, much of it not worth the price. I especially liked the suggestion that buying a handgun is the best protection against terrorist attacks. Since hearing that I haven't been able to get out of my mind the image of whipping out a six-shooter (I'm a traditionalist) and blasting suspicious-looking envelopes. That gem set me thinking about all the bad advice I've heard, given, and taken over the years, beginning with everything that ever followed "Girls really go for guys who...." Most of all, I wondered about people who give advice for a living--radio and TV "experts," Dr. Whatevers, and the Dear Abbys of the world. They have the luxury of never having to live with their own advice. They go on, year after year, suggesting how to fix problems like a feud between aging twin sisters in the same line of work. From time to time, good advisers like Dear Abby and Ann Landers do admit having made mistakes with their advice, and they accept correction in good spirit. But these are always cordial exchanges with readers and no lives appear ruined in the process.

There have to be cases where either the advice was bad or there were unforseen consequences. There has to be a dark, alternative universe to professional punditry. To see it, let's imagine an advice-giver--we'll call him Dear Guido because the name has a nice ring to it--and look at letters he won't be printing.

Dear Guido:
You might explain to your readers the difference between "taking ownership" and a "confession"....
Jailed in Jacksonville

Dear Guido:
I followed your advice and told my fiancˇe about my past. You didn't tell me not to play the videotapes....
Single in Seattle

Dear Guido:
I got in touch with my "inner child," who turned out to be whiny, selfish, and a bed-wetter. How can I go back to being boring, uptight, and repressed?
Damp in Danville

Dear Guido:
Like millions of Americans, I was inspired by your column explaining why spending money is a patriotic duty. Unfortunately, my bank was pretty un-American about it, so I think I should share with your readers some little-known and very important information about extradition treaties....
Creditless in the Caymans

Dear Guido:
My wife took your advice and sought treatment for her lack of interest in sex. From all reports it was successful....
Abandoned in Akron

Dear Guido:
While tough love may be effective in some situations, when your son's hobby is arson....
Homeless in Houston

Dear Guido:
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! As you suggested, I sat down with my sister-in-law and had a heart-to-heart talk about why we weren't getting along. IT WORKED! I never realized that another woman could be so warm, loving, and understanding. The problem now is getting rid of my brother....
Fulfilled in Fullerton

Dear Guido:
It's true that "participating in activities" increased my daughter's popularity, but....
New Granny in New Goshen

Dear Guido:
Now, Mr. Know-It-All, please explain to Shy in Sioux City the distinction between "striking up a conversation" and "sexual harassment"....
Indignant in Iowa

Dear Guido:
You said that I should tell my girlfriend that I'm ready to work on taking responsibility for my child. She said "your child?"
Cuckolded in Cleveland

Dear Guido:
I'm writing to let you know that Unfaithful in Urbana followed your advice, by confessing his multiple infidelities, seeking professional help, and owning up to the "health problems" he caused. As his widow....
Incarcerated in Illinois

"Guido Veloce" is a Johns Hopkins University professor.

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