They at the Times want to serve us: Somehow, we'd managed to miss the debut of the New York Times' latest advice column.
The Times has two such columns in the Sunday magazine—an ethics advice column by Professor Appiah, the Dear Abby of ethics advice, and a spoof advice column by "Dr. John Hodgman," who is either a comedian or a humorist, depending on what source you check.
(By general agreement, a "humorist" is a comedian whose audience isn't drunk.)
Well sir, the Times has also started a weekly advice column in the Thursday Styles section. The column is authored by Cheryl Strayed, "an American memoirist, novelist, essayist and podcast host," and by Steve Almond, "an American short-story writer, essayist and author of ten books." The column seems to have started in July.
The new advice column is called The Sweet Spot; Almond and Strayed are referred to as the Sugars. This begins to suggest a tie between the new advice column and the motto of the amazingly dumb new daily format the Times unveiled this summer for pages A2 and A3:
You are the dumbest people on earth.Is the new advice column part of an overall dumbing-down, in which the Times is eager to show its willingness to meet us on our own level? We couldn't help wondering when we read the sexy-time letter which occasioned today's advice.
We at the Times want to serve you.
Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! Be sure to note the dumber-than-dumb way the sexy-time letter is addressed:
I Love My Fiancé, but Am Totally Crushing on a Co-WorkerYum, but also yay! "Anxious Fiancee" wants to get it on with the new bad-boy type at work! She's asking the Sugars to help!
I am a 26-year-old woman and recently engaged. I struggle with anxiety and so I figure being anxious about my engagement is to be expected, right? My fiancé and I met at work. I'm a server at a restaurant, and he was the manager (he's since moved on to another job). We kept our relationship a secret at first. It was romantic, thrilling, passionate and hot. We'd stay up all night drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes. Once we became a couple, we started prioritizing our goals. We eventually moved in together, and our life now revolves around saving money for a house and future family. I'm still in love with him, but there's definitely less sex. Though I couldn't bear to be without him, I also feel more platonic for him than I used to. Is that normal?
A new guy was hired at the restaurant recently, and I'm attracted to him and we flirt. He's the bad-boy type. He asked me to get a drink and I declined, but I told him I had a crush on him. He seemed shocked and thanked me for telling him. Now I'm embarrassed. If I pursued him and my fiancé found out, I'd deeply regret it. I fear I'm going to sabotage my relationship. I've realized this co-worker is a symbol of the lust and passion I don't have anymore. I know I have to move forward, but I miss the past. I'm scared of starting this part of my adult life.
Is this new column a deliberate part of a general dumbing-down? We decided it was when we read the first sentence of each savant's initial reply to this seeker of good sound advice, who may or may not exist:
Steve Almond: You can do the math here, Anxious.Each of the "Sugars" knew enough to nick-name the writer as "Anxious." We suspected that we were looking at a corporate pattern right there.
Cheryl Strayed: Steve's right that so much of answering this question has to do with figuring out how strongly you feel the sense of loss you describe, Anxious.
In theory, it shouldn't matter if a newspaper dumbs two of its first three pages down, then litters its various sections with further tributes to the time-honored gods of The Dumb.
In theory, it shouldn't matter. In practice, given our failing discourse, we feel fairly sure that it does.