[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published September 25, 2023] 2023
I've often reflected while reading the morning paper that it's a good thing I have my current gig with the La Jolla Light because I would make an absolutely terrible advice columnist. My answer to about 95% of the letters would be, all caps, IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION???
I'd be fired the first day.
I mean, I like to think I m a compassionate person (unless we re talking about my former stepmother, Fang, for whom I wish nothing but the worst possible suffering). But you have to wonder whether the folks who submit these even read their own letters because the answer would - should - is often abundantly obvious. In fact, I've often found it a useful tactic in solving my own problems. Write yourself a letter.
Alas, a disproportionate number of letters to syndicated advice columnists seem to be written by women who are in abysmal relationships. This makes me incredibly sad.
A common denominator in so many of the most despairing epistles is that they are written by women who seem to have a profound deficit of self-worth. As my friend Jill has often observed, "If it weren't for women with low self-esteem, there s a lot of guys who'd never get laid." I couldn t agree more.
Alas, a lack of economic resources often seems to be playing a role in many a letter writer's dilemmas as well. Hence, the question they re posing at the end of a truly depressing tale is not the one you'd hope for, like "help me get out of this horrible situation" but "how do I get him to marry me?" Gah! More gah! Very (very) disheartening indeed.
Here are some composites of letters I've saved in recent years and how I would reply to them were they written to me.
I met a man on line who, after a week, invited me to move across country to where he lives. I do believe in love at first sight, and no man has ever made me feel this way before. At first everything was really cool, but lately he keeps having to go on these extended business trips for weeks on end, leaving me along at his rural house to care for his six dogs, five goats, and two donkeys. They are a lot more work than you might think, especially the donkeys. I am starting to get suspicious that these business trips might include more than business although he denies it and maintains that that s why is first six marriages didn t work, because his wives were these total b----s who always thought the worst. But he leaves so little money for me when he goes out of town that I have been reduced to eating dog food which I don't particularly like but is tastier than the donkey food. I am tempted to give him an ultimatum: either he marries me the next time he comes home or I'm moving into the barn. Is this the right plan? Signed, YOLO in Idaho
Inga replies: Next time he's out of town, sell the livestock and buy yourself a one-way ticket out of town leaving no forwarding address. Take the dogs. They deserve better.
I ve divorced my husband twice because he cheated on me constantly, and also beat me. Now he says he has gone to anger management and wants us to get married a third time. He is currently living with another woman (my 17-year-old sister, actually) but says he will break up with her and move back in with me if I say yes. I am concerned that he doesn't have a job and is also very racist. I have always loved him with all my heart even during the time he was in prison. Should I remarry him if he promises for sure to quit beating me and stops his promiscuous behavior? Signed, Love conquers all?
Inga replies: Sweetheart, you need a lobotomy. At minimum. If you are even considering this, you need to be under conservatorship.
I m thinking the Dear Abbys and Ask Carolines of the world must need a really stiff drink at the end of the day. As a fourth-generation feminist, I just can't bear reading about women making incredibly bad relationship choices. Not, of course, that I haven t edged up on some questionable choices myself which were delineated in the post-divorce Dates from Hell section of my book. For example, going out with the criminal lawyer with a cocaine habit and herpes. Such a learning curve! He seemed so nice! But was such a creep! Fortunately, he was just one (really really) bad date, not a long-term life choice.
But that date was a Dear Inga moment. My future dating choices were faaaar more selective. Oftentimes the best advice you'll ever get is not from someone else, but the advice that's already circulating in your own head. Listen to it.