Dear Prudence, also known as Emily Yoffe, has answered questions about everything: deathbed confessions, mysterious boxes in the attic, cheating spouses of course and, once, incestuous twins.
But after nearly a decade as Slate’s advice columnist, Yoffe is stepping down. She wrote her last advice column on Thursday.
And now she’s passing the baton to Mallory Ortberg, the writer, editor and co-founder of the site The Toast.
NPR’s Rachel Martin spoke with Ortberg about how she will approach her new role as “Prudie” starting Monday. And as she’s already started digging through the mailbag, we figured we’d also ask her a timely question.
On her feelings about the moral shoes she will fill
I like to think of it as a light power and a light pressure because, luckily, the Dear Prudence column is not legally binding. I think a lot of times when people write in for advice, they’re not saying, “Whatever you tell me to do, I’ll do.” They’re sort of looking for third-party feedback. I’m not too worried that someone’s gonna say, “You ruined my life, because when I saw your answer I had to do it, I had no other choice.”
On whether or not she will approach advice-giving in the same way Emily Yoffe took cues from the original Dear Abby (who said the only qualification you need for this job is common sense and the ability to express it)
Oh, gosh, yeah. And I think that’s part of what made Emily’s column so great. Very reasonable, very sensible and she could really balance a sense of, sometimes you need a little light smack on the wrist and sometimes you need a sort of gentle touch, and sometimes you need to be given your options. And I think she did a wonderful job of thinking, “What’s reasonable here?”
On the advice Yoffe passed on to her
She’s been wonderful. She’s been really helpful in saying, you know, you have to make this your own. She answers so many of the questions, even ones that don’t appear in the column and just sort of talking about how you have to take everyone on good faith, you know, at face value, head on, and try to give them the best advice you possibly could.
On our request for timely advice: As we approach the holidays, families are gathering during an election season. The addition of politics makes that somewhat combustible. How do we navigate that?
I’ve only just realized I have stepped into this column right as the holiday season started. Thanks a lot for asking me a big one on air.
I think there are two kinds of people in this world. And one of them is people who are really eager to bring up politics and religion at the holidays and the other is the kind of people who are hoping to make it through the holidays without having to talk to anyone in their extended family about politics and religion. And unfortunately those two kinds of people are all related to each other.
You know, I wish you the best. I hope maybe on whatever holiday it is you guys can all just go see a movie and then argue afterwards about whether or not it was good. Just pure distraction. Just keep pointing at things and asking questions. … That’s my advice, just run out the clock.