Dear Ann Landers: My wife and I are expecting triplets. We were certain our family would rejoice with us, but we were wrong. The comments went like this: “You’re really going to have your hands full,” or “I hope you will have plenty of help.” What can we say when we get such rude comments? — Rejoicing East of the Rockies
Dear Rejoicing: I don’t feel well. My head is achy, and something’s not right in my throat. There’s an unusual tingling sensation in my chest.
Wait! Who turned out the lights? Oh, never mind. They’re back again. Everything is fuzzy, though. I can barely see the typewriter. I’d better lie down. — Ann
* * * * *
Dear Ann Landers: I have been married to a great guy for 23 years, but his mother is a pain in the neck. I try to show affection for her by buying her gifts for her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas and so on. She has returned every present I’ve ever given her. My husband says to forget her bad manners, but it hurts my feelings. Any ideas? — Confused in Colorado
Dear Confused: So cold. So very, very cold.
There is darkness all around me, even though it is daytime. Regrets of past mistakes haunt me; the present and future seem dim while the past is sharp and vivid. O lost opportunities! O misbegotten schemes! O unrequited love!
The cold. Oh, the cold.
Send her gift certificates.
Ahh! I’m shaking uncontrollably as I type this. I hope you will forgive any misspellings. I cannot feel my legs.
Why is it so cold? — Ann
* * * * *
Dear Ann Landers: I am dating a man who has an 8-year-old son. My boyfriend, “Tom,” believes he is raising the next Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods combined. The kid is constantly throwing balls inside the house — basketballs, footballs, golf balls, whatever. My boyfriend sees nothing wrong with it, but I cannot tolerate such behavior. Am I being unreasonable? — Hit or Miss in North Carolina
Dear Carolina: Yes, you’re being unreasonable. Tell the boy that he can play ball in the house — until he breaks something, and then he has to pay for it and play outside thereafter. That should keep him careful, while maintaining peace in your relationship with his dad.
Stabbing pain! I am racked to my very center by intense, searing pain. Nothing could have prepared me for this.
Am I shivering or having a seizure? Why can’t I control my muscles? Why is the room spinning?
The feud with my sister, the decades of spinsterhood — it all seems so meaningless now. Is this how it will end? — Ann
* * * * *
Dear Ann Landers: I’ve known “Anita” for 10 years and thought we were close. But eight months ago, I started a small business selling handcrafted jewelry, and last week, Anita informed me that she is going to start selling handcrafted jewelry, too. I am fuming that this so-called “friend” would go into competition with me. Please advise me. — Not Pleased in North Dakota
Dear Dakota: I feel Death’s clammy hand upon my shoulder.
Pain gone. All is peaceful.
So cold. So very, very cold.
Light ahead. Must … go toward it. Angels … sing … hallelujah. Talk … to Anita. Tell her … how you … feel. Woe and travail … slipping … away … from … memory. All … is well. Don’t lose … a friend … over it. At last … happiness … release … blissssssasdj;f;d/
I have no defense for this column other than I think it's a funny idea, trying to do your job right up to the very end. It is almost certainly in poor taste, and disrespectful to the dead and dying, and to "Ann Landers" (not her real name) specifically, and it contains no useful social commentary, which is what I would normally use to justify being distasteful. I just think it's funny, that's all. And each "Ann Landers" only dies once, so I had to do it now or wait another 50 years for the next "Ann Landers" to die.
The column is perilously similar to an occasional feature at The Onion, which is "Ask A...," the writer of the column being different each time. The joke is that the answers, rather than addressing the questions, address whatever that person would normally say. (Some examples: Ask A High-School Student Who Didn't Do the Required Reading; Ask A Conspiracy Theorist; Ask A Restaurant Critic; etc.) Sort of a one-joke thing, I guess. What I did here is a little different, in that the person actually tried to answer the letters, and that it's based on a real person who really wrote an advice column. Still, I recognize the similarities, so you don't need to point them out to me.
The letters are all from recent Ann Landers columns, by the way, slightly edited for space.
This is one of the most-reviled columns of my career, a fact which neither surprises nor concerns me. At the Herald Web site, it received several dozen comments, including many on the order of "I usually think you're funny, but this time you've gone too far."
Upon arriving at work, I had these two voice mails left for me, both from women:
Today's column is horrible! How dare you make fun of someone's death! It is without taste at all! Cease and desist! [Apparently, I was still writing it as she said this.]
Eric Snider, you're obviously a very bright young man. Why don't you try reaching for the highest that's in you? This column about Ann Landers is certainly beneath you and your potential and your capabilities. Why do you lower yourself to such stupid things as this? I had a friend call me and say, "Would you read this and tell me, what's he trying to say here?" See, that's how bad it was. All it did was lower you. Why do you want to be lower? You're so bright. Why don't you use your brain to do better things? Blah blah blah beneath ... blah blah blah bright ... blah blah blah lower (she went on for a while).
Then I had this e-mail, which I noticed also was posted on the Herald Web site:
I am sure this MIGHT be alittle funny, if my mother wasn't dying of cancer. I typically think Eric's stuff is funny, but I am just really sickened by this. I can hardly believe the paper printed it, it's tasteless. Why don't you try making fun of something other than people dying, I mean, with the events of the past 9 or 10 months, the terrorist, the war...you still can poke fun at people dying? I think you have officially ruined my day. I am going to go hug my mom now and say a prayer for you.
-- Cassy Bradford
formerly of provo
I guess I should have checked with Cassy first, before writing the column, to make sure no one she knew was dying.
And if we stop making fun of death, then the terrorists have won.
Then this one, from someone named Sunni Olsen:
In the past, I have read your articles when I have visited my parents. Now I live here and have to be offended by them on an ongoing basis. ["Have to be"? Who's forcing you to read them?] It is embarrassing what your editor lets you write. Todays article "sniding" Ann Landers was absolutely inappropriate. All you prove by your articles is that you have no talent and must make fun of those that do. It is very sad. [What's sad is that someone is coming over to Sunni's house twice a week and forcing her to read my column!]
And finally, this one, which has a good deal of punctuational fun:
I don't ever read your articles I find them written for the humor of teenagers. I started reading todays article because I like Ann Landers, you are the most insensitive person I have ever known. [And yet, you don't know me.] How the editors ever allowed this to be printed is a shame. There are somethings that are sacred and should not be made fun of, you crossed the line. How you consider yourself a writer is beyond me. [Yeah, me too. Must be all the writing I do.]
Her last line reminds me of a letter I got once that made reference to "your so-called 'article,'" as if the fact that he didn't LIKE the article meant it stopped being one. It seems like there's little dispute that I'm a writer; the quality of my writing is what's being questioned.
Anyway, I got this next one from someone whose e-mail address has "angel" in the name and domain is "cheerful.com." Immediately, I did not like this person, and her letter lived up to my expectations:
Today's column was highly inappropriate. Any sensible person would agree making fun of the diseased Ann Landers is mean and insensitive. You must have some pretty serious issues to insist on tearing down everyone. I used to be a Relief Society president, and my husband is currently in a stake presidency. We both agree you should go work out your problems, if you know what I mean. Those who enjoy your columns should do the same. Your remarks really are snide. Learn now, Eric, that most of us in this great state do not appreciate your type of "humor." Why don't you leave or at least learn to keep your mouth shut?
The word "inappropriate," as used by my fellow Mormons, always bothers me. It's really a very subjective term -- it usually means "inappropriate to me" -- but the connotation as it's used is that the thing is inappropriate generally, i.e., not fit for anyone, i.e., not at all subjective.
Anyway, here's my reply to her:
>I used to be a Relief Society president, and my husband is currently in a stake presidency.
Wow! How self-righteous of you to point this out. What does it have to do with anything?
> Your remarks really are snide.
You realize that's not much of an insult, right? I mean, it is the name of the column. That's like saying, "You know that show 'Seinfeld'? It really is about a guy named Seinfeld."
> Learn now, Eric, that most of us in this great state do not appreciate your type of "humor."
You've asked them all, have you? Alas, I have plenty of e-mail after each column is published that suggests otherwise. I know it's hard for you to believe that someone might disagree with you, what with you having been a Relief Society president and all, but it does happen.
Thanks for writing.
And then her reply came. I did not reply this time, so my comments are included within her letter:
> Wow! How self-righteous of you to point this out. What does it have to do with anything?
I find you to be the self-righteous one, Eric. www.dictionary.com would agree with me. This site defines self-righteousness as "exhibiting pious self-assurance." I don't think a further explaination is needed. [Actually, I think a further explanation IS needed. What did I say, in the column or in my e-mail, that even BORDERED on piousness? Self-assurance, yes, but that's not self-righteousness. Self-righteousness must include piousness, and usually a false or exaggerated sense of it. I think mentioning that you were a Relief Society president when it is irrelevant -- and then failing to see how it was irrelevant; in other words, believing it is ALWAYS relevant to mention it -- is self-righteous.]
> > Your remarks really are snide.
> > You realize that's not much of an insult, right? I mean, it is the name of the column.
That may be true, but a lot of what you say is snide. Just because your column is called "Snide Remarks" doesn't make it okay. Even the e-mail you sent me was "derogatory in a malicious, superior way," the dictionary's definition of snide. [Again, she is arguing against things I never said. I didn't say my column wasn't snide! In fact, I said the opposite -- that it IS snide, and that it is therefore not insulting when someone tells me I'm snide. I almost think she's missing the point on purpose!]
> > Learn now, Eric, that most of us in this great state do not appreciate your type of "humor."
> > You've asked them all, have you? Alas, I have plenty of e-mail after each column is published that suggests otherwise. I know it's hard for you to believe that someone might disagree with you, what with you having been a Relief Society president and all, but it does happen.
Simply because some people agree with you, Eric, or don't see through you doesn't mean what you have to say is good. [Sigh. Again, I didn't SAY what I wrote was good. What I said was that she was wrong in suggesting "most" of the state doesn't like me. I agree that being liked isn't the same as being good -- witness "Men in Black II" -- but that's not what we were talking about.] Also, it is difficult to tell whether or not you are sarcastic about me being a Relief Society president. [It's difficult to tell because you, my cheerful.com friend, have no sense of humor and are probably, and I say this objectively, very, very stupid when it comes to things like common sense.] Wasn't it YOU who said, "What does it have to do with anything?"? But in fact, it was important when I brought it up. It let you know that I am a credible person and indeed do know what I am talking about. [So she brought up her being a Relief Society president to give her argument more credibility. Fine. But what was her argument? 1) That I have issues; 2) that I need to work out my problems; 3) that most of Utah doesn't like me -- three areas in which it can be demonstrated she either has no way of knowing or is flat-out wrong. So she mentioned her church calling in order to support arguments that she was mistaken in.]
Have a nice day,
People like her really irritate me (can you tell?). Then I got this one, which I kind of liked:
Eric, Habibi, You really owe the world an apology this time. Your Ann Landers column went over the line. I just can't believe that you meant it to come across the way it did. I think I can guess what you were trying to say---that she was in there to the very last breath, doing her thing. But it didn't come off as a tribute. It was terribly disrespectful. My guess is that it will hit AP or UPI and go nationwide and bring you more notoriety than will be good for your eternal soul if you try to defend it. Please, just tell everyone you're sorry and maybe it'll go away. And then come over for some cookies and milk.Ã‚ Grandma Glenda
And this one, which I like a lot:
Eric,Your column has been a long-time favorite at our house. My 14 year-old-son is your biggest fan, but we all enjoy your very clever sense of humor. You are a very talented guy! We also look forward to your reviews, and though we don't always agree, we are always interested in what you have to say.
I realize not every column can be a winner, but if we don't tell you, how will you know? "Giving Advice Up to the End" was not funny and in very bad taste. I realize Ann Lander's family probably won't be reading the Daily Herald, and they are the only ones who would be terribly hurt and offended by what you wrote, but you can definitely do better- and usually do!
Now honestly, don't you think a person is far more likely to listen to what you're saying when you address the issue rationally like this? No way is Relief Society President Meg Hall going to catch any flies with her self-righteous vinegar.
The best response was this one:
Ann Landers died, huh? How about that. I didn't even know. It looks like it was a while ago too, around a month or so. Amazing. Good thing you wrote an article about it, otherwise I never would have known.
I'm here to help.
A couple days later, the U.S. mail-sent letters began to arrive. We got these two on Monday. First, this one, handwritten:
As a Daily Herald subscriber since moving here 10 yrs ago, I usually read "Snide Remarks." I have found this column interesting, funny, silly, stupid, rude & sometimes disgusting. The recent column about the death of Ann Landers was, however, the most disturbing. To make fun of the death of a respected and admired international figure, a woman who has helped man with (usually) sound advice, is a serious affront to the sensitivity of your readers. Whatever were you thinking Eric? You owe all of us a sincere apology.
Pretty even-handed letter, but I have two points. One, "a serious affront to the sensitivity of your readers" suggests she knows what most of our readers think, when really she probably just knows what she thinks. And two, it would be hard for me (or anyone) to give a sincere apology when the only reason I'm giving it is because you asked me to.
Then this one, typed on a typewriter:
I have NEVER found Mr. Snider's attempts at humor to be funny. His column, "Snide Remarks," is aptly named. According to Webster [the little black kid from the ABC sitcom?]: "SNIDE: slyly malicious, derisive, practicing deception, dishonest, unworthy of esteem, LOW, slyly disparaging."
Whether or not one was a fan of Ann Landers, her column has been read by millions for many years. She deserves respect, not ridicule. [I disagree that being popular automatically means one deserves respect, but OK.]
Once again, someone has thought it was perceptive to point out that my column, called "Snide Remarks," is in fact snide.
What's interesting is that she quoted several different definitions Webster's gives for "snide," including the definitions that don't really apply to my column nor in common, everyday usage. For example, no one uses "snide" to mean "dishonest," do they? I've never heard it used that way. But I suppose Jean figured she'd stumbled on a great find, that even though she'd never thought of me as dishonest before, here was the dictionary telling her that was an OK thing to attribute to me.
What's also interesting is that the Webster's dictionary I have in front of me, next to the "slyly disparaging" definition, gives "snide remarks" as an example of the usage. In other words, the dictionary itself narrows down which definition of "snide" probably best applies to my column. But never mind! I'm dishonest, and unworthy of esteem. But at least I'm not dead.