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I don’t like Sugar (with apologies).

November 23, 2010 \am\30 11:51 am

I’m really really really sorry. It makes me feel badly because a lot of humans I consider close to me think she’s the sweetest (har har) thing to grace advice columns since Abby, but: I don’t like The Rumpus’s Dear Sugar column.

It’s not that I’m against advice columns although typing this I realized that I hold them only a few rungs above horoscopes. But sort of I don’t mind horoscopes either, really. Like probably a lot of you, I am that clichéd dullard that reads the backs of cereal boxes. And it’s not that I dislike Sugar herself because I don’t know her beyond what she offers in the columns, and apart from her grating habit of calling everyone ‘sweet pea’ she seems like a kind and loving and whip-smart female. And okay, I don’t feel sooooo badly posting this because Dear Sugar has a large and strong and devoted enough readership that it makes entirely no difference what I think.

So I don’t like the column but I read it sporadically — mostly when people hype a particularly touching one on Twitter, and sometimes when Stephen Elliott says something attractive about one in his daily emails. I read it kind of like I’ll watch and enjoy a Gwyneth Paltrow movie but better because it’s written and duh, I am a fan of written.

Maybe ~90% of times I have read Dear Sugar I have welled in the throat and behind the eyes, so it’s not that I wasn’t moved. But when I am moved that way, I feel manhandled. Like Sugar pulled apart my tear ducts and poured the salty tears in and then pinched them out herself. I am that kind of person by nature enough though, so I know I don’t need Sugar’s push to emo up. Just that sometimes it feels so calculated to arouse those certain feelings, and maybe that is the point so in that regard I guess it succeeds.

My real problem may be that every situation in a Dear Sugar is made hopeful. No matter what godforsaken quandary you sling at her, damned if she doesn’t find the silver lining and spell it out for you in unambiguously ‘I Have a Dream’ terms. But why should that bother me, seems like we could all use more dreams, a little more inspiration, and I know that’s the point of an advice column. It’s not that I feel the column is not genuine. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel it’s not genuine. Not that SHE is not genuine but that life so absolutely sucks and sometimes no, it will NOT get better, and no, there IS nothing you can do about it.

But I suppose someone writing to Sugar still holds out hope.

Maybe I truly am a horribly pessimistic, glum person? I did get canned within three hours from the authentic Chinese spot in the food court once because my ‘dark aura’ was ‘bad for the business’ (you try at sixteen doing two shitty mall jobs and we’ll see how fucking light your aura). I have many problems but I’d never Dear Sugar about them because I already know what she would say.

Okay, but: don’t misinterpret me. I don’t want anyone to stop reading Dear Sugar. Because I think things suck so much, if you find anything that makes you feel a little less shit, hoard it.

Just it makes me feel alien that among the small band that in my head I’ve named, ‘humans I feel not as terribly disconnected from’, Sugar is that thing that makes them feel less shitty. Maybe it is plain old envy, because few things do that for me and I don’t know if I can ever do as much for others.

  1. xtx permalink
    November 23, 2010 \pm\30 12:10 pm 12:10 pm

    way to be honest, ani, esp. in the face of everyone’s fandom.

  2. November 23, 2010 \pm\30 12:43 pm 12:43 pm

    Sugar has never made me cry. I did cry in a Cameron Diaz movie, once, though.

  3. Robin Elizabeth Sampson permalink
    November 23, 2010 \pm\30 8:45 pm 8:45 pm

    “I’m really really really sorry.” You should never have to apologize for being honest (says she who regularly starts statements with “I’m sorry, but…”). I read them (DS columns) occasionally too, mostly when I click on the link in one of Stephen’s emails, like you. (Yes, Stephen, I click on your links). I think the writing is great (though I admit I’m easy when it comes to pulling the old heartstrings) and I agree about the silver lining thing. I fucking hate when someone says there’s a silver lining to something shitty (even if that may be true). Grrrrrrrr, don’t get me started! A lot of us have had horrible stuff go on in our lives and, well, better shut up now. Maybe it helps some people feel less alone, and others feel “gee, my problems are nothing…” and that is valuable.

    I must say one thing though, unlike most advice columnists, I tend to agree with what Dear Sugar recommends. I’m forever getting my hackles up over most newspaper advice columnists. (Am I dating myself by admitting I read newspapers?)

    Anyhow, this is good Ani. I sure as hell hope folks don’t come down on you for this.

  4. steamvent permalink
    November 24, 2010 \pm\30 8:51 pm 8:51 pm

    How about this: Sugar doesn’t annoy me because of her advice-y-ness. She doesn’t annoy me for her optimism. She doesn’t annoy for maybe or maybe not being a calculated and intentional heart-string tugger. I do, however, find myself rolling my eyes at that point in each of her columns at which she turns from addressing her advice-seeker and begins relaying the all-too-appropriate story from her own life.

    Now, she freely admits that the letters to which she responds are ones she picks because they speak to her in some way. It’s just that it’s unfortunate that the only stories that speak to her are the ones to which she can personally relate. In other words, she picks letters that give her grand opportunities to hold forth with Sugar’s Story Hour, which, as best I can tell, contains all the best-rehearsed narratives that comprise the official version of Sugar’s Life Story. And that makes her approach seem less empathy-filled and a lot more like projection to me.

    Most often, as I finish each one, I think, “You know what, sweet pea? It ain’t all about you.”

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