Monday, July 7, 2008

Dear Abby: Creating Emotionally Retentive (Pre)Teens

I love reading Dear Abby; for a while there in college, my best friend and I would hang up the truly classic Dear Abby letters. There was one from a guy whose wife left him for his father; another from a mother whose lesbian daughter was in an abusive relationship, and she wanted a spell to protect her daughter. I've gotten more than my share of laughs from Dear Abby and her ilk of advice columnists over the years. Oftentimes, they suck. The only one I liked a majority of the time was Ann Landers, but of course she had to go and die.

So I read the advice columnists and laugh; sometimes I empathize. And sometimes I want to throttle someone -the advicee or advicer, it changes frequently. This time, it is the advicer, Ms. Dear Abby herself.

"DEAR ABBY: I am a "tween" who loves to share stories with my mom. When I tell Mom about my crushes and problems with my friends, I always tell her, "Don't tell Dad, please..." She says she won't, but I found out that she tells my father everything. I am really embarrassed. Can I trust her anymore? --LILLI IN THE CITY

DEAR LILLI: Your mother should not have made you a promise and then have broken it. It may have happened because she thought your father had a right to know what was going on with his little girl. That said, there's something YOU should know: A secret is no longer a secret when more than one person knows it."

Excellent. Good job Abby! Making it this little girl's fault that her trust was violated! She should have never told her secrets in the first place. Hopefully, little Lilli will recognize that some of that advice is crap, and won't just bottle up her emotions until therapy is involved. That some people cannot be trusted with secrets, and dear old Mom is apparently one of those people. But that she has the right to have her "don't tell -" be respected, and some friends and family members will get that. And the others? Well, by trial and error she'll know which ones she can spill her guts to and which ones she has to rely on for other things.


jjfs85 said...

It didn't sound to me that the girl was blamed for the fact that her trust was violated. It sounded to me that she was telling the girl not to divulge secrets that she doesn't want others to know about. Like the phrase "Loose lips sink ships" implies, if you tell your secrets, they can end up in the hands of your enemies. Not to say that her father's the enemy or anything, but you get what I mean. I think it was good advice.

petpluto said...

I don't think it is incredibly good advice. Everyone learns at some point that certain people in their lives can keep secrets and others cannot. But people are social animals, and it immensely helpful to get an opinion from someone other than yourself in many situations. And having her mother tell her secret is less a "loose lips" phenomena I think than it is a disrespect of the daughter and her wishes.