Last week I went to Maine for Thanksgiving. When there, Alina gave me a copy of Cheryl Strayed's book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar. Strayed writes an advice column entitled Dear Sugar for an online site called The Rumpus. The book is a compilation of her favorite letters and her responses to them.
What makes the Dear Sugar advice column different from other advice columns like Dear Abby and the like, is that Strayed crafts responses that call on her own experience and life story. She opens herself up completely and puts it all out there. She's wise, but also vulnerable. She's smart, but she has done some very un-smart things. She's incredibly insightful. I highly recommend the book; I read it in three sittings, and didn't want to put it down at all. I recommend it, but that isn't the reason I'm writing about it.
I write about because I have this idea.
I want to be Sugar.
And of course I can't be Sugar.
She is smart, funny, tender, pretty, and most importantly, she gives excellent, thoughtful advice in response to (often) extremely complicated problems. Also, she's like-- famous. And she has published books, articles, stories...And she has a real life story with really complicated and distressing and sad and frightening parts to it that she had to overcome and did-and she can allude to these things in her responses to the super complicated problems presented to her.
She is the real deal.
Still, as I read her book my vain self thought, DEAR GOD! This is what I was meant to be! My destiny was to be an advice columnist! All these years and I didn't know my true calling...
And of course I jest. Except not really. I really think I was supposed to be an advice columnist. Now, you ask, what makes me think I am qualified for such a job? Oh, whatever. I'm not. Who ever IS qualified to be an advice columnist? I still think it is my calling, qualified or not. The question is how to fulfill my calling. And here is where you come in, Reader. You can help me to achieve my dream of becoming an advice columnist! I see it now... All these years I blogged, and all these posts have led me to this: Dear Mary.
(Can't you see it?)
(Yes, I am being sarcastic. Except again, not really. I really want to be Sugar! or rather, Dear Mary!)
But my column, naturally, would not be advice on love and life. (Although I certainly am willing to answer questions on love and life, having made my own fair share of missteps that I'd love to write about to make you all feel better about your own lives, and so on.) No, instead my column would be Dear Mary (or Dear something... you will all have to help me with that), Advice on Triathlon and Life.
Now, you need to understand that Sugar does not answer your every day run of the mill life questions. She answers some tough, murky shit. (Can shit be murky? Perhaps just the toilet bowl is murky with shit? You know... after your son leaves it and without flushing, and the dogs have their way with it? That is certainly murky.)
Anyway. My point is that the letters to her are complex and confused, and the letters she writes in return are detailed and provide clarity. Here's a good example of an exchange:
Advice Column #96: The Dark Cocoon
(just click on the title above, Mom.)
I provide this example see you can see that what I'd like to undertake is a writing venture as much as an advice venture. So the responses I give would be part memoir, part advice. I'm not expecting that you will write me letters like this, although if you did that would be quite fun. Instead, though, I am asking for letters, or even short questions, that ask about triathlon and life. Or the triathlon life, or just the life of someone who happens to be a triathlete. I'm not sure what that means or looks like because so far I have received no letters. However, when I do, or if I do, I will let you know what that means.
As with Dear Sugar, your letters, or questions, can be anonymous, and should include a pseudonym at letter's end as opposed to your real name. Of course, I will likely know who you are if you email me, but whatever. My point is that I would not publish that information. You can ask silly quesitons or serious questions, and they can be about whatever you want them to be about. In short, that's what I'm trying to say here.
So yes, I am asking you to write to me.
Here's my email address:
aka DEAR MARY