Ann Landers and Abagail Van Buren were twin Jewish sisters who assumed comically exaggerated WASP names and became America’s most famous “agony aunts:” advice columnists in the latter half of the 20th century. Both walked the line between traditional American values while being somewhat liberal with issues such as birth control and abortion. Although they were slow to embrace gay rights, they did not think homosexuality should be a crime. Famously against divorce, Ann Landers nonetheless divorced her own husband in the mid ’70’s.
I’ve read more Ann than Abby, but over time I noticed Ann Landers’ advice could always be boiled down to two short sentences: “STOP IT. SEE A SHRINK.”
Indeed, Ann Landers' one firm evangelistic belief was to put every American on the couch. Although she held no professional accreditation, Landers read the bulletins of the American Psychiatric Association religiously, and if she wasn’t getting a cut, she probably deserved some compensation for her relentless crusade to get Americans to “seek professional help…IMMEDIATELY!”
Both women had hissing bi-lateral lisps which added a snake-like venom when they were speaking sarcastically. (When speaking casually about Pope John Paul II, Landers said, “Of course, he's a a Polack. They’re very anti-women.”) Both wore towering wigs seemingly made of steel wool, and both enjoyed appearing on TV and cashing in on personal appearances.
While the following is satire, it is not that far off from the truth. Ann Landers held a nearly biblical lifelong grudge that Abby had ripped her off. —M.L.R.
AN ESTRANGED SISTER LAMENTS
Dear Ann Landers,
I have a twin sister who has been estranged from me for over forty-five years, and I am just heartbroken about it. You see, when we were in college, we wrote an advice column together. We were a great team and loved the work and each other. In 1955 my sister won a contest in Chicago to replace the advice columnist for a newspaper. A year later, I decided to strike out on my own. I moved to San Francisco and got a job as an “agony aunt” out there. Instead of being happy for me, my dear sister somehow saw me as a threat, even though I was working at a newspaper a thousand miles away!
We came from humble beginnings, the daughters of immigrants who settled in Iowa. It depresses me that my sister has become a selfish, greedy, materialistic, status-obsessed and shallow person. In Iowa, she dumped the man she loved because she was hypergamous and instead married a man who was “going places,” even though she never loved him.
Sure enough, that man co-founded a famous rental car company. When my sister divorced him, she boasted in private that she “took him to the cleaners,” and that she “top ticked” him when he was at his wealthiest. Even though she was against divorce in her advice column, when it came to her own divorce she claimed: “The answer lady doesn’t have an answer for this one.” In private, she boasted about the hundreds of thousands of stock shares she got in the divorce. She called her husband “Horse Face” or “Mr. Ed” behind his back.
She lives in a 14 room apartment in a famous skyscraper on Lake Shore Drive. She uses an entire room to store her fur coat collection (many of which are rare and endangered species that are caught using very cruel techniques). I’ve even heard her claim that she’s “gotten more orgasms from shopping than she ever got from her husband.” She considered sex a chore, and once joked, “I ought to install a taxi meter in the bedroom.”
My sister is my blood. We’ve both done well in life. In the sunset of our years, why can’t we just bury the hatchet?
For once in her life, I wonder if my sister realizes that SHE is the one who needs to “seek professional counseling immediately?”
Signed, Sad in San Francisco.
ANN LANDERS RESPONDS:
Dear “Abagail Van Buren,” A.K.A. “Dear Abby,” A.K.A. Pauline Esther ‘Popo’ Friedman: YOU ARE DEAD TO ME! I smote you. Gai kakken af en yam! Put an egg in your (typically cheap) shoe and beat it, sister!
The fact is you cut into MY TERRITORY! Oh sure, you were just writing for a ”little ole” San Francisco Pennysaver? Horse hockey! Do you think I’m as naive as the public who writes us letters? One word nudnik, SYNDICATION! You under-cut me with cheaper syndication rights. “Get the twin at a price that is slim” was your motto at industry confabs and pow-wows.
I’m the ORIGINAL, and you are just a cheap knock-off, noch-shlepper! You had NO previous work experience, you didn't even have a social security number. You just flew to San Francisco, ripped me off, and worked on the cheap.
I got the brains, and you got the ditziness in the family, that’s why you crashed your car into that coal truck and got that ugly scar (which your discount makeup doesn’t hide, Sis). I got straight A’s in psychology at Morningside College while you thought an “Oedipus Complex” was an office building in Greece.
This is how dumb my sister is: she chose the name “Abagail Van Buren” because it sounded uber-goyishe, not out of any historical know-how. Martin Van Buren was a do-nothing, one-term president who made the economy and slavery worse. He consistently ranks among our worst presidents. Also, “Abagail” was John Adams’ wife, Van Buren’s was Hannah, you confused schnook!
As to marriage, you should talk. You married a closeted fegeleh! Did you really think San Francisco men are just “better groomed?”
As to my luxurious and prestigious fur collection: I don’t care if the little buggers were crucified into extinction, all I know is that I look GOOD in them.
Furs never betray you. Furs never nag you that it’s “whoopee night.” Furs never undercut your syndication rates.
Tell you what Sis, why don’t you pay me back all of the syndication revenue you stole from me plus compounded interest? Then we can have lunch at the top of the Hancock and reminisce about the 'good old days' growing up in that hick town we were forced to grow up in. I'll even promise that my schnauzer won’t wee wee into your tea!
Signed, Ann Landers (who is NOT your sister. I have NO sister!)
Now, here are some common people who have REAL problems!--Ann
DEAR ANN LANDERS, One day my Pontiac blew a gasket, so I had a drink at a nearby bar while I waited for Triple A. In walked a biker with long wavy hair and sat next to me. At first, I thought he might be “rough trade,” but to my surprise, he started quoting poets like Shelly and McKuen. It turns out; he was really “deep.” He offered me a ride home on his bike, and I must admit, I felt more than just a tingle! He was a gentleman and asked for my phone number. We’ve been dating for six months, and he really blows my mind. He makes deliveries of alternative medicine and is a real free spirit. Last week, he invited me to move in with him. He says marriage is just “bourgeois hypocrisy.” I come from a very traditional family, so I am torn. I love him very much, but when I tell my Dad, I fear he might blow a gasket! Ann, what should I do? Signed, Torn.
DEAR TORN, “Easy Rider” needs to take it easy. Tell him the snatch shop is closed for complete renovations, and won’t reopen until there is a ring on your finger commensurate with 13 weeks of his salary. (Yes Ladies, I’m not talking about a Cracker Jack ring. From what I observe, hippies are what my folk call a “Luftmensch” — (e.g., "Air man." One who seemingly lives on nothing, a drifter.) Nowadays, these ne'er-do-wells pass themselves off as “groovy,” “mod,” and “enlightened.”
It sounds to me like the same old bums took their handkerchiefs off their sticks and wrapped it around their heads! Well, lay down the law and see what happens. If he declines, perhaps you should call the law, drop that guy like a hot potato, and seek professional help immediately.
DEAR ANN LANDERS, I live with a Pontiac salesman who really guns my motor! Sure, he flies off the handle once and a while, and has slapped me a few times and gave me a sock in the jaw when I ran my mouth off. But Ann, he is sooo sweet when he apologizes. Last week, he sent a sad clown to my office with balloons that said: “I’m sorry.” Another time, he sent a Michael Jackson impersonator to serenade me with a rendition of “I Want You Back.” How can you say “no” to a guy like that? Signed, Conflicted.
DEAR CONFLICTED, Easy. You just say “no” and “goodbye.” If you continue to live with this man, you have bats in the belfry! Move out immediately, and seek professional help.
DEAR ANN LANDERS I have six children and just can’t seem to lose that baby fat. I weigh 322 pounds and can’t move around like I once did. My hubby slaps me silly every night, but I am dependent on him to bring me my fried chicken and Shakey’s pizza. Ann, I don’t know what else I can do? Signed, Weighty Problem.
DEAR WEIGHTY PROBLEM, Oy veh, you goyishe kops are wearing me down, and I’m running late to meet Roger Ebert and Mayor Byrne at Gino’s, so I’ll be brief: STOP IT, AND SEE A SHRINK.
CONFIDENTIAL TO WILL MY SON BE A CONFIRMED BACHELOR? Discreetly check his underpants for bloodstains. If confirmed, he might be using an exit as an entrance. While I do not think it should be a criminal offense, it IS unnatural and very unsanitary. Seek professional help immediately. Do not fear; psychiatry has made significant advances in aversion therapy. Gone are the days of electro-shock that your son’s hero, Mr. Reed, sings about in “They’re Going To Kill Your Sons.” Nowadays, more gentle techniques such as unpleasant images, smells and sounds are used to associate aberrant behavior in the therapeutic process.
Progress marches on, and one day your son might be “marching down” that church aisle! Don’t give up hope so long as you employ qualified professionals. Call the American Psychiatric Association for a list of accredited professionals in your area. Tell them Ann Landers sent you, and you can qualify for an initial 10% discount!
CONFIDENTIAL TO THE PREIST WHO WILL ALWAYS BE CHASTE—WITH WOMEN? My good friend Archbishop Fulton Sheen assures me that Psychiatry does not conflict with your faith. By all means, continue praying, but also seek professional help. Just like confession, Psychiatric counseling is completely confidential! (However, I wouldn’t use the boy’s real name if I were you.) In the meanwhile, at least have the courtesy to buy a good supply of petroleum jelly (commonly known as Vaseline). With both faith and professional help, I’m sure you can lick this sticky situation!
CONFIDENTIAL TO “CONFESSION BOOTH DILEMMA.”
Dear Bishop XXXXX, this is one of the great moral dilemmas: how do you honor your religious oath of confidentiality while considering your duties as a citizen of this great country? Luckily, the Answer Lady is up to the challenge! (I got straight A’s in both Journalism AND Psychology when I attended Sioux City’s Morningside College in the late 1930’s.)
This is my opinion: I think it will do more harm than good to report these admittedly disturbing aberrations to the police. Think of the shame and humiliation the boys will be subjected to if they are forced to testify, not to mention the reputational damage to our religious institutions which are already under attack from misguided intellectuals and those who have a genuine desire to subvert American society. Instead, I suggest that all involved seek professional psychiatric counseling immediately.
Full moon, folks. This next writer obviously has a geranium in the cranium! —Ann
DEAR ANN LANDERS, Your huge synthetic wig is as phony as your humanitarian concern. In reality, you are a selfish, materialistic, and petty human being. For 20 years you said divorce would be the end of society, except when it came to you. You wrote that gay marriage would devastate family values, yet you have been estranged from your own twin sister for 40 years. You are a typical phony who doesn't practice what she preaches. Signed, Truth Hurts.
ANN LANDERS RESPONDS,
Fuck you, and seek professional help immediately! Driver, The Ambassador-- and step on it!