Linda McMullen | 2 Stories

Advice Column

Dear Abby, Amy, Ann, Carolyn, Prudie, and maybe but probably not Miss Manners –

I can’t believe I’m writing to an advice column. And now I feel like a cliché because I’m sure fully half the letters you receive start off with that sentence, or some variation of it.

Still. What does it say about me that I’m turning to an anonymous, benevolent internet spirit for emotional support, rather than my personal network?


Probably all this rumination gives you a sense of why I’m writing in the first place.

Anyway, better get to it:

Midlife friendlessness. Is that a thing?

I do have people in my life – a partner, a child. My partner adores me, loves me unconditionally and increasingly uncritically, but doesn’t understand me. My child lives in a world of her own creation. I’ve moved away from all the old gang – WhatsApp pings at 2 a.m. across time zones and then I wake bleary and forget to reply. Yes, that’s on me.

I don’t get any of the people here. I mean, we get along. They offer compliments when I wear my hair down. Occasionally I have a stroke of brilliance at work and my colleagues laud me when it happens. In return I ask colleagues and neighbors and the women at the book club about their days/children/pets. I know how to human (isn’t there a t-shirt that says that? There should be.). But no one seems to want to have coffee with me.

I don’t even like coffee. But no one knows that because no one’s ever offered.

I know what you’ll say. Get thee to therapy! Get screened for depression. Anxiety maybe. That’s what these columns always suggest. But what if the real problem is that I’m the human equivalent of airplane turkey sandwich – inoffensive, not unpleasant, but nothing you’d seek out if there were anything remotely more interesting on offer?

Sincerely –

A Prayer for Mothers Who Struggle

Dear God, I prayed to be good, I let the vitamins dissolve on my tongue and forsook alcohol-coffee-sushi and tried to discern Your word in the psalms of What to Expect. And then I brought the babe forth into this land of milk and honey and told her it was good. I spared the rod and tried not to spoil my girl. But Dear God, she has the pride of the devil and repulses my soft words when I tell her what she shalt not do. She turns her face away. Now I study Thy wisdom in The Challenging Child and its verses assert that there is nothing new under the sun, and that faith can move mountains, and to everything there is a season. Turning the pages brings no balm, from Gilead or otherwise, to my heart: my child is a stranger, and she takes in not a word I say. Love, they say, is thy greatest commandment, but when my heart is weighed in the balance it comes up empty. But, Dear God, please, if I cannot find that feeling within myself, give me the strength to act as though it’s there.

Linda McMullen is a wife, mother, daughter, diplomat, and homesick Wisconsinite. Her short stories and the occasional poem have appeared in over one hundred fifty literary magazines. She may be found on Twitter: @LindaCMcMullen.  

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