You don't know me. And I don't know you -- not yet.
But lately you've had some things on your mind. Maybe you're wondering how to get your wife to stop e-mailing her old high school boyfriend. Or your boss is being inappropriate -- can you confront him? Maybe you've got a crush on your supervisor, your neighbor or your first cousin.
You're 15, being bullied at school and think you might be gay. Or you're 79 and your kids want to sell the house and put you into assisted living.
You have male pattern baldness, female facial hair, cellulite or adult acne -- will anyone ever find you attractive?
You want to disinvite your cousin to your wedding because she's insisting on bringing your ex-husband as a date.
Your sister gave birth to the world's ugliest baby -- do you have to pretend otherwise?
You worry that your kid is addicted to snuff, rap music or caramel macchiatos.
You want to know: Is it love? Am I depressed? Should I move, change jobs? Is she obsessed with me or just being clingy?
I'll tell you right now that I won't always know what to say. When your problems land on my desk, I'm going to do some serious thinking, make some calls, consult the experts and do my best to get you an answer. In years of reporting on the human condition, I've developed a Rolodex of sources and a file cabinet of ideas. Your parenting questions might be answered by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton -- my favorite wise baby doctor. Michael Thompson, author of "Raising Cain," is a great source for talking about friendship and the tensions and pressures teens face. I might refer readers to movies, novels or popular music -- in my own life I sometimes self-medicate with an Elmore Leonard novel, a favorite "Thin Man" movie or Pink's latest album.
Really tough questions may necessitate a call to my mother, who always seems to know what to do. She raised me and my siblings in a small town where we were surrounded by people who had a stake in how we turned out. It's a place where I've always felt I could air my own problems and know I'd be treated with compassion and common sense. Where I come from, happiness is shared; grief or sadness are sometimes met with anonymous casseroles skillfully left on the porch. My interest in the advice trade springs from the belief that when individuals have healthy personal lives, the community around them is better for it.
Your questions and my answers will make all of us think. I might infuriate you. Or you'll so identify with a situation that you'll clip a column and carry it in your wallet or tape it on the bathroom mirror for a certain someone to see.
Sometimes we'll laugh at each other, shake our heads and marvel at the endless complexity of the human condition.
I have a feeling that this ongoing conversation, this long discussion we're about to have, will enrich our lives in ways we can't even anticipate, because life in this space is bound to be interesting. We'll build our own community here, our own hometown -- only without the casseroles.
Have a question?
Amy Dickinson is ready to offer her advice, now all she needs are people who are looking for some. We would love to hear from you.
You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or you can send a letter to:
c/o Chicago Tribune,
435 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
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