So my birthday is coming up on July 8th. My birthday wish this year is that everyone donates money or time to their local LGBTQP...
My mother reads Dear Abby religiously. She’s done it for as long as I can remember, always picking out the “Lifestyle” section of our local daily paper and turning to page B2.
Some days growing up, my sister or father would abscond with the section before she got to it to do the crossword or read the comics, but she would keep her eye on it, calling dibs on the section next. As a kid, it didn’t occur to me to question her loyalty to the column, and in fact I blindly followed suit–reading Dear Abby, it seemed, was something one did if one was to be a Woman. I was never all that impressed by the advice “Abby” (Pauline Phillips was her real name, if I remember correctly) doled out, and eventually I got bored of her predictable responses and stopped reading. The act of stopping wasn’t all that memorable or all that conscious; it just sort of slipped away, superseded by more important things.
It wasn’t until I was in college, home from a break one year, that I thought to ask my mother why she liked Dear Abby so much. I was sitting at the breakfast table with her some late morning (summer? weekend?), watched her reach for Lifestyle and turn to B2, and was momentarily struck with mild curiosity.
“Mom,” I said, “why do you read Dear Abby every day?”
She looked up at me, stricken, and sighed. ”Well,” she said, “I guess there’s no reason not to tell you.”
When she was 11, she told me, she’d been assaulted by a friend of her parents’. At that age in 1964, she didn’t have the language to identify what specifically had happened, she just knew she’d been violated. And she was scared. She knew, vaguely, that babies were made by men “doing things” to women, unspeakable things, and she knew that something unspeakable had been done to her, because the man had told her so, admonishing her that it was their “secret.” She felt isolated, ashamed, and was afraid that it mean she would have a baby, too.
So, unable to talk to her parents and lacking knowledge or awareness of any other resources at her disposal, she wrote to Dear Abby. Asking if she was pregnant. So every day, 11 years old, she read Dear Abby, hoping for a response.
And she got one.
Read the rest of this blog from a couple years back here. A nod of respect to Pauline Phillips, who died today, and who did an excellent job with great care, including providing some needed sex education and support in the unlikliest of places.