Maybe it's because this time of year always makes me reflective, but I've been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about this column, our readers and the people who write in to us with their questions.
I've been at it for a number of years now. As we mentioned in last week's New Year's resolutions column, you start to notice patterns among the letters: people who love their significant other minus one or two potential deal breakers, people who are concerned about a loved one and don't know what they can do about it and people who can't seem to find the words to have a critical conversation.
When I first began, I wondered who these folks were. Who writes in to an advice column? Why not talk to someone you know and trust? What compels a person to submit a question to a couple anonymous writers at the newspaper?
(I realize now how judgmental this was. People write in because they've sought advice elsewhere but haven't gotten an answer yet. Or they're embarrassed to bring it up unless it's anonymous. Or any number of reasons -- I've written to an advice column myself since I started.)
Plus, I was nervous. Like the bio says, I'm just a gal who has loved, lost and been to therapy. I have a pretty good head on my shoulders, but I'm not a therapist. In my first month, Wayne and I got a letter from a man in his sixties, contemplating a divorce after 17 years of marriage. It petrified me. Who was I to guide this person or to pretend like I had any authority on matters like that?
Naturally, I called my mother.
"Oh geez, honey," she told me. "It's just common sense."
As usual, mom was right. We told the man to take his time, visit a counselor, speak with his wife -- all decent advice, even for people who have never been 60-something-year-old men on the brink of divorce.
It's gotten easier over time, replying to people whose hearts are hurting or heads are swimming. But I always take it seriously -- and under the wisecracking, hard-shelled exterior, I'm pretty sure Wayne does too. We love getting your letters -- we love the way they make us think, and force us to contemplate the kind of complex issues that define the human condition.
We also love hearing what other people have to say -- there are a handful of regular commentators online who offer their two cents, as well as others who pop in or shoot us an email when a particular column speaks to them. The following are a couple responses to recent columns -- feel free to join the conversation at play.adn.com, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading, and for writing!
Re: "Her best friend married a jerk -- now what?" (Dec. 16)
The best thing would have been to let her know how you feel before the marriage. Maybe she had doubts herself and knowing her best friend had doubts might have helped her reconsider. But feeling like you do, you never should have agreed to be maid of honor.
At this point, I'd agree with both Wanda and Wayne and try to remain her friend but outside of her relationship. She'll eventually realize you're avoiding her husband and then ask you about it, which would be a good time to let her know you're uncomfortable with him and why. She can either consider that and take it to heart or say goodbye. Let her know either way that you are there for her as there may come a time down the road when she realizes she made a huge mistake and she needs a friend.
It sucks when we have to make choices that involve loved ones, but if you are involved in their relationship, you will be sucked into a bottomless whirlpool of emotional torture. You may even start to resent your friend's judgement.
But the bottom line is it's her life and if she doesn't ask for support, it's her business. Make sure you take care of your own.
Re: "Healthy tanning fanatic worries this boyfriend" (Dec. 8)
If you had stayed on the latest research about the role of vitamin D in skin cancers including melanoma, you would have known that things are not exactly the way they are as told by most physicians about sun exposure. Certain types of tanning lamps are actually beneficial, especially in Alaska.
And remember, everything is good in moderation. By doing twice a week tanning during dark months, I eliminated summer time "sun hives. Open your mind and do some thorough research about the subject, before judging your girlfriend.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at email@example.com.