Advice: Sometimes we need it, and sometimes we give it.
Sometimes we Google it, and sometimes we call our moms for it. Sometimes, we find it on an obscure Reddit thread or when our professors sprinkle in some wisdom during a lecture. Sometimes—even often—we receive unexpected advice in a Panda Express fortune cookie. And sometimes, we read about it in the newspaper.
According to “The Evolution of the Advice Column” by Joanna Scutts, the first advice column was created by Londoner John Dunton in 1691. Dunton got a group of his buddies together and began publishing answers to his readers’ anonymous questions in his magazine the Athenian Mercury. They answered inquiries ranging from “Is it lawful for a man and woman to live together before marriage?” to “What are clouds made of?” Though giving and receiving advice was nothing new, the column was the first of its kind. It lasted until 1697, inspiring a “host of parodies—and copycats.”
One such copycat was Dorothy Dix, the pseudonym of reporter and columnist Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer.
“At Dix’s peak, in the 1930s and during World War II, her column appeared in 273 newspapers nationwide and reached an estimated 60 million readers,” writes Scutts.
Dix was one of the leading voices of the modern advice column, inspiring many others to follow her lead, including the popular column “Dear Abby.” Some current advice columns include Elle Magazine’s “Ask E. Jeane,” The New York Times’ “Social Q’s,” Real Simple’s “Modern Manners” and – yes, you knew where this was going – The Gateway’s new column “Dear Durango.”
“Dear Durango” will serve as an anonymous platform for UNO students to ask questions they are interested in, to receive an outside perspective on a tricky situation and, hopefully, to learn more about the human condition on our campus. This column is a place for creativity, humor, curiosity and good old-fashioned guidance.
In the spirit of our advice column predecessors, questions should be submitted in letter format, signing off with a pseudonym. Please submit using our anonymous Google form, which is also linked in our Instagram bio. The submissions will be reviewed and responded to once a week.
If writing in and asking for advice isn’t your cup of tea, you’re still in luck.
As New York Times journalist Molly Young writes, “It’s one of our great cultural paradoxes that people hate being told what to do but love reading advice columns.”
So here it is: a lovable cultural paradox for us all.