Pauline Friedman Phillips was the creator of the Dear Abby column, a syndicated advice column that at the height of its popularity appeared in more than a thousand newspapers.
Writing under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, she gave advice to thousands of people who wrote letters to her asking for help. Most asked questions about marriage, divorce, home or family. Like many of her readers, I appreciated her witty, creative responses.
Pauline Phillips passed away early this year at the age of 94. Numerous obituaries gave wonderful examples of her humor, including the following:
DEAR ABBY: I am forty-four years old, and I would like to meet a man my age with no bad habits. – ROSE
DEAR ROSE: So would I.
But her column that I remember most vividly concerned education. One woman inquired if Dear Abby thought she was too old to go back to school, since she would be 40 when she received her undergraduate degree.
Dear Abby responded along these lines: How old will you be in four years if you don’t get your degree? You are going to be 40 anyway – with or without your degree.
Isn’t that wonderful and encouraging career advice?
I have mentioned Abby’s response numerous times over the years in my seminars. Once, a young woman came up to me after class and said that during the seminar she had decided to go back to school. Listening to my talk, she envisioned herself 20 years in the future, still with her boyfriend, sitting around watching TV. She realized that she wanted to do more with her life, and she wanted to thank me.
Thank you, Dear Abby.
This blog will also be published on McGraw-Hill's Business blog site. It's part of the publicity for my new book coming out this summer: The Essentials of Business Etiquette.