'Dear Prudence' Finally Gets Advice In Return: A New 'Prudie' Steps In

Nov 15, 2015
Originally published on November 15, 2015 10:39 pm

Dear Prudence, also known as Emily Yoffe, has answered questions about everything: deathbed confessions, mysterious boxes in the attic, cheating spouses of course and, once, incestuous twins.

But after nearly a decade as Slate's advice columnist, Yoffe is stepping down. She wrote her last advice column on Thursday.

And now she's passing the baton to Mallory Ortberg, the writer, editor and co-founder of the site The Toast.

NPR's Rachel Martin spoke with Ortberg about how she will approach her new role as "Prudie" starting Monday. And as she's already started digging through the mailbag, we figured we'd also ask her a timely question.


Interview Highlights

On her feelings about the moral shoes she will fill

I like to think of it as a light power and a light pressure because, luckily, the Dear Prudence column is not legally binding. I think a lot of times when people write in for advice, they're not saying, "Whatever you tell me to do, I'll do." They're sort of looking for third-party feedback. I'm not too worried that someone's gonna say, "You ruined my life, because when I saw your answer I had to do it, I had no other choice."

On whether or not she will approach advice-giving in the same way Emily Yoffe took cues from the original Dear Abby (who said the only qualification you need for this job is common sense and the ability to express it)

Oh, gosh, yeah. And I think that's part of what made Emily's column so great. Very reasonable, very sensible and she could really balance a sense of, sometimes you need a little light smack on the wrist and sometimes you need a sort of gentle touch, and sometimes you need to be given your options. And I think she did a wonderful job of thinking, "What's reasonable here?"

On the advice Yoffe passed on to her

She's been wonderful. She's been really helpful in saying, you know, you have to make this your own. She answers so many of the questions, even ones that don't appear in the column and just sort of talking about how you have to take everyone on good faith, you know, at face value, head on, and try to give them the best advice you possibly could.

On our request for timely advice: As we approach the holidays, families are gathering during an election season. The addition of politics makes that somewhat combustible. How do we navigate that?

I've only just realized I have stepped into this column right as the holiday season started. Thanks a lot for asking me a big one on air.

I think there are two kinds of people in this world. And one of them is people who are really eager to bring up politics and religion at the holidays and the other is the kind of people who are hoping to make it through the holidays without having to talk to anyone in their extended family about politics and religion. And unfortunately those two kinds of people are all related to each other.

You know, I wish you the best. I hope maybe on whatever holiday it is you guys can all just go see a movie and then argue afterwards about whether or not it was good. Just pure distraction. Just keep pointing at things and asking questions. ... That's my advice, just run out the clock.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After nearly a decade as "Dear Prudence," Slate's Emily Yoffe is stepping down. "Dear Prudence" answered questions about everything - deathbed confessions, mysterious boxes in the attic, cheating spouses of course, and once, incestuous twins, even. Yoffe wrote her last advice column on Thursday. Now she is passing the baton to Mallory Ortberg, writer, editor and co-founder of the online blog, The Toast. Ortberg will assume the role of Prudie starting tomorrow. She joined me from the studios of Youth Radio in Oakland to talk about her new job. And I asked her how she was feeling.

MALLORY ORTBERG: I'm so excited. It still doesn't quite feel real. Part of me feels like I'll wake up on Monday, and it will all have been a marvelous dream.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Have you already started digging through the mail bag?

ORTBERG: Just a little bit. I've just gotten a taste. And it feels like being Santa Claus and having all the, like, letters.

MARTIN: It's a lot of power. Have you thought about it in those terms? I mean, people ask you everything - and I guess power but also pressure.

ORTBERG: I like to think of it as a light power and a light pressure because, luckily, the "Dear Prudence" column is not legally binding.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

ORTBERG: I think a lot of times when people write in for advice, they're not saying, whatever you tell me to do, I'll do. They're sort of looking for a third-party feedback. I'm not too worried that someone's going to say, you ruined my life because when I saw your answer, I had to do it. I had no other choice.

MARTIN: In her goodbye column - and I'm paraphrasing here - Emily wrote that she took her cues from the original "Dear Abby," who said the only qualification you need for this job is common sense and the ability to express it. Does that fit with you and your approach to advice giving?

ORTBERG: Oh, gosh, yeah. And I think that's part of what made Emily's column so great - very reasonable, very sensible. And she could really balance a sense of sometimes you need a little light smack on the wrist. And sometimes you need a sort of gentle touch. And sometimes you need to be given your options. And I think she always did a wonderful job of just sort of thinking, what's reasonable here?

MARTIN: What advice has Emily passed on to you?

ORTBERG: You know, she's been wonderful. She's been really helpful in saying, you know, you have to make this your own. You know, she answers so many of the questions, even ones that don't appear in the column, and just sort of talking about how you have to take everyone on good faith, you know, at face value and head on. And try to give them the best advice you possibly could.

MARTIN: So in that spirit, since I've got you on the line...

ORTBERG: Oh, gosh.

MARTIN: And you can't walk away. I mean, I guess you could, but that would be rude. I need your advice, Mallory. May I ask you for some?

ORTBERG: Go ahead. You can't ask me as Mallory.

MARTIN: I mean Prudence.

ORTBERG: You have to ask me as Prudence.

MARTIN: Yeah, Prudence.

ORTBERG: I can't do this in my personal...

MARTIN: Got you.

ORTBERG: Capacity.

MARTIN: OK. Dear Prudie, the holidays are coming up. And I think this is an issue probably a lot of people face. But in my family - I'm outing them now - but there are certain people who only feel comfortable connecting with one another when they talk about the third rail of conversation - right? - like politics or religion. It is only the most inflammatory subjects that these people seem to want to talk about. And if we don't go there, then everyone just sits around, and we don't engage. So I...

ORTBERG: Oh, my gosh.

MARTIN: So do I go down that road, knowing that it's perilous? Or do we just sip eggnog in the corner?

ORTBERG: I have only just realized I have stepped into this column right as the holiday season started.

MARTIN: Yeah.

ORTBERG: Thanks a lot for asking me a big one on air.

MARTIN: You bet.

ORTBERG: I think there are two kinds of people in this world. And one of them is people who are really eager to bring up politics and religion at the holidays. And the other is the kind of people who are hoping to make it through the holidays without having to talk to anyone in their extended family about politics and religion. And unfortunately, those two kinds of people are all related to each other. You know, I wish you the best. I hope maybe, on whatever holiday it is, you guys can all just go see a movie and then argue afterwards about whether or not it was good. Just pure distraction. Just keep pointing at things and asking questions.

MARTIN: That's good advice.

ORTBERG: Just run out the clock. That's my advice to you.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

ORTBERG: Run out the clock.

MARTIN: Mallory Ortberg, she's the co-founder of The Toast. And as of tomorrow, she is the new Prudence. Thanks so much, Mallory.

ORTBERG: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.