IF everyone’s a critic, everyone
and their mother is a counsellor.
Which of us doesn’t know what’s best for our friends and family members? Which of us can’t identify others’ “dysfunctional” relationships and “aberrant” behaviours at the drop of a hat?
None of us, that’s who -- which is why it’s so delightful to hear that there’s now a website where we can weigh in on the dilemmas of imperfect strangers.
We don’t even have to don that concerned face we wear when interfering in our relatives’ concerns -- we can type away with broad smiles on our faces, tapping our toes and breaking wind. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you … bliss for armchair critics, in the form of the website SideTaker.com.
We could have predicted it. First, we had Dear Abby and Ann Landers, who doled out sensible advice in newspapers to whoever requested it and could afford the stamp.
Then, we got Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who bellowed at people who called her radio show wondering how to handle touchy situations. Her usual observation? “You’re an idiot!” They seemed to readily accept that diagnosis, which proved she was right.
More recently, the Globe and Mail has waded into various frays with its advice columns, one by David Eddie, whose only qualification seems to be that he’s a self-employed dad who can spell. (As a self-employed mum who can spell, I agree with most of his advice.) People write to Eddie’s Damage Control column about major social gaffes, like spilling the beans on a friend’s infidelity. He answers them in a rambling, comical fashion, usually admitting to having done something similar.
The other column is by Claudia Dey, who appears to be -- wait for it -- a playwright/novelist. Whoever thought a playwright/novelist would be the ideal locus of sober second thought has obviously never wandered beyond A.A. Milne to the Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath aisles.
In Dey’s Group Therapy column, a befuddled reader submits a tale of woe, e.g. her boyfriend won’t let her go out for dinner with old male friends yet wants to privately entertain attractive new female acquaintances. What to make of it? A few readers contribute their wisdom on the matter. Finally, Dey flutters onto the page, dragging in dragons and lilies and white throats and rosebushes as a playwright/novelist will do, and delivering the final word -- if you can figure out what it is amongst all the verbal shrubbery.
Honestly, though, who needs these self-styled experts? Common sense is as ubiquitous as moss on a North Vancouver lawn. The great news is there’s no need to be stingy with yours any more. Mothers-in-law, free range busybodies, opinionated shut-ins and CNN know-it-all Nancy Grace, you’ll find SideTaker.com is the one place where your big, flapping mouth is always welcome.
On this website, two halves of a couple take their dirty laundry to the worldwide web and give it a good virtual airing. Read his side of the dispute, then hers, and chime in immediately, pulling no punches. Don’t be intimidated by grammar or spelling issues when delivering your remarks, either -- nobody else is. As a matter of fact, if you’re a breathtakingly stupid bossy boots you’ll find yourself soaking in a surprisingly large pool of your peers.
Lately on SideTaker, there’s a couple claiming that since the wife’s father died, her mother has asked the unemployed son-in-law to do odd jobs around the house. Apparently one of the odd jobs his mother-in-law wanted him to do was sleep in her bed with her, without, er, getting much rest. He allegedly refused, and when he told his wife, she said she wouldn’t have minded him acquiescing to her mother’s demands. On the site, he expresses his horror at the very idea. Then she elaborates, noting that he’s a tomcat who’s already slept with several of her relatives, including her “cougar” mother.
Bombs away! You should see the commentary this scenario provokes. Rest assured -- nobody holds back on the name-calling or the acid derision. It’s a free-for-all, Jerry Springer style, minus the visual evidence of hillbilly tooth decay.
I suppose starring on SideTaker.com is a kind of trial by jury, minus any criminal act; these are modern morals we’re talking about, not serial murders. Oh, the outrage bubbles like molten caramel.
Perhaps it’s more akin to lava. And the reason for its force is that it’s erupting from all the calcified advice we’ve longed to lavish on our friends and family members but haven’t, since we’ve wanted to keep having friends and family members. With faceless strangers, we have no compunction about being direct, or even nasty. We’re not doomed to share turkey dinners with them every holiday for the rest of our lives. They’ve requested our opinion, plus our vote, on who’s wrong and who’s right. That means we (let’s be honest) nobodies have been called upon to help resolve a public feud. It’s our duty as citizens, really.
Hilariously, the slogan at SideTaker.com is “let the world decide who’s at fault.” Sure -- what the hell. That’s always worked before. And if the world isn’t available, maybe we can track down King Solomon.
Another recent posting has a wife whining that her husband objects to her buying a $750 Gucci purse, despite the fact that she can afford it. Hubby points out that $750 is a lot of cash for a purse and that a knock-off of the status brand would perform the same function. Both plaintiffs get support from the site’s spectators. But when one commentator suggests the couple spend the dough instead on a charity they both believe in, the husband (who’s in the military) sneers (the spelling errors his) “p.s. all you punk ass fakes on here who say we should give money to the poor starving africa kids your just a bunch of hippocrates b/c i bet you buy yourself and your wives expensive s---! let me go threw your closets and see your prada purses, loui vitton crap, diamond earrings, $2000 watches.....quit being fake ass hippocrates!”
I say these spouses deserve each other, their fights, and all the debt they incur, now and forever, amen.
I also say SideTaker.com should expand its horizons and allow grandmothers and their dadgurned grandkids, employees and their asinine bosses, and even politicians and their pinko/fascistic opponents to explain their positions and get input from independent observers.
We can’t all get onto People’s Court. This is the next best, next worst thing.