There's no such thing as "Dear Abby."
Pauline Phillips, who originally wrote the advice column under the "Dear Abby" pen name, died in 2013 at age 94. That was about a decade after she'd handed over the reins of her column to her daughter, Jeanne Phillips.
No one who's ever solicited her advice has ever had their letter considered by someone named "Abby," unless the mailman was opening them and reading them to his wife.
Keep this in mind as you read the following advice the syndicated advisor gave to a Minnesota woman in a column reprinted by the Pioneer Press. The writer's in an unfortunate predicament: She's smart, pretty, and 24. She ought to be killing it with the fellas.
Problem is, she can't break the ice.
"How do I strike up a pleasant conversation with a cute guy at the gym or a friendly customer at work?" asks the advice seeker, who goes by "Perpetual Novice in Minnesota" in this letter. "It looks easy in the movies, but this is real life. I don’t want my awkwardness to hold me back."
This is a legit question. Even if you ignore that almost every romantic comedy in the last 15 years features an accomplished, beautiful woman who is so clumsy with men that some guy has to literally save her life a couple times before they start kissing.
Can't she just do what they do? And eventually make out with Ryan Reynolds/Gosling/Lochte?
Here's what "Dear Abby" (reminder: not named Abby; not even notably "dear") writes back.
"Start today by making a point of smiling and saying hello to everyone. It’s friendly and welcoming."
Counterpoint: Walking around all day smiling for no reason makes you look nutty. Life's hard, and stressful, and you're just trying to drag your feet through that next shift so that you can finally leave for lunch. (Is it 11:30 yet? Can you eat lunch at 11:10?) Smile when you don't mean it, and you won't look like loving-the-world-and-my-wonderful-place-in-it Mary Tyler Moore.
More like Carrie right before she whacks everyone at the prom.
Jeanne Phillips continues:
At the gym, ask other members about their routine or the machines they’re using. When greeting a customer, lead off with a friendly remark or a compliment. I have met very few people who don’t like receiving one, as long as it’s sincere. (“Nice shirt,” “Nice cellphone,” etc.)
Counterpoint: If you see someone so bland you cannot think of something to compliment them on aside from their cellphone, do not approach. Plenty of fish in the sea.
Anything else you can tell us, "Abby"?
If you freeze up, keep in mind that the majority of people have the same insecurities that you do. My booklet “How to Be Popular” contains many useful tips for polishing social skills for people of all ages. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.
Counterpoint: Do not send $7 to Mount Morris, Illinois. For any reason.
Deciding "to Be Popular" for its own sake isn't worth it. This woman needs to get a guy to like her. One. She's trying to get a date, not running for mayor of Minneapolis.
Dear Perpetual Novice, ignore this advice. Try smiling at a guy you think you might like. Come up with something nice to say.
We suggest: "Hi."
If the conversation drags, try turning to something unexpected and funny. Maybe ask, "What would you say to some woman with a big smile who told you she liked your cellphone?"
If he says, "I'd run like hell," Perpetual Novice, smile for real this time. Allow four to six weeks to fall in love.