Friday, January 18, 2013

Dear Ali

You probably saw the news yesterday that the writer known as "Dear Abby," Pauline Phillips died at the age of 94.

As legend goes: she was my 5th cousin. This should come as no surprise to anyone since everybody knows I love telling other people what to do, disguised as "advice" because it's much more palatable.

I read her column as a kid for several years before ever learning, via my grandmother, that I was related to her. "Abby's" mother was my great-grandmother, Ida May's 1st cousin's daughter. Let's just go with "Ali's 5th cousin, OK? I don't think even THEY ever met. This was a really fortunate thing for Abby, as my great-grandmother was not a very nice person from what I'm told (I edited that, what I originally wrote was just one word starting with a "B.") God rest her soul???

Abby's column and the column of her sister Ann Landers ran in my local paper right next to the funnies, which I read almost every day. As I got older, the funnies took less time to read so I read their columns afterward. I rarely understood the content of people's personal questions, but I was eager to read them anyway to see if I can learn some scoop about being a grown-up that my parents sheltered me from. I think what I really liked was the ridiculous aliases people gave themselves.

A few years ago, after starting my blog, my husband suggested naming my blog "Dear Ali" as a joke because every single time anyone mentioned "Dear Abby" I'd throw in the fact that I'm related to journalistic greatness.

On a whim and unwilling to spend one cent on, I sent out a Facebook message to my mother and her cousins to verify the legend. Once confirmed by a bunch of people who had simply heard the same story I had, none of which are genealogists it led into a colorful discussion about how Wikipedia sucks according to a 9-year-old, how the correct spellings of Russian last names are spelled with a "Y" and not an "I" or they'd be Polish and how my Great Aunt Harriette wrote them both several times and they never wrote back.

Most importantly, there was this little gem of a story from one of my second cousins (who shall remain nameless.) "Grandmom" is my great-grandmother in this story.

This discussion reminded me of a story that Grandmom and my mother always told. They went to a family reunion for Grandmom's mother's side of the family in Phillipsburg, PA, near Penn State, where she lived for some of her childhood before they moved to West Philly. A man came up to her and said hello Ida. She said hello, which cousin are you? He said I'm not your cousin, I'm your brother. One of the two long lost brothers, one was a kleptomaniac, I think the other was crazy too.

So there you have it:  I'm related to Dear Abby and a kleptomaniac (and I think bootleggers, but that has nothing to do with this story). Please tell me you didn't think I was going to say something profound...


  1. I used to read Dear Abby and Ann Landers all the time too.

    Am I jealous of your connections? Perhaps.

    But when my dad's dad died, we found out he had connections to the Italian mafia or some such thing.

    So there's that.

  2. I am so glad you didn't say something profound!

    Dear Ali is actually a pretty stellar idea. Your advice would rock and you know it.

  3. I loved Dear Abby and Ann Landers! Glad to know you are related. I will now be sending you all my burning relationship questions.

  4. The next time I have a question I'm totally asking Dear Ali.
    40 year old with vaginal dryness, but that's not my official problem

  5. You totally sort of look alike too. I hope the fame doesn't go to your head, meanwhile, keep bossing people around. I think they love it!

    P.S. Dear Ali sounds even cooler than Dear Abby (may she RIP) so you never know what the future holds for you!

  6. I am so sorry for

    This explains a lot. (;

  7. I was obsessed with reading those advice columns too for the same reason as you--to glean some real world "grown up" advice. Haha. You should do a weekly Dear Ali column. You could totally make stuff up too.

  8. Oh wow look you are a celebrity in your own right!