Every Wednesday: I never fail to be disgusted with advice columns. I will pat myself on the back this week for being on schedule. As always, I am in awe when it comes to awful examples like Dear Prudence and Dear Abby. The columnists seem to get rewarded for giving you bad advice. I think that people get terrible advice from them. I don’t blame anyone that calls advice column responses garbage. I use my postings to correct these responses and help society by being an utmost asshole, (as always, a hat tip to Aaron Clarey at Asshole Consulting).
Consider this piece from Carolyn Hax’s column (courtesy of Washington Post)from September 27, 2020:
(Dear Matt): What is your take on the so-called “Billy Graham Rule”? I am in my early 60s and have been married for 30 years. I have a business conference each year that is sponsored in part by one of my clients and is the premier networking event in my field. I am expected by my partners to attend.
I work closely with a female employee, who is also married and is 20 years my junior. My associate works on all my client matters and is expected to attend with me.
This conference has become a major source of discord with my wife, who objects that I travel with a female employee. There is absolutely nothing inappropriate between this employee and me. We travel to and from the conference together, stay in separate rooms, and have dinners together, sometimes with clients or colleagues, sometimes alone. My wife has falsely accused me of having a romantic relationship with this woman and/or looking to begin one.
I have always been faithful to my wife and have given her no reason to think otherwise. She rants that all men will stray given the opportunity, and I believe her frame of reference is skewed by the experience of her sister, whose husband cheated on her.
I am hurt and resentful of the untrue and outrageous accusations. Not appearing at the conference is really not an option for me, professionally, nor is telling my employee she is no longer able to attend. She has a professional need to be there and, after all, it is not her fault my spouse has unsubstantiated concerns.
How do I address this dilemma? By the way, my wife has attended such conferences, which I have no issue with. She dismisses that comparison because she does not attend with a male colleague, although there are obviously men attending.
— Between a Rock and a Hard Place
The Billy Graham Rule, just like the “Pence Principle”, is a good way to make sure people don’t get in trouble. It is not meant as an insult to someone’s judgment but as a way to prevent the opportunities for chicanery from happening to begin with. It isn’t all about not having an opportunity to cheat on your spouse.
I have had an example, in my life, where professional behavior was sacrificed for the attention of another person. It doesn’t pay to be close to a co-worker of the same sex. It doesn’t matter if it is just a rumor. You have plausible deniability if you aren’t around the person to begin with. You will deny someone the opportunity for them to “victim signal” and accuse you of something that you didn’t do. It isn’t sexist, it is self-preservation during the time of #MeToo.
I would take your wife’s concerns to heart. It isn’t that she doesn’t trust you, but she doesn’t trust you to not be naïve. You don’t want to hurt all of your good work by giving into apparent optics. Please look at an alternative arrangement or a way to travel alone.
(As per your wife’s accusations of you having a romantic relationship or starting one with this woman, she is scared that you will turn her in for another model. This is just fear based. I strongly doubt that she is jealous, but she is trying to cement her future with you).
I don’t imagine that I will have a shortage of emails to answer. I would love to start doing this for anyone that sends me an email. If this is you; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you hate advice columns; I don’t blame you. If it isn’t soft people giving advice; it is someone trying to justify acting like an insensitive asshole. Till next week.