Why don't you take advantage of E-mail technology? Instead of publishing a single response to a letter you received (probably via E-mail!), why don't you send a response directly to the person with the problem? Then wait for the advice seeker to respond, and publish the whole back-and-forth for your readers. That way we wouldn't be left wondering how things turned out. For example, I'm sure everyone wants to know if Giddy Schoolgirl slept with her TA. If you published chat-style threads instead of a Q&A we would know!
You could revolutionize the whole advice-column genre! At the very least, consider publishing follow-up letters from the people you give advice to. --The Hole Story
Advice columnists don't get many follow-up letters, THS. The dirty little secret of all advice columnists--from Ann Landers to Miss Manners to me--is this: Weeks can pass in the time it takes us to get a letter, read it, respond, and get the whole mess published. As a result, most advice seekers take action before they have a chance to read our advice. As our advice is therefore often useless, what would advice seekers say to us in response? Thanks for nothing? And even when the advice does arrive in time, the industry-standard Q&A format doesn't exactly encourage follow-up responses.
But I did find your suggestion of adopting a Q&A&R (question/answer/response) format rather intriguing, THS. So I conducted an experiment: I selected two letters from my incoming E-mail and responded to them personally:
You always seem to be giving advice to breeder chicks and baby-makin' boys these days. How about helping out a fellow fag? I'm 35 years old, attractive, and trying to date. I met a hot guy who tells me he wants a relationship. The problem: Kyle's dick only gets hard when he ties me up. I'm adventurous and let him do it once. Now he insists I like it because I was willing to do it at all. I probably know the answer to this, but can people only aroused by bondage find gratification in normal sex? Is there hope? --Michael
If you're sure you get no pleasure from bondage and never will, you need to move on. But if you're sure bondage does nothing for you, why did you write? Unless you enjoy bondage more than you're letting on, you already know the answer to your question.
Kyle also says I like it more than I'm letting on. The one time he had me tied up he kept asking his friends to notice the glint of excitement in my eyes. I couldn't say it wasn't excitement because I had duct tape on my mouth. When Kyle went to the bathroom, several guys asked to change places with me. But I didn't want to be in my place! When I asked Kyle why he didn't date a guy who wants to be tied up, he told me that he prefers the "challenge" of a guy like me. I wrote because I wanted to know how much a person into bondage needs that to stay happy. Is he willing to live in my world? I was willing to try living in his. Would he do the same for me? --Michael
You didn't tell me that the one and only time he tied you up was in public! Or that he left you alone! That's extreme stuff even if he got your consent and gave you some rough idea of what he had planned. Perhaps if Kyle had tied you up in, say, your apartment, you would've had more fun.
Can he live in your world? Like most kinky people, Kyle probably tried to live in your world for a long time. Most kinky people spend years suppressing their desires, but once they leave the vanilla world and come out about their kinks, well, let's just say they're unlikely to go back willingly. As for the "challenge" of tying up guys like you, sooner or later Kyle will hit the jackpot, i.e., he'll tie up someone who discovers he digs bondage just as much as Kyle. Clearly, you're not the jackpot guy.
I'm a gay man with HIV. When guys I date discover that I have HIV, they often react badly. Why don't other gay men have more compassion? Where can I meet guys that don't make a huge issue out of my status? --Dan Fan in Toronto
Date other poz guys and your status won't be an issue. Toronto is a big city, and there are plenty of HIV-positive guys living there. I'm sure there's an HIV-positive social/support group in Toronto. Join it.
What kind of advice is that?! I want to keep my status private! Anyway, I did join one HIV-positive social group and everyone was as old as my grandfather! They were a bunch of old barf bags! No thanks! I guess I shouldn't have asked for support from a glorified gossip columnist!
--Dan Fan No Longer!
Look, fuckbrain, meeting guys who already know you're positive is the only way to avoid "What? You're positive?!" weirdness. If you're too ashamed to be out about your status, well, you have no right to complain when guys react badly after they "discover" you're positive. So join a support group or be out about being positive or stop complaining. As for the old barf bags at the support group you did attend, there's a group for young HIV-positive guys in the city where I live, and I would assume that a city as big as Toronto has one too. If it doesn't, well, get off your ass and start one.
But I suspect that you won't get off your lazy ass. Like a lot of other shit-for-brains poz guys out there, you're probably happier complaining. And hey, where does someone who calls older gay men "barf bags" get off asking for compassion?
You are a fuck. What gives you the right to be insensitive toward me? I am not ashamed of me being HIV positive. I am a person in the public eye--let's just say I'm in politics--and can't risk the whole world knowing. You better be careful who you take on. --Dan Fan No Longer
Well, wasn't that an exciting experiment!
Here's what we learned: Batting E-mails back and forth with someone like Michael is fun, but the Q&A&R format can clearly get an advice columnist sucked into an endless E-mail exchange with psychos like Dan Fan. You see, most people who write to advice columnists have problems, and often their problems are their own fault. My advice to Dan Fan upset him because it rubbed his nose in that fact and, being an asshole, he wrote me an angry response. Being an asshole myself, I replied in kind, which prompted Dan Fan to make vague threats. So while the Q&A&R format sounds great in theory, in practice it presents too great a risk of being drawn into time-wasting exchanges with assholes like Dan Fan to be adopted.
Additionally, THS's proposed Q&A&R format is more work than good ol' Q&A. As we've seen, Q&A&R can quickly mushroom into Q&A&R&R&R&R. Technology may one day revolutionize the advice-column genre, but this columnist is far too lazy to be at the vanguard.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.