Giving advice is in Margo Howard’s blood. She’s the daughter of Ann Landers and has personally spent a lifetime dispensing advice in her columns “Dear Prudence” and “Dear Margo.” On Tuesday, Oct. 7, she’ll be joined onstage with graphic novelist Liana Finck and columnist Meredith Goldstein to talk advice at the New Center for Arts & Culture’s event “I’m Glad You Asked: An Evening of Jewish Advice.” We chatted with Margo about her new book and the best advice her mom ever gave her.
Congratulations on your new book, “Eat, Drink and Remarry: Confessions of a Serial Wife.” Tell me about it.
Well, it’s a marital memoir about my three divorces and four marriages. It’s funny, sad and dramatic in places, and of course I pass on the lessons I learned. One could call that “advice.” I’m very honest in the telling of my story because, really, there’s no other way to do it. When it was still in the galley stage I was surprised to realize that people like Elizabeth Taylor, Jonas Salk, Marcel Marceau and Erich Segal were marching through my marriages! I recognize that my life has been somewhat unusual.
I’m curious to hear about the upcoming roundtable. What are you planning to talk about?
We’re talking about the tradition of Jewish advice—and about the early advice column known as the “Bintel Brief,” or “bundle of letters.”
Why do you think Jewish women end up dispensing advice?
This has been written about, and will be again. It cannot be random that so many advice givers were Jewish, so there must be something in the makeup of Jewish life that inclines some landsmen (fellow Jews) to become advice mavens. It’s likely some stew of family life, a desire to help, a need to be useful, an ability to pass on wisdom and, of course, having the yenta (gossip) gene. This goes all the way back to The Forvitz when there was an advice column, the Bintel Brief, offering counsel on how to be an American.
Your mother was Ann Landers. What’s the best piece of advice she ever gave you?
This may sound odd, but one bit of advice that has stood me in good stead is that when things seem to be going off the rails, take a nap, wake up and begin anew. Her advice that I try to remember daily is that kindness is the “cure” for a lot of things.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!