Not So Great Advice

Dear Abby gave great advice. Me, not so much.

Hi there, guys and dolls! Friday’s here, and that means it’s time for some great advice. Okay, maybe not great, given my track record, so let’s go with mediocre. My wish is that you are all living fantabulous lives, but if you need a help or have a dating dilemma, social situation or glamour glitch, please give me a dingle here on the blog or email me at and I’d be happy to clarify or confuse things for you further :-).

Now for this week’s letters:

Dear Barbara Jean,

Are office romances ever okay? I have my eye on a new junior executive who I’m sure will be going places.

Secretary Susie in Schenectady

Secretary and Junior Executive in action

Dear Susie,

Thanks for your letter! That’s a very good question that I’m sure many of us career girls contemplate on a daily basis. Your question actually clarifies a few very important points on the success of your pursuit. First off, make sure your prey (I mean, loving intended) is higher up the corporate ladder than you are. It’s always nice when he foots the bill, and coattails are nothing to sneeze at! It’s all fine and good to have a little slap and tickle with the mail boy in the supply closet (who doesn’t do that?), but for the truly serious, set your cap at a higher angle, which you’ve done. Also, be sure to arrange to capture him in a compromising situation, such as a photo of him in nothing more than your chiffon dressing gown with marabou trim. That way, if things go south, you always have a little leverage in the form of blackmail to fall back on. Toodles!

Dear Barbara Jean,

Wearing red lipstick, not looking like a hussy

My mother says that red lipstick makes girls look like hussies. What do you think?

Reserved Ruth in Rhode Island

Dear Ruth,

Now what’s wrong with looking like a hussy? I mean, there’s a girl who looks like she knows what she wants to get, and then there’s tramp (don’t go there). But to be honest, I think your mother’s a little behind the times and there’s nothing wrong with bringing a little color to your face. Try a subtle shade for daytime, and more dramatic for the evening. There’s nothing like leaving a little lipstick on his collar, if you know what I mean. Toodles!

Now that’s vivacious!

Dear Barbara Jean,

Is it okay to wear a bullet bra when seeking out new male companionship? Would that be considered false advertising?

Vivacious Vera from Vermont

Dear Vera,

Of course not! Nor would it be considered falsie advertising ;-). A gal needs to work her assets. I say if you’ve got it (real or purchased), flaunt it. As for the moment of truth down the road if you get a good catch (and that could be hours or days later, depending on your attraction, age and experience in such matters), make sure he’s suitably mesmerized by all of your charms before the big reveal. A important tip – be sure to understand how to carry yourself. No one wants to have an eye poked out (trust me, I’ve had the oddest things happen…another time). Happy Hunting!

Let him figure it out.

Dear Barbara Jean,

My husband is always complaining about what I make for dinner. He says he’s tired of the same old meatloaf and mashed potatoes routine and when I try to make something new, he says he doesn’t like it. Quite frankly I’m fed up. What do I do?

Grumpy Gus’ Gertie in Georgetown

Doesn’t he look happy doing this chore?

Dear Gertie,

For goodness sake, get him studying the books! Cook books, that is. Show Mr. Grumpy Gus what it’s like to try to keep him fed, watered and happy. Every time he grumbles, get him to make a list, get the grub and make the meal. A day or two of that and you should be back to marital bliss. Toodles!

Dear Barbara Jean,

This is what Olive is afraid of.

My children are at the age where they want to help out in the kitchen, but I am so concerned about it. You see, I like things just as they are, everything in its place and a place for everything. Plus, the children bring in all kinds of germs from the outside, including the ones that Lysol just can’t kill. What am I to do? 

Organized Olive in Orange County

Dear Olive,

First recipe the children should manage for Olive

For heaven’s sake, get those kids earning their keep! My goodness, I’m sure you are the perfect mother, always picking up after them, could eat off your floor, all those good things. But part of your job is to teach your children how to move out and run their own homes one day. I would let them at it, but first, introduce them to the martini shaker and get them to mix you some great “afternoon tea,” for your inverted triangle glass. That way, you’ll be pleasantly relaxed (okay, buzzed) while your charming children turn your kitchen upside down making some truly awful food. Then you can also teach them how to clean. Be sure to have the take out menus ready for the first few attempts.

Bon appetit, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

I am a recent divorcee just getting out in the dating scene. I’ve been shopping for some new dresses and found some darling ones. But what to choose? There’s so many fetching frocks out there, how do I choose just one? What would you do? Please help me with my dilemma.

Nervous Nellie in Newark

Dear Nellie,

Nellie should go for at least three

Good for you for getting back on that horse again! Maybe this time it’ll be a “Carousel of Love” rather than a pokey old “Marry go Round” ;-). Quite frankly, I don’t see your dilemma. I’d get two, maybe three, or more. If a budget is an issue, don’t let it be. Just remind your ex-husband that the sooner you get re-hitched, the less he has to pay in alimony over time. Let him cough up the investment for your future, just as you had to most likely choke down the excuse that his secretary’s lipstick on his collar that time was because she tripped and fell against him. Just guessing, but I’m kinda right, right?

Go out there and have a ball, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

A dramatic interpretation of Jill giving Pam the evil eye

Recently our neighbor Pam dropped 250 pounds by divorcing her husband of ten years and then dieting and exercising to get into tip-top hourglass shape. Now my husband and all of the other men are making eyes at her and she’s flirting right back. Please help me and my friends preserve our husbands from this vicious vixen. We don’t know what to do!

Jealous Jill from Jackson Hole

Dear Jill,

You and your friends should not despair for long. You know how they say to keep your friends close, but your enemies closer? Form a neighborhood watch with Pam. You know, all of you taking shifts, acting like you care, all the while inviting her over for coffee, drinks, etc. This way, someone will always know where she is, in the company of watchful women and be sure everyone plies her with all the fattening foods she loves. Encourage her to eat, keep up her strength, get through that nasty old divorce. Before long, she’ll be fat, dumpy and depressed, just where you want her to be. Simple

Have fun, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

I have a question about sack dresses. When do you think they should be worn? Day or evening? Formal/informal? Please advise.

Sagging Sally from St. Louis

Dear Sally,


Most sincerely, Barbara Jean

Tweedy sack dress hides a multitude of sins. Looks like the hat covers some minor hair crime, too.

PS – okay, on second thought (actually, after a huge lunch including the hot plate special with gravy and a generous slice of boston cream pie), I say ANYTIME! Let’s face it, sometimes even the extra rubber girdle just can’t suck it all in. If a man can’t handle a little mystery being cloaked under a sack, what good would he be in the sack? And honestly, these things matter!

Dear Barbara Jean,

I’m not feeling myself these days. I think the new divorcee down the street may be a witch and has cast a love spell over me. I can’t stand to be away from her. It’s like she has me in her clutches I can’t escape her beauty and charms. Please help!

Smitten Saul in Salem

Dear Saul,

Maybe Saul doesn’t really want the spell to be broken…

Well Saul, are you really sure you want to escape? Love Potion Number Nine can be pretty powerful stuff, but maybe you kind of like her? Here’s a thought – introduce her to your mother. I’m sure she’ll take one look at that little witch and she’ll snap that spell pronto.

Enjoy the spell, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

I don’t know what to do. I keep tripping over things and walking into walls. My doctor says I should wear glasses, but my mother says no man will make eyes at me if I do, let alone marry me to get out of her house. Awaiting your answer, this situation is getting painful, literally. Yesterday I hit a lamppost!

Just think Alice, this could be you in a few weeks!

Awkward Alice in Arkansas

Dear Alice,

For goodness sake, get yourself some glasses, get yourself a job and get out of your mother’s house. Then get yourself a handsome man by wearing those danged glasses so you can see him and make your own pass at him. Up to you if you want him to meet your mother.

Go get ‘em tiger, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

Meg, just before her husband got home

I am really in a pickle. My husband came home early and caught the door to door vacuum cleaner salesman ‘showing me his wares’ so to speak. Luckily, we were both still dressed, just engaged in a little ‘hose play’ you might say. Now my husband doesn’t trust me and stays around the house all day. He’s underfoot and I can’t get anything done. Not to mention having to explain the weekly visits from the pool boy, when we don’t have a swimming pool. Also, the washing machine repair man’s due to come by in a couple of days. As you can tell, having my husband around really puts a wrench in my social life. Barbara Jean, I don’t know what to do.

Mischievous Meg in Michigan

Dear Meg,

Bravo, darling! I have to hand it to you, you run a very efficient household, what with all the many help dropping by and doing their part. I agree that having your husband hovering just won’t do. And trust me, you don’t want those fickle salesmen and delivery boys to wander off. When the fresh divorcee from down the street learns that the pool boy has a vacant time slot, it’s hard to get him back. Trust me, I know from personal experience. I say call his office and get the lay of the land. Chances are there’s some little lass in the secretarial pool pining away for her own office ‘pool’ boy (aka, your husband, and don’t tell me you really care, missy, I’ve got the gist of your ‘home visits’), and once you anonymously put a bug in her ear to call him in for a ‘closed door meeting’, he’ll be back in the office again.

Love to help keep the marrieds happy, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

My mother is good friends with the class geek’s mother and they are always trying to set us up. He’s kind of goofy looking and in the after school robot and computron club. All he talks about is that one day we’ll all have these little tiny computers that do everything for us. He says they won’t be the size of a house or need to use ticker tape or punch cards. He and his friends will figure it out one day and be really rich because they’re really smart. Do you think he’s right or just kind of weird?

Not quite sure how they’ll shrink this down, but okay….

Confused Connie in Colorado

PS – He also says that he likes me almost as much as he likes computers and that his mother thinks I’m good for him, so he doesn’t mind me hanging around. I think that’s a compliment?

Dear Connie,

Hmm, interesting question. You know, I think he means well, and in the name of research, I had a scientist friend of mine help me out. He put your letter on punch cards and fed them into their state of the art, solid state logic machine. The answer was astounding (his words, not mine). The results indicate you should stay with your nice geek, in addition to my geek’s advice. He says that he too has heard that computers will be the wave of the future, and by golly, those who will get them to be pocket sized will be the richest men in the world.

Don’t forget me when you’re rolling in the dough, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

I don’t think Betty will be bored for long…

I feel like I’m in a rut. Everything feels like the same old, same old thing. I think I need to do something and call on your wonderful wisdom to help me. I’m feeling antsy and wonder should I change my hair or should I change my husband? What would you do?

Bored Betty in Boise

Dear Betty,

Let’s see. I think I’d change my hair first. It’s much less of a hassle and it’ll grow back if you don’t like it, whereas to get your husband back if you don’t like the other fish in the sea out there could be a lot of work. Plus, your problem could be changed in a two-part method – change your hair, then if your other half doesn’t notice or disapproves, then change him, too. You certainly won’t be bored then!

Here’s to shaking things up a bit, Barbara Jean

Who told Wanda about what?

Dear Barbara Jean,

I’ve just heard some unbelievable gossip in the neighborhood and I don’t know who knows about it and who doesn’t. Also, in this most delicate matter, I’m not sure who will side with whom. How do I know whom to tell and whom not to tell? It’s really too good to just keep to myself.

Wagging Wanda from Wichita

Dear Wanda,

Wow, now you’ve got me wondering and I don’t even know anyone in Wichita! I wish you would have told me, not that it would change the advice I’m going to give in any way whatsoever, I just want to know… Anyhoo, when you get together with any of your neighborhood gal pals, let them speak first, maybe they’ll be itching to spill it themselves. Watch for signs of ants in the pants behavior, fidgetyness, or that they outright tell you. If they sit there like clueless bumps on a log and don’t say anything, chances they don’t know anything (about that, or maybe they’re just dim bulbs all round, I don’t know your friends…). And what the heck, if the conversation’s boring, spill the beans and get the ball rolling. One big tip – whatever you do, don’t be the one to tell the parties involved by accident. I speak from experience. You’ll never be privy to the good gossip ever again, and that juicy secret you have on this particular misadventure will be nipped in the bud before you have enough time to fully enjoy the salacious dirt on this go round…

Don’t be the loose lips that sink this ship, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

No one wants to see this ad lying around as a hint…

Last year my husband bought me a new broom and dustpan for Christmas, so this year I left my magazine open on his chair, side of the bed and at the breakfast table turned to an ad for Evening in Paris perfume. This morning I noticed that he had turned the page to the vacuum cleaner ad and left it at my spot at the table when he left for work. What do you think that means?

Done and Dusted Darlene in Des Moines

Dear Darlene,

First of all, I’m a little shocked you stayed with him for another year after that smooth move. He must be good for something, I guess. Anyhoo, without continuing to cuss him in my head, I gave your situation some thought. My guess is that you may in fact be getting that vacuum cleaner. So this is what you do. Go out and get that perfume yourself, wrap it up and put it under the tree as a present to you from a secret Santa. Be sure to gush appropriately and then immediately rush from the room and pretend to make a lovey dovey phone call. If that doesn’t clog up the new Hoover, nothing will. Now, the next step is up to you. If he gets all flustery and turns into a real he-man, ‘fess up and you may have the most romantic holiday season ever (get my drift), or if he acts like nothing’s a miss, take that broom and dustpan and sweep him out to the curb, temporarily or permanently.

Have fun cleaning house, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

That kid can carry water, but not a tune…

Our church has a great Christmas pageant, complete with a chorus of little darling angels every year. The problem is the new girl in the neighborhood who joined the choir can’t sing, she basically just yells and belts out this terrible caterwauling. It is frightening the little ones, gets the nearby dogs yelping and has actually shattered a stained glass window pane. The minister has left it up to me as pageant director to deal with the situation. I tried to get her a different part, a non-singing one and her mother insists on her being in the choir. What do I do?

Frazzled Fran in Fresno

Dear Fran,

I understand your situation. It’s a church, you need to be charitable and let everyone take part and do their best. It ain’t Hollywood, it’s the local crowd. Talk to the minister and since he’s copping out and leaving you to deal with it, tell him to cough up out of the church funds for earplugs for the congregation. Have the ushers hand them out with the programs and tell everyone to place them in their ears when the new girl starts whaling. Let the dogs sing along and make snowflake patterns on the stained glass out of masking tape to help keep them in place. Don’t know if it’ll work, but it’ll at least look festive.

Stay tuned through the holidays, Barbara Jean

Some surprises are not welcome

Dear Barbara Jean,

My sister and her husband make me so mad. We never know whether their family are coming for Christmas or not. Every year, it’s the same thing. I ask her and she gives me a coy answer that doesn’t say anything. If I make room and food for them, they don’t show up, but if I don’t they’re right on the doorstep, last minute, expecting food, presents and accommodation. They show up with presents (for themselves, I might add, not for anyone else, mind you), park themselves in front of the tree and don’t move for days. As I’ve said, it’s my sister and mother says we are not to fight. What am I to do?

Miffed Margaret in Missoula

Dear Margaret,

The holidays can be a tricky time, can’t they? I agree that your sister sounds like a royal pain in the patoot. Here’s a suggestion. Why don’t you and yours play a little hide and seek on Christmas eve, right around the time they usually would show up. If you have kids, make it a little game and have everyone be nice and quiet in the bushes and watch to see if they show up to your empty house. If they do, wait patiently til they figure out that you’re not there and decide to mooch onto another family member, say maybe they’ll go to mother’s. Let her ‘not fight’ with them for a change. Then you don’t have to make extra food or bedding space for those fun, ‘just in casers’ and you get a quiet Christmas with your absolute nearest and dearest. And if they don’t show up, at least you got some fresh air.

Hoping you fix your sister’s little red wagon, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

My boss is being a real grinch for Christmas this year. He’s saying that no one can have time off at Christmas. So far, Bill in accounting is using the ‘heartbreak of psoriasis’ for his sick excuse, while Debbie in the typing pool has claimed the vague ‘women’s problems’ to get her time off. Do you think that ‘extreme halitosis’ would work to get me a week off?

Work Weary Wendy in Wenatchee

Dear Wendy,

Hmm, I don’t know. I mean, do you really want the stigma of really bad breath be the bane of the office gossip all next year? Also, I think you should also go for something a little more drastic. Why not say you have contracted a rare resurgence of the plague? If you have enough sick days banked, that may actually get you all of January off as well. Hola, Mexico! Shake a margarita and maraca for me!

Have a great rest, Barbara Jean

Dear Barbara Jean,

My spoiled brat of a nephew sent me a page out a toy catalog with everything circled and a crayoned note saying that his mother (my sister) told him that because I was a single working woman I could afford to get him all the toys on the page. All that stuff is expensive! There’s no way I could do that, or want to, for that matter. I am so steamed at my sister. What should I do?

Angry Annabelle in Alabama

Dear Annabelle,

Oh, relatives. Aren’t they fun? Here’s what I’d do. Pick one item that you want to get your gem of a nephew and tell him to be happy with that, also that there are poor kids around the world who would be happy just to have the catalog, so he better be grateful for what he gets. As for your sister, I believe a lump of coal is in order. 

Wishing you a Merry and Affordable Christmas, Barbara Jean

This is what Denise wishes would happen.

Dear Barbara Jean,

What is a girl to do? I have been dating Ralph for a long time now, and I really want this Christmas to be the one he proposes marriage to me. My mother and I have tried everything we could think of over the last six years, shy of father instigating a shotgun wedding (he won’t do it, doesn’t like even the threat of violence and honestly doesn’t think Ralph is worth it, even if I do). Father also thinks he’s a little slow and unmotivated, lacks initiative. Please advise as I’d like to be a Mrs. by June because I have found the perfect dress and I’d hate to see it go out of style…again.

Desperate Denise in Detroit

Dear Denise,

Hmm, you are aware of who you are asking, right? I’ve not been able to swindle a carry over the threshold myself yet, not for lack of trying. However, now that I think about it, definitely lack of suitable suitors. Too many schmoes, not enough goes…. Sorry, my lot, not yours. Back to your Ralph. I say take the bull by the horns and reign him in. And are you set on June? Why not holiday nuptials? Get everyone all together including the preacher, get him a suit, pick up your own ring and have your father stand guard at the door til the ceremony’s over and the dotted line signed. I’d do it quickly, before unwrapping presents before he realizes what is happening. Besides, if he likes you enough to stick around for six years, it ain’t just for your pot roast. Your lazy butted Ralph will get used to the idea, eventually. Why not let him settle in after the binding contract?

Happy trapping before the new year, Barbara Jean

Keep your letters coming! I love to help or hinder any way I can.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more posts. And don’t forget to give my Poppy Cove Mysteries a try if you haven’t already.

Toodles, Barbara Jean