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Why You Should Be Listening to Mallory Ortberg on the Dear Prudence Podcast Right Now


Ever since November and the election’s terrible, world-shaking results, I have felt a need to hear safe voices. At first, immediately, I needed to hear big, safe voices: government, activists, celebrities, public figures. Anyone who loomed large, who could offer comfort, courage, and direction moving forward for everyone reeling in this crisis. Then, I realized that I needed to hear safe voices around me too. My parents, my siblings, my friends, my friends-of-friends Facebook posts. Then: strangers next to me in a march, or commenting while signing a petition. Recently, another voice that has brought me comfort has been Mallory Ortberg on Slate’s Dear Prudence podcast.

Ortberg is one of the founders of The Toast (RIP) and an overall great, great human. She’s the newest, Prudence to write the column (the fourth in total), and as of June 2016, she also now hosts the new Dear Prudence podcast, where she has guests come help her answer questions. Like a large part of the internet, I fell in love with Ortberg’s writing at The Toast, and so I followed her to her Dear Prudence column. As this new year started, I gave the podcast a shot, and ohmygod, I love it so much.

Because I am a human, I care a lot about knowing the “right way” to be in the world and with the people around me. I try to understand day-to-day interactions, bigger problems, and how to navigate and recover from them. I find myself more and more lost in these problems as I grow older, and this election cycle in particular has made me question: are human decency and kindness still a thing? What does that look like? How do I continue to participate in it?

I feel like Mallory Ortberg has some of these answers. Ortberg’s Prudence advice is clear-headed, and she has an excellent take-no-shit sense of boundaries, which is especially comforting in a somewhat boundary-less country right now. She gives her listeners permission to expect kindness and empathy from the people in their lives. She empowers them to seek therapy, to walk away, to move on. Her advice, given thoughtfully and often worded beautifully, affirms: yes, you are allowed to and should expect kindness and empathy from the people around you. Yes, you are allowed to feel hurt, and you are allowed to walk away from someone hurting you. Yes, you are allowed to speak up for your needs in your daily life. You are allowed to be angry.

Ortberg is liberal, feminist, up to date on gender issues, understands addiction, abuse, etc., and readily admits what she does not know. In her latest episode, she opened by addressing the fact that advice is not a one-size-fits-all situation. She allows for error and for her not always being right, constantly asking her audience to write or call in if they have ideas. I trust her self awareness and her critique and analysis of herself and those she’s advising.

Also, Ortberg is of course hilarious, and delves into issues that we did not know we badly needed to discuss. For example, she recently dove into the long-awaited etiquette guide of what to do if you become stranded on a deserted island with another person and you have a romantic partner at home. How long do you wait to be rescued before you start your island romance? Ortberg says all bets are off almost immediately: wait 48 hours, and if you’re not rescued, you’re allowed to start developing relationships with whoever you’re stuck on the island with. Who else is going to tackle these issues? I for one, feel relieved that I’ll know what to do in this situation. Thank you, Dear Prudence.

Really, I’m just saying I think you need to go listen to this podcast, right now. I think I can safely promise you’ll get something out of it: comfort, validation, laughter too. It can be helpful, I think, when problems and fear loom as large as they do right now, to hear someone tackle a smaller, human-to-human problem and help uncover an answer that you feel in your gut is right. Also, it’s very soothing to listen to someone talk very knowledgeably about bisexual erasure. You’re the best, Prudence.

(image via Flickr/Ian Linkletter)

Molly Booth is a freelance writer and YA author of Saving Hamlet, out now, and Nothing Happened, spring 2018, both from Disney Hyperion. She’s also an English MA candidate at UMass Boston. She was homeschooled through high school, which means she gained her Geek/Nerd/Dork Certificate at an early age. She lives in Boston and has almost too many pets. Almost. Follow Molly on twitter and tumblr, or visit her website for more nerding.

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