‘Cut Off His Hominy Grits’: Vintage Advice From Dear Abby

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Photo: Betty Galella

There was a lot to love in the New York Times’ obituary for Dear Abby author Pauline Phillips today — professional moxie, sibling rivalry, the artful navigation of shifting social mores — but it was never more entertaining than when it was in Phillips’s own words. Culled by writer Margalit Fox, Abigail Van Buren’s columns are a reminder of the power of the warm but witty retort. A favorite:

Dear Abby: Are birth control pills deductible? — Bertie  
Dear Bertie: Only if they don’t work.

Drawing from her addictive 1981 book, The Best of Dear Abby, we’ve dug up a few more of the proto-#realtalk one-liners that made her one of the most widely read women in the world.

Dear Abby: What would you do with a man who refuses to use a deodorant, seldom bathes, and doesn’t even own a toothbrush? — Stinky’s Wife
Dear Wife
: Absolutely nothing!

Dear Abby: My husband lost his wallet. It was mailed back and i found it stuffed with snapshots of other women. I confronted him with this evidence and he said, as a true Southern gentleman, he refused to muddy the names of the ladies in the pictures. What can I do with this Alabama Skunk?—Myra
Dear Myra
: Cut off his hominy grits.

Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be twenty years old next month. I'd like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he'd like?—Carol
Dear Carol
: Never mind what he'd like. Give him a tie.

Dear Abby: What do you say to a niece with brown eyes and coal black hair who is married to a man who also has brown eyes and coal black hair and just gave birth to a baby boy with blue eyes and light blond hair?—Curious Uncle
Dear Curious
: "Congratulations!"

Dear Abby: My husband sleeps in his underwear. He wears the long woolen kind, and he sleeps in the same underwear he’s worn all day. The problem is getting him to change it. Abby, there are four sets of clean underwear in his drawer, but he won’t put on a clean pair without a fight. I can’t even get the underwear away from him to put in the wash. Don’t tell me to grab it when he’s in the bathtub. He doesn’t bathe much either. Please help me. He’s getting pretty ripe.—Holding My Nose
Dear Holding
: Look at it this way. You don’t have to worry about another woman stealing him. And he’s easy to find in the dark. But if you want action, try begging, nagging, and leaving! And in that order.

Dear Abby: I have been married for exactly one month: The other night I discovered that my wife uses mayonnaise on her hair before she goes to bed. She has the preposterous idea that it makes her hair grow faster. She claims that lots of women use it. Abby, please help me as I don’t care to smell mayonnaise at night.—New Husband
Dear New
: There are hair conditioners on the market that are more effective and smell better. Tell your wife that when you go to bed with a tomato, you prefer to do it without the mayonnaise.

Dear Abby: My husband and I have been married three years. I thought we had a good marriage, although our sex life seemed to be going downhill. (He was always too tired.) My mother, who lives four hundred miles away, phoned to say that my father had suddenly become very ill, so I went to be with her for a week. On returning home I found a pair of earrings for pierced ears on the nightstand beside our bed! I showed them to my husband and demanded an explanation. He swore he’d never seen them before and had no idea how they got there. What should I do?—My Sign Is Leo
Dear Leo
: Don’t hassle him. Just keep your eyes open for a woman with two extra holes in her head.

Dear Abby: My husband’s former wife, Velma, with whom we have remained on fairly good terms, invited us to her home for a party. She is now married to a very well-to-do man. Velma told me it was going to be a costume party, so my husband and I dressed up like a couple of rabbits. Imagine our surprise when the butler opens the door and ushered us into a room filled with men in tuxedos and women in stunning gowns! We felt like a couple of fools. Velma laughed and said it was funny. I was very upset to have been made the butt of her joke, so I got myself a glass of punch and spilled it on her gown. Then I laughed and told her I thought it was funny. However, she didn’t see anything funny about it. My husband isn’t speaking to me, and he thinks I owe Velma an apology. What should I do?—Wife
Dear Wife
: Send Velma a bunch of carrots, and tell her you’re sorry.

Dear Abby: I’ve been married to a good-looking cross-country  truck driver for ten years. I’m not the suspicious type, but Friday night he came off the road with two long scratches on his left hip. They were fairly deep scratches, yet neither of his shorts nor his trousers were ripped. When I asked him where he got the scratches, he said they were probably from a feather in the bed. Now, Abby, I’d like to believe him, but do they still have feather-bedding in modern motels? And could anybody get scratched like that from a feather?—Not Dumb
Dear Not
: It’s unlikely that the scratches came from a feather. It was probably the whole chick.