The "Ask E. Jean" advice column has appeared in Elle magazine since 1993, making it "the longest, currently-running advice column in American publishing." She's known for her hilarious, matter-of-fact and slightly impatient counseling, as well as her belief that women should "never never" wrap their lives around men. A couple of months ago, E. Jean launched a coaching website, which allows her fans to get personalized attention: For $30, you get "cocktail coaching" — a 20-minute Skype, Face Time or phone call with the living legend. A half-hour tête-à-tête will cost you sixty bucks. And. For $150, E. Jean says, "I will come to your N.Y. apartment, office, garret, trailer, hut, tent, back yard, favorite park bench." Can you guess which one I picked?
Yes, friends, Monday night I met E. Jean in a dark bar downtown. She floated in with loosely curled fluffy angelic hair, cat-eye glasses accented with rhinestones, white jeans tucked into sharp knee boots. It was immediately obvious that she is hilarious, blunt, energetic and brilliant, in a zany and spontaneous way. I told her the awful truth: My life is going fine, but I'd like to have a boyfriend and I'm not having a lot of luck and no one asks me out. She seemed genuinely alarmed that dudes were not lining up to date me and even pulled back the curtains of the bar and looked outside to see if there were any suitors lurking on the sidewalk. As we sipped cocktails and she joked that my "bosom alone" should be attracting a steady flow of hotties, I found myself spilling out a whole bunch of personal details and showing her pictures on my iPhone. Suggestions and ideas came bubbling out of her faster than I could jot them down. "What's your sport?" she asked. "Uh… this? Cocktails?" I replied. She had scenarios involving going to watch guys play soccer at Chelsea Piers — "go by yourself," she stressed — and awarding the hottest one with a nice cold lemonade and the words "you deserve this." She informed me that Montana is "wall to wall guys" should I care to try fly-fishing, and her eyes lit up when she thought about me attending a rodeo. "They would loooove you at the rodeo," she declared, nodding toward my cleavage. She also recommended Iceland — "They're weird there."
E. Jean had some other really specific advice for me, regarding my school's alumni association, performing a certain move on this dude I have a crush on ("trust me, like a cohort of Roman soldiers, it will slay") and my therapist ("she's stealing your money"). She also declared "marriage is archaic" and predicted I would fall deeply in love in 2012. After what seemed like the shortest hour ever, I had huge confidence boost (she told me I was smart/gorgeous at least fifty times) a smattering of dating tips, some suggestions about how to expand my social circle a bit, a bunch of never-before-dreamed up ways to meet guys, and one absolutely amazing concept for a screenplay.
Advice columns are strange: I often wonder if people really don't know what to do, or if they just want someone to tell them what to do, thereby alleviating the burden of decision-making and any responsibility for their actions. Mostly you read to see what kind of ridiculous predicaments folks have gotten themselves into (this one is insane). But with E. Jean, you're also reading for the killer comebacks and saucy suggestions. And perhaps a little bit of reassurance (I'm not a mess, these people are a mess). And in that respect, I got exactly what I paid for, plus a few buckets more. Sometimes when you're asking for advice, you're really asking for encouragement, and in a world that can be really fucking discouraging, it feels nice to get some.