For the past two weeks, I haven't found anything worth commenting about in the Post-Gazette's “Just Ask Cat” column, a quasi-advice section penned by Catherine Specter. Specter is the genetic mutation of Harriet Nelson and Carrie Bradshaw, minus the cool hair.
Why does it bother me so? One need only turn to the back of the Employment Section for the incredibly good column “Help Me Harlan.” Harlan offers compassionate, thoughtful and gentle insight into the angst of modern life, with an especially graceful connection with adolescents. Cat Specter offers her belief that “You are so hot” is a useful relationship building comment.
Harlan's column calls to mind the grand dames of advice, Dear Abby and Ann Landers. I read both religiously throughout my childhood and teen years. They gave me an anchor in the face of seven zillion difficulties, both large and small. I felt validated and affirmed as a person — I felt like there was an adult out there that valued me for who I was on the inside versus trying to change who I was on the outside.
For the most part, Specter's damage is benign. I'm sure there are women in Pittsburgh who are seeking validation in their fashion choices and their belief that the right lipstick is crucial to snaring a good man. To everyone's disadvantage, Specter occasionally ventures in serious advice territory – such as encouraging a reader to tacitly condone racism.
She's like the oblivious sorority sister who fails to comprehend that your impact on the world should not be limited to fashion advice and an occasional charity event. Sort of the pre-Harvard Elle in Legally Blond.
Minus the cool hair.