Advice June 2009

What's Your Problem?

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Am I obligated to be a bridesmaid for a friend whom I haven’t seen since we graduated from high school in 2002? Last year, she “rekindled” our friendship via Facebook (rather forcefully—ultimatums were involved). She declares that I’m still one of her closest friends, but I in no way feel the same. I don’t have the heart to tell her that our “friendship” ended when we set off for college. Cruel though it may sound, I never really missed her. What’s a girl to do?

K. R., Lafayette, Calif.

Dear K. R.,

I don’t know the nature of the “ultimatums” your ex-friend issued on Facebook (I’ll assume they didn’t include the threat of violence), but there’s not much gray area here: you are duty-bound to tell her, in a forthright and sympathetic way, that it is inappropriate for you to participate in her wedding. It would be dishonest, and your resentment would certainly kill any hope of a rekindled friendship. Brides look to their bridesmaids as sources of support and reassurance. You would provide her neither, not on the wedding day, and not after. You owe it to her to tell her soon.

I love Jeffrey Goldberg’s column, “What’s Your Problem?” Keep up the good work. Here is my question: Are any of the folks requesting advice real, or do you make them up?

Laura Toich, Marlton, N.J.

Dear Laura,

They are all, indeed, real. I guarantee it 100 percent.

I love Jeffrey Goldberg’s column, “What’s Your Problem?” Keep up the good work.

Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City

I can’t relate to my boss at all. When I try to be nice, he thinks I’m a suck-up; when I ignore him, he thinks I’m a jerk. He got the job I wanted, and he knows I was a candidate for it. I think he wants me to leave the company, so he’s not cutting me any slack. Also, he’s my brother. This is my father’s company. I don’t want to leave, and I want my brother to ease up.

Todd S., New York, N.Y.

Dear Todd,

Your father seems to have developed a family succession plan for his business that does not include you. If it is possible for you to cash out and separate yourself from this unhappy situation, by all means do it. Even if setting out on your own seems daunting, do it anyway. When you succeed, your brother and father, who right now don’t value you professionally, may come to respect your moxie. And then you can take over the business, and fire your brother. Or, alternatively, treat him with the magnanimity he may not deserve.

I want to write for The Atlantic when I grow up. What should I do to prepare for this?

Maya Handa, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Dear Maya,

Journalism, as you may have heard, is not the most promising profession today. Only the toughest survive. But it’s not impossible! You are going to have to apply yourself, however. I thought I would share with you the daily schedule of the current class of Atlantic interns, journalism’s crème de la crème, to give you a sense of how they are readying themselves for magazine careers:

4:00 a.m.: Wake up

4:15 a.m.: Cardio-boxing with David Bradley, chairman, Atlantic Media Company

5:00 a.m.: Animal husbandry

5:15 a.m.: Chapel

5:45 a.m.: Time to make the doughnuts

6:15 a.m.: Prepare Presidential Daily Brief

9:00 a.m.: Plan for inevitable resurgence of print journalism

10:00 a.m.: Wake Atlantic senior editors

11:00 a.m.: Edit résumés

12:30 p.m.: Remove competing magazines from airport newsstands

5:00 p.m.: Prepare bedrolls for senior staff nap

6:00 p.m.: Crew practice

8:00 p.m.: Cardio-boxing examination

9:00 p.m.: Assign magazine cover stories

9:02 p.m.: Feed chickens

11:00 p.m.: Swim Tidal Basin

11:30 p.m.: Lights out

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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