Both have written about their troubled relationships with fathers who basically abandoned them, both have one daughter whose very existence renders them poetic, both found perfect love later rather than sooner and both are totally, completely, unerringly funny. And writers with a capital W. With answers.
Amy asked that I include they both have shiny hair.
Amy's column reflects her mainstream newspaper audience—it's folksy, warm, and strait-laced while remaining contemporary, like a hip older aunt. Emily's Slate readership comes up with convoluted and often wild dilemmas that can include fetishes, gross personal habits, the complications of modern parenting and pairings and yes, even "twincest." Emily is tolerant, accepting, and wise but has a sharp eye out for mistreatment of any kind. Both women are champions of the bullied and abused in any and all forms.
I am lucky to count Emily and Amy as friends and conducted recent interviews with both of them. Here are some highlights from our conversations.
Like their departed muses, both regularly reach out privately to readers who seem to be truly on the edge and also, like the true moms they are, always respond to the very young.
Emily: I do this if they sound suicidal or are in dangerous relationships. I also get back to young people who are in difficult situations. Not that I have the answer, but I provide some hotlines and suggestions for getting help or getting out.
Amy: I ran a letter in my column from a man who had been sexually molested as a child; this prompted several other men to contact me. I replied to each and encouraged them to contact a national organization whose work I really like. I also encouraged them to keep in touch with me. It takes two minutes to do this and people feel supported and listened to. And any kid who contacts me with a serious issue is going to get a quick answer directly from me, whether or not I ultimately decide to publish their letter.
Both also hate weddings. Not their own, not in general, just because of the sheer volume of letters on the subject.
Emily: I wish there were less "My Day" to wedding days (or "My Month" or "My Year"). I hear from so many people who are going into debt for a wedding, which seems crazy to me. The point is to get married, not to pour all your resources into the "perfect" day.
Amy: My favorite letter came my first week on the job. It was from a crazed Bridezilla who didn't want kids at her wedding. Her letter was filled with ALL CAPS sentences and it was written in this hilarious, telegraph writing style: "Kids. DON'T WANT THEM AT WEDDING."
But she was convinced that a particular cousin of hers would show up with his two children. Woe is me.
I convinced my editor to run the letter "as is," with all the nuttiness intact, and I loved my answer to her, where I basically talked her off the ledge.