Ask Katharine

Introducing the Reader’s new bi-weekly advice column, “Ask Katharine.”  Have a problem? Ask Katharine at 

Dear Katharine, 

I’m a professional woman entering my late twenties—I can’t say the name of the consulting firm I work for but it rhymes with McFlimsy & Company (kind of). Anyhow, my problem is this, I work really long hours for said company, and, on top of that, I find I spend too much time grooming and “dressing for the job I want.” It’s served me well as far as I can tell, but it doesn’t leave much time for my pastimes or cultivating a rich interior life. I don’t want to quit my job; I just want to figure out how to look the part without spending too much time doing so. Do you have any tips on how to cut down on grooming time? 

Frocking Frustrated


Dear FF,

My secret is this: only groom and preen the front of your body, the portion of you a person sees when you first greet them. For example, don’t blow-dry the back of your hair, just the front portion that would be visible during the handshake. Do not iron the back of your clothes. Ask your dry cleaner to only dry clean the front of your clothes. This will cut down on cost. The back of your tights can have holes in them; the front cannot. This way, the people you do business with will only wonder if they made a mistake once you’re walking away from the meeting and the deal’s been made, the contracts are signed.



Dear Katharine, 

About a year ago, I got out of a five-year relationship with a guy I’d met in college and thought I’d spend my life with. He broke up with me because he felt like he hadn’t gotten his ya-yas out enough before getting so serious. He moved out of the apartment we shared and set out to have a wild, free-wheeling time, to suck the marrow out of life, and so on. I was pretty destabilized by the breakup, and spent the better part of the past year doing the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ thing and trying to become whole again, but I am still in a funk, a low-grade, generalized malaise. How do I get myself out of this?

Help me!                               

Desperately Funked Up


Dear Desperate, 

Have you ever looked at our planet from the moon? Earth is an inconsequential speck of dusk compared to the vast, incomprehensible universe. Think how small that makes your ex-boyfriend. Take that knowledge and add your pain, lemongrass, and ginger and boil it down into a heady elixir. Set that aside, and rail two lines of coke. You’ll feel better.



Dear Katharine,  

My boyfriend likes to go hiking, but I’m scared of heights. Like, really terrified of falling down the hill. When I walk down the hill, it takes me an hour and I have to go on all fours. When I first got into this relationship, I pretended I was sporty/athletic, and now it’s becoming quite clear I’m not. How I do I tackle this fear, or at least save face? 

Heights Freak


Heights Freak,

What you need to do is consciously uncouple with your fears, and take aim at the things you love. With a bow and arrow. Aim right for the beating heart of your highest goal. Pierce it. Kill it. Walk over to that dying beast, tear its heart from its chest, and greedily slurp like mother’s milk the essence of its vitality. Honor that animal. Use every part of it, from nose to tail, in your cooking, in the creation of housewares, paperweights, office supplies, artisanal chorizo. Carefully remove your back and neck skin and attach the pelt of the animal in its place, like a skin-tight fur cape. This will hurt like a tattoo does, but no more than that. 

Once the capelet is in place, you will have actualized as the fierce woman-warrior you set out to be. Heads will turn when you enter a room. Heads will roll whether you get what you want or not. You are finally dressing for success.

Your mere presence will elicit fear in passersby. Use that fear. Wear that fear proudly like a communion dress, like a charm bracelet, where each charm symbolizes a life experience. Do not actually wear any charm bracelets. They show weakness.

Now, when you go on hikes, it will make sense for you to stay on all fours. You look like a wolf.



Dear Katharine, 

I work for a prominent SAT tutoring company in New York that’s in process of expanding to other cities. The company has asked me to move to Chicago to set up shop there, and to manage that office. This would be a significant promotion, but it’s not what I want to do. What I really want to be doing is writing full time. I’ve gotten published here and there in prestigious publications but I find I’m too exhausted by my day job to get a lot of writing done at night. I’m wondering if I’ve gotten too comfy in this state of inertia. Should I quit my job to become a writer full-time? 

Wishful Wordsmith



Disclaimer: The following answer is assuming you are GOOD at writing.

If you don’t pursue your dreams, they’ll haunt you to your final hour. You must be the aggressor and stalk your dreams, follow them into a back-alley, frighten them into submission.

You are a shape-shifter, a phoenix rising from the ashes into the sunset. You will fly dangerously close to the sun, and it will be fine. You will look into the eye of the tiger, and the tiger will peer back at you, and both of you will be disgusted with what you see.

If you are NO GOOD at writing, DISREGARD the above. You are not a phoenix.



Dear Katharine, 

I’m an aspiring writer—I’ve written several poems and short stories—but am now embarking on my first screenplay. Do you have any advice on how to approach this medium for the first time? 

Screenwriting Hopeful



First thing you do is run yourself a bath, but not of water, of milk, like Cleopatra did. Go to BevMo, buy industrial quantities of Bailey’s Irish Cream. For every two ounces of milk, pour in one ounce of Bailey’s. Then disrobe and lie in that Bailey’s cocktail. After an hour passes, ask yourself, what kind of person am I? Start there. You have a lot of soul-searching to do. 




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