2006_03_judymcguirelg.jpgJudy McGuire is our own local anti-advice advice columnist. She's been writing the Dategirl column for Seattle Weekly for six years (and wrote a separate Dategirl column for New York Press until last fall), but will assure you that she's the last person on earth qualified to give dating advice, therefore actually making her one of the best. Whatever your problem, she's likely been there and done that multiple times.

Over the years, she's advised readers on everything from breakups to orgasms to cohabitiation, escort etiquette and Daddy issues. She'll only own up to being "older than Shakira, younger than Madonna," but has certainly seen and heard a lot. With a B.A. from CUNY in crimonology, she's managed to parlay her post-college years into a dizzying array of jobs, some involving drugs (as an editor at High Times and later as a heroin researcher), some involving writing (temping at Allure, writing for Mademoiselle). She's even written Bad Sex: A Memoir in Play Format and was an Associate Producer on a Court TV special about Mia Zapata. Now you can find her blogging about everything from nipple huggers and heinous landlords to bachelor parties, pill swallowing and Axl Rose. Is your head spinning yet? Read on for McGuire's advice about advice, dating, and, most importantly, one of her favorite shows, The L Word.

You've been writing your Dategirl column for Seattle Weekly for six years. How'd you get started writing for a Seattle paper, and what are the most common types of problems readers ask you about?
A friend and I had gotten a development deal with MTV to do an animated series; it was about a sex & love advice columnist named Dategirl who lives in Williamsburg. I was so excited when we got the deal that I quit my job and took a temp gig as a fact-checker at Allure magazine until all the paperwork on my new position as a TV mogul was completed. MTV eventually declined, but meanwhile I’d met Richard Martin, an editor at the Seattle Weekly (now EIC at Complex Magazine). He knew all about the show and so when it fell through he suggested I just step into my animated character’s shoes and become their sex advice columnist. So I did.

Hands down, the most common question is: “How do I meet someone?” Both coasts, almost daily. That is followed quickly by “Why won’t my boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife have sex with me?” Which perfectly illustrates that old chestnut, “be careful what you wish for.”

You also used to write a separate Dategirl column for the New York Press, so I'm curious how the two cities' dating issues differed. I always hear about San Francisco being a city where everyone's settled down and hosting dinner parties—what's Seattle's dating scene like? Is it easier to try to find a boyfriend/girlfriend in New York?
Readers from both coasts assure me that their particular town is the hardest place on the planet to find a date. My guess is it’s easier to meet people in New York because you’re forced to be in close proximity with so many other humans and Seattle is slightly more of a car culture. But then there’s the fact that in NYC, even the schlubbiest schleprock feels that supermodels are his dating due. Which makes it difficult for those of us who have not been able to maintain our birth weight. Dating is a dirty business no matter where you do it.

Speaking of your New York Press column, it abruptly ended in October 2005. Six months later, how do you feel about the demise of the column? Do you miss it, or was it a relief not to have to delve into your personal life every week?
Getting fired is never pleasant. I miss it, but frankly, I don’t think that many people were reading the Press by that point anyway.

I’m pretty much unembarrassable, so I never minded telling stories about my personal life. Once you publicly cop to random humiliations and your own stupidity, you can kind of shrug anything off.

What are your favorite columns from each of the two Dategirls, and why?
I love when crazies write in. (Except for the guy who told me he was going to track me down and murder me—I don’t like them that crazy.) This New York Press column is one of my favorites because the chick who wrote in was so wound up.

This Seattle Weekly column is one of my favorites, but it’s not for the squeamish. If you want to read something I’ve written and don’t have a strong stomach, you can try this book review.

Do you often hear back from readers after you've given them advice? Do they take it and critique it or let you know what happened?
My favorite example of that was a guy who wrote me, complaining he wasn’t getting any action. He briefly described his situation and I advised him to throw out the piece of foam he had been sleeping on (duh!) and buy an actual bed—not a futon—100% cotton sheets and some nice pillows.

He wrote back a month or so later to say he’d followed my advice and bought the bed. The day it arrived he invited a woman (who up until that point, had been only a friend) over to help him situate his new and improved bedroom. She gave up the booty that afternoon. I patted myself on the back real hard for that one.

What separates "good advice" from "bad advice," and how do you know whose advice to trust? What would you advice someone who has two trusted friends each giving them completely opposite advice?
I tend to avoid taking advice from people who dislike me; I’ve found that those who hate you rarely have your best interests at heart. Almost all good advice is nothing more than common sense. Not only that, but the majority of people who seek out advice are only looking to have someone validate what they’re hellbent on doing anyway. So faced with two opposing viewpoints, you’re probably going to go with the friend who agrees with you.

What's the best piece of advice anyone's ever given you? Did you follow it, and if so, how'd it turn out?
“Break up with him.” I’ve heard it many times, about many different relationships, out of the mouths of many different friends. Though my advisors were always 100% correct, it sometimes it took me a good long time to get around to actually doing the deed. One thing I’ve learned, is that if your friends hate your date, they’re probably onto something.

You've described yourself as having gone on a "dating spree so prolific and horrific it would've driven a lesser woman straight to the convent (or the bar)." What are some of the highlights amongst your bad dates?
I could easily drone on, listing the thousands of different little dating indignities I’ve suffered, but hopefully nothing is ever going to top the guy who crapped himself in my bed.

How has your own dating history affected your writing career? Do you think you're better qualified to give advice because of what you've gone through?
Leading a dysfunctional life is in the grand tradition of advice columnists—Ann Landers and Dear Abby were sisters and didn’t speak for years, Salon’s Cary Tennis is a recovering alcoholic, widely syndicated shrew Caroline Hax has a divorce or two under her belt. Dan Savage is the only well-adjusted one I can think of (though I’ve heard rumors).

As far as dating advice goes, I’m much more inclined to listen to someone who’s been through it than some sanctimonious blowhard who married their high-school sweetheart and has absolutely no idea what it’s like to be single.

You're finally in a happy, live-in relationship with your musician boyfriend. How'd you two meet, and what went differently this time around?
I found him on Nerve.com a couple years ago. Maybe we hit it off because I’d given up on ever meeting anyone and was more of a sport-dater by then (and therefore no longer reeked of desperation). Or maybe it was just an odds game and my number came up. I tend to think luck plays a bigger part in finding love, than anything else.

I need to clarify, that though he is in a band (Girl to Gorilla) he has a real job too (associate publisher of Tokion magazine). I need to make that clear because I’ve spent a long time going out of my way to avoid musicians. No offense, gentlemen, but scientific evidence has proven time and again that musicians make less than ideal boyfriends.

What advice would you give one of your fellow advice columnists, and what would it be?
I know better than to give unsolicited advice. That’s a quick route to a whole lot of trouble.

You told me you have the same dental problems as Martin Amis. How so? Is having bad teeth a mark of literary honor?
It’s more a mark of losing genetic lotto in the tooth department. My mouth is such a freakish disaster area that I did some research and found out that Martin Amis had gone through a similar procedure to the one my dental team is suggesting. He recounts it in excruciating detail in his autobiography, Experience. Though reading about it scared me to tears, knowing that he’d faced the same issues also made me feel like less of a white-trash mutant, which is how most of the dental community was making me feel. I swear, you have bad teeth in this country and they look at you like they’ve caught you fingering an infant.

In researching his own crappy teeth, Amis discovered that both James Joyce and Vladmir Nabakov also had rotten choppers—I guess he used them to feel better about himself. I was lucky enough to talk teeth with both Joe Strummer and Shane MacGowan during interviews I did with them. And, no, I don’t consider myself on the same plane as any of these people, except on a strictly dental level. (And Shane MacGowan may actually have me beat in that department.)

You've had quit a varied career both in and out of journalism. One of your jobs had you hanging out with heroin users to observe them for a study. How you'd get involved and what exactly did you have to do? How'd the study wind up coming out?
I was a CUNY student when one of my professors told me he’d finagled $3 million from the government to do an anthropological study of heroin use in New York City. He hired me to work as an ethnographer. Most studies of drug users are done having the user come to them (like through a methadone clinic or needle exchange), but with this study, we went out in the field with the users and dealers as they went about their day. This could either be pee-your-pants scary or mind-numbingly dull. Being a junkie is a full-time job fraught with danger, so you never knew how your day was going to go.

Then later, the other anthropologists and I would get together and turn all our exciting data and interviews into stultifying academic papers that no one will ever read. My major focus was a paper that was just—finally— published in the Journal of Drug Issues, called “White Chicks on Dope: Race, Class, and Identity in New York in the 1990s.”

Though I enjoyed the job for the first year or two, as you might imagine, watching people shoot up 24/7 got a tad depressing after a while. So when my MTV deal came through I quit and now I’m a TV mogul. . . oh, wait. . . .

You worked at High Times but claim you "don't really" smoke pot because you never smoked at work. What was the office like? Were people too stoned to work? Was it crazy and wild or just your typical office, plus marijuana?
The offices weren’t particularly wild or crazy, it was just kind of frustrating, trying to get a sane answer out of an editor who’d spent the morning doing bong hits. When you’re the managing editor, it’s your job to know where everything is. When you’re depending on potheads for help, that’s pretty much a futile endeavor.

Oh, and they were always trying to drag me off to Rainbow Gatherings. If you’re not familiar with a Rainbow Gathering, it’s basically a bunch of hippies, gobbling drugs and running around naked in the woods. I would sooner chew my own face off. It wasn’t a good fit.

You're working on a book now based on the hundreds of advice columns you've written. What's the name of it and what's it going to be about?
It’s going to be called Bad Advice: Do As I Say (Not as I Do). It’s a series of funny, autobiographical essays framed by my advice columns. Each chapter will directly contrast the advice I gave others with how I handled the situation in my own life. Pretty much down the line my choices directly contradicted the advice I gave.

You have a section of your blog called "Let's Lynch the Landlord." What's been the height of your New York housing nightmares?
The day my landlady announced that there were “big changes” afoot and she’d be at least doubling our rents in the months to come. Nobody in my building had ever had a lease and so it looked like we were screwed. That is, until we determined that our building was actually rent-stabilized and she’d been breaking the law by not giving us leases. Not only that, but she’d been overcharging us on the legal rents. Score! We hired Ilene Guralnick, the world’s toughest tenant lawyer, who kicked our landlady’s ass.

We all got rent reductions, legal leases, and about a year’s free rent. Plus a check for all the over-charges. Our landlady settled quickly because if we’d gone to court she would’ve been liable for triple the monetary damages.

Since you're a huge L Word fan, can you give some advice to the show's writers? What would you like to see happen?
I hope the writers are listening, because I think I speak for many viewers:
• More sex, less yapping.
• Let’s get rid of Jenny, shall we? I would prefer she suffer a violent death (perhaps Moira could go into a ’roid rage and beat her to death with a dumbbell), but even a slow, lingering demise would be acceptable.
• Tina, who was never one of my favorite characters to start with, has turned into a leg-humping cockslave. Can we please have a doctor determine that it’s a tumor causing this change in behavior? Then they can remove the tumor and have wussy Tina instead morph into the toughest, mullet-wearing, pierced-nipple, Harley-riding dyke on the show. Anything would be better than the mewling little pole-smoker she’s turned into. Yuck.
• A miraculous recovery for Dana. And if she’s going to continue being bald, pay the actress a little extra to actually shave her head, because with that rubber thing stretched over her noggin she looks more Conehead than cancer victim.
Way more nudity for Shane and Carmen. Way.

What's next for you?
My book. And I’m going to be reading at the In the Flesh series at Happy Ending on April 19. My column at Seattle Weekly continues, and I’ll be picking up freelance gigs wherever I can.

Visit Judy McGuire's blog at http://badadvice.typepad.com. Her Seattle Weekly Datgirl column archives can be found here.