Advice columns have been around for a while now, but we love them because it connects us with our local paper and gives us answers to questions we might have ourselves. “How should I tell my parents about my new job?” “I’m afraid to ask this girl out from work!” We could all use some advice every now and then. Meredith Goldstein, advice columnist and features reporter at The Boston Globe created Love Letters, a Q&A format column for people looking for advice about their love lives.
Since Meredith started Love Letters 10 years ago, she has written a book and started a podcast dedicated to the same mission as Love Letters. We got the chance to chat with Meredith about her career as well as the biggest piece of advice she hopes people get out of her column.
Name: Meredith Goldstein, advice columnist and features reporter at The Boston Globe
Current Location: Boston, MA
Education: Atholton High School (Columbia, MD), Syracuse University (Newhouse)
What was your first job, and how did you land it?
My first job after college was at The Providence Journal. But my first real taste of professional journalism was a summer internship at the Baltimore City Paper. I learned so much there, and it’s really the place where I said, “Yes, I want to do this.” I just loved the people and the work.
What got you interested in journalism? How did you know it was the career for you?
My parents were musicians — really good musicians who went to Juilliard. I played the piano, but I wasn’t great at it. Still, I loved being around creative people. So I thought: What if I wrote about people doing creative things? What if I was a music critic or an arts writer? Back when I was 20 or so, I really thought I could write about music full-time.
What did you learn in journalism school that prepared you for your current role?
I learned pretty quickly in J-School that I liked writing about people. I wanted to consider their problems and ask them endless questions. So I learned pretty quickly that maybe criticism wasn’t my thing. I liked talking to people too much.
Tell us a little about Love Letters!
That interest in other people’s problems led me to start Love Letters. The Boston Globe was running some nationally syndicated advice columns in 2008, but I my convinced editors that we needed a local column – and that I should write it. Love Letters works in a Q&A format. People write in problems, and I give an answer. Then we get anywhere from 300 to 1,200 comments from online readers who chime in with their own advice. It feels like a big group therapy session.
Why did the column begin? Did you think it would be as popular as it is?
My editors approved the idea because they liked the idea of a community feature. I also think they figured that it was a good time to take risks and to test community engagement on boston.com. Really, I had no idea that it would become a decade-old column with a book (Can’t Help Myself: Lessons and Confessions of a Modern Advice Columnist) and a podcast. I am so grateful that people still trust me with their lives, and that so many people use the column to help others.
How did you know you would have the experience to give people advice about love? That seems like a tough job!
For me, giving advice all day wasn’t much of a stretch. I’ve spent much of my life talking to friends and family about their relationships. It’s my big interest – how partnerships evolve, and how we maintain communities. Also, as my book’s title suggests, it’s easier for me to give advice than to take it. I can be very confident about my friends’ lives even when I’m confused about my own. But I’m sure that’s true for most people.
It feels like a big group therapy session.
What is the number one piece of advice you hope people get out of your column?
Over the years I’ve learned that people are too focused on the idea of failure and “wasted time” — as if the only way to be successful in love is to die at the age of 100, wrapped in your partner’s arms. In real life, many relationships end, and that’s OK. Some experiences are meant to be temporary. I never want to hear anyone say they’ve failed simply because something didn’t last forever. So many shorter relationships get us to the next step. Staying together forever is not the only way to measure success.
The Boston Globe is such a prestigious paper most journalists could only dream of getting into! What has your experience been working there?
I mean, it’s pretty cool. It was especially cool when they made the movie Spotlight, because it was such a wonderful celebration of the Globe’s commitment to great reporting. I’m very grateful that a news organization known for that kind of work can also see the value in covering relationships. I do think the Globe wants to be there for all parts of life, and I like that.
I can be very confident about my friends’ lives even when I’m confused about my own. But I’m sure that’s true for most people.
Love Letters has now turned into a podcast. What has it been like getting into that sector? What have you learned from the experience?
I’ve learned that one should not drink Diet Coke before recording. I’ve also have also learned that having an incredible producer (mine is Amy Pedulla) makes all the difference. It’s been fascinating to work with Amy to tell stories in a new way. It’s also added so much depth to the column, and drawn an entirely new audience. The second season is all about how to meet a partner, and some of the stories are wild. First episode will drop Feb. 12.
You have also written a book! How has this changed your career? What about your mindset on love?
Writing and promoting a memoir is very weird! Because when you meet people who’ve read your book, they already know you. But I loved writing Can’t Help Myself. It was therapeutic to write about what was happening in my own life while I gave advice. The book also focuses on my relationship with my late mother, and I think it’s a great tribute to her. Helping her with her single-mom love problems over the years turned me into the kind of person who could write an advice column. I owe her so much. Really, the book made me more optimistic about everything.
Who do you go to for love advice?!
My sister, Brette, who is on the podcast and is the best character in the book. She’s thoughtful and hilarious. I also ask younger friends about love because they know everything.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
I’m very proud when I hear that Love Letters has truly helped someone. Sometimes I get an email from a letter writer years later, and they tell me how it all worked out. That means everything.
Sometimes I get an email from a letter writer years later, and they tell me how it all worked out. That means everything.
Who has inspired you throughout your career?
I’m grateful for the women at the Globe who’ve told me that it’s OK to advocate for myself. I’m also grateful that those women taught me that part of my job is advocating for others. Some incredibly wise women have made it very clear to me that I should use whatever privilege I have to make a better, more diverse, equally paid newsroom. I want to be all about that every day.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Vacations and time off are OK sometimes. The more you explore the world, the more stories you’ll be able to tell.
Meredith Goldstein is The Everygirl . . .
Favorite vacation spot?
That young man from the Kingsman movies with the nice square jaw – and Robert Pattinson.
Go-to Starbucks order?
Venti iced, even when it’s snowing in Boston.
Guilty pleasure song?
I have never felt guilty about music. But my sing-in-the-car song is George Michael’s “Father Figure.” “If you are the desert, I’ll be the sea …”
The one food you can’t stop eating?
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
This changes every day, but today: Janet Jackson. I’ve been listening to “The Velvet Rope” nonstop lately, and I’d want to go through it with her, song by song.