Dear Ann Landers

By Tom Woodley


A troubled woman writes to a newspaper advice column to get help on several areas of her life.


Helen  (young mother)


(Scene: A Study or office. Helen IS seated at a table, writing.  She writes, pauses, writes, pauses a few times.  Finally, with a flourish of the pen, she looks up triumphantly.]


[Shaking head in disbelief…]

Boy, that took me a while.  They could make a movie out of MY life. I never thought I’d find myself writing to Ann Landers.  What a mess – I don’t know if I’m going to be able to squeeze out of this without any scars. I should probably read it over to see how it sounds before I send it off.  I mean, I don’t want it to sound too self-righteous or something.

[Pauses, arranges sheets in a pile, lifts up sheets in front of her, stretches out her arms.  Begins confidently…]

Dear Ann Landers,

I’m sure you’ve never had anyone like me write to you before.  Somehow my life turned out different – the white, middle-class, 1.5 kids thing just didn’t work out for me.  Now I’m at the end of my rope, and I need some solid advice from someone I can trust.

[pauses, thinking…]

Hmm,..  I’ll always remember that advice Ann gave to that woman whose fiancee didn’t like her Doberman Pinsher…  [Tough voice]  Show him the door, baby! [Chuckles…]

Anyway… My life started falling apart about 18 months ago…  After my second, [with emphasis] unplanned, pregnancy, I just wasn’t able to get my old figure back.  My gynecologist gave me the standard line, “Eat less of the fatty stuff; start up an exercise routine.”  But that is NOT my thing.

[Looking up, wondering…] I don’t know,..  some people really get off on that “work out” business.  [Mockingly, deep voice, shaking head…]  No pain, no gain!

[Scoffing…] I’m sorry, that “harried-mother-with-two-children look” just wasn’t written into my biography.  I needed some sort of “quick fix” approach.  So hey, let’s look in the yellow pages under “Plastic Surgery.”  …Now THOSE are people who deliver the goods.

[Looking back to read the letter] So I took an appointment with a plastic surgeon.  He said he could take off those 8 pound saddle bags with a little bit of [wiggles torso, waves fingers and hands, lifts hands ] liposuction magic.   Quick and easy; in and out; not so easy on my bank account though.  [Shrugs shoulders]  Hey, no problem, these guys are professionals… they’ve got a financing plan…  first payment after 10 months.

Well, the first 10 months were great.  Then I started getting the bills.  [Looks up, shakes head]  Don’t you hate it!  [Looks back down.]  It was then that I decided I needed to fess up to my husband.  My husband – let’s call him “Eric” – told me that, on top of everything else, the daycare bills and the liposuction bills were putting us in to the red.

I agreed to look for a job, and after searching around a bit, found a position as a hostess at the local Vinci’s buffet restaurant.

[Pauses, looks up cynically…] Now the downward spiral begins…

[Looks back at the letter] At about the same time, “Sandra,” my neighbor, and [looks up, rolls eyes] FORMER best friend was in a car accident with her mother.  Sandra was all right, but her mother was hospitalized with some serious head and neck injuries.

Before this, Sandra and I used to spend tons of time together.  We’d laugh over coffee while our 5-year-olds played.  We’d share our secrets… we’d even share our husbands’ secrets. [Laughs.] But then Sandra got all uptight – what a drag.  She’d constantly be going to the hospital to visit her mother.  No more time for our little “tête-à-têtes.”  I tried to help her out a bit, [self-righteously] but hey, I’ve got my own cross to bear – what with my two kids and my [emphasis] under-employed husband.

I tried to do the “supportive neighbor” thing, but then she started taking me for granted.  At one point, I offered to look after her kid for a few hours.  Big mistake!  That was the beginning of the end…  [With conviction]  FIRST, her child started becoming a bit wild; and SECOND, she started leaving him with me almost every second day.

One afternoon when she came back from the hospital, I tried to be honest with her [exasperated] – like, I’m not Mother Teresa or something – [seriously, shaking head] and she just lost it.  [Short pause.  Loud.]  Big time!

Well, after that, I wasn’t even comfortable having little Jeremy playing with her 5-year-old.  I told Eric to plant a hedge between our two yards.  [Under the breath…]   (That was an ordeal.)  It’s like,..  if I don’t even feel like I want to see Sandra’s face, I’m certainly not going to want to see her kid playing on our swingset.

[Long pause.  Sigh.] Now I’m facing my biggest challenge, Ann.

[Seriously.] Eric was laid off about 7 months ago.  He looked around for work for a few weeks, but then he just seemed to give up.  Now he just mopes around the house.  Anything we talk about seems to turn into an argument.  Not only that, I almost feel like he’s jealous of me with MY job.

I can’t complain that he galavants around with his friends.  In fact, I wish he would get out, and burn off some of his frustration with his friends…  rather than waiting around here to blow up.  [Self-righteously]   You’d think at least he’d help out with some of the chores around the house, as long as he’s here all the time.

[Serious again.] My sister says we should get some marriage counseling.  Like, I’m ready to do it,.. but isn’t that just for people who are like, [waves flat hand] mentally unstable?  [Skrinches nose, hands questioning, cynically]  Do I really want to rehash all the problems in front of some stranger?

[With determination…] Anyway…  I’ve worked it all out.   Vinci’s has offered me a full-time position of shift manager – what with my previous experience – and I think I can swing it on my own.  With my new full-time salary, [slowly] …and some child support,..  I could cover the mortgage and car payments.

[Trying to convince…] Wouldn’t it be better for the kids?  I mean, aren’t they better off if they don’t see us fighting all the time?  [Hands back, palms open]  I think Eric just needs some time to work through all this -- [long pause]  ALONE!  I’m no savior.  I’ve done what I can.  Now I need to do what’s best for me…  […Afterthought, nodding…] …and the kids.

Ann, please be honest.  Should I cut Eric out of my life…  allow him to straighten things out on his own if he can.  I mean, I’m still young.  I’ve still got my figure.  [Half smile.]  Maybe I could find someone else.  [Thoughtfully pausing…]  Sometimes I wonder if we were meant to be married in the first place…

Ann, please point me in the right direction.  I’ve promised myself I would follow your advice if you printed my letter.

[Folds up the letter, puts it in the envelop.  Continues very slowly.  With conviction.] Signed.  “Shopping for more Plastic Surgery.”

[Checks the address and stands up.] In Shawinigan.

[Taps the letter in the palm of hand, shakes head, and exits pensively.  Softly] Thank God for Ann Landers

© Tom Woodley
All rights reserved
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