The life of a miserable aunt is one of great privilege and even greater anxiety. Painful strangers asking you questions. big problem. Should I have kids? Should I not have kids? Should I break up with my husband? Should I break up with my mom? What’s the use of money? Does “that” exist? The pained aunt can only say: God knows, sorry, this is what I might do. But in this case, “I” is inevitably, like everyone else, deeply flawed and unpleasantly human — a fact that is revealed in the new series Tiny Beautiful Things based on Cheryl Strayed’s “Dear Sugar” advice column. They’re not saints, they’re not gurus – they’re just a woman in a room struggling eloquently through this shit.
We meet Claire (played by the exquisite Kathryn Hahn in a bad t-shirt, in a bad marriage, drunk. Her teenage daughter loathes her , she sleeps at work, and her writing career is over. So when she was asked to take over the advice column Dear Sugar, she scoffed; Anyone advice?” she moans. “Who the hell am I?” But it turns out she doesn’t have to be a good person to be an advice columnist—she just needs to be a good writer, one who can articulate Why are we people who do mean, stupid, destructive things – and then how to move on with life once they’re done.
For every single promise it annoys me about this show The tiny beautiful things of – such as its constant tenderness – have a moment to puncture its surprise or sadness, acknowledging that life involves pain. Strikingly, the title comes from Strayed writing in 2011 to A letter from herself in her twenties. “In the days when you were ridiculously hooked on heroin, you’d be sitting on a bus one hot afternoon when a little girl got on with two ropes, You’ll think what a worthless piece of trash you are. Purple balloon. She’ll offer you a balloon, but you won’t take it because you think you’re no longer entitled to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do. “Saccharine tenderness (holding balloons) balanced by heroin jolts, confessed self-loathing. Hahn is an actor who can dance gorgeously in the space in between.
As the series progresses, Claire’s life cracks open, revealing grief and childhood memories, and she discovers dark secret advice, a secret I’ve forgotten, reminded of in the years I’ve spent writing my own Painful Aunt column Forgotten myself many times again. The secret is: it works both ways. Perhaps, hopefully, the stranger will be touched, helped, purified, and find some comfort in the response by sharing her problems. Perhaps other readers will too Found something useful or at least interesting in it. But what I know now, and what Strayed is exploring on this show, is that dealing with other people’s problems forces you to look at yourself. When a stranger asks a question, it’s really rescued is a writer.