Sound advice, a click away

July 01, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

At a time when grandma may live a thousand miles away and mom is stuck in a meeting at the office, how is a young woman supposed to find out when oil is hot enough for frying, or how to get rust off of chrome or a burr out of a dog's coat?

Or how to take revenge on an ex.

The Internet.

In March 2007, Kate Reardon launched toptipsforgirls.com and invited every Heloise and Dear Abby out there to share their wisdom. More than a million women responded in the first month.

Some posted questions, and others posted answers. Some posted dilemmas of the heart, and others posted advice.

"When I started it, I was probably a bit of a snob," said Reardon, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair based in London. "It was an experiment. We'll see what comes back. I was expecting a lot of garbage."

What she got instead surprised her.

"The women who wrote were clever and wise and resourceful and funny and also incredibly moral," said Reardon.

Amid questions about how to prevent static cling and how to get red wine stains out of a carpet, there was a query about how to steal a guy, and it drew howls of indignation, she said.

"All these women wrote back, 'Find your own man!' 'Do not do this to another woman, lest it be done to you.' I was thrilled."

Now Reardon has collected the best advice from the Web site into a slim paperback titled, not surprisingly, Top Tips for Girls: Real Advice from Real Women for Real Life.

"Whether these helpful hints have been passed down the generations or we figure them out for ourselves, every woman has her own arsenal of them," she writes in the introduction.

Instead of advice from celebrity lifestyle gurus like Martha Stewart, this book contains the tips, tricks and hard-earned wisdom of regular women.

"Why take stain-removal advice from a woman who hasn't done her own laundry in years when you can get it from a woman who does laundry every day of the week?" Reardon asked.

And the advice is there for those of us who didn't pay attention when our own grandmothers and mothers tried to pass it on.

"I am absolutely clueless, I admit it," said Reardon. "Thank goodness my mother is still around for me to call, embarrassingly often, to ask how to roast a chicken."

The advice includes everything from how to have kissable lips (break a vitamin E capsule and rub it on your lips) to how to leave your children happy when you leave for work (have some special time in the morning together, reminding the child often that you will be leaving soon. Then don't draw out the goodbye.)

There are answers on how to stop your male boss from making passes at you (make friends with his wife or daughter), and how not to get nervous at parties (imagine the other guests are as nervous as you and decide to make one of them feel more comfortable).

"It is [a] hugely broad age range. The younger women post on style and fashion and what's hot. The older women love sharing advice, especially about cooking and man control.

"How much fun is this," Reardon said. "I get my name on this book, and all these brilliant women wrote it for me."

Reardon is thinking about launching a companion Web site for men, but she isn't hopeful. "Men appear happy to drive 20 miles in the wrong direction, literally or emotionally, because they don't want to ask for help."

But she has had so much success with toptipsforgirls.com that she is launching similar sites for weddings, travel and mothers.

She now knows that there are unlimited resources out there. Brace yourself, she warned. "I am onto something here.

"This is a modern application of an age-old communication process. If we are not blessed to live close to older or trusted female friends, we have this."

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

Online

Read recent columns by Susan Reimer at baltimoresun.com/reimer

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