Fiction — “To Dr. Sterling pertaining his Artist”

Dear Dr. Sterling,

I have a complaint about your advice column, but it’s not about your advice specifically. In fact, I was delighted by your response to my letter on how I should deal with my husband [see Issue 8, 2016]. I was afraid our problems would lead to the dissolution of an unhappy marriage, but ever since I began to act the compliant, chirpy wife, per your suggestion, we not only get along better, but we make decisions quicker.

No, my complaint is about the artwork you feature inside your column, which does not reflect the tone of your advice.

You may need to speak to your artist, Ms. Josie Aurelio, about her visual direction. For example, in your response to my letter, Ms. Aurelio created a diorama (the images constructed out of magazine cuttings) depicting a nude Barbie doll in a wheelchair, her head cut open with a pink, gummy brain floating above her. Jumper cables connect the brain to a 2017 Jeep Wrangler (snipped from a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ad), in the driver’s seat of which sits a Ken doll, who I can only infer is revving the engine. I found this image to be disturbing and insulting and possibly misandristic. Would you have a talk with the young lady?

Sincerely,
Victoria Greene

* * *

Dear Dr. Sterling

Again, I have good and bad news.

The good news is that my husband and I have taken to reading your column together, which has immensely increased our compatibility in the household (and the bedroom).

Who knew that he sought a quiet and submissive wife on which to complete his manly desires? You did, of course, and our success is due to some combination of your benign male authority, with its calm, confident timbre, and practical counsel. Just the other day we read your reply to Ms. Harris in Emmetsburg, IA, [see Issue 11, 2016] in which you described how women throw curveball after curveball, leading to stress and imbalance in a relationship. My husband and I recognized (together!) how I fit the bill. We tried your list of tips, including being forthcoming with information, communicating plans for the future, and eliminating all my female friends, and it’s worked wonders in re-establishing harmony between us.

The bad news is that you continue to include disgusting “art” in your column. Of course, the abstract nature of Ms. Aurelio’s work is open to interpretation, but I can’t imagine how else I am to interpret assembled magazine clippings which depict a man in business attire reading a newspaper on a train, with a silver key hanging from twine around his neck, while beside him his “wife,” actually female genitalia locked in a bird cage, drones on and on, represented by a dialogue balloon containing childish scribbles. Another dialogue balloon stretches to the man’s mouth which reads: “Uh huh, that’s great, dear.” Underneath this is the caption: “We’re Back On Track.”

Is there another way to interpret this “art” than as a rude “take-that” at the supposed flippancy and domination of the male gender – a caricature which fails to depict the kindness, importance, and security that men bring to us? – a caricature that fails to portray a woman’s uses outside of sex, such as home improvement and children?

Marriage is not sexual prison, Dr. Sterling. I would come to your office to speak to this young lady, but my husband needs the car for work.

In devotion,
Victoria Greene

* * *

Dear Dr. Sterling,

I continue to be thrilled and confused by your column. Is there some peculiar reason why Ms. Aurelio remains? Is she friends with the Editor, or daughter of the owner? Is she some celebrity, or did you accidentally sign a contract for x amount of years?

Are high costs, declining readership, or other factors causing you to take desperate measures? Because I refuse to believe you have remained ignorant of how your artist, Ms. Josie Aurelio, undermines every iota of manly advice. You continue to publish my letters. Therefore, you must read and find something of merit in them. And yet you continue to print Aurelio’s anti-male perversions.

Why, since my last letter [see Issue 13, 2016], you have printed three separate images of women lying on the freeway while balding, bespectacled vultures pick at their stomachs. THREE.

By a piece on how Social Darwinism accounts for the male-female hierarchy, there is an image a rotund, slobbering male devolving into excrement. In another, on female nature (I thought it a stroke of genius the bit on how we should say, “Sorry I’m bothering you” three times daily), a gym full of women carving the meat off their bones.

In an another post, responding to a father upset at his son’s transsexuality, multiple hands tear the skin off of a crying girl’s face. In Issue 19, she included some of your own writing in her art—Marilyn Monroe biting into a burger whose beef patty has been replaced by a grenade. The sauce on her chin forms the words: “Always date girls with an eating disorder.”

I remain your faithful reader,
Victoria Greene

* * *

Dear Dr. Sterling,

I thought you’d finally taken my advice to heart when Ms. Aurelio painted (a painting and not a Dave McKean assemblage!) a grandmother knitting a wool scarf. The piece had a nice repose of whites and blues (the zaffre of her blouse, the bleached-bone of her hair, the midnight of her scarf, the ivory-peach of her skin) and I thought all was good in the world.

That is until I noticed that the woman was using her husband’s penis as a pin-cushion.

The caption? Liberación.

Sorry for bothering you.
Sorry for bothering you.
Sorry for bothering you,

Victoria Greene