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Offering Reassurance During a Time of Uncertainty

Meredith Goldstein ’99

Boston Globe advice columnist Meredith Goldstein ’99 provides a sounding board for couples trying to find their way through coronavirus isolation.

Meredith Goldstein portrait
Meredith Goldstein’s memoir, “Can’t Help Myself: Lessons and Confessions From a Modern Advice Columnist,” was published in 2018.

Growing up in a house of women can have unexpected advantages. For Meredith Goldstein ’99, being raised with her sister by a single mother was great preparation for her future career. “We were three women learning to date at the same time, and we talked about anything and everything,” Goldstein recalls. “It trained me to ask questions, have difficult conversations and be a good sounding board for others.” That early education was advantageous for the journalism major who became an advice columnist, entertainment reporter, author and podcaster whose “Love Letters” advice column is a regular feature in The Boston Globe.

“All of my work has one thing in common—relationships,” Goldstein says. “I love telling stories about love. Love between friends. Love between partners. Breakups. How people meet. Being a human can be weird and uncomfortable, and I like to tell stories about people figuring out how to be human together. I’m still learning.”

Lately, her advice column has moved in an unforeseen direction. She started noticing coronavirus-related themes in the advice people were seeking almost immediately after the virus entered the U.S. “It ranged from ‘What’s going to happen to my long-distance relationship?’ to ‘My husband won’t wear a mask!’” she says. “My inbox is now full of questions from single people who are wondering whether they’ll ever date again and coupled people who are a little sick of looking at each other. People have financial anxiety. They’re scared for their kids. Some people feel guilty about what they do have. The emotions are all so complicated, and I wish I could wrap them all in a blanket. I want to comfort them without pretending I have any specific answers about how and when this will end.”

Getting Started

Goldstein was an aspiring college student in Highland, Maryland, when she set her sights on the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. “I knew they had an incredible journalism program, so that was where I wanted to be,” she says. “It seemed impossible for the daughter of a single mother who worked as a piano teacher, but Syracuse was very open to helping me. They figured out a way to get me there financially, which was huge.”

Much of the personal experience and training that makes Goldstein a good advice columnist started at Syracuse. “I had my first big breakups there. I found incredible friends there. I minored in women’s studies, and that program gave me a perfect critical lens for my work,” she says. “Journalists make great advice columnists because they’re used to hearing personal stories, thinking about others and highlighting the most important parts of a narrative.”

Goldstein says that most of her time spent outside the classroom was in the offices of The Daily Orange. “It was like getting a bonus journalism degree, and that’s where all my closest friends were. Newhouse and The Daily Orange taught me the most important lesson—which was that I was better when I was part of a team,” she asserts. “Some programs are all about competition, but I thrived when my peers and I boosted each other.”

Landing in Boston

Following graduation, Goldstein did a two-year internship at The Providence Journal and then freelanced for The Boston Globe. “When they expanded their staff and hired me, I was thrilled because Boston was where I wanted to be. My closest Syracuse friends were from Massachusetts, The Globe was doing incredible journalism, and the people had those fun Boston accents,” she says.

Newhouse and The Daily Orange taught me the most important lesson—which was that I was better when I was part of a team.

Goldstein’s writing hasn’t been limited to newspaper journalism—she also has three books to her credit. “The Singles,” a novel about a group of dateless guests at a wedding, was followed by “Chemistry Lessons,” a young adult novel about a brilliant student who uses science to manipulate her love life. Goldstein’s memoir, “Can’t Help Myself: Lessons and Confessions From a Modern Advice Columnist,” was published in 2018.

Optimism and Connection

Social distancing and isolation are taking a toll on everyone, and anxious couples have been turning to Goldstein for guidance. Her advice for the couple who wants to weather this time with their relationship intact? “Don’t shame yourself over screen time. Bonding with a partner over a TV series or movie is a great way to talk about something new.” She says couples need to be very clear about their needs right now. “This is not the time to expect mind reading or be passive aggressive. If you need 20 minutes of silence to think, ask for it. This kind of life involves direct communication—no guessing.”

Goldstein tries to infuse her advice with some measure of hope for the future. “There is nothing good about a pandemic. It’s scary and the losses are overwhelming. But if I can say anything hopeful about this, it’s that in some cases people have had to slow down. They’ve been able to notice small things that give them joy. Maybe they’ve noticed what’s been missing, or what they like about themselves. I’m promising myself that when this is over, I won’t forget the lessons. I won’t take things for granted. I will smile at people on the street and do my best to be connected to more humans. Maybe a lot of us will.”

Syracuse University fanny pack and homemade mask
A fanny pack Goldstein received when she was a panelist for SU in LA now accompanies her on daily walks during quarantine.

Being a Syracuse alumna holds a lot of meaning for Goldstein, and she gives back to the University in ways that inspire a new generation of students. Last fall, she flew to Los Angeles to take part in a panel produced by SU in LA , “100 Years of Journalism at Syracuse University.” Alumni, parents, friends and LA semester students were in attendance at the event, which was moderated by Newhouse Associate Dean and Professor Joel Kaplan. Goldstein’s Orange pride is reflected in a poignant anecdote she shares about the event and the pandemic. “It was a wonderful night, and I was so impressed by the students,” she recalls. “All of the panelists were given a bag of swag, and mine included a fanny pack. I thought, ‘I am never going to wear a fanny pack.’ But now, in quarantine, I proudly wear the Syracuse-emblazoned fanny pack on walks, filled with my necessities. Syracuse was great to me, and that is now displayed on my body every day. It’s my little security blanket in a very scary world.”

Mary Beth Horsington

This story was published on .

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