57, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Occupation: Author of Slate magazine's "Dear Prudence" column
What sparks her mettle: Causing a stir
"An advice column is many things: counsel, entertainment, a little bonbon of the human condition. For me, the columnist, it's a forum in which I have to state my opinion and stand by it. My goal is to give a genuine response—I want to be honest, not obnoxious. But I do have some provocative answers, and when I do, I admit to thinking, 'This will be fun.' I inherited that slightly perverse quality—enjoying riling people up—from my father, who had a great sense of bravado. When he entered a room, you knew it. I strive to emulate that, to put on a face that makes people want to be on my team. But if people disagree with me, so be it. It's a particularly female trait to go through life thinking, 'I will avoid criticism by doing everything perfectly.' That just sets you up to feel devastated when criticism inevitably comes. I try to keep a distance between me and how I react to things. If someone doesn't like something I say, it isn't the destruction of my existence on this Earth."