Somebody somewhere once said something like “Advice is the only free thing that nobody wants to take.” It’s true. Advice is one of those things that feels so good to hand out and is often quite painful to accept.
When I was younger, just hearing a sentence that began with the phrase “If I were you, I’d…” set my teeth instantly on edge. A contrary corner of my soul always instantly, albeit silently, responded, Oh, yeah? Well, you AREN’T me so I don’t have to do what you’re suggesting!
Such a belligerent, and often downright stupid, response made me a particularly poor candidate for advice–or common sense. I’m happy to report that I’ve more or less outgrown such idiocy and now often find myself seeking advice from people who know more than I do about random topics such as technology, canning, fire-building and anything to do with how to instantly become a millionaire without really trying, just to name a few.
As you grow older you realize that there are people (many, many people) who are actually a whole lot smarter than you, a comforting realization especially when you are waiting to see your doctor or tax preparer. I like to know that there are people who listened in school and who applied those listening skills to their lives and that now I can benefit from their big fat brains. It’s a win-win situation.
However, even though I’m a lot more willing to seek advice nowadays, there are a few topics that are still verboten for the majority of people. Such as:
- Dieting. I don’t care how much weight you lost on your diet of chicken broth and licorice, I do NOT want to hear how following the same sadistic regime will enable me to once again fit into my junior high wardrobe.
- Marriage. No one, but NO ONE, really wants advice on how to make their marriage as blissful as you claim yours to be.
- Children and the raising of. Nothing makes a new mom go ballistic more quickly than someone telling her what she’s doing wrong with little Johnny so you might as well keep your head shaking and tongue clucking to yourself.
- Pets. My dog is perfect so please don’t tell me how I can make him even more perfect. It isn’t possible.
That said I’m now on the opposite side of the whole advice thing and would gladly, eagerly, really, offer pearls of wisdom to anyone willing to listen. But since my pearls of wisdom are so often discarded by the younger people I interact with on a daily basis, I am often reduced to head shaking and tongue clucking status. Of course, I know better than to use the phrase “If I were you” when making my suggestions. Instead I say, “Why don’t you…” or “Maybe you could try…” or the old stand-by “What if you…” Even with that more subtle approach I generally get the same response I gave my mother and father and grandmother and guidance counselor when they tried to tell me what to do: an impatient, half-bored stare followed by a jerk of the head and a mumbled “Yeah, maybe I’ll think about that” kind of response to which I silently respond, “Fine. Don’t listen to me. You’ll get yours sooner or later, Babycakes, and then we’ll see who was right.”
There must be a reason for the fact that each generation has to learn for themselves the hard way. I suppose if God had designed us so that we actually learned from the previous generation’s mistakes, the human race might be so perfect that we would have died out by now. Maybe, when you come right down to it, the hard way is the only way to really learn something. I dunno. All I’m certain about is please don’t offer me any advice on how I can teach my dog to heel because I’m not going to listen.