Monday, December 2, 2013

Advice is, keep your advice.

The subject of my latest diatribe is advice. More specifically, unsolicited advice. It is something I am sometimes guilty of; offering unsolicited advice. But I must say in my defense, I offer it with a sense of necessity, not out of some misplaced, smug, superior state of mind. And we ALL have that friend or other, that family member that sits in passive-aggressive judgment of you at any given chance, spewing out sanctimonious words that are completely useless and utterly irritating.

My advice usually comes when one of my friends brings some crisis or other to me. Often, it is a personal issue, of something common to my experience. When it is about surviving depression, about family dysfunction, responsibility, relationships, abuse; when it is coming from someone I truly care about, I often find myself offering fixes rather than just listening.  Being a chronic advice-giver can sometimes mean you are a shittier listener than you think you are. Again, when you have traveled that same road many times, and have met that oncoming semi truck, face-on, and have the scars to prove it, and you see a loved one running towards that same place; hell-bent on the idea that they will somehow have a different outcome, and think they know better… well, to be expected to just sit there and merely mirror their feelings and nod while they careen towards disaster, into the path of that forsaken truck; it's a lot to ask. It is a symptom of love in this case. All you want to do is protect that person from your fate. But in truth, advice is moot, because if they’re going to do something stupid, there really isn’t much of a chance to stop someone from doing it. I have to learn this. I really do have to learn this.

Then, you have the people who just always have something to say about everything. It doesn’t matter. Diet, child-rearing, hobbies, you name it. And not when their input is asked for, but whenever you bring up anything remotely connected to their favourite subjects. Any opportunity to pontificate and hear themselves talk. Whenever you open the door for them to opine, to share their invaluable wisdom, and show the ignorant world the depth of their brilliance.

The parenting experts

"Now boys, we already talked about spying on our neighbour Mrs. Murdock
when she's in her bathroom..."

Type A: The expert in the obvious

I challenge you to go on Facebook, and for the heck of it, just post an update describing anything your child is doing.  Invariably, someone will pop up with the ‘Oh, you think that’s bad… Wait until this and wait until that…’ as if you’ve just stepped out from under a rock just before your child was born and have never experienced anything to do with these tiny humans before. The tone is often: ‘good luck handling that, friend, you can in no way anticipate normal things!’ No post is left un-interpreted as some sort of cry for their infinite fount of experience in the mundane. My response is: Shut The Hell Up. Really. If I am unsure of anything, I will ask. Describing a basic thing does not automatically signify a need for you to profess the flipping obvious.

Type B: The unqualified advice giver.

I have an in-law that gives advice and makes really badly veiled criticisms of how we interact with our child. This in-law is also an alcoholic and has a child that doesn’t speak to him, and another that has also become a drunk and who has shown to have seriously questionable ethics. Listening to him spout his parental wisdom is a joke. To the parent who has little to no relationship with their children and never sees them at all, and hasn’t for years. Please don’t roll your eyes at my choices. I plan to be there for my kid and invest in him. The opposite of you. How much I hold him, coddle him, say yes or no to him is really none of your concern. Why not look more closely at your failures and stop worrying so much about what you think are mine.

Type C: The parent of an asshole.

Let us be realists here. Some kids are assholes. By no fault of their own, granted, but everyone knows one of these little kids. The one you are pretty confident will be enjoying a bright future of bar fights, date rape, criminal behavior, and all around uselessness to society—possibly in thirty years, still living in their parents’ basement sucking on a bong.  You know why these kids are dicks. Because their parents are ineffectual as disciplinarians and at providing guidance. These failed parents come in all forms, helicopter parents, detached 'let them be free' parents, 'I.wanna be your bestest friend parents'. You may not see the complete devastation your bad parenting has wreaked upon your child’s future, and you may be blind to the fact that nobody likes your kids because they’re just plain assholes.  But your kids are obnoxious, spoiled, nasty, loud asshole terrors. Nobody wants child rearing advice from you. We have all seen the products of those wise efforts. No thanks.

Experts in anything diet-related (a.k.a; the ‘annoying upstart who’s surfed on the internet for a few hours or stayed up late watching infomercials and thinks they’re an expert’ expert)

I have raged on this subject before, but man, it still rankles me. When Dan and I were really full throttle on Weight Watchers, we had lost over 110 pounds between the two of us. Changing our eating habits worked. Now that I'm breastfeeding, all bets are off, I'm eating like a pig and gaining weight back. It's not any other reason other than that. I'm not using good eating habits and I am paying the price. It is my own lack of discipline that is the problem. It isn’t my glands, or gluten, or paleolithic genes. It isn’t a lack of any miracle weight loss supplements or because I’m not drinking enough green tea. It isn’t any other reason except that I eat a lot. Period. It’s MY fault that I’m fat. It is my food addiction. It isn’t easy to overcome, but as the past two years proved, with self-regulation, it can be achieved.  It took me a long time to take responsibility for my own weight problems, and stop finding random justifications for the volume of noms I shove into my craw on a daily basis. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?

When we were in full swing, losing weight and shedding pounds, you’d think we would have gotten really supportive efforts from our friends and such. But boy, were we wrong!  And gawd, did the advice come rolling in from near and far, in spite of positive proof of our success. It just wasn’t enough for some folks.

“Weight watchers doesn’t work!” we were told. “There are simpler ways!” “Surely you will fail, it’s only a matter of time.” It wasn’t our resolve that would fail, it was the diet, you see, according to the ‘experts’. And yes, always, always, “There is a better way!”

Now keep in mind, this was mostly from people struggling with their own weight problems, but never getting results themselves. All manner of trend diets and miracle products were suggested. In fact, my mother just told me I should get the lap band and be done with it instead of bothering to try and fail.  We were told about all number of deprivation diets. We were told not to bother, that we were genetically predisposed to be fat. We were told that we were going to fail anyway, so why bother to begin with?  This was our support system in its full form; trying so hard to undermine us with advice that was so obviously flawed, because it wasn’t working for them.  We know what works for us. Weight Watchers worked for us. And the only reason that it’s not working is because we are not doing what we need to do to continue losing weight. It is that simple. There is no easy button. No miracle diet. The diets that work are the ones that require self-discipline and hard work. Period. So if you are overweight, and you think you know the great diet secret, you probably don’t. Sorry.

Sadly, now that I’ve gained half of the weight I’d shed back, the peanut gallery has gone quiet again. It seems some folks must be relieved because it takes the pressure off them.  I know, deep in my soul, that the only reason why I have Alex today is because I lost weight. All of my fertility problems stemmed from my weight issues. And I need to figure out how to wrangle my self-discipline again, because now that I have this beautiful child, I want to be here for him for as long as I can. I do not want to be Aunt Barbs, who fell over and died while feeding her chickens at age 52 from heart failure.  Whatever your choices are, they’re yours. But don’t hinder people with crappy advice because you can’t take responsibility for your own choices.

I have all the answers baby,
but I can barely tie my own shoes.
The sanctimonious fool

“Hi, I have absolutely no way of comparing my situation to yours, and have never lived even remotely close to your experience, but here’s what I would do in your situation…” or…

“Hi, my life is a complete mess, and has been an uninterrupted string of bad decisions from day one –OR- I have no identity, no self-esteem, no notion of self to speak of, and yet, I am pretty sure I have all the answers on everything. Let me sing you the song of my people.”

Erm… yeah. Shut it.

The advice rambler (a.k.a: ‘Oh, a chance to talk about me? Saweet!' experts)

There are a couple of people on my Facebook feed that spend a good deal of time on their feed, just trembling in anticipation of a post where they can just go on and on and on and on about themselves.  One lady I know has a husband dying of cancer, and whenever she posts an update on his condition and her emotional state, another friend cannot even begin to restrain herself from posting paragraph after paragraph of comments, hijacking the whole thread, talking about her own experiences with cancer, or loss, or whatever the hell it is she is talking about in order to focus the attention on her.  It is utterly annoying.

Now as a child of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, I confess, I too have some narcissistic tendencies. I will sometimes do those kinds of replies, but occasionally, I will type out my experiences on a comment and realize that I need to just STFU and move on. At least I have the capacity to limit my ‘all about me’ tendencies, but good god, I can spot people like my mom from a mile away. Here’s an example:

Status update: OMG! I just fell in the snow and twisted my ankle, it’s so swollen right now.

Comment from Narcissist windbag with advice hidden somewhere in there: Once, I was summiting Mount Hood, I was by myself, because two of my climbing companions had to duck out because they were concerned about severe weather, but I wasn’t daunted by the blizzard conditions and I decided I could handle it alone, which I knew I could, because I did it two winters before, and found a cozy little chasm in which to set up my winter gear, and listened to Liszt on my iPod, made Bergamot tea with my little camp stove, and sipped that while reading War and Peace while the storm raged on outside. But I digress, here I was, alone on Mount Hood, snow whipping around me. I was making record time, even without the crampons, the ones my abusive ex-boyfriend gave me just before he tried to beat me one last time, and I knocked him out with a vegetable juicer and had him arrested… and the cop that came for him totally hit on me…aaaanyway, I was at about 10,000 feet when some ice shifted and my boot slipped and bam… I twisted my ankle so hard I saw the back of my heel.  It started swelling up so big, it started straining up against the lacing like a piece trussed pork, so I hopped down the mountain to Timberline lodge, and had a cocoa while this super-smokin’ ski-instructor from Italy named Giorgio pressed an icepack on it. The swelling went down super fast under the ice. So I’d try ice.

Shut. The. Fuck. Up. Seriously.

::calms herself::

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