Monday, June 16, 2008

"I Give Myself Very Good Advice, But I Very Seldom Follow It"

"You know, you're the worst person to give advice to," Middle Sister said to me.

"Really?" I asked. I usually think of myself as an almost tragically impressionable person.

"Yeah," she said, not really looking at me as she packed up her things in our hotel room at the end of this past weekend. "Because you just don't want to hear it." She launched into a somewhat unflattering impression of me that included the words "I know, okay? I fucking know. Shut up." (Apparently I'm fond of the cursin' and the belligerence when I've combined Bud Light and Jack Daniel's. As anyone would be.)

For me, though, patented, copyrighted, reprinted "advice" in any situation (career, relationships, life, apartment, friendships, financial decisions) rings hollow. I don't like platitudes and cliches. Even if you're quoting Lincoln, I'm kind of not hearing it, because it's all been said before. Easy phrases and psycho-babble passages are like the "Hang in there!" kitten-clutching-a-tree-branch posters of the emotional world. What I identify with are other people's stories.

I got a good one recently.

I was relaxing on the Upper West with Six-Two (yes, the friend of N's from January), and he launched into a short story about a woman he was dating over in L.A. a while ago. Slouched in his seat, he rolled his eyes almost as soon as he started telling me about her:

"She said, 'Oh, you're wearing flip-flops. We're not going to get into Area' -- or whatever club -- 'tonight.' "

Six-Two paused for effect.

"And for a second I cared," he said.

His eyes bored into mine, and I could tell we were dancing around the pink elephant in the room. We were communicating through analogies and stories, because that's how information has been passed down for ages and ages.

For that moment, I looked at him and deciphered the code. Mmm. Exactly.

Now here's my allegory: In my late 20s, I once dated a man who, through emotional withdrawals and non-communication, pigeonholed me emotionally to the point that I molded myself into his theoretical ideal. I was an animatronic girlfriend. I didn't have problems, I didn't have boundaries, I didn't have needs, and I didn't have wants. All of my future plans could be counterprogrammed into something that he wanted, his vision of his upcoming life: Stepford girlfriend, batteries included. I always did my hair, I never called him to talk about my bad day, and I never bothered him when I knew he was out doing God knows what with whomever he wanted.

When he stopped wanting Animatronic Jane, as whittled down as I had become, for a second I cared.

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Blogger Kb said...

LOL! "For a second I cared." I can apply that to many situations.

As for taking your own advice -- deep down we KNOW what we should do. But then our impluse gates don't close in time and...

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