No one wants advice – only corroboration. ~John Steinbeck

Let’s talk advice for a spell. And by that I mean, let’s talk about advice, I’m not actually requesting any for magical purposes, although I can think of a few spells that may come in handy right about now. Like one that converts crying into carefully worded archaic English. That would be both useful and rather amusing.
But I digress.
Advice first reared it’s deceptively pretty head in the 9 months that preceded Cadence’s birth. At that stage, it was more like catching a glimpse of Paris Hilton’s face on People in the magazine rack of the local grocery store checkout. It’s there, it’s mildly irritating and you have no idea why, but everyone seems to think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. And please don’t erroneously deduce that I’m calling Ms Hilton pretty. I’ve had sandwiches that have satisfied me in ways Ms Hilton never could. Interpret that line any way you want!
And then, for the first few days of her young life, advice disappeared. Apparently, this was a pupation, a period in which advice was preparing for rebirth as a hydra-derivative; multi-headed and a lot more dangerous than you could ever imagine.
But I have studied, and learnt, and now I’d like to share with you the knowledge that I have acquired, so you may be able to see through it’s many disguises.
Let’s begin with the first head, that of good intentions. Despite all my extensive investigation, I am still unsure as to whether this is the most insidious of it’s forms. Now, the problem with this kind of advice is the source. More often than not, it comes from family members and friends, and has a genuine interest in alleviating burdens. Yet somehow, the advice proves to be useless, and you are left with the unenviable task of explaining why you’ve chosen to ignore said advice. But I think I have discovered why this type of advice somehow becomes polluted. It starts out in the mind of the advisor as something pure, but at some point in the delivery process the memories of the experiences that equipped them with their stockpile of advice, become a little overwhelming, and they forget that the best advice should always be suited to the advisee. And so instead, the advice becomes simply a rehashing of the advisor’s life story, and relevance does an Arthur Dent* out the window.
Example: “When X was born, we struggled with J,K & L. Maybe you should have Cadence checked out for those.”
Well, thanks, but a) X is a boy, b)X was born 30 years ago and medical science has had a few developments here and there since then, and c) we’re not struggling with J, K or yes, even L.
Next we have what I like to call VD** advice. This too is a rather nasty strain, as it somehow both manages to ignore relevance and identity. Lucifer himself could be minding his own business, shopping with his 3-week old son Bob, and he would be cornered somewhere between Fruit & Veg and Sanitary Wear by Mavis from No.32, dispensing her entire arsenal in one fell swoop. Lucifer’s eyes could blaze with the tortured souls of a thousand damned serial killers, and Bob could shoot flames from his nostrils, yet Mavis would carry on oblivious. It’s all about the opportunity to give advice, and nothing more.
The only positive is this; since this strain tends to manifest itself in complete strangers, churchgoers etc, it is possible to avoid encounters completely. Yay team.
I kind of admire the next type, as it must require a lot of hard work and skills in the art of gathering covert information that rival anything the CIA can come up with. What is it? Why, conflicting advice, that’s what. This is characterised as follows: conflicting advice always comes after. When? After. And it must adhere to a very strict time period. It may seem to be conflicting a week later, but by then the original piece of advice has either proved to be of use or completely useless, so there is no conflict after all. Thus, the time period MUST be within 24 hours of the original advice. This allows for maximum confusion and exhaustive damage to any routine you may have established. It makes no difference whether you receive advice in front of a thousand people, or on a secure line in a bunker set 20 feet below the surface somewhere off the coast of Malawi, within minutes these people will not only have traced the conversation, but also developed their ‘anti-virus virus’…..and most dangerously of all, managed to make it sound convincing and rational. Fortunately, this group too are easily identifiable, as they usually work in the medical profession, or have some association with it.
Then we have advice of the steamrolling variety. Any suggestions for a classificational name would be welcome. This is a fairly harmless strain, as long as one keeps in mind the following: if the person sounds extremely confident that the advice they are dispensing will work, it won’t. They will repeat themselves to an excessive degree, and will stop just short of following you home to see if you put their words in to practice properly. Be strong, be firm, and you can see off this threat without diminishing your already shallow reserves of patience.
And finally, we have the rarest of guises. Good advice. Should you come across this at any stage of your life, count yourself lucky. You have witnessed something seen less often then Halley’s Comet. It tends to be humble in nature, compassionate, relevant, measured….and seems to always come from the people you would expect. And always when it’s actually asked for.
So to all of you who’ve allowed me to see Halley’s Comet more than once in the last two months, you have my gratitude.
To the rest of you……leave me alone!
And thanks to Kyknoord for planting the seeds of this post, and who also happens to be a pretty damn reliable source of advice. Whether this is an indication of some sort of deep vein of wisdom, or the kind of ‘accident of convenience’ that birthed the earth, is anyone’s guess!
* fly
** as in, a certain disease of the mouth……

~ by tenmiles on October 19, 2006.

5 Responses to “No one wants advice – only corroboration. ~John Steinbeck”

  1. This post gives me hope that all is right with the world! The receipt of un-asked-for advice is the hallmark of having a child. The funny thing is that you’ll catch yourself doing the same thing once you’ve been a parent for awhile and your friends/family start having babies around you. Just wait. It’ll happen. One moment you’ll think you are hip, happening, on the cutting edge…the next you’ll become conscious that you’ve just given diaper rash advice to a complete stranger. It’ll happen. I weep for you.

  2. That’s just nasty and uncalled for.

    What did I ever do to you?

    I will not give in. Never!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. “…I’ve had sandwiches that have satisfied me in ways Ms Hilton never could…” I feel the same way about Nigella Lawson (although probably for completely different reasons).

  4. Nigella Lawson is sooooooo hot! Such a curvy woman. And that accent…and that food! Love her!

    And just remember my words FM when you find yourself with friends sitting around the table, glass of wine in hand, discussing various episodes of your child’s explosive bowel movements!!!

  5. I’m with Carl. One of these days you will be the one dishing out advice to others… hehe. Not exactly something to look forward too, but that is the way of the world.–>

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