People, all through my life, have always been giving me advice. Some of it has been good. Some…not so much. Some of the “not so much” I recognized as a bad idea. Others, I had to learn the hard way.
Here are a few examples of the “not so much” generally having to do with the issue of social interaction and dealing with others.
Any advice that begins with “It’s simple” or includes the word “just” as in “you just…”
Look, folks. As much as some folk might like to claim otherwise, I’m not stupid. If it really were “simple” or a matter of “just” I’d already be doing it.
However, in many ways my mind doesn’t quite work the same way as most people’s do. Things that are simple and/or obvious to you aren’t necessarily so to me and your “simple” usually has a whole collection of prerequisite skills or knowledge (lacking of specific knowledge/understanding is not the same thing as “stupid”) that you’ve internalized to such an extent that you don’t have to think about them. Like the centipede walking: it doesn’t have to think about where to put each of it’s multitudinous feet; it just does. Or when someone is riding a bike. They don’t think about gyroscopic precession, conservation of momentum and angular momentum, and how these things interact with control inputs to right the bike when it starts to go over one way or the other–you just do it…once you’ve learned how. But that complexity is there, lying in the background, and largely forgotten by the time someone is trying to teach riding a bike to others. Indeed, that complexity is such that you can’t learn it by thinking it through. You have to learn it at a “muscle memory” level or it’s not going to work.
Much like the “it’s simple, you just…” advice.
“Ignore them. They’ll get bored and go away.”
Advice on dealing with bullies. Let’s just say that it didn’t work. It hasn’t worked for anyone I ever knew who received that advice. Has it ever worked for anyone? What did work (more or less) was “learning martial arts”. Quotes because…well, there was no Mr. Miyagi in my neighborhood so I ended up “learning” from books with a friend or two that I could practice with. Some people saw one of the practice sessions and that was enough to get the physical bullying to stop–the impression that I might actually know something was enough to get that to stop.
The mental and emotional however? That was a whole other ballgame and continued until I got out of that environment entirely.
Does that “ignore them. They’ll get bored and go away” actually work for anyone? Why do people give that “advice”?
“If you want to be attractive to women you need to start wearing bright colors.”
I wish I remember who told me that. At least I knew enough to avoid jarring, conflicting, clashing colors, or over-the-top eye searing prints. I was told this at a time when I was staring to find a darker aesthetic personally appealing. I didn’t then think “goth” because, well, goth was just starting to become a thing (and I’m not sure the term had even been adopted for the music and subculture yet). Being unreservedly heterosexual and definitely interested in the female of the species, this was an important issue to me. And, so I took that advice hook, line, and sinker (pretty much all the way up to the bobber.)
Here’s the thing, it didn’t work. Not only did I have any more “luck” with women (and, to be honest, I wasn’t looking for “hook ups” or even short-term “flings”–I wanted then what I want now, a serious, long term relationship with someone I care about and who cares about me) than when I was wearing darker tones, but I was always faintly uncomfortable in this brighter colored look. But I’d internalized the advice so thoroughly that I never really understood why I was so uncomfortable. It was just a vague, unspecified dissatisfaction.
In recent years, I was introduced to the goth subculture and while parts of that aren’t a terribly good fit, other parts are. And, yeah, my social life really isn’t any better than it was before but at least I’m more comfortable within my own skin.
So, while the advice may not have done harm on the actual purpose for which it was given, it also did no help. But beyond the intended purpose it did do harm on other issues leading me to spending more years more unhappy and dissatisfied with life, than they needed to be.
“It’ll happen when you stop worrying about it.”
Again on the subject of love and romance. This was folk in my church mostly, when I would get frustrated at seeing friends and acquaintances “pair up” and here I am…alone. I’m sure it was meant well but…
ARE YOU ON DRUGS?
Look, I’m an extreme introvert. Perhaps I don’t come across that way in my online persona on this blog, but in “meat space” that is definitely the case. The activities I engage in on my own are highly solitary. And those few that actually do get me out and about are…let’s just say they are not a target rich environment.
If I didn’t have the motivation of “worrying about it” I would never leave the house and certainly would never be in a situation where I would be at all likely to meet, let alone interact with, unattached young women (or not so young given my current age–the situation really hasn’t changed from when the advice has first given).
“Just engage in activities you enjoy. That way when you meet someone you’ll have at least that in common.”
This is a twofer. See above. The activities I enjoy (you know…reading ranks high on that) are not conducive to “meeting someone.” And the very few things I do engage in outside the house are not things where unattached women are likely to be found (at least not in my experience). Married and otherwise “attached” couples, yes. Single? Not so much. And about that “just”…
So, there are some of the howlers of advice I’ve received over the years. What are some of yours?