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Confessions of an unreconstructed advice-giver.
Giving advice can become a dangerous addiction.
Even though it seems to be a harmless social pastime, like complaining about prices at Publix, giving advice can become a dangerous addiction.
I should know. I’ve struggled with my advice-giving compulsion for my entire life.
As a teenager I wasn't the type anyone would ask for advice about anything. I wore coke-bottle glasses, was overweight, unpopular, desperately insecure, and didn't have the courage of even one conviction. I wasn't a great student, either. Teachers were always telling me to stop talking in class.
All that changed, however, one day during my sophomore year in high school. My best friend Judy Rubenstein, who had an hourglass figure with a tush that twitched fetchingly and a come-hither way with boys, asked me what she should do about her current boyfriend, Marty. Should she let him touch her above the waist above the clothes, or would below the waist above the clothes be acceptable considering it was their sixth date? And on what date did I think below the waist below the clothes would be OK? (Believe it or not, we actually worried about stuff like that back then.)
All of a sudden, I felt infused with a sense of my own power. Here was hot-stuff Judy asking life-and-death advice from me, who had never had a date in her life and wore underwear so armorlike it was virtually boy-proof. My lack of knowledge and experience didn't stop me for an instant, though. I took a deep breath, furrowed my brow thoughtfully, and said something, I don't remember now exactly what it was, with such an authoritative air that Judy complimented me on my insight and promised to follow my counsel.
What a heady experience. I was no longer tongue-tied fatso four-eyes but a wise woman of the world. I still didn't have any dates, but friends, male and female, would come to me with their troubles and I'd sagely dispense whatever nuggets of wisdom I'd gleaned from the ladies’ mags that week.
I never tired of hearing about other people's troubles. It was always an up to know that someone was even worse off than me, especially if that someone was rich or good-looking. The one thing I never understood is why this technique didn't get me any dates. Didn't boys want girls who understood them?
I shouldn't have worried. I don't know what rock they crawled out from under, but I eventually attracted a certain type of guy--clinging little-boy-lost types who had severe mom-deprivation and were avid for my advice, my comfort, my soothing touch on their fevered brows. There was only one catch. They assumed I would actually take care of them, pay the check, let them move into my place and cook and clean for them. When I told them to get a job, they'd accuse me of pushing them around. Eventually I had to unwrap them from around my neck or I'd strangle to death.
By this time I was firmly entrenched in what a boyfriend of mine later unkindly termed the "Erica training program." I was convinced men didn't start out being suitable relationship prospects—they had to be whipped into shape in order to be of any use at all.
This transformation process involved analyzing their deep inner feelings, especially their fears of commitment to me, and following my advice on how to get over their neurotic defenses. Curing them was an arduous task that took all of my by- now formidable advice-giving and psychologizing skills and was often rewarded with the most rank ingratitude. Somehow these wretches had the gall to think they knew better than me what was good for them, namely I wasn't good for them. Either that or I was too good for them. The ones who didn’t want a mommy would leave me, invariably for some waiflike creature who needed rescuing.
I comforted myself with the thought that if men didn't want me at least I had a group of devoted friends who did. We'd spend our Saturday nights together bemoaning the unfortunate state of our love lives and crying on each other’s shoulders.
At least I thought we were crying on each others shoulders, but actually they were doing all the crying and I was always the shoulder. That was OK with me because I got to tell them exactly how they should handle the sadistic twit who was taking advantage of their sweet selves, which cheered me up immeasurably. Every once in a while, one of my friends would give me a few words of advice, which annoyed the hell out of me.
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