I was reading An Ideal Husband, by Oscar Wilde, last week, and came across this line of unmatched wisdom: “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”
If good advice were meant to be passed on, I imagine isru chag would contain a flurry of advice-exchanging from “older” singles who have had the secret of their singleness revealed to them by wise relatives over the holiday.
One of the nice things about strangers is that they don’t give you advice. They just adapt to your “quirks” and get on with business. This is why some very flawed people have become very successful. Friends will sometimes share their insights, but only after agonizing over whether it’s really a fatal flaw, and then rehearsing their lecture in the shower. Relatives, I am sorry to say, rarely take showers before starting in on you.
Now, my relatives behaved this Pesach so I have little advice to pass along. I am only scarred by a few backhanded compliments (my favorite: “You sound so reasonable online”). However, on an annual basis I get an earful. I have become quite good at taking it. I can now listen to advice for a full five minutes before my eyes cross, my ears turn red, and steam starts dribbling out my nose. At this annual rate of tolerance growth, I will be more than ready to handle the censoriousness of my teenagers when I have them.
It’s not like it’s usually such great advice, I must note. People grasp at the simplest solutions. If you tell them “Former Date didn’t like my boots,” automatic reaction is “You should wear nicer boots on a date.” Yep, that should do it. One shopping trip and they’ll all be falling at my feet – and proposing to my footgear. I mean, seriously. If he’s going to be a shoe critic he can find himself dates by standing outside the outlet store of his choice.
I take it because I tell myself that the advice itself is a compliment. They really care. They think I’m not completely hopeless. No… what I mean is like this:
If you think Someone is absolutely wonderful, you naturally assume that everyone else will see this Someone as wonderful too. When it becomes obvious that scores of dates do not realize how absolutely wonderful Someone is, you begin puzzling over why. Could it be that so very many dates are blind? Or is Someone somehow obscuring his/her wonderfulness? You can’t help the amount of unperceptive people that Someone goes out with, but you can help Someone make his/her wonderfulness more obvious to these not-quite-perfect date.
So, by advising me on my boots, these well-meaning folks are just affirming that, in fact, they think I’m wonderful. Except for my boots. Those could use help. But everything else about me is just wonderful.
After all, there’s no point in advising a hopeless case, is there? Which means—can you imagine—they think there’s hope!
But… Wait… why didn’t anyone give me advice so far this Pesach?
Have they given up?