Good Advice

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?

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9 thoughts on “Good Advice

  1. Ever been given advice/commented on by the husband of your shabbat invite, when you’re basically a prisoner of society? I mentioned that it took me a long time to finish the translation of a book I was working on, saying something like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” (“oh so that’s why you’re not married”), or having mentioned former travels (I’m bt) (oh, so that’s why you’re not married, you’re not stable), even though it was years ago. I guess it’s less advice than obnoxious comments, when you can’t even make a comeback. So unfair. And in Israel everyone and anyone will comment, including children, even the doctor asked me why I’m not married and a very senior non-religious colleague wanted to know what I’m looking for. So eligible, so single. And so irritating.

  2. A roommate of mine always used to wear earrings on dates but not makeup, despite the comments. I always wore makeup but not earrings. Finally we figured out what the problem was.

  3. my standard prepared answers to:

    1- “iy”H by you” (impressively, i get this rarely. my much-younger sibling got married and i counted one instance)
    2- “what are you looking for?”

    are:

    1- “so what are you doing about it”/”put your money where your mouth is”
    2- “someone smart enough to talk to”

    regarding israelis, an ilk with whom i’ve had extensive dealings, you need to give them back exactly what they give you, or worse. they can handle it. they’re wired that way.

  4. Anin: I’ve started getting that from totally random strangers. Like the cashier at Rite-Aid a few weeks ago who asked me if I was married and when I said no, asked, “Why not?!” and when I shrugged, said, “Oh, you must not want to get married!”. (It’s not like any of this was solicited, all I said to him was “hi” when my turn came.)
    One of the stranger exchanges I’ve had checking out at a store…with a line of customers waiting behind me. At least it wasn’t in a Jewish store.

  5. A few years ago, in the space of about ten days, someone said to me “you’re not married because you don’t want it enough”, another one said, “it’s because you want it too much”, and a rav, “because you want it for the wrong reason”.

  6. Chananya Weissman had an article along those lines recently that was printed in my local paper, entitled “Sinning Against Singles.” I must say, I did like it very much.

    The quintessential shoe critic would park himself in the Saks shoe department, so big it warrants it’s own zip code. But then, if that’s what he does for entertainment, I presume he’s got a number of other issues.

  7. An particular individual’s very distinct quirkiness (as opposed to a collection of general quirks that others have confronted before) just isn’t going to work for the hoi polloi out there when it comes to finding your spouse. I takes that special other quirky person to complement and add to (in a positive fashion) a shared sense of quirkiness. Standard advice simply won’t do in these cases (of which I include myself), so such remarks, though well meaning, are going to be quite ineffectual.

    As a side point, any guy who over analyzes about a date’s boots really needs to work on himself and get that out of his system – who the heck cares about a style/make of footwear to the extent of ending a shidduch?

    Did your relatives give up, or did they finally realize that trite catechisms are really no answer at all?

  8. You hit the nail on the head- you’re so wonderful, you need no changing 😀 Or they’ve lost hope- one of the two. Happy Post Pesach!

  9. Pingback: If She Could, I Could – by Fauna « Bad for Shidduchim

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