I'm not prone to giving advice, wait...yes, I am. Well, not unsolicited advice, shit, I do that, too. Sigh...
Okay: I love giving advice. I've been addicted to advice columns since I found Dear Abby on the funnies page (her hipper twin, Ann Landers, was in the Sun-Times and we were a Trib household all the way).
I especially enjoy advice on matters of the heart since I find love fascinating, although as regular readersknow, I spout off on pretty much anything within arm's reach. I loved Em & Lo, the erstwhile Nerve gals who write so well about sex, and subscribed to Salon.com not so I could keep up with their excellent news coverage but because I got tired of reading the Daily Pass ad to get to my Cary Tennis.
Ironically, though, ever since I actually have had some clue about How These Things Work, I have questioned my right to be an authority on (insert topic here). I'm definitely one of those women who suffers from Imposter Syndrome, as Jory Des Jardins describes it:
(Imposter Syndrome) is a fairly common condition that affects many women, particularly those who are achievement-oriented. It's a belief that one's accomplishments are not deserved, that one has somehow fooled the system and will inevitably be found out for the fake that she is.
As a well under-30 pup selling ads to clients twice my age, I remember having frequent "When Will They Find Out We Are Frauds" discussions with my then-boss back in the go-go '80s.
But, as usual, I digress.
I think that my youthful zeal for offering advice had more to do with my needing to be seen and valued than with any selfless desire to share the wealth. These days, I find it easier to resist offering unsolicited advice one-on-one. I figure if someone wants my goddam opinion, they can goddam well ask for it; if, on the other hand, they're just jaw-flapping, as my ex-husband used to say, and I have an excuse to walk away and not waste my valuable time and energy.
As an avid reader of Craig's List, however, I find my advice-giving buttons pushed pretty frequently, and the lure is strong. Fortunately, they make you jump through so many hoops to reply to a post that my ardor cools in advance at the prospect. In fact, I'm always shocked at how many people will jump on a lame thread in the Rants & Raves section; they must have really, really boring jobs.
But every once in a while, a post cries out to me. The poster seems to genuinely want an answer to a problem that speaks to my experience, and I have an extra ten or so minutes to devote to the issue. I consider it another way of giving back; lord knows enough people have helped me through the dark and murky times.
I won't repost this guy's entire plea for help since I don't have his permission, but suffice it to say he was experiencing some bewilderment on the dating front and, having given up entirely on meeting people in real-life venues like bars, he had now come to the conclusion that even the people looking online weren't really looking for a relationship. Worse, I could sense he was on the precipice overhanging The Dark Place; one stiff wind and we might lose him to the other side.
Here's what I had to say:
You know what? You're absolutely right...and you're absolutely wrong.
I'm a fairly cool chick (or so I've been told by some fairly cool people who didn't stand to gain anything by saying it) and I've met some pretty great guys online. And in bars. And through friends. And even, one unusual time, standing in front of a burning bus.
I've also met some equally heinous guys in each of those places. (Well, I only met the one guy in front of the burning bus.)
Point being, there are asshat chicks *and* cool chicks *everywhere*. If you're really looking for a cool one, why close off any reasonable avenue? Two caveats, though. First, in my experience, you do better if you're open but not Looking. Cool chicks can get a little turned off by guys too much on the prowl. (And nobody likes a needy person.)
And second, if you are burning out on any part of the process or developing any kind of an attitude about a particular avenue, stay away from it until you can jump back in with a better attitude. Don't date angry!
Now, I know Em & Lo would have been way funnier, and that Cary would have done a much more thoughtful job of dissecting the guy's modus operandi and even analyzing his intent. But sometimes, the best "advice" you can give is a little reassurance that this, too, shall pass, and that maybe it's a good idea to cool one's heels until one can approach the "problem" with an open mind and a fresh perspective. Especially when you don't really know the person asking the question. And as someone with extensive experience in online dating who had experienced burnout and the falling rate of return that accompanies it, I felt uniquely qualified, nay, compelled, to speak up. So I'm pretty sure I wasn't talking out of my ass.
Hopefully, I wasn't just flapping my jaw, either.