P.G. Wodehouse was onto something when he wrote, “I always advise people never to give advice.”
Sadly, nobody paid heed. At this time of year the advice keeps coming, whether it’s from the tedious weight loss/workout/wellness contingent, the fretful accountants gearing up for tax time, or the trend slaves who ache to inform us that, décor-wise, tangerine currently trumps peach.
Often the counsel of these self-appointed sages is contradictory. For every five articles breathlessly detailing the benefits of a “cleanse,” for example, a sober story reports that actual doctors say cleanses are nonsense. This comes as news to celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, whose lifestyle website Goop endorses and sells a “supporting cleanse” called Clean. Gullible stars like Paltrow prompted the nonprofit UK charitable trust Sense About Science, which fights bizarre science claims with sensible admonitions. Recently, it had to contradict Jersey Shore actor Snooki Polizzi’s remark that the ocean is salty because there’s too much whale sperm.
What other kinds of advice are being doled out, in terms of our daily lives? You name it. Many of us have questionable friendships, for instance. So the other day, the Globe and Mail offered instructions on how to dump our most irritating pals. I’ll be watching closely to see if anybody uses the Globe’s strategies on me.
Encouraging our self-improvement is the media’s theme in January, whether we like it or not. Axe this, clean that up, de-clutter, reinvent yourself. We’re reminded that we’re eating nasty stuff, of course – not just bad for our bodies but for the environment. As if that weren’t sufficiently depressing, a Seattle blogger called Melany Vorass (essentialbread.com) made headlines recently for advocating that more of us dine on squirrel.
Trapping squirrels, she pointed out to Seattle Times readers, is a lot easier on the environment than raising beef, and it allows her to get rid of the pests on her property. Vorass has also bought a terrarium so she can become an escargot “rancher.” Feel free to follow suit, North Shore dwellers, but if next January everybody’s complaining that the squirrel and snail populations are in drastic decline, don’t come whining to me.
Many of us don’t know we have a particular problem until we read about it or see it depicted as commonplace on TV or online. According to Sarah Hampson, the Globe and Mail’s famously divorced “Happiness” columnist, research has revealed that having a successful marriage has nothing to do with whether you wore Vera Wang, and everything to do with acts of kindness. Bringing your spouse a cup of coffee every morning is the clincher. Huh!
But after that morning Joe, it’s not enough that we brush our teeth, or so I’m told by a news release that’s drifted my way. Apparently the one-millionth Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrush has just been unleashed on a grateful world. It’s battery powered, features an image of the pop star moppet on its handle, gives you more than 30,000 brush strokes per minute and, writes one enthusiastic client, “My daughter no longer needs to be reminded to brush.”
Being reminded to breathe is another matter. Here’s my suggested script for the advice columnists: “When you’re a ’tween, sometimes a beautiful boy just takes your breath away. Remember that youths from 6-12 years old should take 18-26 breaths per minute, sloping off to 12-20 between the ages of 12 and 17. If you’re an adult and you’re taking fewer than 12 breaths per minute while using the Justin Bieber Singing Toothbrush, you should contact a mental health professional immediately.”
If you yourself aren’t gleaning enough wisdom from advertisers, the media, your boss, your relatives, your friends, your acquaintances, your nosy parker neighbour, or the book Kardashian Konfidential, you can always pay to get it from Elder Wisdom Circle. That’s an online service that boasts 600 Elders (aged 60-105) who are ready to lecture you from all over North America. Collectively, they offer a daunting 45,000 years of experience.
The late actor Frances Bay, who was once mugged by Jerry Seinfeld for a marble rye on an episode of Seinfeld, was one of these “grandparents in cyberspace” and appears in a witty promotional video about it. The Elders have all taken pseudonyms – I guess otherwise people might phone them at home, or drop by while they’re napping. Still, what a concept! After all, whose opinion is more valuable – that of a flaky, self-involved movie star like Gwyneth Paltrow, or that of an invisible but seasoned dame who calls herself PicklesMarie? Never mind that PicklesMarie tells somebody who’s agonizing online over his poor social skills to read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People -- first published in 1936.
This is the job for me when I’m PicklesMarie’s age. I’m plenty bossy. It won’t matter whether I have my wits about me – which is perfect, since I’m unlikely to improve over the next seven years. In my stint with Elder Wisdom Circle, I will just follow the advice of Miss Manners (a.k.a. Judith Martin), who once wrote, “If you can’t be kind, at least be vague.”