Self-Help Books Can Actually Be Helpful???

Okay I’m sorry, I didn’t fall off the planet, I’ve just been shirking my duty as your faithful advice blogger for… Well for long enough to risk falling off the planet, I suppose.  I haven’t really done much, apart from the usual going to the gym, going to work, and eating food routine that most people seem to have.  So exciting.

One thing I have done is finish reading a book.  An advice book, no less – something I normally avoid like a cat avoids water.

I’m not usually one for self-help books. I tend to find the advice therein trite, condescending, and in some cases enabling of the behaviors the person reading needs help with. Of course, when my mom handed me this book I went, “Yeah, sure, I’ll read this. Eventually.” Because my mother likes to hand out advice, wanted, warranted, or not, I really just rolled my eyes. And then my girlfriend read the book first. And then something ridiculous happened – she told me it was good. Not just good, but something that I should be reading.

Thus, I just finished reading, The Defining Decade by Dr. Meg Jay, PhD. The book is broken down into a few sections, on love, work, and being a grown-up. Really, the whole book centers on acting like an adult now instead of later, and getting your act together before you’re 30. There are a lot of examples that Dr. Jay uses to describe exactly what she’s getting at, whether it’s the twentysomething boy who was essentially homeless because he grew up in an unsettled divorced parenting situation, or the young Korean American woman who had grown up being teased for being different and a virgin in high school, so she never stopped to consider the sort of qualities she actually wanted in a partner – she just wanted to be wanted.

I wish I couldn’t identify so well with each of the people in this book. I’m way overeducated for my current job. I know this, and I know what I want to be doing, I just don’t know if I can actually put in the work to get there. I just keep assuming that everything will fall into place, because that’s what I’ve been taught to expect. I’ve also been hearing, “You’re young, this is what you’re supposed to do” an awful lot, too.

I think, contrary to popular belief, “YOLO” (you only live once) is part of this problem that leaves folks screwed over in their thirties. The twenties are apparently to be spent partying, traveling, working as a barista at Starbucks, and generally not giving a shit about the future because you’ll think about it “when you’re thirty” or “way later”…. Draw a timeline of how you want your life to go. If you have a picture like that, and “babies” and something like “medical school” are in the same place… You might have to reconsider what you’re doing.

What resonated most with me, for a silly reason, was the entire section on love. Every time my girlfriend and I have had problems of any sort, I have been advised by at least one person to break up with her and find someone else. I’m always told that I will have plenty of time to find my perfect someone, because my girlfriend and I are “so young” (I’m almost 24, for the record). I think getting together at a pretty young age, relatively speaking, is seen as a thing of the past. I have a friend who just got married, and she’s a couple years younger than I am. Do I think that’s too young? Maybe. I don’t know.

The point I’m trying (and failing) to make is that I feel really lucky in love. I don’t think I care if my perfect soul mate life partner match from heaven is out there in the world somewhere. There are another 7 billion people on this planet, of course. But, at this point, I think instead of stressing over whether or not my girlfriend and I are completely 100% totally perfect, I am going to focus on all the great things about being with her. At least in this respect, I feel like I have my shit together.

I wish I had an idea of what I want to be when I grow up. I wish I knew what I wanted to DO with my life. I want to do a million things, and I’m so afraid of all the possibilities that I don’t know where to start, and so I’m just paralyzed by all of them.

This paragraph I just wrote isn’t in the book, but there are a bunch like it. It makes me feel less bad, being as concerned as I am about my career future, because Facebook and the media seem to keep telling me that I should be gallivanting around Europe half-naked and fucking my way through hostels or something to that effect. Those same institutions tell me that I should drink more and do stupid shit because, after all, “you only live once”.

While that’s all probably a good time, I will take my amazing girlfriend, our tiny apartment, and a half-cooked plan for the rest of my life over drinks in an English pub any day. I may not know where I want to go, but I know who I want to get there with, and I really think that’s a big step in the right direction.

I’m not advocating for or against settling down at an earlier age, and I’m not even knocking working for Starbucks.  All I’m saying is that this book is pretty great, I recommend it, and I think we could all stand to get the ball rolling on the rest of our lives a little faster than age 30.

A little ambition never killed anyone.

…Right?


Soapbox: Gay Marriage Edition

Alright, so in case you have been living under a rock lately, you have probably heard that Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama have both publicly voiced support for same-sex marriage.  After that, Jay-Z and even the NAACP have endorsed marriage equality.

I bet even he’s heard, though.

After all that has happened and all that is being said, I have some feelings about it.  How could I not?  It’s a big deal.  It’s a massively huge ridiculously big deal, to be more precise.  And it effects my life in a very direct way.  So if you don’t want to read about my feelings and issues with all that’s going on, I advise you to stop now.

A lot of friends of mine on Facebook posted links to the video of President Obama describing how he came to this new attitude toward gay marriage, explaining this evolution of sorts.  Unfortunately while his words were really heartwarming and it was awesome to hear the President of the United States, while in office, say outright that he wants to allow folks like me and some of my best friends to marry our partners…. I didn’t feel it.

I know.  I know.  I feel like such a terrible American!  How could I, noisy obnoxiously gay lady that I am, not be celebrating with glitter, rainbows, and unicorns like the rest of the population that is okay with gay marriage?

It’s a combination of things.  First, it has brought out some of the worst in people.  Some people that were very vehemently opposed to gay marriage have gotten even worse.  North Carolina passed its stupid Amendment One, which bans everything except marriage between a man and a woman.  What’s tragic and stupid about this, in my mind, is that gay marriage was already illegal in North Carolina.  This just added that into the constitution of the state, while also dumping on straight couples who wouldn’t really go for a traditional marriage.

By making this announcement prior to the November election, the President has potentially pushed away voters that like progressive things but not gay marriage.  I’m just really, really nervous about this.  I think that it’s all going to be okay, given that the other presidential candidate is big jerk bully Mitt Romney.  Speaking of which, have you read about some of the crap this guy has done?  Seriously, what a d-bag.

Perhaps what is worst about this is people like this pastor.  I know he’s probably voicing a minority opinion here, and I know that he’s only got like three people agreeing with him on that video… But it hurts.  I don’t like the vaguest notion of locking up any group of people, let alone a group of people to which I belong.  It makes my skin crawl and my stomach cramp to know that there’s a a guy like this saying things like that, and to know that there are some humans who will actually listen.  Pro tip: If you want to not be considered an asshole, don’t suggest rounding up and jailing all the “queers”.

None of this, though instills in me the need to fight, to push, I don’t have this feeling like I am actually supported or that marriage equality is actually supported by my President.  They’re just words.  I do not mean to belittle what is a large step forward – that would be naive and unfair.  I don’t think this is a moment to celebrate.  Instead of cracking some champagne and enjoying this moment – undoubtedly a big moment, at that – I find myself becoming more the angry lesbian caricature.  I guess it’s in part because I felt shortchanged after the 2008 election and the Prop 8 insanity that happened is happening in California, but also in part because there were some people who straight-up (no pun intended) told me that I should be glad this first step was taken.  There were a few comments that had the, “Isn’t this good enough for you” tone, and I resent that.  It did nothing to make me agree and be happy.  It felt condescending and super straight-privilege-y.  Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

If I could give you one bit of advice, in all this ranting I’ve done, it’s this: don’t tell people that this is good enough.  Don’t tell people that they can stop asking for it because a man in an office said some pretty words.  Instead, look for a local chapter of PFLAG or GLSEN, make an It Gets Better video, just don’t make empty promises.

Something less depressing will probably be in the next post.


The Trouble With Being A “Nice Guy”

Hey y’all!  No attractive ladies this time, unless you count ME.  But for serious, this is gonna be a pretty intense post so STRAP ON YOUR SEATBELTS!

Someone I have been chatting with online has recently completely exemplified Nice Guy Syndrome.  What’s Nice Guy Syndrome, you ask?  It’s the affliction many young men seem to have, where apart from being a totally nice guy, the dude in question might be using nice guy tactics to gain something FROM whoever is the target of his niceness.

There are whole websites devoted to discussing the ins and outs of Nice Guy Syndrome, and this one in particular has a great definition all laid out…

The technical definition of the nice guy syndrome, simply states that this is a set of behaviors and characteristics that certain guys possess and perform. These include things such as: going out of your way to please people; overly focusing on giving other people what they want; offering unreciprocated favors and gifts; as well as avoiding confrontations and disagreement at all cost.

Now here’s the tricky part about Nice Guy Syndrome… If you’re using any of these tactics to move yourself out of The Friend Zone and into someone’s pants, you’re being a problem.  It’s not cool.  Stop it.

Back to my acquaintance – when discussing people in a position of authority, he declared all of the women to be horrible, harridan-like bitches, but most of the guys were more than fine.  He also fails to understand why essentially being a doormat doesn’t land him knee-deep in ladybits.  These two things are connected and I’m going to come back to this.

In checking out NGS on the internets, I discovered there’s an ENTIRE wiki for geeky feminism!  SO COOL!  But the best part is that they have a fabulous set of reasons why this is problematic for all involved parties.

The biggest issue is that Nice Guys see themselves as a gift to womankind, and get really resentful when women don’t view them similarly.  For instance, a guy stuck in the Friend Zone with a particular lady will end up resenting her for rejecting him, and she’ll have no idea why.  This won’t end well for anyone involved, and that’s crazy and sad.  What you have to remember, everyone, is that just because you aren’t boinking a friend doesn’t make the relationship with that person a complete failure, or any less special.  In fact, I really enjoy having friends without the awkward added pressure of sexytimes interfering.  Maybe that’s just me, but I really just like having good buddies I haven’t seen naked.

Here’s another important thing to remember: rejection happens to EVERYONE.  Literally.  At one point or another, people get turned down for a number of things, be it sex, a date, an audition, an application for a job, an apartment, or even if a stray cat won’t come near them.  This shit happens, and instead of blaming everything else, pick yourself up and move on.

Now, what do these things have to do with my Nice Guy acquaintance?  Here’s the thing: his resentment of some (or a couple) girls who have rejected his romantic advances has bled over and tainted his view of all womankind.  This is especially true for the women who have some sort of authority over him, which explains why he hates all his female bosses.  Long story short, he hates them because they’re extensions of people who won’t have sex with him.  With me so far?  Good.

Here comes the really REALLY important part.  What do you do if you think you might have some issues with Nice Guy Syndrome?

First, take a look at why you feel the way you feel about people around you.  Do you think, if you have friends you want to date, that whoever they’re dating is a douchebag?  Why?  Because they’re succeeding where you think you’re failing.

You might actually be a really, really nice dude, and that’s totally fine.  Actually, that’s more than fine – usually when you’re nice, people think you’re a good person.  Here’s the thing, though.  Other people are nice, too.  Other people are good people who feed strays and pick up litter and listen to female friends’ problems they’re having.  And you know what, they don’t get a medal for that, and they don’t feel they need one.  It’s a good feeling to be a good person, and usually that’s reward enough.

Step back, take a look at why you’re being good.  I guarantee you’ll feel a lot better about your life (and maybe even end up knee-deep in ladybits) if you start being a nice guy for the right reasons.


The Basics

Okay, let’s talk basic respect right here and real quick.

Basic respect is letting a person finish their sentences.  It’s treating them like a grown adult instead of like a small child.  It’s not talking down to them.  It’s not insulting things that are important to them, such as their religion.

I’m back in school for the new semester, and I have had some really shitty experiences so far.

The first was with a professor.  She’s obviously smart, but she’s just kind of a jerk.  I think she would enjoy being a kindergarten teacher more than a college professor.  I just have a big problem with talking down to adults.  It gives me a big bad case of secondhand embarrassment to hear someone be so condescending to another adult.  If there’s someone sitting in the back row in a bank of computers that can’t be run independently because they’re connected to the presenter’s computer… Shut up.  Don’t talk to him like he’s four and needs to sit in front.  It’s rude.

Oh, and speaking of the word “rude”, don’t dismiss “rudeness” for “honesty”.  They’re two COMPLETELY different things.  Honesty can sometimes BE rude, which is why we have the white lie, but that doesn’t work the other way around.  Rudeness is hurtful, honesty usually isn’t.  It’s not rocket science.

This brings me to my next series of encounters.  I have a couple of classmates (in a different class) who, ideologically speaking, are on the same page as me.  They’re liberal dudes.  Cool, good for them.  However, they’re the most disrespectful people I have ever encountered in a college setting.  They yell over everyone, professor included, and they don’t let people finish sentences.  They interrupt everybody and it’s really difficult because they always get class off-track.

Today, however, this took a turn for the moderately horrific.  It’s a class about interest groups, and we have to do a big research term paper on a group of our choosing.  One of the obnoxious guys picked the Catholic Church, which is fine.  Unfortunately he said that part of its agenda was protecting heterosexual marriage while defending child molestation.  Someone in class got really offended, probably because she’s Catholic.  So what does this guy say?  “Whatever, you’re a child molestation sympathizer.”  I wish I could make this shit up.

Now, I’m gay.  I’m not really the biggest fan of most religious institutions, and that sentiment probably goes the other way here too.  BUT I am also willing to let people have their religious beliefs and do what they’re going to do.

I’m not saying this because I’m some bastion of respectfulness, tact, and wondrous empathy or anything.  In fact, I’m usually the one running my mouth with the first thought that pops into my head because I think it’s funny.  That all being said, I do think these are some experiences that are forcing me to take a long look at how I am, and how I conduct myself and how disrespectful and stupid I may seem to some people.

I hope this does something similar to you.  It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to someone, even if you disagree with them.


ATTACK OF THE EX!

So, hypothetical situation.  Let’s say you’re still friends with an ex-girlfriend on Facebook.  Because, of course, everyone is friends with everyone on Facebook, and something as petty as being dumped is no reason to un-friend someone, right?

Anyway.

This hypothetical ex just gained a new job.  Let’s say she becomes manager of a bank branch.  But, here’s the issue – she keeps openly posting on Facebook about how much she needs to get laid, or how badly she wants to smoke a lot of weed.  And she doesn’t use creative euphemisms!!!

What’s a guy to do?  Do you politely say something like, “Maybe you should be a bit more judicious about what you post on here – your boss may end up seeing this”?  Or, do you just leave it alone, because, well, they’re your EX after all and she probably stomped on your heart while wearing 4-inch heels?

Well, the Advisors have a variety of responses to this one, so let’s get into those.

Flannery said it’s not your problem; even if the relationship ended on good terms, the ex is an adult, and their judgment and their issues are their own problems.  Katie actually said something similar, but took it a step further.  She said, “Remember, an ex is an ex for a reason!”

I thought these were pretty interesting, not because of the vague “everyone for themselves” tones I got out of the conversation, but because it showed me that I even have a line that I don’t cross with my exes.  I discovered that I don’t give unsolicited advice to my exes, so why would I tell other people they should do the same?

Then there’s the majority of my friends I spoke with, who said, “Nah, the right thing to do is to kindly point out the potential for a problem.”  That, unfortunately, also appeals to me.  I’m kind of  big on looking out for others (my momma raised me that way!), so with an issue like this, I definitely consider giving this advice.  With my friends, most will tell you that I give advice like it’s going out of style.  As I stated before, I just learned that I draw the line at exes.

However, that’s not really the point.  The point is the answer to the question, “What should you do?”  I lied at the beginning of this post – this is not a hypothetical situation.  A coworker of mine (who reads this blog, SHOUT-OUT TO HIM HERE!) asked me what he should do.  What did I say?
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!

I said, “As long as you’re nice about it, and you make it clear there are no insidious or ulterior motives for saying it, there’s really no problem with giving a little advice on decorum.”  Because really, when you break it all down, it’s a good thing to do.  This could literally be a job-ending, potentially career-destroying thing.  As we have all heard, you CAN get fired for things that appear on your Facebook page.  So, why not try and help someone avoid that?

To summarize: while you may have bad feelings from a breakup, that does not mean you should hold your ill will over someone if it can possibly ruin their life.  Don’t be a douchebag.  Tell someone (NICELY) if you think they’re being inappropriate.  If something ends up happening and you didn’t say anything, you’ll end up feeling like a dick.  Save them, and save yourself.