If you’re anything like me (which is either highly unlikely or exceptionally true, depending on the circles you run in), then you grew up with a certain set of bogus advice circling around you, affecting your sense of judgment and relationship to intimacy. Adages like, “Once on your lips, forever on your hips”, “Wait three days to call someone after a date”, and “Don’t walk around barefoot or you’ll grow warts on your feet and no one will want to drink champagne from your high heels.” (OK, maybe not the last one, but my grandmother swore up and down that was true. I never thought to question why adults didn’t just use glasses instead of footwear, or the actual science behind warts).
The world outside of your parents house, as it turns out, is just as full of terrible advice as their dining room table. In an article by Anna Pulley* in Alternet, a collection of random advice is collected and taken to task by Pulley’s characteristically efficient breakdown. From advice on the Huffington Post on abstinence, to how to be withholding of sex in order to manipulate your partner into doing what you want them to (which is, surprise surprise, published by Fox News), the internet is chock-full of the worst advice I’ve ever seen. Pulley does a stand-up job of taking down some of the more bogus myths perpetuated by popular media, such as the idea that once someone cheats, they will always cheat:
“ Like all common sayings, there is a certain degree of truth to this adage. Like all common sayings, however, it’s far too simplistic to describe actual people, nor is it an accurate predictor of whether someone will cheat on you. It’s easy to dismiss a past cheater as ‘bad’, and write them off forever, but the potential to get hurt or hurt someone else is there in every relationship, and that doesn’t mean we should preemptively give up simply because we might get hurt down the line. I‘m not saying you have to swish about your life blindly hoping that everything will work out OK—by all means, be cautious, keep your eyes open, but don’t let fear run the show. ‘Fear is an asshole,’ as the adage I just made up goes.”
Pulley’s sound logic can be equally applied to the majority of the advice out there that tends to muck up our worldview. After all, advice is a tricky thing to master: not everyone operates in the same way, with the same experiences and the same lessons under their belts. And while it’s always a good call to have a place to air grievances and be heard in this world that attempts to drown us out, it can be harmful to follow the words of someone else blindly. People are not standardized, and umbrella concepts (such as general advice, and standardized testing) work poorly for the majority of us.
A piece of advice, from one who has heard, read, and probably given a lot of good people terrible heeds? Avoid media that claims to be the expert on any aspect of human relationships—those messy, complicated, entirely UN-standard affairs. Stick with the folks who know you and your situation for tips on how to take care of yourself and act in any given relationship, and leave the blanketed-statements to the birds—they have decidedly less complicated relationships, and don’t need nearly the amount of personalized wisdom**.
*As a funny aside, I read this article and decided to write about it before realizing that Anna Pulley and I knew each other—at least, virtually. She interviewed me a few years ago for her SF Weekly project Femmepire Records (which can be found here, if you were wondering) on femme identity and portrayal in media.
**No offense to birds, I’m sure I’m guilty of wholly oversimplifying them. Sorry, birds.