88. Telling Folks What They Ought to Do

22 Mar

I don’t believe I’ve ever met a Southerner who hesitates to give advice, solicited or not. Certainly not my parents whose suggestions ranged from “You need to get a teaching certificate” (Dad) to “Here’s my credit card. Go buy some of those teeth-whitening strips” (Mom).

While I’ve never been terribly keen on following trails blazed by others on my behalf, I must credit my parents for some of the best unsolicited advice I’ve received.

First off, my dad’s: “You are responsible for where you put your feet.” He imparted this sage wisdom as we were walking through the livestock pavilion, which was a mandatory prerequisite before exploring the more festive parts of the state fair, such as the tilt-a-whirl, caramel apples, and tossing ping pong balls in hopes of scoring an inevitably short-lived goldfish.

As a kid, I took his words as a warning against stepping in actual poo, but have come to appreciate the overarching message. It’s given me just enough pause to ask myself things like, “Do you really want to show up at a heavy metal dive bar in a tie-dyed t-shirt?” or “Should you really rent an apartment that features countertops covered in faux marble contact paper?” The underlying question is always: “Who’s going to clean that shit up?” I wish I could report that I always watch where I’m going. Sadly, I’ve stepped in more than my share of figurative poo. But by and large I’ve learned to wipe it off and make it to the taffy stand before it closes.

My mother’s oft-repeated wisdom was: “You don’t have to tell everything you know.” She probably would have said this in response to my mention of the Holloway Women’s Homemade Spanx. If she’d ever had to take the witness stand, she’d have happily agreed to tell nothing but the truth. But the whole truth? Well…

While the bulk of unsolicited advice in the South tends to come from family members, there are plenty of other folks who’ll happily tell you what to do: friends, coworkers, neighbors, hairdressers, salesladies, people behind you in line at Kroger, and last, but certainly not least, preachers.

Unsolicited advice I’ve received includes (but is not limited to):

You should…
Get married. Have children. (Hopefully, in that order.) Find a “real” job. Change your name to Heather. Think with your head and not with your ass. Try using some of that self-tanning lotion. Wear your retainer. Learn the joys of cooking with Splenda. Drive slower. Drive faster. Floss more often. Start listening to Shania Twain. Stop thinking so much (offered as a cure for migraines). Rethink that long johns and cut-off jeans ensemble. Wear your hair straight. Give “Ugly Betty” another chance. Move back to Mississippi.

While I’ve occasionally followed a bit of unsolicited advice (see long johns and cut-off jeans above), most of it falls on selectively deaf ears. My unsolicited advice to those who enjoy volunteering their opinion: If I don’t ask; don’t tell.

What’s the best/worst/strangest bit of unsolicited advice you’ve received?

Photo Credits: I found all sorts of advice-related paraphernalia on ETSY. “Take my advice, I’m not using it” sign available from pattisprimitives. “Watch Your Step” ID holder available from FrouFrouToo. “Eat Your Veggies” pillow available from alexandraferguson’s.

10 Responses to “88. Telling Folks What They Ought to Do”

  1. TrixiesMom March 22, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    I was subjected to plenty of Northeastern-style unsolicited advice in my life, but the best? “Don’t have sex with someone you don’t love.” It served me well from the time I got it, about age 25, when I had been married for 2 years, until now, married 21 years. You just never know when this kind of advice will come in handy.

    • Kim Holloway March 23, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

      That reminds me of something Sweet Potato Queen Jill Conner Browne wrote: “Always wear pretty underwear, on account of you just never know.”

  2. littlecackles March 23, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    The “best” advice Southerners give? How to properly raise your children. And it almost always starts off like this, “Well, it’s been a day or two… but when my John John was HIS age….” yep. I LOVE that kind of advice.

    • Kim Holloway March 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

      Thankfully, I’ve managed to avoid that whole category of unsolicited advice.

  3. 2blu2btru March 23, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    The best would probably it’s easier to maintain than to recover…especially when it comes to weight and credit. Similar, delayed gratification. The worst unsolicited advice could have been “get your psychology degree instead of English literature” after I’d met all the major requirements for English literature already and had set out a year. I never would have graduated. I’ve also been told how to lose weight, catch a husband (which always makes me think of hiding in the bushes with a tranquilizer gun, running after scared, fleeing men), do my hair, what to wear, where to go to school, how to breathe (yes, that’s a real one)…clearly, my family is Southern and I now live in the South; it’s a blessing and a curse. I’m sure I’ll think of all the really funny ones after I post this.

    • Kim Holloway March 23, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

      LOL! I love your tranquilizer gun scenario. There’s a B movie plot just waiting to be written.

      Only a Southerner would have the audacity to tell someone that they’re breathing the wrong way!

  4. Mary-Louise-Wehunt March 23, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Oh Hear! Oh Hear! The Southern’s favorite pastime . . . (falling off my chair over this post dearest. It’s so dead on!)

    • Kim Holloway March 23, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

      Thanks! Glad you liked it!

  5. Renee Mason March 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Kim, that ‘advice’ sign is so perfect; I will have to get it for The Spousal Unit’s desk. He’s from Georgia and he can spend hours of every day giving me mucho unsolicited advice about diet, nutrition, exercise, none of which he utilizes himself!!! Naturally.

    • Kim Holloway March 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

      Yep. I think Jesus said it best: “Why do you see the speck that’s in your brother’s eye and not notice the log that’s in your own?”

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