Dear Anna, I love your column. I don’t have any pressing dating questions of my own at the moment, but I’m dying to know whether you follow your own advice. I’m not trying to be snarky or condescending, just curious about the whole practice-what-you-preach bit of advice-giving.
Anna says: Always. I’m infallible, like Chuck Norris in internet meme form.
It’s easy to give advice when you are removed from a situation. The solution is often quite clear, even when there is a complex emotional component involved. We think the question isn’t clear when we’re facing a dilemma, but it is. When we stumble over these problems, when we justify other people’s bad behavior or our own, we call it difficult because that lets us off the hook, even if just for a little while. If someone asked you for rapid-fire responses to questions that had been plaguing you — Should you stay with someone who doesn’t respect you? Should you do something scary to pursue your dreams? Should you stop talking to your ex until you get over her? Should you really buy that Creed CD? — I bet you’d be surprised how quickly the answers would crystallize.
That said, of course I don’t always follow my own advice, especially in regard to straight women. We’re still human. Our beliefs and desires have far more weight than our logic, I’m afraid. Not even logic, but our intuition, that deep down, fundamental feeling of right or wrongness that we mute when it doesn’t agree with something we really, really want. I’ve made all sorts of rationalizations in my own life. I’ve needlessly sexualized and ruined friendships. I’ve stayed with people who ceased loving me months earlier, and with people who never loved me at all. I’ve hurt people knowingly and intentionally.
Did I know those things were mean or dumb or pointless? Yes, every time. Did I still do them? Of course. But that awareness is always there. Sometimes it persists more strongly with age, sometimes with experience, sometimes as a means of self-preservation, but it’s up to you to listen to it. And when you mess up, when you do that next dumb thing, which you will because we inevitably all do it at some point, remember that it’s not an excuse to stop listening or reflecting. After all, 99 percent of the time, the right thing to do is not the easiest.
Put another way, by the very wise and sagacious Jewel, who reminded us back in this 2003 song: “Follow your heart, your intuition. It will lead you in the right direction.” At least, I think she said that. She was definitely wearing a red miniskirt, anyway.