There are a lot of reasons that advice grates, one being that sometimes--most of the time--we just want people to listen. I tend to frame advice in the context of, 'this worked out well for me, don't know if this was already on your radar' or something similar. If anything, I tend to err on the side of assuming that people know things, where a suggestion might be helpful. But there is something super-galling about advice that presumes a greater-than-average level of ignorance.
And yet! Why should I care that, say, some random person on the street thinks I'm stupid? As the author said, if you want to change behavior, nodding or saying something generic won't get you there. I think with randos I do tend to smile and nod and whatever. But I digress. I was thinking about why my father's various antics so irked me. And, as with not appreciating it when someone presumes you're stupid, I don't appreciate it when my father implies that he's not impressed with how I'm living my life.
With both parents, there was no winning at the phone call game. If I wasn't home on a Saturday night, I'd get a message about where was I and how I should call back immediately to confirm I was okay. If I was home, why was I home on a Saturday night? My parents somehow tended to call me at the times I was busiest and/or most tired, to talk about nothing. I love my parents but I was never one for phone calls to begin with, and I never enjoyed talking on the phone with them. I don’t enjoy small talk in person and on the phone, it’s torture. My parents’ particular brand of torture includes, among other things, not only starting the ‘what did you do at school today’ conversation but pushing it in spite of all evidence that it’s going nowhere. My parents are awful at picking up on signals, which makes the conversation that much more insufferable.
So it was a weeknight, I think, a day or two before an early morning flight—and of course I hadn’t packed—that my parents called and drew out a conversation. They asked about the washer, and I said it was resolved but it was a nightmare, and that I didn’t want to talk about it. Nevertheless,
Mom: what exactly happened?
A.: I don’t want to talk about it.
Dad: Did they try to screw you over on price?
A.: I said I didn’t want to talk about it!
There was nothing deeper then, no hidden insecurity. My frustration was born out of a combination of exhaustion and annoyance at having to have this conversation, and at my father's failure to register the meaning of "I don't want to talk about it."
Dad: what did you do today?
A.: mostly errands. Got my car jumped, drove it around.
Dad: why is the cat so sleepy? It’s only 9. Oh yeah, that’s your bedtime.
A.: it is not my bedtime.
Dad: did it used to be your bedtime?
I did not say, I go to bed whenever the fuck I want; I shoot for 10ish, because I don’t sleep past 5am. Occasionally when I’m super exhausted, I’ll go to bed around 9. I’m an adult and I don’t have to justify my bedtime to you. If I did what you do—which is fall asleep on the couch at midnight and then eventually go to bed and still wake up at the crack of dawn—I couldn’t function.
Dad: what else did you do today?
Why do this? I'm not withholding any information. If I'd done anything worth talking about, I would have disclosed it. I don't feel bad about having a lazy weekend. I'm tired, I do shit during the week, I have things to take care of. Leave me the fuck alone. You're the one who insists we talk every night; I'm not going to have something to say at that frequency. Just be content with staring at the cat.