No sooner do I write an essay about unsolicited advice than I catch myself doling it out. Every rule has its exception.
I was at a barbeque with friends when one half of a couple explained in great detail their options for moving in together and eventual retirement. They are a wonderful pair; the news was welcome and sweet. Except I noticed the other half, my direct friend, didn’t contribute a word to the conversation. Were these ambitious plans mutual, or one man’s fantasy?
I woke the next morning thinking about my fraternity brother John, who met and married a woman on the rebound. We didn’t like Debra. Several of us considered talking to John about his hasty commitment, but none of us felt we should intervene, so we didn’t. They married. She made his life, and his death, miserable. I’ll never know if a word from me would have made a difference. I only know I never tried, and John’s last days were fraught with physical and mental abuse that exceeded our worst fears.
With that sticky memory in mind, I composed a note to my friend whose partner was so enthusiastic, perhaps too much so, about life together. Like any guy-guy communication regarding matters of the heart, my words fell awkward on the screen; simultaneously too intimate and too cavalier. I apologized in advance for even broaching the subject; I expressed worry that my friend’s and his partner’s future vision might not be in accord. I iterated that, as my personal friend, I was most concerned about his happiness. It was a sloppy mash-up, but I hit ‘Send’ anyway.
The next day my friend responded, casually unaware that he and his partner even appeared discordant. He was tired and distracted the night of the party but, yes, they are both looking forward to making a more permanent life together.
I’m happy for them. I also feel a little silly. Maybe I should mind my own business. I rationalize that, as unsolicited advice goes, mine was pretty mild. More like unsolicited concern. I rest better knowing my friend is truly happy. And hope he rests better knowing I care enough to worry about him.