Yesterday’s post brought lots of good advice. I do not include the suggestion of frozen toast, which I assume was facetious.

This made me think about advice. I like advice. My job involves giving advice, of course. Sometimes I am really just required to confirm people’s decisions (“Oh yes, that yellow looks great with that border”), but there are many cases when people come back to tell me that my advice to them made a big difference in their son’s reading or their classroom management, or that they loved the book I recommended, and I find that gratifying.

I try to restrain myself from giving advice to people who don’t want it and haven’t asked for it, but it is a bad habit of mine, I know. I try not to give unwanted advice to my children, especially the grown-up ones. There are many comic strips and TV shows to remind us that people hate being given advice unless they ask for it. And it seems to be widely believed that women, especially, only want sympathy when they complain about something. They don’t want suggestions about how to fix it, we are told, just validation for their feelings.

But I like being given advice. I don’t know everything there is to know, and I like learning from other people. Other people who are less involved in our difficulties can often see things more clearly than we. And we can end up with more options. In fact, if I didn’t want suggestions, I probably wouldn’t mention a problem. Why bother?

In the matter of convenience foods, it seems pretty clear that they are not magic. Oh, the Schwan’s man is pretty magical, but otherwise it doesn’t actually seem to be faster or easier to use convenience foods than to make stir-fries or curries or to put something in the crockpot or the rice machine. That is, for things that I can imagine eating.

Pre-cut vegetables and bottled sauces or seasoning mixes seem like a worthwhile investment, and boneless chicken and ground beef. Apart from that, I obviously have to just suck it up and cook dinner.

Last night, in a spirit of experimentation, I did not cook dinner. My sister, after all, doesn’t cook dinner. Maybe she has given in and begun cooking by now, as it is some years since we discussed it, but last I heard, she just let everyone fend for him or herself.

So I said there were leftovers in the fridge, and told everyone to eat something. I had popcorn and fruit. #2 son went online to look for recipes, but gave up upon seeing the ingredients lists of the things that appealed to him, and said he wasn’t hungry. Eventually, my husband sent #1 son out for a sack of cheeseburgers. I recommended salad as a side dish. The boys laughed. It was clear that I had fallen down on the job. I am not sure how my sister arranges things, but we were all pretty disgruntled about my experiment. “We should have more chocolate,” said #2 son.

If we are to believe popular theories on how men and women communicate, I would only tell you this so that you can sympathize with me and validate my having failed to do my job (we have a division of labor at our house; my chores are seeing to the food and clothing, as in cooking and doing laundry, shopping, mending, and so on). I would want you to share your feelings about times when you have fed your family cold cereal for dinner. Of course, I am interested in your feelings and it is always nice when people sympathize with one and absolve one from wrongdoing (especially when we know that we were in the wrong, as in this case), but that would not be my communicative goal.

Actually, I liked the practical suggestions from yesterday. Does this make me masculine? Here is a some advice for men predicated on this view of male/female communication:

“Call her bluff – Women like to talk about “feelings” and say that they want us to talk about them too. The truth is that women have no interest in really knowing how we feel. What they really want is for us to shut up and to listen to them. Since real men have two “feelings” – hungry and gassy – wives really don’t care to hear about our emotional state.

When your wife starts using phrases such as “opening up”, “getting in touch with your feminine side”, and other nonsense she picked up from watching Oprah, just tell her what she thinks she wants to hear. Explain to her that you often have “body image” problems and that you occasionally feel the need to eat chocolate after your catty co-workers hurt your feelings. Finish this off by asking her to hold you while you “have a good cry.”

After that, you can rest assured that she’ll never ask you to share your feelings again. In fact, she’ll go out of her way to avoid getting to know too much about you. And that, after all, is the key to happy marriage. The less a wife knows about her husband the less there is to dislike.”

This is from The Evangelical Outpost, and is I assume intended to be humorous. But it is in the form of advice for a specific problem a man had mentioned: namely, that of having to talk with women who want to discuss feelings and/or vent about things with no actual plan to improve anything.

James Dobson, a quite famous guy in evangelical circles, had specific advice, not intended to be humorous, for women who were unhappy that their husbands didn’t talk with them enough: get girlfriends. Talk with your mother and your sister and the ladies at church, and leave your husband in peace to watch the ball game. When you really want him to do something, then you can talk to him, but otherwise, stick with the girls.

Well, I think I have done enough random chattering for the morning. Life is real, life is earnest, and the breakfast is not going to cook itself. I must got to the pharmacy before work, and obviously also to the grocery, armed with your excellent suggestions. Thanks again.