I pontificate on here fairly often. This site is my very own Hyde Corner, Presidential podium, and Raving Loony bus seat. I can say what I like, and sometimes I try to say things that I think are helpful. You could call it thoughtful, well-reasoned, kindly advice from someone who has not only been around the block a few times, but gone through several re-paving campaigns. You could also call it nonsense, but I don’t have to approve those comments. Heh.

I spent a couple hours at the local Marshall’s today, picking up a few summer clothing items. The conversations in the fitting rooms are usually pretty interesting. This was one of them, speaking of advice:

Middle-Aged Mom: Oh, now that one is nice. Let me see. Turn around.

Teen Daughter: I don’t like it.

Mom: Everything you get is cheap-looking. This dress is classy. Trust me, you’ll get lots of compliments. It’s classy.

Daughter: I feel weird in this.

Mom: This is the one. Just look at it, it’s cut so well. Can’t you see the difference?

Daughter: It’s gross!

Mom: (speaking more sharply) Well, I know it doesn’t have any rips or holes in it for you.

Daughter: It’s for an old woman.

Mom: (raising her voice somewhat) Whatever. It would be the nicest thing in your closet. I tried. You can go looking like trash.

At that point, I left with my purchases before the mother’s ears started smoking and the daughter “accidentally” tore out the dress zipper.

Sigh. Mom, Mom, Mom. Don’t you know? The only way your kid is going to buy that dress now is if you make her, and she’ll pout the whole time. Your advice might have been completely right, but this is what your daughter heard:

Mom: You have terrible taste and you embarrass me. You can’t tell something good from something bad, and I can’t trust you to make your own decisions. I don’t really care about how you feel or what you like; I care about how you make me look to others.

Maybe you didn’t mean it that harshly, but that’s what she’s going to take away from your comments. Mom also forgot that when someone is wearing something that is not only flattering but is something the wearer feels good about, you notice the person and her confidence and happiness, not just the garment. It’s not easy, Mom, I know. Long day in the fitting room.

I’ve been thinking about advice all week, reading quite a bit of it from all kinds of people. I don’t know that I am particularly good about taking advice; in fact, I may be particularly averse to it, because I am stubborn and I like to figure things out for myself. However, every so often I come across something – maybe once in a few months or years even, from the most random places and people – that sets off the Swiss Mountain Bell Ringers Family Band in my head, and I go OH MAH GAWD, and something changes in me. Sometimes, I follow advice.

A few days ago, I posted the completely excellent 2008 Harvard commencement speech from author J.K. Rowling, because I thought it was not only heartfelt, but smart, elegant, and useful. Another place I will direct you is CNBC’s article, “The 10 Best Graduation Speeches of All Time.” Why? I guess because the nature of these speeches is for the assembled to intake a summary of what some very accomplished people want to pass on as advice. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes dramatic, sometimes both, but I think what they really turn out to be is much more than a few minutes of sage entertainment for a passel of antsy college kids. These are the words these honored folk want to leave the world, in a sense, the best of what they know, what they might want to be remembered for. What they say and how they say it tells quite a bit about them as people, I think…for better or worse. Anyway, take some time to read them, BECAUSE I SAID SO.

Even better than FINALLY fitting into a pair of Seven jeans today in my fitting room was hearing from a young friend earlier in the day. I hadn’t heard how he was faring for several months, and knew that things had been up and down for him for awhile. Sometimes, you don’t hear from people because they don’t want to tell you bad news or burden you or just tell you nothing at all has changed. Today, the news was good: he re-enrolled in college, is doing well, saving money, and is only a few months from finishing up and heading towards his MBA.

“You are partially responsible for me going back.”

He can’t even know how honored I was to hear that and how happy I was for him, and how proud. He is a kind and smart young man, and has much to look forward to.

You just never know about the whole Swiss Mountain Bell Ringers Family Band thing. Pretty cool.