There are experts, and there are “experts”. The two are very different, and the latter tends to piss me right off. For example, I’ve had a wedding. I’ve just had the one, and while I know a lot about what it took to plan my wedding, I would never profess to be an expert on the subject. If someone had a question for me about how I did something or where I found something that we used, I would be more than happy to share with them, but I’m not going to go out of my way to give advice to people who are a) probably planning a completely different wedding than what we had and b) not asking for it.
My wedding planner, on the other hand, is an expert. His job is weddings. He’s hired to give out advice on the subject all the time. Anyone who deals with weddings on a regular basis, be they a photographer, cake artist, caterer or co-ordinator, has the right to the title of expert. They have worked with all types of weddings and are very good at adapting to the needs of their various clients. They are paid to give their opinions to the couples that are hiring them.
When we were planning our wedding, we got a ton of unsolicited advice from people who had gotten married. They had one wedding, and this made them a total pro on the subject of weddings. It was like magic! A single life experience gave them some kind of invisible license to mete out knowledge to every other couple they knew who were planning a wedding of their own. The thing with our wedding was this: most of the other weddings we knew about were going to be nothing like ours, and we were happy to keep it that way.
We didn’t need advice on a what order people should stand in at the receiving line; we weren’t having one. I didn’t need to be e-mailed eight different styles of bustle, as my dress wasn’t long enough to touch the floor. Thank you so much for the advice on what type of veil will work best for my hair, but as I’ve mentioned a million times before, I’m not wearing one. We didn’t have a DJ, either, so all the recommendations for professional DJ services got thrown in the trash.
I know. People were trying to be helpful. They probably thought that I would pore over every piece of information they gave me with a fine tooth comb because it was saving me from having to find things myself. Honestly, though, it was a pain in the ass and it got to be very stressful.
There were a few people in particular who just refused to let up, in spite of all my subtle hints that we were doing just fin on our own. Some of the worst of it was probably all the budgeting advice. We had a budget clearly laid out. $2500 was set aside for my dress and all the attendant accessories and any alterations; I was constantly told how I could get a gorgeous dress for under $500. Sure, if I find one I love in that price point, great! If not, I’m not going to feel bad about spending what I have. If we needed to save money on centre pieces, person X had a tone of vases we could use (never mind the fact that they didn’t match what we were going for at all). Person Y had a veil I could have. Person Z knew a cheap photographer… and on and on and on.
It doesn’t just happen with weddings, either. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, people who have a chronic illness are very prone to getting “expert” advice from all sides. Friends, family, random strangers at the pharmacy… I can’t even begin to remember all the times I’ve had to force a wooden smile on to my face, nod and brush off whatever it is a particular person is saying to me.
One of my favourites starts with, “I had a migraine once and I did…” Oh, you had a migraine, one time, and you’re going to tell me how to handle it? I will definitely take what you’re going to say to heart, because it must be better than the years of experience amassed between me, my neurologist, my general practitioner and my cardiologist. Your once migraine (if that’s even what it was) obviously gave you special insight in to the lives of those of us who live with this illness every day. Please, continue. Tell me more.
Once again, they think they’re trying to help, but more often than not, anything they have to say comes across as pitying and touched with a hint of condescension, as if the fact that they have to share their special trick with me means I’ve been doing myself a disservice in some way. Here’s the thing: I’ve tried it all. There is nothing new you could possibly suggest that could be of any help. If you don’t believe me, here’s a list:
- Tests for MS, multiple autoimmune disorders and epilepsy have been done and they all came back negative.
- I’ve had a bubble study and a TEE (trans-esophageal echo-cardiogram, or camera down the throat) to check my heart for holes and abnormalities. There’s nothing wrong with it.
- I did acupuncture for years, and it was great at managing my stress.
- Wholistic medicine? I’ve been there and tried it, with no results.
- Chiropractic treatments made it worse. No, I don’t care that your cousin’s best friend was “cured” by their chiropractor. They are not me.
- I’ve tried many, many special diets. I’m never giving up cheese again, but thanks for asking.
- I already have a headache journal, thanks. It used to include what time I took my meds, what my pain level was and every time I went to the bathroom, to the minute. It was very helpful in identifying triggers (this is usually when I get a blank look because they don’t know what triggers are).
- I would love to try getting more sleep. Unfortunately, my chronic insomnia makes that pretty impossible. Thanks for the suggestion anyway.
- I exercise as much as I’m able, but when you only have one functioning leg, going out for walks is a bit of a struggle.
I’ve also been told I shouldn’t colour my hair, I should avoid air conditioning, I should give up my cell phone and, most absurdly, I needed to stop listening to music and playing video games. Right. Because taking music out of the equation, on of my biggest sources of stress relief, is going to help anyone. I don’t think people understand, sometimes, that I don’t listen to blasting techno when I have migraine pain. I have more common sense than that.
My mum isn’t immune to these people, either. She was my primary caregiver for a long time, and frequently had to leave work to take care of me, so many of her staff members know about my condition. This means that she gets almost as many suggestions on how to “fix” me as I do, and she’s just as intolerant of it as I am. Still, she does her best to tune it out or take it in the spirit in which it was intended. It does get to be a lot, though.
Then, naturally, we decided to make the silly decision to go an have a baby. What were we thinking? Oh, I know: we were thinking that it was our lives, our pregnancy, and people would stay the hell out of it. Wrong! There are just as many pregnancy “experts” as there are for anything else. This may sound harsh, but just because you have one baby doesn’t make you the knower of all things pregnancy and infant. You’re still a new parent. You have no idea about what’s going on with my body or my life, so please. Just go away.
If only it were that simple. I have several genuine experts in my life. My general practitioner, two wonderful OB/GYNs and my mum. My mum has been a gynecology, obstetric and post-partum nurse for over thirty years. My husband and I live in the basement suite of my parents house (they help out with my chronic illness), so I literally have a live in gyne nurse whenever I need her. Am I having weird pain? She can check it out! Do I need an IV for my stupid dehydration? She can do that! Do I need a bunch of first time mommies telling me how to run my body? NO!
Me and pregnancy is a tricky subject as it is. Most people who have more than one child and have been parenting for years wouldn’t be able to give me relevant advice. So please, explain to me why a bunch of new mums feel the need tell me what to do? I actually had one of these women, after meeting me one time and hearing a little bit about my illness, subsequently tell me that she didn’t think it was a good idea if Shawn and I had kids. Thanks for that.
So, what is my point with all this (other than to rant about it and get it off my chest)? If you haven’t been trained for something, if you haven’t lived with something for over half your life, and if a certain person is not asking for your advice or opinion, keep it to yourself. Not only are you annoying the person you’re trying to “help”, you’re making yourself look like a know-it-all jackass who actually doesn’t know a hell of a lot. It may also come across like you’re trying to push or force your beliefs or opinions on others, and no one likes that. People who are planning their weddings and having their first babies share because they happen to be excited. They don’t share because they want the whole world to tell them what to do.
I don’t understand the need of so many people to stick their heads (and voices) in to the lives of those around them. Do they really not have anything better to do with their days? I would say that this is a result of how much social media we have going on now, but things have been like this for me long before social networking was a thing. It’s probably more closely related to our need for some sort of spectacle, no matter how small. Why do so many people like watching reality TV or reading gossip rags? The desire to be inside other peoples lives when their life seems to be lacking in some way is over whelming. That is my theory.
I suppose that also says a lot about me. I’m not one for handing out unsolicited advice. I don’t really like gossip. Are there things that other people do that I don’t approve of? Of course, but I talk about them with my husband and my mum, not the entire world. Occasionally, I will post something a little ranty on Facebook, but with this blog, that’s bound to stop. I know when people have huge blow-up in their Facebook status that I find it petty and ridiculous, so I need to stop being a hypocrite.
What do you guys think? Do more people need to keep their “expertise” to themselves or is over sharing with other people who are going through a similar experience just another way to connect with those around you? I would love to hear some thoughts on this one, so leave them in the comments section. Personally, I think all the “experts” need to take a break and go back to living their lives. There’s something to be said for leaving well enough alone.