It appears to be an unchangeable facet of my personality, that like moths to flames, friends and acquaintances are drawn to me, in hopes I will help solve their problems. Why they do this is beyond comprehension. If ever there was a person less suited to be giving advice, it’s me. I don’t own real estate. I have few relationships. I know nothing about school schedules, cars, taxes, or weddings; yet I’ve been called in to consult on them all. I have approximately $6 in my checking account, but for some reason, my ears are sought out for conversations about money problems, most commonly having too much of it. I’ve never been seriously, legitimately romanced but for some reason on matters of the heart, my number appears to be on an emergency call list. It has occurred to me, in the past, when handing out my sage advice of platitudes, that maybe it has nothing to do with me. People just like talking about themselves. But the sheer number of requests for council gets so high, I immediately rethink it.
Should you think of me as some sort of glorious crutch to those in need, a steadfast friend, a white knight; I assure you I am not. I never make plans to see people, I’m flakey when I do, and I am a horrible gossip. Why people come to me, knowing these facts astounds me. When I am feeling especially critical, curmudgeonly, and loathing, I suspect that people tell me their problems as a way of back door bragging. A nice little epitaph on picking paint colors for the summer cottage to rub in my face can pass as seemingly innocent conversation. It’s the same idea of the billionaire complaining about how heavy his gold shoes are to his underpaid secretary.
“I can’t afford your problems.”
It’s a anomaly closely associated to the “first world problem” diatribe that makes people feel better by saying it: “Oh! Look! I’m self aware” but never actually makes them shut the hell up. This pandemic is more of a “first-person problem” when the main character has no idea what is going on in the rest of the story, focuses solely on his wants and needs; feelings of inadequacy in the reader be damned. While I never could fully get on board with the first word problem, we can’t all live our lives like we are lucky to not be living in war torn Bosnia- marvelling at every flower, every non-crumbled building, every non-arrest for political beliefs- I could totally get on board with the first person problem you know if I had any of the social acceptable problems to complain about to my “lesser” friends. So pretty much anything except my poverty, sexual frustration, loneliness, underemployment, or stymied self-expression.
“This tiara makes my neck so stiff.”
What makes the idea of a first world problem so inefficient in balancing the social order is that not one person who has uttered that phrase would ever be in contact with someone in a third world. No hipster teenager complaining about her ear-buds getting tangled in her feather earrings would ever mutter a sentence to the starving child of a war torn country, but rather, as fate would have it, to me.
“Ugh. You’re so lucky your love life is so uncomplicated.”
While I find it near impossible to crack five figures in my yearly wage, I can often see straight through to core of many people’s issues. I am no idiot savant, so how then is this possible? Is it because the issues are unreal? Probably. Does it help to point that out? Definitely not. But the fact is, much to my chagrin, I can usually say something meaningful. Which is- do what makes you happiest. If you have to pay more money, break more hearts, make a scene, fake a death, swindle, beg, borrow, or steal something, I give you my blessing as long as it makes you happier. Because dear friends reading this, you have the tools be happy. Many people do. They have lovers, and finances, houses, and space. Jobs with vacation days, savings accounts, support groups, or a close proximity to a marital aid store. Things can be bought, sold, crafted, or realized by these “first person” people, and that is what makes it frustrating when a ‘crisis’ is reported. Talk to me when you have love unrequited, dreams unfulfilled, and inescapable underperformance issues, wrapped up in the warm swaddle of perceived social indecency. In short I prefer to hear about the problems without a solution. Put those on display and then I’ll grab the tissues, the blankets, the worn out copy of Steel Magnolias and let you rant at me till my ears bleed.