Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Why Don’t You Just Act Your Age!?

Have you ever had someone say something to you that just stuck with you? A compliment, or more likely something not-so-complimentary? Something that was dead on or way off base?

I had that happen a few years ago and I alluded to it here. The funny (or sad) thing is that the conversation that I am referring took place so long ago and was probably so inconsequential to the person that said it that they have no memory of it at all. And yet, it still niggles at me…

I cannot recall the exact parameters of the conversation, what spawned it, or why it escalated. I do remember that I actually went into the restaurant feeling good about life, and myself, and my outfit, and by the time I left, I was so mad that all I wanted to do was cry.

Someone very close to me, or maybe I should say someone who should be close to me, took it upon herself that night to tell me everything I should do to fix my life. Bear in mind that I saw nothing wrong with my life (still don’t) and didn’t ask for advice or complain about anything that would have warranted such advice. But by God, she thought I was in a rut and was going to fix me and I was going to sit there and listen.

By the time the appetizers hit the table, she had pointed out how I had been at the same job for years and should move on. Not because I was unhappy, or because I wasn’t doing well in my job, but because no one (meaning her) stays at a job that long.

When the salads arrived, she was telling me how I needed to stop hanging out with my husband, a man whom I love and who is my best friend. She said I needed to “get out there and mingle.” This from someone whose marriage was in trouble and who had taken to going out bar hopping with friends.

She proceeded to tell me over Chicken Parmigiano how everything I do in my spare time was worthless and that I should find some “age-appropriate” hobbies.  To this day I am not sure which hobbies she was referring to… Was it writing? reading? quilting? I have seen people of all ages do these things with great success and enjoyment. Yes, even quilting, something that has been long delegated a grandmotherly thing to do. Many new books on the topic are being written by young fabric artists with a modern approach to this classic art form.

By the time our coffee arrived, I needed a make-over, complete wardrobe change and hairstyle. That would fix everything. Remember I actually had walked into the restaurant feeling pretty good? 🙂

I must admit I was stumped by the whole conversation. Multiple attempts to change the subject were ignored, and I ended up leaving the restaurant with tears in my eyes. As I drove home, I ranted in the car, alone, and yelled out retorts that were late in coming. I have always been that way. Confrontation tends to freeze my thoughts and I can never sift through the brain sludge to come up with an appropriate comeback until the moment is long past.

I didn’t speak to this person for many weeks, and when we finally did, instead of bringing up the whole bizarre incident, I followed her lead and just pretended like it never happened. But it still bothers me. Obviously. 🙂

What makes a person think that they are the expert of your life? What makes them render unsolicited advice and belittle every aspect of your life? Is it jealousy or sheer arrogance? How can someone misunderstand you and your life so completely, but still feel that they should control it?

You will be happy to know that I haven’t stopped quilting. I am actually quite addicted to it and find it very relaxing. I have not stopped reading. And I haven’t stopped writing. I still hang out with my best friend and husband every chance I get. 🙂 And I still don’t feel like something is real until I can share it with him. While this conversation still echos in my mind and still raises my hackles, I am happy to report that I didn’t follow any of the advice I was given. I didn’t start bar hopping, quit my job or my marriage.

It has taken practice but I have lessened the influence this person has on my life. I wish our relationship was different, more like it was when we were younger, but I can accept that sometimes in order to have peace in your life, you have to know when to cut ties with some people. And if you can’t completely walk away from them, learn to weigh the baggage that they drop at your feet and at least be able to walk away from that.

Have you ever been given advice you didn’t ask for? Did you take it?


  1. Colette

    Somehow, I don’t think this person was criticizing your life, I think she was seeing what was missing in her own. Unfortunately, it seems to me, that she could not admit to herself why your life bothered her so much that she felt it necessary to try to disrupt your obviously happy, loved and full life. Occasionally someone has given me unasked for advice / criticism, it is usually hurtful in some way or another. In retrospect, I have been fortunate enough to have found my way through the hurtful part (many times with the help of my best friend and fabulous husband) to understanding that the unasked for advice was generally someone else’s impression from their limited and subjective view of my life through their eyes and experience, not that they have my job or my life to deal with. These few persons for some reason actually expected me to change something about myself or my life circumstance that I had no desire or need to change and expected me to agree to do it posthaste just because they decided to inform me of my flaw(s).
    I am certainly glad it does not happen too often, or when it does come around, the person with the advice is so far off base that he does it with everyone else so the impact is minute and gives credence to the saying ” free advice is worth what it cost”.
    Love your writing, glad you share!

    • Thank you Colette!! I have come to understand that you alright though at the time the personal attack made me feel pretty worthless. I do think that this stemmed from parts of her life that felt empty. I don’t know that she will ever allow herself to realize that consciously but it has helped me heal to know this. 🙂

  2. What an unhappy unfulfilled person she must be

    • Thanks Pamela. It took me a long time to fully realize that most of the time when someone attacks you, it is because they are miserable. My heart goes out to her and I hope she finds a life that makes her happy.

  3. Oh yes, and oh no!

    • Good for you! Don’t take unsolicited advice, especially when it goes against your heart.

  4. Great post Cheryl. I find that the unsolicited advice has been given much more now that we are small business owners. I have to say… I always listen. Then I weed through and determine if the advice is valuable. Then I do what I want anyway! Your life, your rules.

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