Dear reader, I need your advice. Unless you’re a man, you have no idea the pain it causes me to admit this. I have quite literally exposed my throat to you. I am so vulnerable at this moment. Please be gentle.
Actually, it doesn’t bother me in the least to approach you for help. Unlike a lot of guys out there – and bear in mind that I hate to set myself up as a “maverick”, especially these days – asking for advice has never been much of a problem for me.
I think it’s because I’m Jean Luc Picard fan. You know, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Remember? One of the few bald and famous men that most women my age want to “get with”. Being a Picard fan automatically makes me NOT a James T. Kirk fan. These two Starship captains are diametrically apposed archetypes of the human male. If you are unsure of the distinction between the two, have a look at the comparisons linked here and here. Go ahead, check them out, I’ll wait.
Now, it should only take a brief reading of either list to learn that Picard is the archetypal modern western male: educated, diplomatic, and team-oriented. On the other hand, Kirk is a traditional man’s man; sort of a shoot-from-the-hip-Marlboro-man-of-yesterday’s-tomorrow type of guy. While each has their fan-base in the Trekky world, I believe that most guys out there, regardless if they even watch Star Trek, are Kirk fans.
Why’s that? Well, take, for instance, Kirk’s method of decision making: he doesn’t have one. Whatever his gut tells him to do, he does. He rarely defers to crew members for their opinions about the crisis at hand. Oh sure, he may quietly approach Spock or Bones, but that’s simply to solidify the choice he has already made. As one online comparison states: “Kirk was a leader of followers. That’s the only reason he (almost) got away with it.” I’m not entirely sure what Kirk was supposed to have gotten away with, but that’s beside the point.
On the other hand, Picard, when it comes to making decisions, takes a much different road. At a crises point, he sits all the senior officers around the table and asks their opinion. Only after hearing from each officer does he make his decision. I’ve always admired this method of decision making. And that’s why I have never shied away from asking people for advice; the exception of course, being to stop for directions. On that matter, I enjoy nothing more than getting a little lost on a Sunday afternoon.
In fact, these days, I have friends that I go to for advice on specific topics. I have a friend for advice on construction and home improvement. I have a friend for business etiquette advice. I have several friends I go to for advice on writing and poetry. I have a friend who I can always count on for solutions to my computer woes. Finally, I have a friend who can give me the best ideas on things like cutting a deal with my tenants or how to get free cable. This not to mention my membership at Pay Per Law, which for a monthly fee gives me unlimited access to a lawyer on anything from copyright issues to credit card contracts. As anyone can see, I don’t consider it a blow to my ego to ask for advice. Moreover, I may very well be a bit of an advice slut. My question is: why not go to the people who know?
For other guys, however, asking for advice is a humbling exercise, second only to crying. Captain James T. Kirk would NEVER ask for help. In fact he’d rather destroy the ship and its crew before emasculating himself in such a way. For men, it is not only a blow to their ego, it’s as if they are revealing a weakness, a chink in there armour. When guys hug one another, there has to be some added punching and hitting, just to demonstrate that they are still men. And when guys ask for advice, I’ve learned that a jibe or a barb has to be thrown in to let the advice-giver know that he/she isn’t dealing with a eunuch (apologies to any eunuchs reading this).
Take for example, my steady weight loss over the previous year. Anyone who has seen me in the last three months can’t deny the difference in my appearance. This may sound like bragging, but fifty pounds is fifty pounds. In the last three months, no matter what social setting, I have been asked repeatedly how I shed the weight. This has happened so often, in fact, I was tempted to make up little business cards with dietary instructions listed on them. Out of the countless people who’ve asked me for advice on how to lose weight, only three of them were men. Funny thing about the most recent male query: it wasn’t until a couple of hours after he approached me that I realize had actually asked me for advice. While all the women have been clear and direct with their questions such as “How did you lose so much weight?” or “Could you write down for me what you eat?”, this gentleman posed his question as follows: “So, how much did it cost you for your makeover?” Wherefore I told him that food prices aren’t so dear if one shops at No Frills and in Chinatown. Only after I got home did it come to me that this guy wanted to know exactly what women had been asking me, but having to ask it directly would have been too much of a blow to his pride, without the backhanded slant. And who knows? Perhaps if he’d asked me a question directly, he would have benefited from the proper advice.
Even more exasperating, is that there has been one or two occasions where I, minus fifty pounds, have had to sit and listen to dietary advice from male friends who have been struggling with their weight for years. Really though, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise because Captain James T. Kirk doesn’t take advice, he only gives orders and kills or screws anything green.
And herein lays the problem: to ask for advice is to admit that you are not Kirk, but Picard. And face it, deep down inside, all men, even myself at moments of weakness, admire Captain James T. Kirk as the man they’d like to be: strong, independent, virile, and fear Jean Luc Picard as the man they actually are: bald, book-smart, and fond of Earl Grey Tea.
In conclusion, my advice on asking for advice, if you’ll allow it, is to treat your query like a compliment. Yes, a compliment. People love to talk about what they know. As men, you should already be aware of this. Giving compliments might seem a bit weird to you, but since you all insist on being the swashbuckling Captain of the Enterprise, I will go one step further and advise you to imagine the person you are approaching as a little green female alien. Little green female aliens are by and large harmless, and as every manly Captain knows, love receiving compliments.