Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Relationship Experts

Enough is enough. The word "expert" has become so overused, it no longer means anything. The dictionary defines an expert as "one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject"; with a definition so nebulous, we shouldn't wonder why people are taking liberties with this word. I'm trying, of course, not to blame the word itself, just as I try not to take out my frustrations on poor "closure" for its absurd overuse. I can't say for certain, though, what I'd do if I met closure on the street.

"Joining us now is Mitch Fwump, an expert on lobotomized fraternal twins born on different days because one was born at 11:59pm and the other was born at 12:01am..."

Amid the "terrorism experts", "European political experts", "urinary tract infection experts" and "experts on spoiled fruit" emerges the bane of our era, the biggest fraud of them all, the "relationship expert." You've seen them pontificate on television, heard them elucidate on the radio and you know they know everything, understand everything, foresee everything. From Dr. Phil--who we ought to kill--and Dr. Laura--who's such a bore-a--to any number of anonymous loudmouths telling you how to raise your kids, find your true love or settle disputes, these people know you better than you know yourself. Just ask them.

If you do ask them, there are many words to describe you and expert ain't one of them. Unfortunately, people with problems--which is all of us--often don't want to discuss matters with relevant parties or consult a true professional, either because they fear doing so might make them appear weak or crazy or because they simply can't afford it. So many of them turn to these TV or radio know-it-alls who offer solutions emphasizing brevity and catchiness far more than science or sense. It could be time for a "reality check" or maybe you just need to "deal with it" or perhaps the best move is to "get over it". I heard a child psychologist on a morning news show declare that parents should never admit to the wilder or riskier things they did during their own teenage years because the child will perceive this as a green light to do whatever he or she wants. I thought this was stupid not because it's necessarily incorrect, but because it implies there's a handbook on parenting most of us haven't read, that there's only one way to raise children and that all children react the same to certain sets of circumstances. That's nonsense.

I don't know how to raise your child; I have no kids of my own and even if I did, I couldn't promise what worked for me would work for you. I can't tell you how to settle your differences with a co-worker or lover or friend or family member. But I do know this: I'd sooner ask a friend, a parent or anyone who'd met me more than once for a few seconds than trust my life decisions to some pompous talking head who presumes his answers to questions of the hearts and minds of human beings are universal.

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