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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guru hoodoo

Good gurus provide sound advice and insights into how to live well. Bad gurus, not so much.

But even good advice from a good guru can be problematic if it’s misunderstood.

Take this example from the files of sex advice columnist Dan Savage. A reader recently complained that her boyfriend nodded in agreement during therapy sessions they attended to get over an affair she had, but did a 180 later because of something he heard in a Dan Savage podcast. She signed her letter as "Your No-Good Counsel."

Could this be any more complicated? They’re not married. She cheated. He’s a flip-flopper. And it’s all an advice columnist’s fault.

Savage said it sounded like the boyfriend was still angry, which was understandable, but also jerking her around because he can’t forgive her, which was unjustifiable.

Sounds to me as though what’s going on is a romance novel being playing out in the flesh. Of course, while we all know a romance novel with these elements would have a happy ending, there’s no telling where things will lead in the real world.

Which may be one reason romance novels are so popular.

At any rate, I’m glad I caught this installment of “Savage Love,” not because I like reading about other people’s sadness, but because the reason behind this couple’s sadness is very much like the reason Fast Lane’s hero and heroine get together in the first place.

Lara is convinced her marriage broke down not because her ex is a jerk, but because he was influenced by this jerk Clay Creighton, whose advice seems to give men the right to treat women like objects. That makes Lara so angry she burns with the desire for revenge.

Which, to me, sounds a lot like what’s going on in Your No-Good Counsel’s mind.

Good advice misunderstood can be a problem. But good advice intentionally taken out of context and twisted around to justify bad behavior is a lot worse.

Of course, “worse” is a good thing when it comes to creating dramatic tension in fiction. You just have to wish it didn’t happen so often in real life.

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