April 13, 2008

I'm all for second opinions

Kylie Minogue has revealed that the first doctor she saw failed to diagnose her breast cancer and she urged women to get a second opinion. "If you have any doubt go back again," she said. Seconds later hypochondriacs around the world began to panic. What if that freckle really is cancer? What if the doctor was watching football while reading my blood test results?

I'm all for second opinions. And not just for medical matters. Second opinions in general are a good idea. Especially when they confirm what I want to hear. Then when they don't, I disregard them. Where's the down side?

If Eliot Spitzer had gotten a second opinion on whether having sex with a 22 year-old hooker was wise, he might have saved himself thousands of dollars and his career.

I suppose in order for a second opinion to be effective you have to believe someone knows more than you do. I was with a friend in a store and she tried on a coat. "I like it," she said. "What do you think?" I told her I thought it wasn't flattering. Just then, she put it back. This made me uncomfortable. I shouldn't have that much influence. What do I know? I'm not a fashion stylist.

Unless you're an expert, I'm not sure how much a second opinion should count. A second opinion from a neurosurgeon on whether to get brain surgery? Take it on board. A second opinion from a friend who's cranky and ready to go home? Not so much.

Also the subject you're asking for an opinion on determines how candid someone will be. "In my opinion you shouldn't have crab cakes" doesn't carry as much responsibility as, "you should get a divorce."

It's important too to distinguish that there's a big difference between a second opinion and an unsolicited opinion. A man from the shade company came to my flat the other day to measure. I was explaining to him that I wanted a cord with a cleat to tie it. He made a face and suggested I get the chain. I told him I liked the cord. "I prefer the chain." He said. I stared at him. "That's nice," I said. "But since we're not getting married, I'll take the cord."

In spite of the fact that everyone's got an opinion there are certain things I've found it's difficult to get a second opinion on. For instance, when I bite into something that tastes funny. I'll hold out my fork and say, "This is disgusting. Does this taste rotten to you?" Not many people will offer to help with that.

I'm always looking for second opinions. Did you hear that? Do you smell that? Does it smell weird? Generally the answer is a resounding: no.

Not that it matters. I'm not the kind of person who is easily swayed. This could be because I assume that when someone is giving a second opinion, they're not really putting a lot of thought into it. Especially when it comes to relationships.

Here's a question no woman will answer honestly: what did you think of him? Friends say what they think you want to hear. But I can tell when a friend doesn't approve of someone because they'll only mention the way he looks.

"He's cute."

And?

"Tall."

And??

"Good posture."

Only when it's over will I find out what they really thought. "I knew right away he was a feckless, selfish, delusional, Communist." I love when that happens. But then sometimes, I get defensive. Just in case he and I end up getting back together.

If like me, you're an indecisive person, a second opinion will invariably lead to a third opinion. Which leads to a fourth opinion to split the difference. And if the fourth opinion creates a tie, a fifth opinion is needed to break it. It's a slippery slope.

Sadly, the things in life I'd really love a second opinion on, I'll never be able to get. For example, when a man says: I missed you. Does he mean it? If only I could ask his therapist for a second opinion.