“Maybe I need a life coach,” a formerly sensible friend of mine said at lunch the other day. “Life coaches. Career coaches. They are really, really big.” Yeah, I know. I read all about it this weekend in the “Style” section of the New York Times.
The New York Times, by the way, might need a coach itself fairly soon–a journalism coach. In the last couple of weeks the paper of record has made two major flubs, about which you may have heard. One was running a page-one hand-wringing story about a man who claimed he was the prisoner shown in one of most dismaying photos from Abu Ghraib. He wasn’t. The Times’ explanation: the guy had told the same whopper to Vanity Fair, so they believed him too. Another story was about a woman who claimed she came from Biloxi, Mississippi, and that after Katrina she was mistreated by FEMA. Only trouble: She was a complete phony and cheat who had never lived in Biloxi. It seems no reporter had bothered to check. Duh!
But back to those life coaches who, according the Times, have become a favorite in Hollywood where performers, writers, and producers have traded in their therapists for these very personal trainers. What do these life coaches do exactly? Well, Paul Towle, a psychotherapist and life coach, told the Times, “The difference between life coaching and psychotherapy is that therapy is about helping people heal their wounds and coaching is about helping people achieve the highest level of their fulfillment or happiness or success, whether they’re wounded or not.” He reportedly makes $40,000 a month saying things like that to members of rock bands. Clearly, it’s a good gig.
Jeff Davis, a 30-year-old producer, told the Times he is very pleased with his coach, who, he said, has helped him get in touch with his “inner killer.” Nancy Noever’s coach helps her figure out “why I can’t put myself first.” Obviously life coaches, for their $100-a-phone-call fees, also teach their clients how to share their crassness and self-obsession with the press without blushing or considering how shallow they might sound.
But hey, shallowness nowadays is clearly bi-coastal. New York Magazine this week has a front page story on parents in their 30s and early 40s who look, talk, act, and dress as if they were -22–and darn proud of it. (By the way, anyone who has an adult child knows most 22-year-olds today act like they’re barely 15.) The article calls this “forever youngish” cohort “Grups” after a Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk lands on a planet ruled by children because there’s a strange virus and–actually, it doesn’t really matter. Our New York Gruppies, in their hoodies and their retro sneakers, have decided it is really very cool to remain childish even when they have children of their own.
I know the media in its endless search for what’s new, what’s “in,” and what’s hot, is always making a big to-do over very little. For example, remember “metrosexuals,” and how nowadays guys in great numbers–even straight guys–had supposedly fallen in love with grooming and non-stop shopping? Well, the two magazines launched with great fanfare for those “metrosexuals” have just folded because of lack of circulation. The lamented hordes of shopping-bag-toting men were more hype than reality.
So I only can hope that the rage for life coaches who encourage self-centered people to be even more self-centered, and parents who think they need play dates, are as much a media exaggeration as those two news gaffes in the Times.
But, just in case they are not, here is some advice that the best life coaches of all–mothers–often give: “Just stop always thinking about yourself! And, for goodness sake, grow up.”
–Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.