This is a thoughtful thing to do for people who might be expecting bad or serious news. My family got in the habit when Grannybarb was really sick, and every time my phone rang I was terrified that it was a Serious Call.
So when we just wanted to chat, my mom and sisters and would text the other person ahead of time, so we knew that it wasn’t serious and we didn’t have to drop everything to take it/steel ourselves emotionally/get to a place where we could flip out if need be.
We still need a few volunteers — if you’re interested and can be in Salem, Ore. on September, 20, email firstname.lastname@example.org. BECAUSE WE HAVE RAD PIONEER OUTFITS FOR EVERYONE. Oh, and if you want to form a four-person team, there are still a few tickets left!
If your buddy has just told you about something really embarrassing that he did, or complained about her stupid boss, or told you about how his last apartment was a nightmare, do not say any of the following:
"I’ve got an even better one."
"Something even worse happened to me!"
Story-sharing is not a competition. Let your friends tell their stories, and then you can tell yours. But do not try to tell anyone that your experiences are more hilarious or awkward or painful. If they are, people will figure it out on their own. And if they’re not, who cares? Just tell your stories and have a good time.
“When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.””—How to Be Polite, by Paul Ford. Run, don’t walk.
Step 326: Pick up the bill when you go out to eat with your parents
This is a small gesture that works like a champ. You don’t have to do it every time, obviously, but it implies many things, all good:
a) You have enough money that a dinner is not a big deal; b) You don’t treat your relationship with your parents as one in which resources flow in one direction, and one direction only and; c) You are capable of pulling off sneaky but benevolent power plays. For that last one, go up to the host halfway through the meal and slip them your card, saying, “my parents will try to pay, so please just put the meal on this.”
Seriously, go check your windows right now. Because if I had, I’d still have my laptop and all my pictures from the past three years.
Also, if you are the person who broke into my house, rifled through things, stole my laptop, perfume, rad vintage purse and general sense of safety in my home, I am putting the following low-stakes curses upon you:
I hope you stub your toe every single hour on the hour until you die.
You will have the highest expectations for every one of your birthdays and they will never pan out, but not for obvious reasons — it’s just that no one is really feeling it.
May all your poops be disappointing and/or unsettling.
You will meet a woman (or man) who is so utterly perfect for you, and s/he will be your everything, and for a week or so they’ll feel the same but deep down something is nagging at them. And you can sense this, but you just push ahead because God, you’ve never felt like this before. But then, out of the blue, s/he will look at you, say simply, “I’m sorry,” and walk out of your life. And what you will never, ever know is that s/he finally realized what the problem was. It will never work out because you resemble her uncle.
From the ole inbox: A friend (or two) of mine and I wanna get our own place. Aside from cost (rent is TOO DAMN HIGH), what do we need to look out for or know?
An excellent question! Here we go:
Before you are ready to move: Make sure to keep an updated document of your current and past addresses, landlord phone numbers and other info you’ll be asked on a lease application, including first and last names of other residents, current employment information and so on. Bonus: lots of these things are also useful on job applications! Also, start saving for deposits. Beyond the one on the apartment, you may have to put down deposits on your utilities.
When you are ready to move: Figure out your price range — a good rule of thumb is no more than one-third of your income. Also, clean out your car — lots of landlords notice the small details, and how you take care of your other expensive habitat.
If you’re in a tight market, don’t send a flurry of questions to the landlord ahead of time; briefly introduce yourself, dropping in a detail or two that makes you sound put-together and responsible. Ask for the first viewing possible.
When looking at an apartment: Be sure to be on-time, looking tidy and presentable, then check the following:
1. Hot Water: Go turn on the shower and make sure there is sufficient water pressure and it’s nice and strong and not, as my mom once memorably said of my shower, like having an 83-year-old man pee on you. Also, does the water get hot? Is it the either scalding or frigid kind of shower? That’s nice to know.
2. Safety: Come back by the area at night, during the day, on the weekend and so on. Make sure you feel reasonably safe at all these times.
3. Volume: Consider whether there is something very loud nearby, like a fire station or train tracks or a high school with a sub-standard but enthusiastic marching band. Will this make you crazy?
4. Management: Does the landlord seem at least semi-reasonable? Landlords are tightly-wound people, generally speaking, so you have to give them a little leniency. But, real talk: chances are, if you are in a conflict with them, they will win. They have money and lawyers. They’re business people. Make sure they’re the kind you want to be in business with.
5. Electricity: Be sure to check all the light switches and, if you can, the electrical outlets, perhaps by taking along your cell phone charger. Otherwise, you could end up like my friend who had 14 decorative outlets and two that actually powered things. It’s also useful to check on how many and how well-placed they are. If you like to blow-dry your hair, look for an outlet in the bathroom. It’s nice to have several in your bedroom so you’re not constantly tripping over your bedside lamp’s cord that must stretch taut through the air. And so on.
6. Closets and Storage: Do they exist? Some old houses had bedrooms without closets. Having at least one big non-bedroom closet is a lifesaver, so long as you do not follow my example and allow it to become a dangerous and unstable mess, like a tiny DMZ right there in your apartment.
7. Appliances: Is there a dishwasher, or a washer-dryer? These things are luxurious, but if there is nothing you hate in the world more than hand-washing dishes, then you might make that a condition of your search.
8. Accessibility: Can your furniture logically get up the stairs and into the apartment? It’s a good plan, if you have really large and/or awkwardly shaped things, to measure them in advance, then take a tape measure along with you.
9. Pets: If you have a pet, can they live here with you? The lure of a nice apartment is not justification for dropping your pet off at the shelter. Also, some apartments that say “no pets” can be coaxed into a quiet, well-behaved, neutered cat, particularly if you can provide a reference from a landlord as to your cat’s goodness.
10. Paint: Can you paint the walls? What if you agree to paint them back to the original, sanitarium white when you leave?
11. Parking: Is it extra? Lot v. garage? Remote for the garage? Assigned spots? Street parking at reasonable times? Where can guests park? (thanks, lexingtoncherry!)
12: Additional costs: Which utilities do you pay? Power, water/sewer, garbage, cable, internet …? Be sure to factor these into your cost calculation. (thanks, anserini!)
After seeing an apartment: If you know it’s the right place for you, express that when you see it and then send an email as soon as possible. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you, say that you are very interested, have the deposit money ready and would like to sign a lease ASAP.
Step 324: If someone calls you out for saying something shitty ...
Just own up to it. Seriously. Don’t freak out, don’t spend time trying to justify whatever you just said. And, HINT: the more of an urge you feel to justify what you just said, the greater the chance that it was indeed very shitty and this is your way of coping with your own shame.
Say, “Wow, you’re right. I’m really sorry, and thank you for letting me know that.” Then, don’t say that shitty thing again.
“I'm currently worth more dead (with my life insurance policy) ...
… than alive (with my student loan debt).”
Here’s my take on the incredible Tumblr Q&A with President Obama. Student loans and college tuition are just impossibly difficult questions with very, very few answers.
The tl;dr — college should be way more affordable. Loan interest rates should be way more reasonable. Unfortunately, it seems like neither of those things are going to happen in the short term.
So at the very least, high school students should be super informed before they make college choices and take on huge debt loads. Financial literacy must become a component of every high school education. Not all of us are going to use calculus; every single one of us has to know how money works.
Thanks again to the incredible Tumblr staff and David Karp for making this event happen.
When you make your trip packing list, be sure to save it on your Google Drive (or cloud storage of choice). Label where you are going and how long you’re going to be there. Then, the next time you need to make a packing list, just open that one and modify as necessary.
* I feel like to accurately represent the tumblr demographic, at least one question should be about whether or not the President ships.
I absolutely love this keyring because it anthropomorphizes the need to have a place where my keys always are. Mine’s name is Marie Antoinette Lady Bird Sparrow and as soon as I get home she goes in her lovely home where she is safe and sound and easily find-able. (Available here for $5 USD)
If you need someone — how they make you feel, what they do for you, how they keep you whole — then you don’t actually love them, you just love the role they play in your life. The further you can push away from that need, the closer you’ll get to loving the human.
(This is an idea from Joko Beck’s Everyday Zen, which I *highly highly highly* recommend for anxious and/or ADD types, but this is true for everyone.)
Step 322: Have a Pouch of Responsibility inside your purse
Inside a clear, zippered pouch goes the following: Three tampons, a pack of gum, Kleenex, some hand-sanitizer, safety pins, bobby pins if you need them, a few band-aids and ibuprofen. Then, when minor crisis looms, you can shout (inside your head) “TO THE RESPONSIBILITY POUCH!”
Step 321: You don't have to have feelings *about* your feelings
Angry? Sad? Lonely? Ashamed? Maliciously gleeful? All of those are OK ways to feel and you don’t have to spend extra time and emotional energy berating yourself for feeling them. That is not productive.
Step 320: You don't have to feel anxious about all these steps
Today, play a game with yourself. Just do the one thing you are doing at that moment carefully and correctly. Don’t spend time thinking about what you did wrong yesterday, or how much you have to do today, or any of it.
If you focus on that one small thing you are doing — “Right now, I am putting this toast rind in the garbage. Now, I am washing this one dish and drying it,” — you’ll do it right, then move on.
Step 319: No matter how much you love someone, your time together is limited. Make the most of it.
Today, I celebrate, and offer every bit of gratitude in me, for the life of my grandmother and favorite person, Barbara Jean Dowdell … AKA Grannybarb.
She was an intrepid girl reporter. She was a cocktail waitress on a steamboat on the Great Lakes. She was the first female editor of the Daily Iowan. She had the best stories, supplied by a life built on the understanding that there is no such thing as boredom, only lack of attention.
She was a great wit, a maker of the best gumbo imaginable, a shameless (and gifted!) flirt, a writer, painter, knitter, stained-glass maker and someone who saw the back of a business card as an ideal place for a tiny watercolor portrait.
Adulting Classic: Do not wage an unwinnable war against Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! To my readers in Oregon (yay!) or Arizona (boo, until you stop being so awful to Latino people!), happy statehood day! To all the singles … uhh …
I was single for a long, long time. Sometimes I loved it, mostly I hated it, but it was what it was. And yes, when you’re single, seeing a couple being all schmoopy really stings. This I know well. And Valentine’s Day can be especially crappy. I am not trying to pile on here.
But you gain nothing and lose all sorts of dignity when you go around making a huge fuss over Valentine’s Day or, as some call it, Singles’ Awareness Day (SAD = most fitting acronym ever). In general, if a group of people is celebrating something that you, yourself, do not particularly care to celebrate, the gracious thing to do is quietly let them celebrate while doing your own thing. Don’t barge loudly into their holiday and declare it a sham. Just sit it out.
Instead of going on and on to anyone who will listen about SAD and insisting loudly that you like it this way, go eat two hamburgers and fuck whomever you please, because being single can totally rule … if you don’t spend your time self-consciously trumpeting that fact to everyone.
• You should probably date, very successfully, for several months after the honeymoon phase ends before moving in together. “Successfully” in this case can be defined by the things that aren’t happening: No big ugly fights, no almost breaking up or actually breaking up then getting back together, no nagging feelings that this relationship is doomed. Moving in together will not solve any of those problems.
• Sit down and have a looooong, boring talk to make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to the home itself. Is it always going to be sparkling clean, or are socks draped over a lampshade par for the course? Can you compromise on décor (or, ideally, have one person that could give a fuck less about color scheme?) Is your house loud and full of guests, or quiet with an early bedtime? You probably know a lot of these things about your boyfriend or girlfriend already, but an ounce of discussion ahead of time is worth a pound of yelling at each other to pick up those goddamn shoes.
When your relative asks how things are going and whether he’s going to propose soon: Make your mouth small and your eyes so big. Gaze around. “Boyfriend,” you whisper to no one in particular. “I had … a boyfriend …” Get up and walk to the window. Gaze out into the darkness. Exhale on the cold pane, then draw a ladybug in the condensation. Chuckle to yourself. Return to the table. “Great! Things are great. So, so great. Oh my gosh. Great.”
Step 316: Don't feel embarrassed on behalf of other people
Via Boyfriend Dave:
"You know, you don’t have to feel embarrassed for people when they’re doing something on purpose," he said. "They’re doing it because they want to. They’re doing it because it makes them happy. Don’t worry about her — she’s just doing her. She’s not embarrassed. So why are you?"
Someone wearing a weird outfit? Someone dancing who’s not great at it? Someone getting up for karaoke without the voice for it? Don’t cringe on their behalf; that is almost always an expression of your discomfort in your own skin. It takes a lot of courage to be yourself, to do something because you love it. Don’t worry about those people; they are fucking fine. They’re great, in fact.
There is a horrible but small chore in your life that you have been putting off.
Today, you are going to do it. You are going to spend that five minutes cleaning that hideous toilet or finally calling your insurance company or whatever it is. Here’s how.
Step 1: Steel yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Step 2: Gather the items required to get this thing done. Step 3: Put on “Fancy” by Reba McEntire (or the original by Bobbie Gentry; your choice), the single most inspiring and motivating piece of art ever created by humans. Let its fineness and flawlessness and power flow through each cell in your body. Realize you are so much bigger — and stronger — than your humble roots and nigh-impossible odds whatever stupid tiny chore this is. When she ramps up to the climax, belt, “I may have been born just plain white trash — BUT FANCY WAS MY NAAAAAAAAME!" at the top of your lungs.
Step 4: You now have the strength to do anything. Re-play Fancy if need be and get that shit done.
Here’s your one chance, Fancies, don’t let me down!
I just finished “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. I felt, as I always do when reading something stupendous and heartbreaking, both exhilarated and insanely jealous. I would finish a sentence, stop and let it wash over me, and then feel small and inadequate and embarrassed about everything I’ve ever written.
I remember the first time I read something by her, an essay a mutual friend had posted it on Facebook, feeling empty but also changed. “You will never write like she does,” said an 8th grade mean-girl voice in my head. “Why bother, when there are people like her who can write things like this?”
But writing, or making art, or music, or any pursuit that begins inside you and then is proudly or quietly offered to the world, is more craft than divine inspiration. It is slogging through vast periods of mediocrity and frustration and slowly improving. It’s doing it whether you feel like it or not.
It is also — and this is the hard part, at least for me — not putting yourself up against anyone else. Instead of feeling sad that you can’t make the things someone else can make, spend that emotional energy writing more.
Q: Ok, so I’m really bad at being PC. Why is it bad if you dress up in other races’ traditional clothes? … what’s wrong with wearing a poncho and a sombrero on a day where you can be whoever you want?
Here’s why I find it distasteful. When you dress in a poncho and sombrero, you’re not dressing as an actual thing. You’re dressing as an icky stereotype some white people have about non-white people, and pulling (inadvertently, perhaps!) a whole lot of ugly backstory in your wake.
Part of being a grown-up is being polite and sensitive to those around you, and cognizant of the fact that just because something doesn’t hurt you or your friends’ sensibilities means it’s not really offensive to some people.
Don’t get me wrong: there is no law against dressing as people of other races. You can do it, if you want! The PC police will not bust down your door and arrest you. But some people will think you’re an asshole.
If it helps, don’t have to think of it in terms of political correctness. Think about it in terms of politeness, and decency. People who are kind and decent avoid actions that hurt others unless there’s really good cause. And what’s the cause here? Just go as a jellyfish.
Step 314: When you make a big life change, the first few months will probably suck. Push through it.
A good friend of mine is in the midst of pulling the trigger on something she’s wanted to do for a long time — departing Portland for Brooklyn. If you knew her, you’d know it’s the right decision, but she’s still grappling with the fear of the unknown/grief for the life one is leaving behind.
Here’s the thing about making any big decision about ending something (your physical location, your career, your relationship): the first few months that come after it suck.
For a week or so, you’ll get that novelty euphoria — so many new places to walk! New smells! New flirting opportunities, if you’re single! New desk! — and then, discomfort sets in. You miss your old things. You miss being able to know exactly where to go for good Vietnamese food, and how to get there. You get lost. You transgress some unwritten rule and feel like an asshole.
These feelings do not mean you’ve made the wrong decision. You can’t really evaluate something new at first. So when you’re feeling frustrated, when you’re feeling lost, when you’re asking yourself why, why, why you made this choice, push through it. Examine your feelings of loss from a distance — of course you miss your old city/job/significant other. The only way you wouldn’t miss it is if there was nothing redeeming about that time in your life.
So just wait. Know that your sadness will not kill you. Give it three months.
Feminine hygiene product of your choice, if you are a lady. Or an over-the-top helpful dude!
Disinfecting wipes, so you can wipe your desk off a couple times a month.
A travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste
Mints or gum
LABEL MAKER! Ok, that one is optional, but you will be the toast of your coworkers if you are the one who can make everyone amazing labels and singlehandedly end stapler theft in your place of business.
Portland book signing: Tuesday, Sept. 17! Come and I'll doodle you something.
I’m doing a rare book event a week from today in Portland. I guess it’s a reading, technically speaking, though I’m not sure yet what I’ll be reading. Ideally, I’d like it to be all of us confessing our adult failures, followed by swapping stain removal strategies and hookup etiquette tips, but we’ll see.
It’s happening at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Annie Bloom’s Books, a great independent bookstore in Multnomah Village.
So yeah, come on out, meet me and Boyfriend Dave in person and get a personalized Mean Person Jellyfish doodle.
Bury the ill-fated fifth member of your wagon party, then sing a sad funeral dirge of your own invention!
Go hunting for college students dressed as bison with Nerf guns!
Raft a river of Derby girls armed with pool noodles!
And much more, including — new this year! — Miss Milly’s Saloon, Dance Parlor and Arm Wrestling Emporium. You can also pet some barnyard animals, or listen to live music or do old-timey crafts or learn about history because it takes place at a super neat museum!
Hopefully this has convinced you. Website is here; tickets are available here, and if you want to volunteer, shoot me an email at email@example.com
Adult question: How to get cheap business clothes?
Katie asks: Where would you suggest buying cheap adultish clothing? I have to start going on job interviews and I’m at a loss.
So your first, best bet is this: if you live in a city, chances are VERY good you have a benevolent wealthy-lady association, like the Junior League. They often run thrift shops; the one in New Orleans was my go-to spot for Ann Taylor skirts with the tags still on for $7. Goodwill and Salvation Army boutique stores are also a great bet; they’ll be more expensive than normal Goodwills, but are also better-organized and have higher quality stuff.
Remember that when it comes to work outfits, particularly if you’re 22, no one expects you to have a closetful of suits. If you can get some *nice* basics — a black pencil skirt, black pants, grey pencil skirt, navy slacks and a blazer that looks nice with all these things — then you can get a lot of milage by mixing those with cheaper tops.
Remember that dresses are great, as they are just one item of clothing, and nicer-looking/conservative accessories (think pearl studs earrings and a strand of smaller pearls) dress a lot of things up.
Finally, nice shoes make any outfit look better. I always find a lot of Nine West/Aldo/etc. mid-priced shoes for $14 a pair at Ross.
Step 312: Not all voices are equally relevant in a conversation
If you are a member of a group that has privilege, and someone who does not have that privilege is good enough to be explaining their experience to you, just be quiet for a second and listen.
Really! Just for the duration of this conversation, you do not need to relate their experience to yours, or take apart what they are saying based on your own opinions, or dissect what this means toyou or for you. It’s OK! You will survive without interjecting yourself and your thoughts on race/gender/sexuality/ability whatever into what this person is trying to tell you.
Me: i wish i could just write “things that are bullshit”
Editor Meredith: so many things are bullshit
Me: SO MANY chapter one: stupid trend pieces that get angry at 20-something women for being 20-something women chapter two: the wedding industrial complex chapter three: people who don’t spay and neuter their pets chapter four: gnats chapter five: why can’t i keep sheets looking nice? chapter six: misogyny
Important note: I have not and don’t ever plan on accepting sponsorship/putting ads on this blog. The sweetest swag I’ve gotten is a box of 48 rolls of toilet paper from the Toilet Paper World blog after I wrote a guest entry for them. Best swag ever.
So this is nonbiased; these are just things I was deeply grateful to own this weekend:
OxiClean powder is amaaaaazing. My white duvet was looking dingy, so I washed it in hot with a big scoop of OxiClean and now it is like a new damn duvet whereas before it had chocolate and soup on it. Pretty sure OxiClean gets whites as white as bleach AND you can use it on colors AND you can make it into a paste and scrub things with it AND it’s not terrifying the way bleach is.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Countertop Spray in Honeysuckle:This is the first cleaning product I have ever been temped to spray on myself. That is how nice it smells. I did not think that there was a smell so nice that it would make me want to wipe things just for the scent but there you go. Maybe it’s partially cocaine, who knows.
Voluspa candle in Laguna: I have never, ever gotten a schmancy candle, and then my dad got me one for Christmas and I was like, ok, fine, I will try this. And it makes my whole house smell like a rich intimidating lady home. The one he got me was $8; it took me seven months to go through it. WORTH IT.
*Obviously they are not really invaluable the way, say, love or friendship is. But they are worth, to me, more than what I paid for them at the store.