How to become a grown-up in 468 easy(ish) steps.

Still applicable: Do not comment on things people are, comment on things they do.

(a re-print inspired by all these responses. Also, please, can no one ever again utter a variant of the phrase “Wow, for an [inherent characteristic] you are certainly [adjective]!” That is never, ever going to go well.)

The simplest example of this is not telling a tall person that they’re tall.

So much of our lives are shaped by weird rolls of the genetic dice, or fate, or God, or however you choose to interpret that particular mystery. Whether someone is short or tall or originally from Canada or gay or Asian or born to rich parents or redheaded or whatever — that’s not something they chose or cultivated in themselves, and it’s not something they work for.

What makes someone good and valuable is not these traits. It’s the choices they make and the things they do. I’d always rather someone tell me I’m a good writer than that my red hair is pretty, because one of those things is something I work my ass off at, and another is some protein encoding. Both are sweet things to say; one means a lot more to me.

It’s not that you can’t be proud of/pleased by these intrinsic things, but don’t forget that the things you (and others) deserve credit for are the things you have control over.

13th Jun 2013 774 notes , Comments

Addendum to Step 308: What if it’s your friends soliciting for charity?

Deborah writes: I wonder if you have any advice for saying no to friends who set up Just Giving pages and request donations to sponsor their activities? I don’t want to sound heartless to my friends, but I already have a charity I support and any spare cash I have is dedicated to this.

This gets taken on a case-by-case basis.

Most, you can just reject outright without an explanation. A cheerful “Oh, gosh, no, I’m OK,” when your coworker is trying to shill chocolate bars on behalf of his child’s marching band is totally OK. You also don’t have to respond to emails that have been sent to 250 (visible) recipients, although a “Thank you for asking, but I give in other ways. Good luck!” reply is polite.

If your friend is fundraising for a cause that deeply impacts him/her or their family and/or a massive personal undertaking that that you believe in (and you are not broke) you should at least make a cursory donation. If your friend’s mom died of cystic fibrosis and she is running to honor her and raise money for research, that $20 isn’t just a $20. It’s an acknowledgement that fundraising is your friend’s way of striking back against something that hurt her deeply and a way for her to feel like she is doing something.

If you are broke, it could be kind to send this kind of personal note:

Dear Seth,

The work you are doing with Framework International is incredible, and I am so proud of you for doing something this important. Money is really, really tight for me right now, and I can’t send a monetary donation. Is there anything else I can do to help out in terms of volunteering or in-kind donations?

-Kelly

13th Jun 2013 141 notes , Comments

Discussion time.

OK, friends. What is one well-intentioned but ultimately offensive thing people say to you about your inherent characteristics (appearance? gender identity? race? sexuality?) that you wish they wouldn’t?

Some answers thus far:

“you’re pretty for a black girl” which is just as bad if not worse than “you’re one of the prettiest black people I know”

“Oh you but you don’t look Jewish”

"Are you going to have a penis?" Or any other question about my genitals unless we’ve mutually agreed to have sex.

“You don’t look like a lesbian”, “You’re too pretty to be gay”, or “I never would have guessed that you’re gay.”

"You look so exotic! You have such an exotic name!"

That because I’m Asian I have to be smart as well.

Comments like “Oh, I love (insert name of dish here)” after they find out where your relatives are from. (author’s note: I am definitely guilty of this, mostly because I love love love talking about food and restaurants. But never again, I promise.)

“Don’t worry, you’ll eventually figure out that you’re lesbian or straight, this ‘bisexual’ this is just a phase.”

"HAVE YOU LOST WEIGHT? YOU LOOK GREAT! HOW MUCH WEIGHT HAVE YOU LOST?"

12th Jun 2013 655 notes , Comments

Step 309: Setting up utilities at a new place is not as big of a deal as it seems

reeatlarge asks: I’m going to be moving into my first apartment soon and feel like I did a pretty good job. I shopped around, I read all the fine print, I tested all the faucets and electrical outlets, I even negotiated a cheaper lease! But I’m totally clueless as to how utilities work. My landlord pays water, sewer, and garbage pickup; I am responsible for hot water, heat, and electricity. How many different bills will I end up paying? Is the heat coming from a gas company? Can I email my landlord and ask for a list of utility companies they suggest? And why is hot water separate from cold water?!

Hello! So first off, yes, go ahead and ask your landlord how many bills there are. That is not a big deal or stupid question. 

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing you’ll just have one; all those things (heat/hot water/electricity) will likely show up on your electricity bill. You aren’t being billed for hot water; you’re being billed for the energy to heat the water.

You don’t mention natural gas — do you have a gas stove? If so, you probably also have a gas furnace and water heater. In some places, gas and electricity are provided by different companies which means two bills; in other places, both will be on one bill.

It’s also possible (but unlikely) that you have an oil furnace, in which case you buy the oil all at once instead of paying monthly.

Chances are that you won’t really have much choice in, say, electricity and gas companies, but go ahead and see what your landlord recommends. Your city’s municipal website should have a list of utility companies and their contacts.

For everyone else moving into an apartment for the first time, here are the bills you can expect. Before you sign a lease, make sure it’s very clear which you will pay and which your landlord pays, and ask if they know what these average to each month:

• Electricity 
• Water/Sewer (nearly always billed together)
• Garbage/recycling
• Gas, if applicable and not billed with electric
• Cable/internet/landline phone (optional, obviously)

When you’re ready to set everything up, go get an accordion folder with one tab for each utility. Many utilities can be set up online; again, your city’s website should have that information. And remember, if you’re just moving across town, it’s usually pretty easy to just transfer your service, which lets you skip paying a deposit.

Anything I’m missing?

10th Jun 2013 454 notes , Comments

Step 308: Graciously deflect do-gooding solicitors

And now, a wonderful guest entry from Stephanie, aka guiltyprepster.

Walking through any metropolitan city on a sunny, not-too-hot, not-too-cold day, we all come into contact with representatives of various non-profits looking to talk to us about their undoubtedly important cause. 

I always feel awful telling organizations like the Red Cross and the SPCA that I’m not interested, but luckily there’s a few ways I’ve learned to let them down in a way that is both encouraging to them and leaves you feeling less guilty.

1. Don’t simply ignore. Make eye contact and smile.

2. Try these easy, one-sentence phrases:

“I’m really sorry I haven’t got a second today, but good luck!”

“I’m already a huge supporter, thanks for your hard work.”

“I’d love to know more, but I’m in a hurry. I’ll take a flyer if you have one.”

“No thanks, but thanks for offering, I appreciate it.”

These people aren’t beggars, they’re trying to make the world better. It’s best if we try to make that as easy as possible for them. 

Stephanie is a marketing associate for Argopoint, a management consulting firm in Boston.

Thank you, Stephanie! And, important side note: You are under no obligation give money to anyone who asks. But it’s a lot easier to say no if you do give to the causes you believe in. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount to make a difference; $5 a month to your local Humane Society or NPR affiliate is infinitely better than $0 a month.

10th Jun 2013 306 notes , Comments

Step 307: Radio silence is not an acceptable breakup technique

OK, OK, yes: if you’ve been on just one or two dates, the chemistry wasn’t there, etc., then you don’t owe anyone anything.

But! If you’ve been on 3+ dates/slept together/corresponded regularly, you owe the person the courtesy of at least saying that you’re not interested.

It doesn’t have to be in person if it’s a new thing, but a simple, “Hey, I enjoyed getting to know you but I don’t think this is going to work out” will suffice. It won’t kill you to say it; slog through the 45 seconds of awkwardness rather than let this person suffer from slowly diminishing hopes over the next week.

4th Jun 2013 670 notes , Comments

Thought of the day: Comparison is the thief of joy


This came from my co-worker Ally, when we were chatting about envy, and she is so right.  No matter where you go and what you get, someone will always have it better, at least from your limited perspective. 

It’s impossible not to make comparisons. But they will never make you happy. So next time you do, stop and think about something great in your life. And then get off Facebook for a couple days.

4th Jun 2013 471 notes , Comments

Step 306: Find a primary care doctor

Anonymous asks: What advice do you have for finding a new doctor after moving away from home? I’ve recently moved over 6 hours away from my home town of 22 years and have no clue where to start.

This can be tough, particularly with that whole primary-care-doctor-shortage thing, but it isn’t as complicated as it seems.

One of the best ways to find a doctor (or mechanic, or dry cleaner, or tailor, or pretty much any service-offering person) is just to ask around. Particularly if you work in an office, chances are good that some of your co-workers have lived in town for some time and will name names. Then, call the doctor’s office, say that you’re new in town and looking for a doctor and so-and-so referred you.

If they aren’t accepting new patients, feel free to ask if they can recommend another doctor that is.

The slightly less-personal, but ultimately faster route is to Google (your city name) Medical Society. They might even have a “Physicians Accepting New Patients” link on the website, but if not, just call them up and explain the situation, and ask which of their members are accepting new patients.

You can (and should!) feel free to ask if you can come by the office to meet the doctor and hand over any insurance information and medical history reports.

Edit: A great further suggestion: If you check with your insurance company, they can send you a list of doctors who are “in-network” (and therefore will be covered much better.

23rd May 2013 222 notes , Comments

Step 305: Do not listen to random angry anonymous internet strangers

Here is the thing about making anything for public consumption: Some people will like it, some people will dislike it, and some people will be so so confusingly furious at you for even existing.

The first category is the people you should be focusing on and making things for. 

The second category will sometimes have valid criticism; when they do, listen to them. But don’t get too hurt or caught up on their dislike of what you make — you don’t like everything other people like, after all.

The third category is absolutely useless and you need to ignore them. Seriously. Do not read what they say. Go do something else, something fun, something that doesn’t even involve the internet, maybe. 

23rd May 2013 593 notes , Comments

Step 304: When there is a small, confined space that some humans are leaving and others are entering, the leaving happens first

This is pretty simple but really seems to confound some folks.

If you wish to enter a subway car, an elevator, a bus, an alcove - whatever small but key space - let those who wish to leave that same space do it first.

You see, human beings have mass, and take up space in the universe. Therefore, this elevator/subway/whatever will be better able to hold you once there are less humans in it.

This step brought to you by my fellow MAX riders. It won’t leave without you! Just wait seven goddamn seconds!

21st May 2013 598 notes , Comments