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

Step 255: If you must break up with someone, be decent about it

This is a fine, fine needle to thread. Suggesting that you can avoid hurting someone you care about during a breakup is like suggesting that a limb can be amputated without the patient ever noticing. 

But while you can’t spare someone pain that comes from a breakup, you can minimize that pain. Here are some general dos and don’ts:


• Break up with someone within a week of finalizing your decision. To delay the breakup is to let them suffer through Dark Premonitions and anxiety as you buy yourself time to get over it. If you know you need to do it, then do it. It will never suck less than it does today.

• Be direct, but don’t give reasons unless it is something super concrete that might help them in their next relationship. If it’s this vague fog of “It’s just not right” then stick to that, rather than getting into the ugly “I hate the way you chew” weeds. If it’s “you drink and drive,” well, then say that.

• Say it in a way that doesn’t allow room for argument, or begging. “I want to break up, and I’m sure about this decision. I’m sorry.” Being really direct here may seem the cruelest, but cutting off any wrenching But if/What if/Maybe then/etc. paths, you are doing this person a service.


• Break up in a public-public place. I think somewhere like a park (one that isn’t this person’s favorite park in the world) is good: you can have a quiet conversation, then go your own ways. I’m of the mind that breaking up in someone’s apartment can introduce long-term bad associations. By doing it elsewhere, the break-upee doesn’t have to think “Oh. This is the couch I got dumped on,” every time she or he wants to sit down in the living room.

• Don’t use weasel words. Don’t talk (right now) about being friends. Don’t allow yourself to be talked out of something you know you need to do. Don’t allow someone to languish in a terrible heartbreak holding pattern, constantly circling you and awaiting clearance to return to the relationship.

• Don’t call/text him or her, for at least a month or so. This complicates their healing process. Just let them be, for now. You’ve done enough for them, and besides, they need to rely on friends and family. You can no longer be a source of comfort for them, because right now, you are the one who has introduced the discomfort.

Don’t shit-talk afterward

Any I’m missing?

29th Oct 2012 511 notes , Comments

Step 254: When issuing an apology, consider whether you are giving it for the other person or for yourself

This is not for small, run-of-the-mill “I’m sorry I spilled nacho cheese on your dog”-type apologies. This is for apologies about more consequential things, apologies for when you have really hurt someone else.

When we hurt people, if we’re not sociopaths, it feels terrible. We should apologize as sincerely and humbly as we can, not do it again, and hope that person forgives us.

But if they don’t — or they didn’t and probably never will know about the transgression, or the wound is years old, or whatever — then ask yourself whether this apology will disrupt this person’s life. Are doing it for them, or yourself?

Because apologies we issue for ourselves, so that we can continue to live in our own skin, so that hopefully the guilt will dissipate — that is about you. That’s not about the wronged person. And if asking for their forgiveness only serves to inadvertedly harm them further, then skip it. Live with your guilt, and every time you feel it, remind yourself that you will never do that again.

Sincere regret is important. When someone has hurt us, its display can help provide closure. But if this person found their own closure, years ago, popping in and sort of de-stabiizing that closure isn’t the best move.

24th Oct 2012 447 notes , Comments

Step 253: Find some sort of physical activity or exercise you can live with

(click for a larger version!)

As you can all see from this infographic that I made up, many/most of us really hate exercising. At least I do. Always have. So many scars — still, to this day! — from junior high gym class.

But that doesn’t excuse me from basic facts about physiology.

This is not about weight, or body image, or any of things in that particular constellation. This is about a simple truth, which is that we are animals, and animals should move about and use their bodies (if they are able) and that the way most of us live does not naturally include lots of running and jumping.

To find something you don’t hate, you’ll probably have to try a lot of things you do hate. You will try them, and feel awkward and cramped and silly. But eventually, there will be some form of exercise — swimming, or martial arts, or dance, or yoga, or whatever it may be — that feels at least a little less unnatural.

Stick with that. Make it a thing. Make it a non-negotiable thing. You will feel happier, you will feel more comfortable in your own skin, and you will be healthier. 

23rd Oct 2012 201 notes , Comments

Step 251: Admitting to a fault does not excuse you of that fault

Sometimes, it feels like if we give full disclosure on something, then our work here is done! But it’s not. 

Yes, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. But that is not the final step. The final step is coming to a place where you aren’t (flaky/messy/selfish/vain, whatever) through conscientiousness and hard work retraining yourself.

And, obviously, this is not an easy process. Lots of the behaviors I hated in myself at 20, I still hate at 28. But if it matters enough to you, then don’t feel like it’s resolved once you say it aloud. It’s resolved once it’s resolved.

18th Oct 2012 280 notes , Comments

Step 250: Treat buying a bike like you would buying a car

Time for a fantastic guest entry from Gregory! Gregory is super involved in the Boston cycling community. He commutes (safely!) about 20 miles per day, and back in 2010, he even biked from Boston to San Francisco to raise money for autism awareness. Gregory?

You’ve decided to buy your first adult bike. Good for you! The good news is this is one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. The bad news is it’s a bit trickier than you might have initially imagined.

You may have grown up thinking that cars are for adults and bikes are for kids. That the adult ‘cyclist’ always has been, and always will be, a fringe species. And that anyone who rides a bike is one of those people who take riding a bike super seriously.

For these reasons, diving into the bike world can be daunting and you may not know very much, if anything, about buying a good bike.

But here’s the good news: people who ride bikes are actually just like people who drive cars. So when you go shopping for your first adult bike, treat it like you are shopping for a car. Go into it with intentionality, do your homework, learn to walk the talk and ride the ride.

Think you’ll buy something used to save a few bucks? Simple enough. Apply all the same principles you would to buying a used car. How are those tires and wheels looking? Are you seeing rust anywhere indicative of neglect? What about a dent or bubble in the frame that might mean the bike was in an accident?

Think about the owner, too. Is this bike coming from the cycling equivalent of a mechanic — someone who will have kept it tuned up and dependable? Or is this just some dude trying to hock it?

Next, take it for a test-drive! Give those brakes a squeeze. They might be great, or they might just be OK. But just like a used car, are the brakes something you can just say ‘Meh’ to? No. They’re a pretty big part of the equation.

Thinking of your bike as a car will keep you happy and out of harm’s way. Cars get ticketed when they have a light out. You should have lights. Cars can’t get inspected without a working horn, so go get a bell!

Most importantly, in the event of an accident, your seatbelt will save your life. Helmet. Helmet. Helmet.

It may, at first, feel funny and you may think you look silly, but the only real difference between you and a car is that you’re traveling for free, getting fit, and having way more fun.

Thanks, Gregory! Photo by cyclocotpus.

16th Oct 2012 122 notes , Comments

Step 249: Figure out how to take care of your yard

In the past two weeks, I have taken a major step toward domesticity: I now live in a house. Yes, it’s rented, but it has a yard! And its own recycling bin! And a garage! And a porch! I could own a dog. I could sunbathe nude in the backyard. I could have a cactus garden.

But … but. There is now a whole new galaxy of dull chores to attend to, and ways to not upset neighbors. And while some of those chores are great and make me feel like the Little Blogger Housewife on the Prairie (see: sweeping off my adorable porch) others are unspeakably drab. Like making sure to drag in the recycling bins in a timely way, since everyone else has them off the street by, like, 8:30 a.m. And watering. And weeding. 

So. Since this is a new thing for me, a question for readers who have outdoor spaces/yards/etc. to look after: How does one become a responsible, um, yard-haver? Especially if you hate doing yardwork?

12th Oct 2012 99 notes , Comments

Step 248: Create your own traditions

This is a lovely step, suggested by the lovely radarwas. She wrote:

One of the harder parts of becoming an adult is creating new traditions. As time goes on, we lose the people that we love or we drift apart from the people we grew up with…eventually, holidays will need new traditions created for them.

Traditions are such a great human construct. Maybe animals have them, too*, but at least so far as our species is concerned, it sort of gives a shape and comfort and familiarity to our years. 

Part of this is taking an active role in current traditions. Establishing yourself as a grownup, in the eyes of your family, should be done at least partially by assuming grown-up roles within the family. That means showing up with wrapped gifts at Christmas instead of just stealing supplies from your mom, bringing food to Thanksgiving, etc.

But what if your family sucks? Many do! If this is the case, there is no reason in the world that you can’t decide on your own holiday traditions. And they can be whatever the fuck you want, so long as it’s meaningful (or not!) and fun for you. Laser tag on Easter? Yeah! Every Fourth of July, you make 20 French Dip sandwiches and get drunk on pinot gris? Sure! 

Further suggested traditions:

• The third weekend in September is Drink A Bunch of Apple Cider and Watch Downtown Abbey Day

• Every last Sunday of the month, everyone comes over to your apartment and plays Nintendo 64 while wearing fetching hats

* I love the idea of, say, toucans gathering on a regular basis just to remind each other that they’re alive and care about one another. Toucan Mother’s Day, etc.

10th Oct 2012 254 notes , Comments

Step 247: Learn to ignore small unfortunate social occurences

I learned this skill from SurgeonFriend Elisabeth, whose manners are so flawless and fine. 

If someone does something slightly embarrassing — drops and breaks a glass at a party, say — unless you are actively helping the cleanup, just pretend it didn’t happen. Continue on with your conversation. Not your business. This also goes for burping, mispronouncing a word, someone tripping and falling, and so on. When these things happen, you always sort of hope no one saw. It’s gracious to provide that peace of mind for others.

This post brought to you by a person whose personal-best-public-falling-down count is four times in one 24-hour period. Nothing to see here!

9th Oct 2012 354 notes , Comments

Step 246: Make sure you are ready to vote

This tip was suggested by Alert Reader Kelly, and boy is she right:

My super adulting move of the day:  updating my voter registration to my new address!  Registration deadlines are coming up soon (early October for many states), and several states let you update online.  This is something I’d been putting off for so long after moving, but it ended up taking 2 minutes and I didn’t even have to change out of my pajamas.  Anyone who needs to register/change their info should contact their local elections office (the magic of the internet makes this very easy) ASAP!   

No lie: If you live in the U.S., and are a college student/young person/etc., some states have new laws that will make it harder to vote. Some allow ballots to be thrown out over small discrepancies — a difference between your current address and the one on file, say. If this pisses you off (and it should!) then channel that anger into taking the 15 minutes — today, before it’s too late, because deadlines are fast approaching — and getting all that squared away.

Here is a good place to start. Or Google (your state) elections division. And remember: If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about what your elected officials do. 

3rd Oct 2012 58 notes , Comments

Step 245: Close it when you are done

Apologies in advance to the 94.9 percent of you to whom this is obvious and automatic.

My boyfriend does kind of a mean but hilarious and accurate impression of me interacting with physical objects. He will pick something up, excitedly exclaim over it for 15 seconds, then get distracted by a bird and drop whatever he was just holding.

It’s true that once something else has caught my attention, I forget all about whatever was just happening and move on to this shiny new thing. What I am about to tell you is so, so self-evident. Unless you are me, and probably some of you.

One small thing you can do to reduce visual clutter in your life is to always shut things that you have opened. If you opened a cupboard, close it back up. Ditto boxes, doors, drawers, tabs on your browser, whatever. Just as a bedroom cannot look clean unless the bed is made, a kitchen cannot be tidy if the cupboards are gaping open. Make up a little jingle to sing to yourself about this very topic.

Coming next week on adulting: More super-advanced stuff, like use your lips to make words and don’t forget to poop when you need to! 

(Photo by Dsa Spile)

22nd Sep 2012 94 notes , Comments