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

Step 234: Things in a store do not belong to you until you have paid for them

When I worked in retail, I was always amazed at how people treat things that are not theirs. The worst was the reject clothing haystack: someone would take 17 items into the dressing room, then leave all of them just piled on the floor in a big knotty lump, maybe $900 of merchandise that did not belong to them. Think stretched sweaters twisted around wool coats crushing delicate structured things.

When you try things on in a store, the store is essentially lending things to you in the hopes that you’ll buy it. So treat it like anything borrowed, which is to say, carefully. Do not wrestle a vintage dress zipper up; do not apply your shiniest, reddest lipgloss right before pulling on a white sweater. If you don’t want something, hang it back up.

Note: I think it is OK, if you are in the grocery store, to open and drink a cold drink if you for sure have the cash to pay for it. But that’s just drinks. No snacks! So don’t forget your Power Bar.

30th Jul 2012 157 notes , Comments

Step 233: Avoid having more money than class

There is nothing wrong with the following:

  1. Being rich, or working hard to become that way
  2. Loving nice things
  3. Using your wealth to purchase nice things

There is something a little wrong with the following:

  1. Flaunting your wealth in an attempt to make others jealous, or imply that your wealth says something about who you are

It’s not a cardinal sin. It’s just silly, and tacky, and small. Enjoy things because you enjoy them, not so others know you can enjoy them. Think Warren Buffet, not Donald Trump.

26th Jul 2012 172 notes , Comments

Step 232: Be thoughtful and polite to people with disabilities

And now, a wonderful (and useful) entry, courtesy of Sovin, on etiquette for interacting with people with disabilities. Sovin?

1. If you see someone with a visible disability (or someone tells you about an invisible one!), it’s pretty natural to do a double take, especially if that person has a pretty/cool cane/crutch(es)/chair/etc. But gawking or saying “But you don’t look sick/seem so able/etc!” is really hurtful. If you catch yourself doing so, please apologize - that means the world!

2. “I hope that you have a system that works for you/that your [medication, therapy, medical device] is working well for you” is a much more cool, adult response than “I hope you get better/don’t need it soon.”

3. Most people don’t mind polite questions! “May I ask about [behaviour, disability, or device]?” is preferable to “Why don’t you…” questions or comparing people to stereotypes or media examples (usually incorrect and occasionally really offensive!).

4. I love witty humour! But please think twice before making jokes. “I should be holding the door open for you!” when someone with a cane is holding the door? That stings, a lot.

5. Try to think about other people’s limitations! If you want to invite a friend to go somewhere, is there wheelchair access? A person with a cane may only have one hand - how much can you carry/hold/easily open doors with the same? Try to keep pace with them, don’t walk ahead, then forget or pause to wait every few feet, it can be really embarrassing.

6. If it looks like someone is having trouble, asking sincerely if you can help is great! Assuming that someone wants help or how you can do it is rude and inconsiderate.

7. If you see a person with a disability using or doing one thing one day but not the next, that doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Sometimes I can walk across the room without my cane, sometimes I can’t; that doesn’t mean that I’m lying about needing it, and it’s a hurtful thing to hear.

8. Don’t touch a person’s medical device without permission. Ever. It’s rude, invasive, and threatening. They aren’t toys; they’re necessities, aids, and, for a lot of people, the basis of their independence and/or health.

9. Don’t offer unsolicited advice about treatments or health concerns. You may just want to help, but it comes across as condescending and rude if you treat someone like they haven’t done their research, especially when many people spend a lot of time considering how to best take care of their health.

10. People with disabilities are people! They aren’t objects of pity or inspiration, and they aren’t martyrs, no matter what the after school specials say. Be respectful and treat other adults like adults, apologize if you make an error, ask about their experiences rather than assuming, and you should get along just fine!

24th Jul 2012 1,062 notes , Comments

Step 231: Rubbernecking is not nice

I work at a newspaper, and am very, very familiar with the human tendency to rubberneck. It is why crime stories are usually the most-read on our paper’s website. It is why horror movies get made. It is why hearing the grisly details of a friend’s breakup is way more fun than hearing about a nice Saturday afternoon spent in bed cuddling.

It is a deep-seated, natural thing. There is an evolutionary advantage to paying attention to bad, scary things. Lions are more important than beetles. By observing the bad things that happen to other humans, it feels like maybe we can protect ourselves from those same bad things.

It doesn’t make it right. Ever since Katrina, whenever I tell people I’m from or went to school in New Orleans, they immediately ask whether I was there for the storm. When I say yes, there is a brief flicker of delight.

“So … were you THERE for it? I mean, did you see BODIES?”
“Was all your STUFF ruined?”
“Oh my GOD, that must have been AWFUL. What was it LIKE?”

I know people are just trying to be conversational; they do not mean any harm. But I don’t feel like rehashing a personal tragedy every time I meet someone at a houseparty. That shit gets exhausting.

Don’t ask someone with a severe injury, or severe injury scars, what happened. Don’t ask people you are not close with why they broke up with someone. Don’t ask how this person’s mom died. Don’t ask people from New York about 9/11. If people want to share that information with you, they will. 

15th Jul 2012 197 notes , Comments

Step 230: Pack and move like a champion

Here in Oregon, we are deep in moving season, which is too bad. Moving, of course, is the most awful thing in the world. Moving is worse than giving birth to a foal out of your butt (I imagine).

But there are some ways in which packing can be less painful.  As someone who has moved way, way more than anyone would ever want to, I have picked some things up.

1. Purge your shit. I’m serious, especially if your move is a long (read:expensive) one. Pick up each item you own and ask yourself: If I left this somewhere while on vacation, would I pay the hotel to ship it back to me? Or is it easily replaced? Would I even care it were gone? If not, give it away.

2. Get nice boxes. Not free ones from the liquor store. Yes, it feels like boxes should be free. Good, sturdy, boxes that are committed to the task should be free to all, like air, or public parks. But they’re not. Just pony up and buy a few good, big boxes.

3. If you are not organized, ask a super-organized friend to help you. Organized people will remind you that jewelry doesn’t go in the same box as wrenches. Organized people can look at a moving van and divine what needs to go where. Organized people tell you to keep packing when you start crying and announce your intentions to just become homeless rather than cope with any more moving.

4. Put super heavy things in those liquor store boxes. Do not fill a big box with books. That is the classic rookie mistake.

5. If an item holds something in your apartment, it should hold something during the move. The idea here is to minimize empty space, so this is especially crucial for non-collapsible things. Baskets can hold pillowcases or towels. Tote bags can hold other tote bags. Pots hold other pots, plus bundles of silverware held together with strips of packing tape. In fact, anything very sturdy is a great vessel for breakable things (if the breakable thing has been wrapped in like, a million pieces of newspaper).

6. If a larger item needs a smaller item to function, tape them to one another. TV remotes get taped on to the TV (not the screen. You know.) Once you have disassembled your IKEA furniture, the screws get taped to the underside. These items are going through enough stress already. No need to separate them from one another and add to it.

7. Anything soft goes in big garbage bags. Non-delicate clothes, bedding, towels, curtains — all get rolled up, then put in bags, which are then kneeled upon and compressed into these dense nuggets. The nuggets, incidentally, provide great cushioning in the truck. 

13th Jul 2012 457 notes , Comments

Step 229: Shut down hideously offensive jokes

It’s been a little while since I did a video, so enjoy. Also, very important note: I sort of make it sound like women are the only victims of sexual assault, which is absolutely not the case. For the record, jokes about men getting raped are also not cool. Racist jokes — not cool. Jokes about disabled people — not cool. Etc. Just don’t be a hateful human being, OK?

11th Jul 2012 160 notes , Comments

Step 228: Your stress is not a real thing to anyone but you

Stress is real, obviously, but just to you. It is something that dwells entirely within you. It does not exist as a noun in other people’s lives, except in how you interact with them.

I’m feeling insanely stressed right now, and while my boyfriend, best friends and mom will cut me a little slack if I’m scattered/short, it is not the entire rest of the world’s job to divine this and be gentle with me. 

Monologues about your stress level are right up there with discussing how your urinary tract is feeling. OK, it’s not nearly that bad, but both are topics best reserved for people who really, really love you or people who are being paid to help you solve this particular problem. 

29th Jun 2012 329 notes , Comments

Step 227: Be a pro when it comes to overseas travel

I briefly emerged from my book-writing stupor-cocoon to find this amazing submission in the inbox, courtesy of Jill. I am pretty positive enacting these steps will instantly prevent up to 72 percent of all international traveler headaches. They’re just so damned grown-up. Anyway. Jill?

So I live in China now, along with like 380,859,583 other foreigners, and these are my tried and true overseas adult moves.

1. Get a passport wallet, one that can handle your passport, money, driver’s license, etc. It makes going through multiple security checkpoints much faster.

2. Make a color-photo scan of all your important documents (visas, passports, degrees, etc). Save these scans somewhere online, as well as in something you can carry with you (iphone, for example), and keep them locked. You never know when you need your papers (in China right now, cops have been checking everyone’s), and in most cases a scan is just fine. Phones are easy to replace, your passport is not.

3. Make a word document up that holds all your contact info, for everything from cable provider to doctor. If you have multiple emails/blogs, include those AND passwords. Leave this document with someone you trust with EVERYTHING (spouse, bestie). In this case, my mother, ha. It is much easier for someone stateside to call Comcast and yell at them for a false HBO charge than it is for you to do it at 4 a.m. over your Skype phone.

4. Contact your doctor(s), and have a copy of your medical files released to you. Bring copies of this with you. See if your insurance will work overseas, and hit that up too.

5. Contact your bank and let them know you’re going overseas and charges will be happening. Also send them a letter! Because maybe you’ll be in Hong Kong and someone won’t read the verbal memo you just left, and you will have to live off 10 dollars US for two days.

6. Talk to your phone company! See if your phone can go international, what prices for roaming are, etc.—then get that in writing. It’ll be useful.

7. Does your credit card/debit card have frequent flier miles? No? GET SOME. They’re awesome. Do you have AAA? See what discounts they have.

8. Look into cultural norms of where you’re moving to, and bring along appropriate gifts—or learn to say a few things, if you don’t already know the language. People will love you for trying.

9. Dress nicely for the plane. This has ALWAYS paid off for me, as people tend to be nicer to people they perceive as return flyers (business people). Also, know the rules of the airport; I find getting my bag o’ okayed liquids/laptop/shoes off while still in line makes that awkward security scan go a lot faster. I keep my belt/jewelry in a small bag that I keep in my carryon UNTIL I get through security.

10. Bring clothes to change into on the plane! When you fly 16 hours, you get out of the plane feeling like death. If you change into your pjs halfway through (brushing teeth, washing face, etc), then do a morning change and groom, you feel a lot better. This is especially useful if your office mates are the ones picking you up at the airport and you have to be a human that day. Just be quick — don’t be that guy who takes up the bathroom stall on the plane for an hour. (Bonus points: you get to walk around the plane, which you should do anyway)

11. Don’t be a dick. Everything can and probably will go wrong in some way while traveling. If you are calm, nice, and respectful of every service person you meet, things will work out for you. Promise.

25th Jun 2012 521 notes , Comments

Step 226: Go ahead and save that number in your cell phone

The next time someone calls you, and you think, ‘Eh, I’m probably not going to need that number again,’ just go ahead and save it anyway. I’m serious. The 20 seconds you spend now is way better than the several hours trying to find a number you don’t have. It’s not like there’s limited space in your phone, and it’s always better to have ways of getting in touch if need be.

19th Jun 2012 63 notes , Comments

Step 225: Get married for the right reasons


Y’all. Y’all. It’s time for a Very Special Guest Entry, because Sarah, of Yes and Yes, has weighed in on something of terrific importance.

In case you’re not familiar with Yes and Yes, it’s like this blog, except funnier, more consistent and with better travel tips. Recently, Sarah released the Post-College Survival Kit; this entry is but one star in that glittering galaxy. Highly recommended. Anyway. Sarah?

So you’ve been with your lover/partner/girl/boyfriend for a few years. You live together, you attend company barbecues together, you wear sweatpants in each others’ company. Everybody you know is getting married, and now you kind of want to. But your mister/miss isn’t that keen. A few steps to sort that business out.

1. Have a good think about why you want to get married

Are you ready to start a family? Do you need concrete evidence that they’re committed to building a future with you? Are all your friends getting married?

If all your friends are getting married, have a really, really, REALLY big think before you start pressuring your partner. Almost everything in life is socially contagious and if all your friends are walking down the aisle, it’s easy to swept up in the wedding fever. How would you feel about marriage if none of your friends were married? 

It’s also worth noting that if you’re living together, that’s pretty good evidence that they’re committed to you and a future with you. Unless you moved in together mostly for financial and convenience reasons. Thaaaat’s a whole different post.

Read More

15th Jun 2012 188 notes , Comments