Because really, if someone asked me out of the weird blue to come up with a list of 15 things every girl should know by the age of eighteen — as in a completely original list with no other list to respond to — that’s not the list I would’ve made. First I would’ve spent ten minutes being annoying and ornery and missing the point with well, why does it have to be a list for GIRLS? Why is everything so accidentally sexist all the time? And! why does it have to be a certain number of things? That’s so arbitrary, man, and like maybe one of the fifteen things I’d want my daughter to know is that you shouldn’t worry about goals that are arbitrarily chosen. Why are you being so uptight?
But eventually you would convince me to shut up, take a moment, quiet my mind and write a real list.
I tried it last night and ended up with twenty. Let’s call it:
Twenty things I want my children to know by age 25.
1. Human brains are brilliant story tellers, pattern seekers, and groupers of things. These brains make us flexible and well adapted to a complex world, but can lead to unfair prejudices, exhausting superstitions, and dangerous lies like “No, it’s okay, I’m fine to drive.” So you know, just be aware.
2. Embarrassment, guilt and shame are not the same. Embarrassment is useful to help you remember not to do something again. Guilt is motivating, but might mean that you’re being manipulated. Shame is the worst. Dump shame in the toilet and flush and jiggle the handle to make sure it’s gone. Unless you go around hurting people for fun, you have no reason to ever feel ashamed.
3. Listen to your instincts, but challenge them sometimes.
4. If you’re avoiding something, think about why. Are you scared? Are you unsure of what to do? Or are you just being an ass?
5. Healthy eating is about balance. In fact, healthy everything is about balance.
6. Whenever you meet someone new, you’ll form a first impression. Go home and write
Today I met (their name).
Voted most likely to:
Then get to know them better. Update your notes. Once you’ve done this with 100 people or so, analyze the results. Look for areas where you tend to be right and where you tend to be wrong. Then make a chart illustrating where your first impression biases lie. Send your chart to Kinko’s and ask them to print it as an oversized poster. Go to Michael’s and get the poster framed. They always have 50% off of custom framing. Hang it on your wall and look at it any time you start to think you should trust that girl who gives you the creeps or be friends with the guy who struck you as mean-spirited.
7. Diamonds are a scam. So are multi level marketing schemes, unpaid internships, cheap inkjet printers and free kittens.
8. Advertising is designed by horrible people who study psychology and know exactly how to make you feel stressed out. So do not grow up to work in advertising.
9. Don’t go into debt for furniture, weddings, or fast food.
10. Pets are wonderful but they complicate your life so choose them carefully. Same goes for friends.
11. There are stupid questions. There are questions that are so dumb that people will laugh. But so what? Ask them anyway! Be brave enough to ask every question.
12. You can’t force yourself to forgive. You can’t forgive someone who is still doing the same stuff that hurt you in the first place. It’s taboo to say you don’t forgive someone, but don’t forgive someone who doesn’t ask you to and don’t pretend you’re over something just to make other people feel better.
13. Integrity will cost you jobs, opportunities, money, and friends. But it will pay for itself in other ways. I’m not sure yet what those ways are, but they’re probably going to be really good to make up for all that other stuff I’ve lost.
14. If you ask a guy what he’s thinking about and he says nothing, he might’ve been thinking about some crazy sex thing. Or he might’ve been thinking about something boring like whether he remembered to save his changes to that spreadsheet. Or he might’ve been thinking about something he finds interesting but knows you might make fun of. Or he might’ve been thinking about… nothing. Don’t hassle people when they’re busy thinking.
15. Set aside time for quiet. No television, no music, just your own thoughts. Tune in to yourself. Figure out what drains your mental energy, and what recharges you.
16. Eyes on the road, seriously.
17. Give in to the suckiness. Don’t fight a bad situation or a crummy day. Tomorrow will be better.
18. Learn how to cuss properly or people will think you’re a mango-eating assplop who makes up her own sheep flipping swears.
19. Learn how to get to places on time. And then come back and teach me.
20. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to hurt people’s feelings, break things, lose important papers, get in wrecks, spill stuff, drop stuff, forget stuff, disappoint, surprise people who thought they had you all figured out, annoy your loved ones, disturb the neighbors, piss off the driver behind you, make strangers wait. It’s okay, really. Apologize, fix it if you can, don’t if you can’t, and go on.
Bonus! Here is advice other people have given me that I still use:
1. You can tell how smart someone is based on the sophistication of their lies.
2. When you lose something, find it by thinking. Then by cleaning. Then thinking some more.
3. People will tell you everything you need to know about themselves if you will just listen.
4. It’s not your job to decorate anyone’s world. Dress nice if you want to, wear lip gloss and mascara if you like it, but do it for you. Everyone else can cope.
5. While rice is cooking DON’T FRICKING TOUCH IT. Don’t lift the lid, don’t stir it, LEAVE IT ALONE.
6. Whenever you feel stuck on what to do with your life, ask yourself: What would make my close friends say “Wow!”? Put your energy into those things. Make the people who know you best say wow.
7. Don’t put more than two fonts on a page.
8. You don’t get to understand why other people are the way they are or do the things they do. Learn to be okay with that mystery because speculating will stress you out and get you nowhere.
9. When you need customer service, say “Hello, I’m an idiot and I made a mistake. I really hope you can help.”
10. Travel. Be safe about it, don’t get drunk in strange cities with people you don’t know, but travel. Nobody’s mind was ever narrowed by travel.