10 tips for not being an asshole.

Dear Sweet Girl,

Not all of the advice I give you is going to be lovey-dovey sage wisdom. Sometimes I will tell you things you don’t want to hear. Actually, I do that all the time. You’ve mastered the brow-furrow when I do this, and it makes me really want to tuck that whole “no spanking or slapping upside the head” rule into my pocket for a sec. Today, love, I will give you a few one offs to ensure that you’re the least annoying person you can be.

1. If you chew gum, no one over 6″ from your mouth should hear it. It’s gross and makes you sound like an idiot.

2. If you wear perfume, no one over 6″ from your body should smell it. Don’t make people smell you if they haven’t signed up for the privilege.

3. Don’t tailgate ever. This means on the highway or in line. Give people their space. It’s so obnoxious otherwise. Don’t frontgate either. Close talkers are creepy and it’s more annoying when there’s alcohol involved. Throw out a “this is my dance space, this is your dance space” reference if needed.

Personal space, people!

Personal space, people!

4. No one wants to be the victim of your poor choices. Think carefully about your decisions and how they affect others. You are not the only person in the world. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent with the same friends crying about the same thing that they keep doing over and over and over. There’s only so much a friend can take.

5. For the love of god, please learn how to figure things out. You will get angry at Dad and me often because we will not help you with things – I see it already – but trust me when I say we are there with a net if you fall. You have to be able to do things for yourself: cook, clean, change a tire, figure out how to take a train from Bucharest to Munich, or fill out an application. All are important, and those basic skills will be far more important in your life than most anything you’ll learn in school. Those are called “life skills”. Learn. Them.

6. If you don’t learn to laugh at yourself, you will go crazy. If you take yourself too seriously, life will eat you up.

7. Don’t brag. It’s unfriendly and unkind.

8. Don’t lie. It’s not worth it. Well, sometimes it’s worth it, and you just have to, but never big lies and never to your friends or lovers. Or your parents (mostly).

9. Travel as much as you can. We’ll take you where we can afford to take you while you’re a kid, but when you hit adulthood you need to RUN! Far away. Eat street food in Cambodia, and borsht in Russia. Sleep in a tent on a mountain in Peru, or on a beach in Indonesia. Just go. It will make you whole. And less of an asshole*.

10. Hold off on handing your heart over completely until you learn to love yourself unconditionally. You need to teach someone how to love you properly, and only by example.

I love you so much. Please don’t become an asshole.



*I mean that in the “you’ll be more open-minded” sense. You may turn out to be one in the “I’ve traveled a lot and am more worldly than you” sense, though. Careful.


Choose Kind.

Dear Sweet Girl,

I’ve made decisions in my life that seemed rather insignificant to me at the time, but had such enormous impact on my life. The biggest, I’d guess, is not becoming an expert at any one thing. I didn’t have the ability or want to buckle down and study one thing. I chose not to finish college because it was harder than partying, but blew off the enormity of that decision by acknowledging that I was smart enough to have a good career that paid well without the degree. I will tell you now that I regret that decision immensely.

Sweet Friend and Sweet Girl. Please always be nice.

Sweet Friend and Sweet Girl. Please always be nice.

After that, I became a quasi-expert at everything. Working in a law firm gave me a lot of info on whichever type of law the firm specialized in. So much so, that people in my family would ask me legal questions, and I’d answer them. Expertly*. Working in private equity, I’d get questions about investments. I’d answer them as well. Expertly*. Thank god I never worked for doctors, or we’d have a lot of dead family members**. So while this all might have lead to some bad legal decisions, investments, or whatever else, what it did do was make me feel like I needed to always, no matter what, be right. Ask any of your uncles or aunts and they’ll surely attest to the fact that I’ve been a know-it-all my whole life. Ask your Dad, and he’ll tell you the amount of bets he’s lost over the years.

But lately I’ve been really trying to change this. Because of this one quote that just punched me in the gut when I heard it: “Choose to be kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.” Richard Carlson wrote that in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff years ago, and shit. He’s completely right. TOTALLY right.

I see in you a bit (a big bit) of me. You told me a few weeks back to remind you to tell your best friend that she was wrong about something she had told you and you were going to let her know. Jeez, you have no idea how that affected me. I realized right there that we have an obligation as parents, and as YOUR parents, to make sure that this gets nipped in the bud right now. So here goes:

  1. There is nothing wrong with a wrong answer. You’ll get things wrong a lot, but you get it right when your mind is open to the right answer. Being pigheaded over something that is clearly incorrect is just awful. No one wants to be friends with that, love.
  2. Unless it’s a matter of life and death, leave it. If you’re arguing with someone who is clearly passionate about his or her stance, and proving them wrong will only hurt their feelings, just leave it. Smile, and walk away.
    1. This will be incredibly difficult when it comes to watching your friends in awful relationships.  Don’t bash. Just love them.
    2. When someone you love is battling an addiction, you can’t force them to win the battle. You can’t really do anything. You might be right, and you will clearly see that, but they will not and nothing on earth will change that. You need to choose to be kind instead. And sometimes that means walking away. I’ll tell you a heartbreaking story about that someday.
    3. There are compromises that will need to be made in every single part of your life if you want healthy relationships. Some of those compromises are so hard to make because you just know you’re right. If someone else being right is going to make the long term easier, make their right (yes, sometimes there’s more than one “right”)  the one you choose. You just gotta sometimes.

Sweet Girl, just choose kind over right. I’ve been to enough therapy in my life to know that once you set your boundaries with people, you can let things fall into place. Don’t compromise who you are – that’s not what this is about – but allow your kindness to open the hearts of those around you.

I see your love for others, and your need to be accepted and praised. Being known for being the girl who is kind is much better than being the know-it-all. I guarantee that it will be your greatest asset.


*Not at all expertly, and quite possibly illegally.

**More than we already have.

Your body, your self.

Dear Sweet Girl,

The other day when I was getting out of the shower, I caught a glimpse of my naked self in the mirror. My belly, while never flat, was hanging in a way that made me want to scream. I thought: that pouch, where I carried you for 9+ months, is flabby and hang-y and I hate it. I was so focused on my stretch marks that your voice startled me when you spoke from my bed where you were lounging in your undies. “Mama,” you said, “you look so pretty now. I love your hair when it’s like that.” Not one teeny hint of sarcasm, or falsity, or smoke-up-the-ass-blowing in your statement. You saw me; you thought I looked so pretty. The end.


At least we can shop at normal stores now.

Girl, I have to tell you that it has been SO hard for me to not speak about our bodies, as humans, in anything other than positives. You have never heard me speak about my weight issues, or the fact that I am fat by many standards. We never talk about food being fattening, or watching our weight. We talk about healthful eating, and types of things that keep us full of energy, and things that make us feel yucky. But I want to crawl inside a stick of butter sometimes SO BADLY. And to you? It’s normal. All very normal.

There will come a day, my love, where people will tell you that you’re ugly, or stupid, or fat, or too skinny, or too tall (we’re dealing with this one already, huh?). I want you to understand something very important: it’s not about you. None of what those people are saying has anything to do with you. If people ever make you feel badly about the way you look, fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em all to hell. If a man tells you that you’d be perfect if you’d just {enter anything here}, please run as fast as you can in the other direction. If your friends tell you that you’re almost the right size for anything, find new friends.

Because, baby, the truth of the world is this: you will spend most of your young life trying to find your way. If you feel, at age 20 or even 25, that you have found your way, then rest assured you are wrong. Your way is a journey that will take you through a lot of life’s little hills and valleys. Stay on the road, and find the right people to ride with. Sometimes you might need to let go of the steering wheel and take a few detours. But I will tell you right now, love, that when you look back at the road, it should be littered with those people who didn’t love you for who you are. And you know what? Fuck ‘em.