Friday, July 13, 2012

Blindingly Obvious Advice

I picked up a copy of Family Circle at the supermarket the other day, intrigued by their offer to tell me twenty ways to organize my living quarters, or twenty things it was okay to throw out, or something like that. When I got it home I was disappointed; turned out that the article could be boiled down to one useful piece of advice, which I already knew: get rid of all the stuff you don't need. The other articles were all about parenting. How to parent. I'm not in that game anymore.

That's the trouble with women's magazines nowadays, or the trouble with me. Most of the sage wisdom they dish out is stuff I've known for years, blindingly obvious stuff. Get rid of what you don't need. Don't eat spoiled food. Be civil and kind to your significant other. The fashion and lifestyle magazines for single women that I used to love so well when I was young and giddy are offering very different articles from the ones I grew up on.

I remember one article in Mademoiselle – yes, I know, it folded in 2001 – that told us how to care for our clothes, how to hem them if necessary, how to get spots out and sew up rips, how to treat our shoes so that they would last a long time. Nobody bothers with that anymore. Throw them out and get new ones from China. Nowadays, if you can believe their covers, the magazines for young women offer articles like Should I Have my Breasts Enlarged, and By How Much? and Fifty Kinky Things You Can Do With the Pool Boy.

It struck me the other day, as I perused article after article giving advice about things I already knew and things I didn't care about, that it would be a public service to unload my own accumulated wisdom upon the cringing heads of the young. After all, I didn't always know everything either.

In the interests of passing on a lifetime of wisdom, here goes:

Twenty Hints for Living a Free and Happy Life. 

(Many of these things I learned from bitter experience.)

  1. Get rid of what you don't need.
  2. Don't eat spoiled food.
  3. Be civil and kind to your significant other.
  4. Brush your clothes and hang them up when you take them off.
  5. Remain on good terms with your neighbors as far as possible.
  6. Change your oil every three thousand miles.
  7. Never quit a job without having another job lined up.
  8. Keep your kitchen and bathroom spotlessly clean.
  9. Don't marry before you're thirty.
  10. Stay sober.
  11. Wear only well-made clothes that fit properly.
  12. Don't smoke.
  13. Brush your teeth twice daily.
  14. See your dentist regularly.
  15. Don't talk when you should be listening.
  16. Don't have sex without protection.
  17. Never lend a relative more money than you can afford to lose.
  18. Make sure you're always wearing clean underwear.
  19. Sieze the day.
  20. Follow your bliss.

These bromides will keep you safe from serious grief until you grow your own wisdom. As for the pool boy, you're on your own.

Kate Gallison


  1. Love this blog!! You hit every ball right out of the field! Esp. wearing clean underwear - the only thing I remember my grandmother, whom I didn't know well, ever told me! In case you get run over! To respond to your reaction to the magazines ... I get offers almost daily to subscribe to all these .. for $5.99!!! They are really hard up!!! tjs

  2. I would respectfully like to add two:
    21. Rather than storing all those souvenirs you have stashed away in boxes, take pictures of them. Store the pictures on your computer; be sure to back them up. Then you can throw away or donate the objects without losing the memories.

    22. Make copies of the the front and back of everything in your walletr and put teh copies in a file you keep at home.

  3. 23. Proofread carefully BEFORE you click "Publish."

  4. Kate, this might be "blindingly obvious," but it's still great advice. I would add:

    23. Pay attention to the "little" people. They really know what's going on, and they can make or break you. Besides, true character is how you act when it's NOT important.

    24. Make friends before you need them.

    And for authors...

    25. Understand that this business is a marathon, not a sprint.