Archive Page 2


you vs mom + facebook

Reader G. F. writes:

I’m a pretty moderate Facebook user (I think) — I log on once or twice a day, check on what my friends are doing, and post interesting information if I think of anything. My mother, however, is kind of obsessed with Facebook, and stays logged on most of the day via her phone. I don’t mind this per se, because she still leads a relatively normal life, but I can’t stand her Facebook habits. For instance, she’ll accept friend requests from anyone, whether she’s met them or not. She doesn’t even check who they are or if they’ve got friends in common. Also her status updates can verge on the TMI, and she comments on everything. As her daughter (and therefore the more tech savvy person in this relationship), do I have a responsibility to school her on Facebook?

Dear G.F.:

Do you ever wish there were parental controls for things like TV and Facebook, but instead of it being parents controlling it for their young kids, it could be us grown adult children controlling it for our parents? Yeah, me too. Sigh. (Just kidding — my mom and dad would never DREAM of getting on Facebook, so I’ve got nothing to worry about.)

Mom n Daughter Yay

I hope your mom posts this picture on Facebook somewhere. Image: digitalart /

In any case, the fact is, as I say over and over, the only habits you can change are your own. So no, you do not have a responsibility, or even a right, to tell your mom how she can use Facebook. And I really doubt Zuckerberg is looking into that parental controls app I just dreamed up.

But you can tell her how you feel about it. And you do have a responsibility to warn her if she doesn’t know the danger in what she’s doing.

Now you’re looking at me like I’m crazy. Facebook is harmless… generally. But not always.

The thing about Facebook is that there’s a fine line between annoying Facebook habits and unsafe Facebook habits. I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to assert that the people who do the most annoying things on Facebook are also the people who are clueless as to their safety. People who indiscriminately “friend” anyone or “like” anything are also likely to click on whatever links come their way, causing spamitis for everyone on their friend list and possibly even worse outcomes, like identity theft.

So perhaps your responsibility is to draw those lines for your mom.

I can see how it would be annoying that your mom accepts friend requests from anyone all willy-nilly (although that’s not really any of your business, ya know). But more importantly, it’s her doing so could be very unsafe, especially if she has personal information on her profile (like her address or phone number) that could be used against her. Identity theft, stalking, and other hazards of the modern world are infinitely easier if you’ve got all your info up on Facebook and just let anyone see it.

You probably aren’t ever going to get her to stop posting TMI status updates or stop asking you to join her in Farmville, but you can make sure she’s got good privacy settings. Sit down with her and go through them. It’s going to be painstaking work, but it’s the best thing you can do for her. Make sure she knows how to use lists so that only the people she really knows and trusts that can see her personal information, if you can’t convince her just to leave that information off her page altogether.

It’s quite possible she hasn’t considered the risks of Facebook the way you have. She may change her ways entirely once you tell her the risks, or she may not. She’s an adult, and you can only do so much to influence her ways.

You can also tell her that there is etiquette to Facebook that she may not be aware of. Commenting on everything makes you look kind of obsessive.

Keep in mind that she may have things to say about your behavior (on Facebook or elsewhere) that you may not be ready to hear, too. She’s your mom, after all. She may get defensive. Try to make the conversation more about your concern for her safety than your meddling in her personal life (which is what keeping track of someone’s Facebook habits is, FYI).

But do not expect her to change her behaviors at all. You need to just let it go. The fact that you’re upset by your mom’s behavior is pretty natural (close relationships bring easy annoyance), but obsessing over it is worse for you than her Facebook habits may be for her. Take a deep breath and remember that Facebook is not real life. Everyone has limits to what he or she does with Facebook, and your mom’s limits are just different from yours.


childish vs childlike

Reader S. M. writes:

People have been accusing me recently of being childish. I don’t think I’m childish; I think I’m fun. What’s the difference so I can enlighten my accusers?

Dear S.M.:

I think we need to make a distinction here between acting childlike as opposed to childish. Acting childlike includes all the things we enjoy children doing; being childish is all the crap we hate that children do. People who are childish actually can’t tell the difference. So if your accusers are childish themselves, they’re probably accusing you of the same, because they’re impatient and annoyed by anyone who isn’t in line with their ideals of adulthood.

Slide down my rainbow into my cellar door and we'll be jolly friends forevermore more

Kids love rainbows! Image: digitalart /

In my opinion, being childlike is actually ideal. In fact, various religions promote being childlike — Buddhism for one, and even Christianity with that whole “faith like a child” thing. People who are childlike are definitely fun, but also calming, innocent, and interesting.

People who are childish are not.

So here’s a list of the childlike (traits we like in children) and the childish (traits we hate in children). Check off which ones you’re showcasing at any given moment, and decide for yourself if you’re being one or the other. (If you’re being childish, you might try working on being more childlike.)

CHILDLIKE: Boundless curiosity. People who are childlike never quit asking questions about the world around them. They want to know why things are the way they are, how things work, and where things go, and every answered question leads to a million new ones. It’s a purely innocent desire to know the truth, rather than the more adult drive to prove someone else wrong.

CHILDISH: Inability to comprehend. Have you ever watched a kid just NOT get something, over and over? Something so easy to understand, like gravity or liquid volume, and yet somehow the kid just can’t change their worldview enough to grasp it. The kid has an excuse — it takes time to learn certain things, and there are stages of development. Adults, however, don’t have that excuse — we’re all capable of comprehension and learning, but many of us just avoid it. Being stuck in your own worldview with absolutely no curiosity to learn anything new is a very boring problem to have.

CHILDLIKE: Unselfconsciousness. If you ever get a chance to see really little kids (I’m talking 4-year-olds or younger) performing at a dance recital or musical, take that chance and treasure it. Kids have absolutely no concept of how dumb they look doing something, so they’ll just do it, right along with the rest of the group, as best they can. They’ll wear whatever costume you put on them and just give it a whirl.  They’ll sing their hearts out, even though it’s all off key and off beat. Childlike adults don’t care what other people think — they do what they do without batting an eyelash, whether it’s sing karaoke, wear bright colors, or dance at a wedding. They don’t care how they look; they care that they’re having fun and trying.

CHILDISH: Crippling fear. When I was about eight years old, my grandfather took my sister and I to a haunted house fundraiser for the local high school. After he’d paid our entry fee, we started to go in… and I just couldn’t. Even though I knew rationally this was a fun house built by teenagers, I couldn’t bring myself to walk through it, for fear of what lay ahead. You watch children be afraid of jumping in the pool or riding a bike and you think how much of their lives they’ll miss out on if they don’t get over that. Childish adults are crippled by this kind of fear — fear of rejection, fear of the future, fear of commitment, fear of the unknown, and even though they could probably rationally talk themselves out of it, they just can’t seem to do it.

CHILDLIKE: Selflessness. Sometimes children do the most selfless things ever, without even thinking about an impending reward. As babies, they flirt with you just to see your reaction. They share everything they have, offering you the food in their hands, just to see what happens. This is partnered with their lack of self-conciousness to make them utterly charming.

CHILDISH: Lack of empathy. Young children actually have no concept of another’s feelings or sentience, and so they can be completely, destructively selfish. They throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want. Kids grow out of it. Adults with no empathy readily engage in similar tantrums over not getting what they want. These are the road ragers, the guy yelling at the old man in the TSA line at the airport for not taking off his shoes, the impatient asshole in line behind you at the coffee shop. No empathy, no patience, completely childish and unbearable.

CHILDLIKE: Making everything a game. Kids just want to have fun, and therefore, they will find the fun in anything. Even in the absence of video games or technological gadgets, kids will pick up sticks, leaves, and dirt to play with, or just invent an imaginary kingdom all to themselves. They play all the time. And they laugh at everything. Childlike adults find the humor in things, and will invent fun if none exists around them.

CHILDISH: Being bored. Kids who are used to being stimulated all the time often complain of being bored. Without a video game console in front of them, they suddenly lack the imagination to make up a game of their own, and they whine about it. Adults who get bored are often similarly incapable of finding stimulation within themselves. Sometimes old adages are true: only the boring get bored.

CHILDLIKE: Honesty, at the risk of sounding or looking stupid. Kids who admit they don’t know something, or don’t like something, or feel sad about something, are awesome. Adults who aren’t afraid of being honest are similarly awesome. Honesty about feelings is probably most lacking in our adult society — whether it’s love, hate, fear, or sadness we’re feeling, we often won’t express it.

CHILDISH: Lying to hide something embarrassing or incriminating. Little kids who deny that they’ve done something, even though it’s obvious to everyone around them that they did it, are vexing. Adults who do it go to jail most of the time. People who can’t own up to their mistakes just get into more trouble in the long run.

So, dear readers, what goes on your lists of childlike vs childish behavior?


romantic comedies

Reader O. B. writes:

I am a highly educated, intelligent, independent, successful, takes-shit-from-nobody woman. I wouldn’t say I’m a feminist, but I do agree with a lot of feminist ideals, and one of the things I find ridiculous is the obsession with romantic love and marriage that we girls are subjected to. That said, I am often completely overwhelmed by a need to watch a romantic comedy. What is wrong with me?

Dear O.B.:

There is nothing wrong with you!

Romantic comedies are like candy. In fact, that is a perfect metaphor, the more I think about it. Like candy, these movies are made exactly to speak to the parts of you that want indulgence, fantasy, and sweetness. They’re crafted to appeal to you, even though you know they’re not good for you.

And, actually, sometimes they are good for you. Just like a really good piece of chocolate (hand-crafted, high enough cocoa content, possibly from Europe) can bring you health benefits, so, too, can a good romantic comedy.

Sometimes, they just own us. Image: porbital /

But I know you’re not talking about the hand-crafted, high-cocoa-content European romantic comedies. (No, I don’t know what a high-cocoa-content would be in a movie, sorry.) You’re not even talking about the John Cusack comedies from the 80’s, which are like those Dove chocolate squares. You’re talking about peanut M&Ms. You’re talking about those new romantic comedies that are mass-produced, totally predictable, full of A-listed-yet-talentless celebrities with two-dimensional characters, and somehow even more poorly-written and -directed than the buddy comedies that our boyfriends also fall prey to.  (And yeah, I fall prey to those suckers, too. Sometimes they’re cross-over buddy comedy/romantic comedy, like “Wedding Crashers” or even “Bridesmaids”. Man, are those ever bad news!)

Yeah, we can all admit they’re bad, the same way Halloween candy is bad.

But I think it’s okay to want to watch a stupid movie from time to time, even if it’s a stupid movie that reinforces some sort of stereotype (like, “all women want to get married to prince charming and have babies”). Your brain needs some time off from all that ass-kicking you do in your regular life. Fantasy is great from time to time, just like chocolate. As long as you don’t overindulge.

Yes, sure, someone who lives in a fantasy world has got problems. If all you did was watch romantic comedies and mourn how unlike a romantic comedy your life is, I’d say you have a real problem.

But I think just the fact that you’re aware these cravings aren’t terribly healthy for you means you’re probably more capable of handling it than, say, someone who’s watching romantic comedies because she feels part of her life isn’t going well. A lot of people find solace in movies rather than fixing what’s wrong in their own lives. Not that I have any scientific evidence of this, I’ve just watched TV and movies be soma for so many of my friends and family members.

So go see a stupid romantic comedy once in a while, or read a book that doesn’t have any edifying social value. It’s okay. We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure from time to time.



Reader A. S. writes:

I have had a wonderful little dwarf rabbit for about three weeks and I was hoping you might consider a rabbit advice column. I’ve never had a prey animal before and he is weird! What are your bunnies like? Do you let them run around loose? What if you want to pet them but they keep running away? And what can I feed him for treats besides kale?

Dear A.S.:

Fluffers at the vet after a long battle vs. MRSA. (Yes, that MRSA.)

You’ve found a subject extremely close to my heart: my bunnies. It’s definitely a subject most people know very little about, but once you become a bunny person, it’s a lifetime thing. I have so many favorite links, I’ll just pepper them throughout this (sure to be enormously long) piece.

As most of my friends know, I have three. Zelda and Vonnegut were adopted via the Hug-a-Bunny Rabbit Rescue in New Jersey, and Fluffernutter (or Fluffers) is a permanent foster from New Mexico House Rabbit Society. She actually came in as part of a very neglected trio, and lost her two mates pretty quickly after I took them on.

You’re right — having a prey animal as a companion is a completely different experience from the usual fluffy choice of cat or dog. It’s great that you recognize that, because most misunderstandings in rabbit-human communication come from the fact that people expect rabbits to be like other furballs, and they simply aren’t.

So when you’re dealing with your dwarf bun, keep in mind that most of his brain and reflexes are programmed to convince him that you and everything else around him are out to get him, and eat him. Also, remember that all rabbits have their own personalities, and while there are certain things they all have in common, yours is going to demonstrate personality traits I can’t even begin to fathom.

Zelda in a sprawl.

Most bunnies do not tolerate being handled. They don’t like being picked up, I think mostly because it means they can’t escape. Therefore, if you wanna’ pet your bunzor, get down on his level and let him tell you when he’s ready. My bunnies like to sleep under the bed when I’m on it. Sometimes in the middle of the night I can reach down and pet their noses. They like that I haven’t moved or threatened them; I’m just kinda’ petting them where they are. Fluffers has a way of telling me when she wants to be petted — she sits under the desk chair and faces me when I’m in bed. Of course, I have to roll over and sit in an uncomfortable way, leaning down to pet her nose, but that’s how bunny petting goes — you do what they need, or it doesn’t happen. Vonnegut has a certain bow he does that we call “the snuggle position”. It’s his way of communicating that he would like to be groomed (which is how rabbits communicate dominance — the highest ranking bunny gets groomed). He likes to have his whiskers scratched and there’s a spot on his back that makes him lick the floor (in the same way a dog starts to air-scratch when you get that spot behind his ear).

Some bunnies may never take to being touched at all. Zelda tolerates it, but not for long. She’ll let me rub her back for a bit, grinding her teeth in pleasure, and suddenly she’ll rear up and “box” me and run away. Zelda prefers to gaze to show her affection, which is a favorite activity of bunnies in love. Once again, remember that as prey animals, being stared at can be a sign of aggression from a predator, so the fact that a rabbit is willing to sit in a room and gaze at you means it’s love. Take into account how your bun is sitting: the harder it would be to get up and run away, the more comfortable and relaxed your bunny is. Sprawled out with legs behind, flat to the ground, is probably the most comfy a bunny ever gets, unless they’re doing the dead bunny flop, rolling onto their back with legs outstretched, which Zelda does all the time.

The Language of Lagomorphs gives a fantastic idea of what your bunny is trying to “say”. It’s worth a read, and is really funny, too.

Vonnegut waking me up in the morning.

Bunnies are a lot more playful than most people give them credit for and need room to get their play on. Free-range bunnies are awesome. They run laps at weird hours and do binkies galore. Mine jump on the bed in the morning to wake me up (mostly to remind me they need breakfast). So yes, I’ve let my bunnies have free roam over the house, but that can be problematic, especially if you’re renting. Bunnies are destructive. They need biologically to dig, chew, and run. Running probably won’t be a problem (although I once had a downstairs neighbor complain about bunny feet on wooden floors), but they will destroy your wallboards and carpets, not to mention phone cords or electrical cords. Those are extremely dangerous for bunnies, btw. You’ve got to bunny-proof whatever area your bunny is going to be out in. I’ve bought linoleum from Home Depot and lined the walls with cardboard boxes. Buy a cheap room-size rug you don’t mind the bunny destroying. My bunnies are very literary and eat books, so any bookshelf they come in contact with is empty on the bottom. I do give them books to play with — mostly, the phone book. Giving bunnies toys can help mitigate the room destruction, so get your buns a few wooden chew toys.

There are a lot of great bunny proofing tips at Save yourself the hassle and do it early. Trust me.

My rabbits are litterbox trained, which is pretty easy. Of course, given the number of buns in the house, they’re not 100% all the time (it’s a territory thing), but I’m okay sweeping up their easy poop and using vinegar on the wayward pee. Just remember that bunnies like to eat hay while they’re doing their business (weird, I know, but they also eat some of their poop, too, so… goes hand in hand).

Speaking of eating, bunnies need leafy greens and pellets, but most importantly, they need hay. They should have 24/7 access to timothy hay, which you can get at many petstores and feed stores. I buy a bale at a time. In terms of treats, I give mine a piece of banana once in a while, or apple or blueberries. Oats are good too, but you’ve gotta’ be careful because starches can pile the pounds on your little bunny.

You may want to consider getting your bunny his own special friend. Bunnies are social creatures, and live in warrens full of family and friends. Your bunny may crave another friend to talk to in his own language. Of course, it means he won’t be as bonded with you, but it can really make life easier for him in the long run.

The number one thing I should emphasize to you is that you should get your bunny spayed or neutered, even if you don’t decide to get a second companion. A lot of problematic rabbit behaviors subside with the absence of those hormones (like spraying, nipping, aggression), plus it lengthens their lifespan. Your rabbit and your household will be much happier.

Okay, I think that’s all I can give you off the top of my head. Welcome to the world of being a bunny person. We’re a quirky, fun people, I promise. In fact, why don’t you find a chapter of the House Rabbit Society or a rescue group near you? You can learn a lot from seasoned bunny veterans, plus find people who know what they’re doing to bunny sit when you go out of town. (This can be hugely important. Trust me.) And why not volunteer a bit for the buns that aren’t as fortunate as yours?

Congrats on your new friend. I wish him a long lifetime of binkies.


stupid little facebook quirks

Reader F. F. writes:

Can you just tell people some basic Facebook etiquette to remind them what not to do?

Dear F.F.:

Okay, my passive aggressive friend! Nothing quite like using an advice columnist to get out the ideas you just don’t have the balls to tell people.

Beyond the usual “don’t ever post anything on the internet you don’t want to come back and bite you in the ass later”, here are a few quirks I’ve noticed on Facebook that people need to learn not to do:

Image: Master isolated images /

– Quit liking your own status. Unless you’re trying to be ironic or funny, if you are a page, group, person, business, whatever, when you post something and then “like” it, you look like a moron. It’s not going to ruin your career, probably, but people will probably think you’re stupid.

– Stop caring about and then correcting people’s spelling errors. Yes, it’s fun to correct the spelling of the idiot who just posted some flamingly stupid post, but their flaming stupidity speaks for itself. Everyone makes typos on quick media like Facebook or Twitter. It’s embarrassing enough. Let it go. When you accidentally post something about “erection” rather than “dereliction” because your phone auto corrected, people will be much less likely to repay your spelling Nazism with their own brand of it. Save your red pencil for stuff that really matters. Like your resume.

– When someone posts an intentionally flame-y political or religious post (and there’s no stopping that, or it’d be a bullet point here), quit pretending you can be the voice of reason in the debate. There isn’t one. Even if you’ve got statistics or proof, people who post strong things about “right” or “wrong” will not be swayed. Let it go. It’s only going to devolve into name-calling, anyway. (It always does.) Confirmation Bias works for everybody, so you’re just as likely to believe something irrationally as the next guy. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, k.

– Always include a personal message with a friend request, especially if you’re sending this request to someone you’ve never met in real life or haven’t talked to in a long time. Don’t just assume they’ll know who you are or why you want to be friends.

– Remember that there’s no BCC on the Facebook messaging system yet, so if you email your entire list of friends, every time anyone replies, it’ll go to the entire group of friends. And it’ll get annoying. Use your actual email for giant mass messages if you can, and save the Facebook convos for more intimate times, or introducing friends who don’t yet know each other (which is my favorite thing to do ever).

– If you haven’t done it yet, go through your friend list and separate people into pertinent lists. This way, you can block certain people from seeing certain things (like status updates, pictures, etc) or send pertinent information to them and only them. It’s like Google+ Circles, only less … visual. Or something.

– Don’t indiscriminately invite everyone on your friend list to an event. Only invite the groups of friends that are pertinent to the event. Obviously, it’s not something that seriously takes away from your quality of life; but it’s annoying. Getting invited more than once to an event that isn’t in the town where you live makes you think the person has no idea who you are, which means, you get a defriending.

– It’s not other peoples’ jobs to know your privacy settings, so keep those up to date on your own. If someone tags you in a photo you don’t like, untag it, and/or ask them to remove it. Block apps that bother you rather than complaining about them. Leave groups if you’re getting too many messages, or, better yet, manage your messages and notifications. Facebook is highly customizable. If you are afraid Facebook is going to threaten your job/home life, and you can’t manage your own privacy settings, get off Facebook. It’s not a right. It’s a privilege.

UPDATE: – Quit posting the “scam” posts. If you must post them, at least look them up on or whatever first. Don’t just repost whatever someone else has posted thinking it’s been proven or is true. Do your research.

– Keep posting interesting links to articles or inspiring YouTube videos. Those are fun. I appreciate them. And if I don’t, I won’t click on the link.

Alright, advice blog friends, what are your pet peeves on Facebook?


asking for a raise

Reader H. U. writes:

I have been working for the same company for over a year now, which doesn’t sound like much, but most of my friends tend not to stay longer than six months at any one place, so it feels like a lot. Like most overeducated kids my age, I’m underpaid (and underutilized, but whatever). I’d like to ask my boss for a raise. What do you suggest I do?

Dear H.U.:

I have read so many columns about this exact question. What’s one more?

Having done this several times myself, I can tell you it’s only worked once for me. So here are my tried and true tips for asking (but maybe not actually for getting):

Get all the encouragement you can. Yep, this is exactly why one more column on this subject can’t hurt, in my opinion. You may read the same advice over and over, but you need to get psyched. So do it. Google up, kiddo.

– Make sure you deserve it. If you want an increase in pay, you’re going to have to prove that it’s a good investment for the company, not just because you’re a precious snowflake. Definitely put together a list of all the amazing successes you’ve had in the past year. They should be proof that you increase the value of the company or the company’s product, and if you can prove that the place can’t get on without you, you’re golden.

Don't do this

Wait to do this until you get home. Image: Ambro /

Make sure you don’t NOT deserve it. On the flipside, make a list of the mistakes you’ve made, because if your boss has been paying attention, he or she may bring these up to counter your question. Be prepared to say what you’ve learned and how you can assure things will not go sour that way again. You don’t have to bring these lists into the meeting with you, but they may help you keep track of what you’re saying.

Know what you’re worth. Don’t just ask for “a raise”. Do the research. Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics and, and anywhere else you can think of to list what the salary range is for your job title, actual work, experience, and education.  A lot of people are underpaid these days, so you’ll probably be pretty grossed out at how bad your pay is for the work you do. Don’t get emotional about it; just be armed with the statistics so you know a good range.

Know what you want. Decide how much of an increase you expect, and how much you would actually accept. While you shouldn’t ask for too much, if you have proof you’re worth a lot more than they pay you, they may give you a compromise that won’t be too shabby.

Don’t be a nuisance. If you wander into her office during a huge campaign and whine about your low pay, you may just get fired. Pretend you have an idea of what’s going on in the company on an emotional and fiscal level, even if you really don’t. Wait until after a big financial success (especially if you caused that success), and make an appointment.

– Ask earlier in the day, when your boss doesn’t have anything else huge on her/his plate. There is such a thing as decision fatigue, and you have a better chance of avoiding that if you ask in the morning than in the evening.

Have another offer waiting in the wings. This sounds like a dick move, but it’s really the only way to let them know you’re serious. “I’ve got an offer from X&X and they’re offering me 15% more” is a lot more powerful than “I’ve been here a year and think I deserve a raise”. (BTW, telling them you’ve got another offer should be your opening line.) This is, however, also the hardest part of job negotiation in the current economy. There aren’t that many jobs out there to begin with, let alone many that will offer you 15% more than the job you make now. But you can still look, and your current company will be faced with a decision about whether they can and will keep you.

Practice. You don’t have to memorize a speech, but you should know what you’re going to say. Go over it in your head a few times, or take a friend out to coffee and have them play the devil’s advocate. You want to go in prepared and relaxed. This may be the most nerve-wracking thing you’ll ever have to do at a job, so the more prepared you can be for it, the better. (You’re trying to prove you deserve it, after all.)

Don’t settle for “no”. Be proactive. If your boss tells you the company can’t give you a raise right now, ask for tips on how to assure they can in the future. Ask for more responsibility. It’s up to you to make the company want to keep you. And remember that company with the raise waiting in the wings? You might need to head that way if you really need the money.

Good luck!



Reader T. M. writes:

I have been accused lately of being too vain. What can I do to stop this?

Dear T.M.:

I have several suggestions on curbing vanity. While none of these things will actually help with the vanity inherent in your personality, it may strike a blow or two to your ego, or at least convince you to care about other things for a while. Self-absorption tends to be the issue people have with vain folks, so focusing your attention outside your own looks is your best bet.

so vain.

Image: Ambro /

Being vain isn’t necessarily the worst flaw in the world, either. While it is associated with being cocky or self-centered, vanity tends to make people take care of themselves. And people who take care of themselves can be rather nice to look at, if nothing else.

Nevertheless, if you feel as though you need to change, then I have a few ideas.

Some of these suggestions are things over which you will have no control. I’ll start with the ones you DO have control over:

Get a really bad haircut. If you’re a young woman, shave your head, or just cut it really short. If you’re a guy… just get something awful. Not stylish-awful like a mullet. I mean like a bowl cut.

Do something you’re really bad at as a hobby. Bad at languages? Take a class in something that doesn’t use the Roman alphabet — like Greek or Chinese or Russian. Not sporty? Join a sports league. If you are sporty, join a volleyball or softball team that always loses. Bad singer? Start going to karaoke religiously. Sing in front of strangers til they boo you off the stage.

Start riding your bike everywhere. You’ll be sweaty and gross all the time. You won’t be able to wear cute clothes or shoes, and bike gear is always ugly. Plus, if you’re new to it, you’ll be falling down in front of people. A lot.

Get rid of all the mirrors in your house. You don’t have to throw them out or sell them, but hide them. Try going a week without looking at yourself. (This is extremely difficult — there are mirrors everywhere.)

Do some seriously gritty charity work. I don’t mean charity fundraising or walking the dogs at the animal shelter. I mean the ugly, hard work — cleaning toilets, cleaning out the cages at the animal shelter, picking up trash on the freeway, painting over graffiti. The stuff that doesn’t get you accolades. The stuff that’s really difficult and messy that no one else wants to do.

– Apply to jobs that are just out of your qualification zone and ask for too much money. They’ll turn you down, and they won’t say it was because of the money. You can just assume it’s because they found you lacking in every aspect of your existence.

Really pay attention to how people react to you. Your friend that accused you of being too vain may not be the only person who finds your behavior annoying.

Things over which you have little to no control:

Get hives. Big ones. Big itchy ones that you can’t stop scratching. Not only will you be terribly uncomfortable, but people will think you’re probably contagious. If you know what you’re allergic to, roll around in it. Otherwise, just wait for the plague to strike.

Get acne. Same thing as hives, only less itchy. Just uncomfortable. You can probably achieve this by not washing your face very often.

Get turned down in several romantic opportunities. Sure, this is unpredictable, but you can have a part in it. Make advances on people you know are way out of your league, especially if it’s intellectually or based on appearances. When they turn you down, ask them why, and hope they actually bother to let you know.

Come down with a really serious illness. I’m talking the kind that puts you in the hospital for weeks and leaves you all skin and bones. Obviously, this will make you realign your priorities.

Okay, you probably don’t have to go to such extremes to conquer vanity. Simply being aware of your vanity can help you at least get it under control. But if you want to go all out, do a combination of any of the above and see where your head’s out a few months later.

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