Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Education

Growing up: It's an unavoidable, occasionally painful fact of life. And no matter how hard we try, or how much we pretend it's not happening, one day you wake up and realize that you have become what you always dreaded; you have become something resembling an adult, or at least something resembling a human being with adult responsibilities. It happens fast, and without warning. One day you're six years old, and your biggest problem is the fact that the toes of your socks won't line up exactly right; the next you're a twenty-something living on her own in Scandinavia. Life happens. And without little lessons along the way, without teachers and people to give us helpful hints, it can be a scary thing. I've been lucky to learn a few things, to have a few pretty wise people in my life. And so, I give you a list of some of the things I've learned thus far.

- If you've just eaten a bowl of oatmeal, fill it with water and let it soak for a bit before putting it in the dishwasher. Otherwise, the leftover bits will dry and stick to the bowl, and then you'll just have to clean it again, so just save yourself the trouble.

- You can clean silver with toothpaste. And if you're cleaning a mirror, wipe it with newspaper. This won't leave streaks. Plus you can read the comics while cleaning.

- Don't be a backseat driver. Until you get a license, you may not pass judgment. Also, the driver gets first music choice.

- Answer questions directly. As the child of two lawyers, I found that any feeble attempts to avoid answering uncomfortable questions were met with the magical phrase "Move to strike as non-responsive." For example--Mom: "Did you call your sister an idiotic moron?" Me: "She was pillow-surfing down the stairs!" Mom: "And I will deal with her separately. Move to strike as non-responsive. Try again. Did you, or did you not, call your sister an idiotic moron?"

- Beware of yellow snow. Don't eat it.

- Singing, hats, and elbows are not welcome at the dinner table. Particularly the latter. I would be serenaded by my grandfather if my elbows were on the table: "Carling, Carling, if you're able, get your elbows off the table; this is not a horses' stable, but a high-class dining room."

- If you defrost a bagel in the microwave, it does not take more than 1 minute. If you would like to set a bagel on fire in the microwave, it takes about 3 minutes.

- Fighting over seating arrangements in the car is pointless. It just results in something resembling "Car Wars, Episode III: Attack of the Bratty Children."

- On Christmas Eve, if you're out of milk to leave for Santa, apparently Diet Coke and Guinness are perfectly good substitutes. Also, if you're ringing in your first Christmas away from home in Paris with friends, it's totally fine to do so in a gay bar. Gift bags will be involved!

- In matters of the heart, don't play games. According to my mother, life is too short, and emotional games are a waste of time. Boys can be stupid, but I was taught to try not to be. Also, if I end up getting married, ice cream sundae bar > cake.

- Don't wipe your nose or face on your sleeve. There's a new invention for messes, and it's called a napkin.

- We never faked sick. The rule was: If you're too sick for school, then you're too sick for after-school activities. And we liked those a lot. As a result of this no-faking policy, I like to think I'm something of a tough cookie.

- In emergency or even just mildly frantic situations, don't panic. For instance, if you slam your finger in the car door, breathe and open the door. Don't just rip your finger out. Then you'll get plastic surgery, and a gift from your parents--a book called "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking."

- Reading a good book is the best free vacation you can take. Take them often.

- Despite what my brother thinks, the floor is not the biggest shelf in the house. Particularly in the entrance hallway of a house, where according to my parents, "those things, the hooks and hangers in this little room we call a closet? Those are where the coats go, not thrown on the floor so we can all step on them."

- Eat what's on your plate. Home was not a restaurant, so if you didn't like what was served you could make something yourself, not eat, or just eat what was served. We mostly went with the last option.

- Sometimes my mom or dad would ask us to go find one of our siblings. We'd stay put and yell the appropriate name. Turns out my parents could have done that too, so if someone asks you to go get someone, chances are they could yell themselves and thus won't accept you doing so. Just go find the person in question the first time.

- Treat others as you would like to be treated. If you act like you're better than people, and my parents are around, you might get asked awkward questions. Questions like, "How is it that your nose isn't bleeding from being so high up?" or "Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?"

- Living well is the best revenge.

- You catch more flies with honey. If you want something, you'll get it a lot easier if you're nice about it. In related news, it's ok to want to get to the top, but be kind along the way. Otherwise, when you achieve your goals, you'll be alone. And no one wants to get to the top, only to find out it's lonely up there.

- Use a coaster. Magazines can be used as coasters.

- Take responsibility for your actions and be honest. These were two biggies. If you mess up, own up; and don't lie. This includes lies of omission.

- Don't sit too close to the TV, and don't turn it up too loud. Otherwise you might be accused of being my grandfather.

- If you have a ring that's too big for your finger and you're not the type to go get it resized, just wrap a small Band-Aid around the back of it. Bam. Ring fits.

- Never fall asleep with your glasses on. You'll wake up with post-its stuck to them, very confused.

- If you want to decline someone's request, you can always just start singing, "You can't always get what you waaaant..." They will go away faster.

- Get up with your alarm clock. Don't get into the habit of hitting snooze, and you're going to have to get up eventually, so just do it before your dad comes in to wake you by singing one of three hit tunes: Kumbaya; something about Noah's "ark-y ark-y"; or my personal favorite, "Wake up, you sleepyhead! Get yourself outta bed!" repeated over and over.

- Every time you leave the house, brush your teeth first. It's just a good habit.

- Always check your Halloween candy. According to my parents, unwrapped candy was out. And for me, personally, so were apples, thanks to my mother's story about how "back in the day," bad guys would stick razors in apples and give them out to innocent trick-or-treaters.

- If you can't take it, don't dish it out. That is, if you can't take a little fun teasing, you give up your right to tease others. Also, in my family, if we feel comfortable enough to make fun of you, this means we like you and you're in.

- I used to be even more of a hypochondriac. But my dad taught me something: Time really does heal all wounds. Doesn't matter if it's a fracture or a break or a bruise or whatever. Ultimately, injuries and illness need time (in addition to proper treatment, of course). Time and patience.

- Stand up for things: beliefs, yourself, others, favorite sports teams. You'll sleep better, and be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the morning.

- Garages are actually not meant for cars. In three different houses in my childhood, we had a garage. We never used them for a vehicle. Garages are much better for storing crap and can hold a ton of books.

- Be yourself. If you're weird, embrace it; if you have crazy hair or a loud laugh or an inner dork, don't be embarrassed. Wear what you like, do what you like, be with who you like. And most importantly, do what you love, and do it to the best of your ability. That's all any of us can do to be happy.

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