many people over 40 don't behave like this, but it could be a generation gap or eastern culture. who knows. -dr
25 And Over
If you have reached the age of 25, I have a bit of bad news for you,
to wit: it is time, if you have not already done so, for you to emerge
from your cocoon of post-adolescent dithering and self-absorption and
join the rest of us in the world. Past the quarter-century mark, you
see, certain actions, attitudes, and behaviors will simply no longer
do, and while it might seem unpleasant to feign a maturity and
solicitousness towards others that you may not genuinely feel, it is
not only appreciated by others but necessary for your continued
survival. Continuing to insist past that point that good manners,
thoughtfulness, and grooming oppress you in some way is inappropriate
And when I instruct you to grow up, I do not mean that you must read
up on mortgage rates, put aside candy necklaces, or desist from
substituting the word "poo" for crucial syllables of movie titles.
Silliness is not only still permitted but actively encouraged. You
must, however, stop viewing carelessness, tardiness, helplessness, or
any other quality better suited to a child as either charming or
somehow beyond your control. A certain grace period for the
development of basic consideration and self-sufficiency is assumed,
but once you have turned 25, the grace period is over, and starring in
a film in your head in which you walk the earth alone is no longer
considered a valid lifestyle choice, but rather grounds for exclusion
from social occasions.
And now, for those of you who might have misplaced them, marching
orders for everyone born before 1980.
1. Remember to write thank-you notes. If you do not know when a
thank-you note is appropriate, consult an etiquette book — the older
and more hidebound the book, the better. When in doubt, write one
anyway; better to err on the side of formality. An email is not
sufficient thanks for a physical gift. Purchase stationery and stamps,
set aside five minutes, and express your gratitude in writing. Failure
to do so implies that you don't care. This implication is a memorable
one. Enough said.
2. Do not invite yourself to stay with friends when you travel
anymore. Presumably you have a job, and the means to procure yourself
a hotel. If so, do so. If not, stay home. Mentioning that you plan a
visit to another city may lead to an invitation to stay with a friend
or family member, which you may of course accept; assuming that "it's
cool if you crash" is not. Wait for the invitation; if it is not
forthcoming, this is what we call "a hint," and you should take it and
make other arrangements.
3. Do not expect friends to help you move anymore. You may ask for
help; you may not expect it, particularly if your move date is on a
weekday. Your friends have jobs to go to, and you have accumulated a
lot of heavy books by this point in your life. Hire a mover. If you
cannot afford a mover, sell your books or put them in storage — or
don't move, but one way or another, you will have to cope.
4. Develop a physical awareness of your surroundings. As children, we
live in our own heads, bonking into things, gnawing on twigs, emitting
random squawks because we don't know how to talk yet. Then, we enter
nursery school. You, having graduated college or reached a similar age
to that of the college graduate, need to learn to sense others and get
out of their way. Walk single file. Don't blather loudly in public
spaces. Give up your seat to those with disabilities or who are
struggling with small children. Take your headphones off while
interacting with clerks and passersby. Do not walk along and then stop
suddenly. It is not just you on the street; account for that fact.
5. Be on time. The occasional public-transit snafu is forgivable, but
consistent lateness is rude, annoying, and self-centered. If we didn't
care when you showed up, we'd have said "any old time"; if we said
seven, get there at seven or within fifteen minutes. Do not ditz that
you "lost track of time" as though time somehow slipped its leash and
ran into traffic. It shows a basic lack of respect for others;
flakiness is not cute anymore, primarily because it never was. Buy a
watch, wind it up, and wear it everywhere you go.
6. Have enough money. I do not mean "give up your scholarly dreams and
join the world of corporate finance in order to keep up with the
Joneses." I mean that you should not become that girl or boy who is
always a few dollars short, can only cover exactly his or her meal but
no tip, or "forgot" to go to the ATM. Go to the ATM first, don't order
things you can't afford, and…
7. Know how to calculate the tip. Ten percent of the total; double it;
done. You did not have to major in math to know how this works. You
are not dumb, but your Barbie-math-is-hard flailing is agonizing and
has outstayed its welcome. Ten percent times two. Learn it.
8. Do not share the crazy dream you had last night with anyone but
your mental wellness professional. Nobody cares. People who starred in
the dream may care, but confine your synopsis to ten words or fewer.
9. Learn to walk in heels. Gentlemen, you are at your leisure. Ladies:
If you wear heels, know how to operate them. Clomping along and
placing your foot down flat with each step gives the appearance of a
ten-year-old playing dress-up, but a pair of heels is like a bicycle —
you need momentum to stay up. Come down on the heel and carry forward
through the toe, using your regular stride. If you feel wobbly, keep
practicing, or get a pair that's better suited to your style of
walking. It isn't a once-a-year prom thing anymore for a lot of you,
so please learn to walk in them.
10. Have at least one good dress-up outfit. A dress code, or suggested
attire on an invitation, is not an instrument of The Man. Own one nice
dress, or one reasonable suit, or one sharp pair of pants and chic
sweater — something you can clean up nice in for a wedding or a
semi-formal dinner. You don't have to like it, but if the invitation
requests it, put it on. Every night can't be poker night. Which
11. Do as invitations ask you. Don't bring a guest when no such
courtesy is extended. Don't blow off an RSVP; it means "please
respond," and you should. "Regrets only" means you only answer if you
can't come. If the party starts at eight, show up at eight — not at
seven-thirty so you can go a "better" party later, not at eleven when
dinner is cold. Eight. Cocktail parties allow for leeway, of course,
but pay attention and read instructions; your host furnished the
details for a reason.
12. Know how. Know how to drive. Know how to read a map. Know how to
get around. Know how to change a tire, or whom to call if you can't
manage it, or how to get to a phone if you don't have a cell phone. We
will happily bail you out, until it becomes apparent that it's what
you always need. The possibility of a fingernail breaking or a
hairstyle becoming compromised is not grounds for purposeful
13. Don't use your friends. It's soulless. It's also obvious. If the
only reason you continue to associate with a person is to borrow his
or her car, might I remind you that you have now turned 25 and may
rent your own.
14. Have something to talk about besides college or your job. College
is over. The war stories have their amusements, but not over and over
and not at every gathering. Get a library card, go to the movies,
participate in the world. Working is not living. Be interested so that
you can be interesting.
15. Give and receive favors graciously. If you have agreed to do a
favor, you may not 1) remind the favoree ceaselessly about how great a
pain it is for you, or 2) half-ass it because the favoree "owes you."
It is a favor; it is not required, and if you cannot do it, say so. If
you can do it, pretend that nobody is watching, do it as best you can,
and let that be the end of it. Conversely, if you ask for a favor and
the askee cannot do it, do not get snappish. You can manage.
16. Drinking until you throw up is no longer properly a point of
pride. It happens to the best of us, but be properly ashamed the next
day; work on your tolerance, or eat something first, but amateur hour
ended several years hence.
17. Have a real trash receptacle, real Kleenex, and, if you smoke, a
real ashtray. No loose bags on the floor; no using a roll of toilet
paper; no plates or empty soda cans. You are not a fierce warrior
nomad of the Fratty Bubelatty tribe. Buy a wastebasket and grown-up
18. Universal quiet hours do in fact apply to you. They are,
generally, as follows — midnight to six AM on weekdays, 2 AM to 8 AM
on weekends. Mine is a fairly generous interpretation, by the by, so
bass practice should conclude, not start, at ten PM. Understand also
that just because nobody has complained directly to you does not mean
that a complaint is not justified, or pending. Further, get your
speakers off the floor. Yes, "now." Yes, a rug is still "the floor."
19. Take care of yourself. If you are sick, visit a doctor. If you are
sad, visit a shrink or talk to a friend. If you are unhappy in love,
break up. If you are fed up with how you look, buy a new shirt or stop
eating cheese. If you have a problem, try to fix it. Many problems are
knotty and need a lot of talking through, or time to resolve, but
after a few months of all complaining and no fixing, those around you
will begin to wonder if you don't enjoy the problems for the attention
they bring you. Venting is fine; inertia coupled with pouting is not.
Bored? Read a magazine. Mad at someone? Say so — to them. Change is
hard; that's too bad. Effort counts. Make one. Your mommy's shift is
20. Rudeness is not a signifier of your importance. Rudeness is a
signifier of itself, nothing more. We all have bad days; yours is not
weightier than anyone else's, comparatively, and does not excuse
displays of poor breeding. Be civil or be elsewhere.
January 17, 2005