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I’m turning 23 tomorrow. Definitely still don’t have my shit my together. And this is definitely the last year I’ll be getting older until I turn 29. Of course, then I’ll turn 29 until I’m 45. We all have struggles.

That being said, I have learned a lot about this crazy, stupid world in the last 2 decades plus 3 years. I’m growing up. Slowly but surely. One day, after many more experiences, I’ll be the woman I’m supposed to be. What I’ve picked up so far is helping to shape me and I value every lesson and every person who has taught me something.

Here are 23 things I’ve learned after 23 years of being a hot mess.

1.       Try not to panic date.
Panic dating is when you are emotionally damaged (probably by another relationship, so cute) and you jump into something because you’re tired of being lonely and want someone to go to the movies with. It doesn’t feel totally right, but it’s comfortable and it seems like something you should be doing. My last relationship was a panic relationship. Don’t do this. Take the time to grieve your last relationship. Cry. A lot. Feel terrible about yourself and then drink a bunch of wine. Be single and fabulous. But most importantly, always be yourself because you are the greatest you there is.

2.       Don’t have sex with your (straight, male) friends
This is a lesson I’m still trying to master. Sleeping with your friends complicates things and makes everything an enormous cluster-fuck of horribleness. Unless things work out, like they did with Green. THIS RARELY HAPPENS. Just don’t have sex with them, dude. I suggest eliminating this issue altogether by surrounding yourself with a gaggle of fabulous gays. Gay boyfriends are better than any real boyfriend anyway.

3.       Friends come and go.
This may be the most important lesson of all. Don’t trust people too much. Sometimes you need to have walls. They don’t have to be high but they need to be present. Friends are not forever, most of the time. You may think you have a best friend, a lifer. But they can leave you. Sometimes out of nowhere. Sometimes without a serious fight. People will leave you. People are temporary. Prepare yourself in every friendship to give that person up. Always be ready for it so you don’t end up with a broken heart. Because having your best friend leave you hurts so much more than any man’s desertion. Who’s going to drink wine with you and watch Sex and the City (while you cry) when it’s your best friend who broke up with you? I’m telling you, prepare for this.

4.       Gay friends make the best friends
Gay men are flawless. They are the perfect combination of straight women and straight men.
How they’re like women: They dress well, they take care of themselves, they love penis, they despise sports, they love gossip and they love to drink wine.
How they’re like men: they’re drama free, they love casual sex, and they are extremely loyal.
In short, gay men are the best friends. They won’t backstab you but they sure are happy to drink 2 bottles of wine with you.
They are extremely loyal friends and I love my gays more than anything. They won’t abandon you… Unless it’s Dick o’Clock at the night club and they’re all pairing off to do the gay sex, then you’re on your own, honey.

5.       Start drinking early so you can make it to bed by midnight
This is an acquired skill. I am an enormous wino. I remember the days of staying out until 4am, drinking vodka cranberry, at the promoter’s table, at the clubs. Those days are over (except weekends, of course). Between early classes and internships I have learned that if you’re going to drink, do it in bed, with a bottle (okay, 2 bottles) of wine and a couple of really epic HBO shows. Oh, and I guess invite a friend over so you’re not drinking alone like a really sad old person…I don’t invite anyone, usually. I sometimes have my extremely tall, fabulous gay friend, Dandelion, over. But then, you see, I can’t watch my shows. How am I supposed to find out if Brody gets out of South America if I have someone yammering in my ear about gay clubs and Grindr?

6.       Love yourself the most.
I’ve written about this before but it’s worth mentioning again. Never love anyone more than you love yourself. Maybe this will change when I have kids (if I ever have even fall in love and have kids, which is looking doubtful) but right now I’ve made a promise to myself to always love myself the most. You have to in order to survive. When that best friend dumps you or that perfect guy turns out to be a huge butt-muncher, you’ll be okay because you will always have yourself and you can make yourself happy. Just keep telling yourself: I’m fucking fabulous and I know it.

7.       New York is the best place on earth
New York is the best place to be in your young adult life. It’s beautiful, vibrant and full of adventure around every concrete corner. I will take it night and day with its crowded, piss-smelling streets and its incredible amount of drug-addicted homeless people sleeping on church steps. I’ll take it with the deafening car horns and the 10 pound rats. Give me New York or give me death. This place may not be great for your health but this is the most amazing city on the planet and living here is one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. I miss Chicago and I miss my family but I’m in a long term relationship with New York City.

8.       Wait for the first class jewels, Gigi, hold on to your ideals.
Thanks, Aunt Alicia.

9.       Wine is the best policy
Ode to wine:

I love wine.
I love everything about wine.
I love the way it makes me feel
I love the way it makes my heart ache go away.
I love when it keeps me company while I write
And when I’m emotional
And when I’m bored
And when I’m happy
And when I’m mad
So basically all the time
I love wine.

10.   Sometimes you really do have to fake that orgasm.
Sorry to burst your sex-god bubble but guys literally have no idea what they’re doing 85% of the time. Sex is great. Love doing it. Literally want to do it every second. I will put off watching The Mindy Project if sex is on the table. Sex is wonderful even if there’s no orgasm. Men do not understand this because they have penises. For women, it isn’t going to happen most of the time. Just fake it so they don’t feel like shit about themselves. Guys are stupid, they do not understand anything. They think ramming that meat stick as hard as they can is going to produce the desired effect…sorry, no, that’s not how it works. Which brings me to lesson number 11.

11.   Foreplay is extremely important no matter what anyone says
I’m pretty sure “foreplay” wasn’t even in my ex-boyfriend’s vocabulary. Having sex was unbearable by the end of our complicated and overly drawn-out love affair (yes, I brought it up when breaking up with him). I would just let him do it because if I said anything, he would just ignore me. Healthy! I don’t care what anyone says about “foreplay being overrated,” that shit is necessary. If there is one thing I have learned in however many years of being (very) sexually active it’s that you need your buttons pushed and your cogs greased if you want to have a good sexual experience. Don’t let a guy just stick it in, girlfriend, that’s depressing and painful. The only time you should be having trouble walking is from having TOO much GOOD sex not bad, dry sex. No foreplay, no pene. For real. My new mantra: IF HE DOESN’T GO DOWN, DON’T KEEP HIM AROUND.

12.   Always carry an extra pair of underwear in your purse
Because you never know! Even when I was in a relationship I had to carry an extra pair. Sometimes there are unexpected sleep overs and as much fun as going commando in blue jeans sounds, I think I’ll pass. A girl’s purse is one of man’s greatest mysteries. It has everything she needs to survive, and that includes an extra pair of panties to change into after that sloppy, embarrassing bar hook up. It probably won’t remove the sting of the walk of shame, but at least you’ll be fresher than your melting make-up!

13.   Never mix your liquors.
Sure, that whiskey sour right after a vodka tonic sounds like a fantastic, positively inspired idea while you’re standing at the bar but it sure will hurt in the morning. The worst hang overs I’ve had can be attributed to mixing brown and clear liquors. This is a lesson I learned early but I’ve carried it with me throughout my adult life, where alcohol has been a true and constant companion. The last thing you want is to get bitch slapped by your closest friends Svedka and Jack Daniels.

14.   White is absolutely okay in the wintertime
Fashion alert! Please, no white after Labor Day? I’ve learned to kick this rule to the proverbial curb. GTFO of here. Winter White is totally chic.

15.   Have the right playlists on hand
You never know when a break-up (be it with a friend or a man) is going to happen. Have playlists premade and at the ready. Tegan and Sara will get you through it. Also, one with a little Beyoncé for when you’re feeling strong and fabulous is essential. Because Sasha Fierce is glorious and you are too.

16.   It’s okay to make yourself throw up sometimes
Look, if you drank too much you drank too much. If you drank too fast, you drank too fast. Just get that poison out of your body ASAP. It may be embarrassing and you don’t want to be that puke girl, but sometimes you have to sacrifice dignity to feel better (and to have a fun time at the party). Go into the bathroom, throw up as quietly as you can, and get back to that 2 buck chuck you have waiting in a solo cup on the sink.

17.   Keep it in your pants (for 4 weeks)
This is the best way to assure that you get the guy. It’s always worked for me. Four weeks is the perfect amount of time. Any shorter and you’re being slutty (he thinks this but I think everyone should just be having sex all the time so whatever) and any longer and you risk his thinking you’re frigged and moving on. Any time I’ve given it up too soon, it’s never worked out. Guys are pigs. Just wait and make him wait. Since you’re not official yet you can still be dating other guys. Fuck up with them and get it out of your system. If you’re looking for a one night stand, go for it, but if you’re thinking boyfriend material, wait to sleep with him. Which means don’t ever get drunk with him before the 4 weeks are over. I don’t know about you but getting drunk makes me become a SUPER SLUT. Just get drunk with your gay friends instead.

18.   Money is really important
My Dad always used to say, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” Not having money sucks. Let’s be real. Everyone always says money doesn’t buy happiness. I get it, you’re not going to be happy skinny dipping, alone in a swimming pool full of Benjamins, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to believe you could be happy not knowing if you’ll be able to pay your rent next month, even while you’re snuggled up with the love of your life. Living pay check to pay check arouses anxiety that can drive a person to have heart palpitations. I sometimes only eat one meal a day so that I can save money. It’s miserable being poor. I want to have money. I like things. I actually really enjoy NICE things. If money isn’t the answer then just give me all of your cash while you go on a search for happiness in the jungles of Tanzania with your soul mate and me and my boyfriend, New York, will be delighted to spend it for you.

19.   What you get is what you’re getting
If a guy wants to see you, he’ll see you. If he’s not putting in the effort, he never will. If he wants to be your boyfriend, he’ll be your boyfriend. You cannot change a man. Don’t waste your time and energy on men who aren’t that into you because you think you can make them be into you, eventually. I have so many girlfriends who do this and end up crying all over themselves. Hell, I’ve done it too. Guess what! It’s not going to happen and it’s a huge waste of the effort you could be putting into drinking a glass (bottle) of wine and trolling for other dudes. The key is getting out early. Recognize the signs and if he doesn’t give you what you want, kick that loser to the curb. Tough love: he’s not going to be that hurt because he’s really not that interested in you. Someone else will be. Don’t settle. You deserve to be worshiped.

20.   Start the anti-aging process at 20
The key is prevention so invest in some expensive anti-aging creams and slow it down before it starts.

21.   You don’t have to Instagram everything
I know it’s a lot of fun to Instagram things so that you can show everyone how much better your life is than theirs’, but what are you missing while you’re searching for the perfect filter? I was completely addicted to my Instagram. Snapping pics of everything I saw so that everyone would see what an amazing time I was having. I realized that I was missing half of the nights out and weekend trips away with my (then) boyfriend. Take the time to really enjoy what you’re experiencing. Take one insta, and put the camera down. The world is waiting for you.

22.   Family is forever
My brothers and sisters are my best friends, and family is the only thing that’s forever. What is said about blood being thicker than water is completely true. It’s easy to get caught up with friends and think that they’re the most important thing, but they really aren’t. Friends can leave you but your siblings and parents can’t because they’re stuck with you. Your sisters and brothers are the ones who see you when you have chicken pox at age four, and make up crazy dances with you to perform for mom and dad. They’ve always been there and they always be. They’re the only ones you don’t have to be guarded against. For once, you can let your walls down, and that is a beautiful thing.

23.   23 doesn’t mean take 23 shots
Now that I’m turning 23 I can no longer drink my age in shots. Just kidding. 22 would kill me too.

pic of me