My mother used to write on my bananas. It is one of those weird things I remember about my school lunches. I remember that she would always pack me a Red Delicious apple (which I would promptly throw in the garbage because Red Delicious apples taste, if I am being generous, like damp cardboard) and I remember that she would write me messages on my bananas. Sometimes it was something simple, like my name alongside a smiley face, but occasionally it was well-wishes. Good luck in school. Some brief piece of advice for making it out of third grade alive.
And it wasn’t that I even particularly liked bananas, because I didn’t. I desperately wanted a fruit roll up like the other girls had, or that packet of crackers that came with the cheez spread and the red plastic stick. But I found myself getting excited about the messages on my bananas– it was something to look forward to. I have always been so hungry for insights and reassurance I will sometimes stand for an hour in Barnes and Noble, eagerly reading the inspirational magnets.
It is nice, I guess, to get a snippet of good advice in a place you had not expected to find one.
And so now, depending on who you ask, I am an adult. I am no longer navigating the hallways of my elementary school, wishing my hair dried straight and begging my mother to buy me Umbro shorts. But I have different problems. Adult problems, which like child problems are often very silly and yet which also feel totally crushing and completely insurmountable. And my mother does not write on my bananas anymore because I am the mother. I pack my own lunch. So on a whim, to help me make it through the year, I wrote out some bananas of my own. These bananas are technically for me, since they are all things I need to hear now and then. But I am putting them here in case any of them are also for you. If you want them. And if you don’t want them because your mom packed you a fruit roll up or those crackers with the cheez spread, no sweat. It’s cool. I am used to being the one with the weird lunch.
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Ok, enough with the blabbering. Here are
13 Pieces of Reasonably Good Advice Written on the Skins of Bananas
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You do not have to have a coffee table made of distressed barnwood and neither your dinner plates nor your pillow cases need to match each other. It is fine if your house looks like an exploded version of your college dorm room, with milk crates and futons and those $15 IKEA side tables that people are always trying to get rid of. Under no circumstances must you embroider homemade throw pillows for your living room, and you do not have to make whatever recipe involves roasted beets with goat cheese and brie even though yes, it looks beautiful in that picture.
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Occasionally you may look in the mirror and think, “Oh dear! I used to be young and attractive and now I am becoming less so!” That is normal and fine, to notice that. People who are in their early twenties right now will someday have weird veiny hands and spittle in the corners of their mouths and people who are currently in their late sixties—the ones who say things like, “Did you read that on the interwebs?” and do not understand how to use Facebook–used to be hip, flirty twenty year-olds on whom other people had ridiculous crushes. Every old woman in a nursing home was once an eighteen year-old girl and whoever is on the cover of Maxim will someday wear support pantyhose and wish that her breasts did not look like long, deflated balloons. We all die eventually, so try and do something fun and fulfilling in the meantime.
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For my entire childhood people told me that I should be a good person, but no one ever mentioned that THIS IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. It was always listed as “something I should do,” in the way that one does ones math homework. No one even mentioned that it would not come naturally. That it was not a single, static decision (“I have decided that I am going to be good!”) but an ongoing series of choices. But being a good person is really really important. If my son has to choose between learning all the state capitals and being a good person, I could give two sh*ts about the stupid state capitals.
Honestly, I could care less about the state capitals either way. What’s ours here in New Jersey? Trenton?*
*I just looked this up. Yes. It’s Trenton.
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The things I learned through my mistakes are the things of which I am most certain. Which is hard, since I don’t want my child to make really horrible mistakes, or ones from which he can’t recover, but I do want him to make mistakes. Tons of them. Is that a normal thing to want? If not, then wanting him to make mistakes is a mistake and OHHHHHHHH, do you see what I did there?
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I am not saying that parents are not responsible for their child’s behavior. Because of course they are. We’ve all seen that Veruca Salt scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. But I know so many parents with two children who’ve said, “I did everything exactly the same for the first one and the second one and WTF, THEY TURNED OUT COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.”
Children are not a cake, where as long as you put in all the ingredients in the right amounts it will turn out the same every time. Do the best you can and don’t beat yourself up if things do not go perfectly. My mother is not responsible for my decision to wear horrible, ill-fitting pants for most of my adolescence. It is not as if she did not try very hard to teach me how to dress. But I have that gene that makes you mistakenly buy pants that are five sizes too big and also the other gene that makes you insist that those pants look fine.
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It is always unnerving to be excluded from a group. But whenever some other parent is looking at me like I am sort of weird it takes me a few minutes to remember that I am sort of weird. That is maybe my favorite thing about myself. And if they are not the type of person who likes hanging out with slightly weird people, what on earth would we ever talk about? The weather?
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I am embarrassed to say this, but here we go: I love looking at pictures of beautiful houses. A lot. I scroll through Pinterest the way teenage boys look at pornography—obsessively and anxious that someone will walk in on me while I’m doing it.
Whatever the reason, I love photos of built-in bookshelves and bathrooms with exposed brick. I love beautiful stone fireplaces in the types of houses I could never in a million years afford to have. But you know what else I love? Eating entire boxes of Hostess cupcakes. Both these things make me deliriously happy while I’m doing them but kind of depressed in the long run. I try, when I can avoid it, not to do either. Of all the things I’ve enthusiastically purchased for my apartment, there’s nothing that’s really made me any happier than I already was.
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The other day I saw this super stylish woman who obviously had a bunch of money and seemed sort of self-important and I immediately thought, “Ugh, that lady probably looks down on other people all the time. People like her are the WORST.”
And then I immediately realized that no, she is not the worst. People like me, who self-righteously say that other people are the worst, are the worst. And then I realized that no, none of us is the worst. We are all trying our best and obviously making a lot of mistakes, but that’s fine, that’s how we learn. (Banana #4!) I can’t seem to stop judging people, but I can catch myself in the middle of doing it and make myself stop. It’s not ideal, but it’s a step in the right direction.
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In the grand scheme of things the style of pants your child wears during her junior and senior year of high school is not that important. I am speaking directly to my mother on this one. Yes, it might grate on your nerves, but let’s just pull a Queen Elsa and Let it Go.
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I am, for the most part, a pretty nice person. But sometimes people are really really mean, either to me or to a person I care about. And sometimes I can manage to, maybe not be nice, but to not actively be mean back. But sometimes in addition to someone being unnecessarily cruel, I come up with something to say back that is so mean and smart and perfect that Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker would pat me on the back and hand me a martini before asking me if I could explain to them how Twitter works.
And even reading that back I am thinking, “Well yes, but THEN it is ok to be mean! If someone is being really awful.” And yes, sure. It is ok or it is not ok. I don’t know. But I never feel great about myself when I have been mean to someone, even if whatever I said was brilliant and funny. Which is a bummer. Clearly I know I should be nice but am a little conflicted on this one sometimes.
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My grandmother loved to paint watercolors and my grandfather loved to build models of old buildings out of salvaged pieces of wood and the plastic from old McDonalds salad containers. My father loves being a lawyer so much that for years I didn’t understand stereotypes about lawyers because I thought they were wonderful, impassioned people who loved their jobs and were professionally and emotionally fulfilled. My husband loves writing poetry, even though any money we have made through his poetry has been spent on stamps to mail out more poetry submissions. I have no idea what my son will like to do, but he comes from a long line of happy people who do things they enjoy doing. This seems as good a way as any to encourage him to follow suit.
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Sometimes the hardest part of having a kid is having a kid while simultaneously having an agenda. You are supposed to be somewhere by 3:30, but your child walks at the speed of a turtle that has just been given Quaaludes. Your agenda is having a conversation with an old friend but your child’s agenda is to have a bowel movement that causes the earth’s axis to shift. Or maybe you had some stupid idea for a blog post where you write down the advice you’re always trying to give yourself on bananas and you say, “I’m going to get this whole post done by tomorrow!” so you run out to the market and buy around 14 bananas. And then suddenly your son has a fever and needs your constant attention and you literally don’t have two free seconds to do this stupid thing with the bananas so they all start going bad on your counter. And you’re looking at the bananas going, “Please stop going bad–just hold out for like a day while I take care of this sick baby!” But bananas listen about as well as children do and you wind up having to get rid of about half of them and going out a second time to purchase more bananas. And meanwhile you’re eating bananas like crazy and giving them away to anyone who will eat them, which is weird because they all have pieces of advice written on them, which you are hoping no one will notice. But you buy additional bananas. And at this point the old couple who work at the fruit market probably think you are illegally breeding chimpanzees in your two bedroom apartment, but it is fine. This is life. My point, I think, is to:
Because that’s all you can do, really So that seems like as good advice as any.
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OR. Or you can watch that awesome documentary, “Hot Coffee” that was on streaming Netflix a while back. (It was really good! I’m not sure if it’s still on streaming though.) Or you can re-read all the Harry Potter books. Or you can finally memorize the rap from TLC’s “Waterfalls.” (I already know it so once you learn it we can sing it together) Or you can spend all day reading the Wikipedia biographies of the cast of Frasier, which is how I somehow lost two hours the other day.
Or you could like me on Facebook. Here is a giant link for you to do that if you are so inclined. If you know someone who needs either life advice or potassium, please share the post via my Facebook page. And thanks. You are the best.