shoulds and shouldn’ts

The rule of thumb, regarding rules of thumb: When you can’t decide whether or not do to something, err on the side of what is least likely to be regretted.




1. When you can’t decide whether or not to pee before you go to the next venue, pee now.

2. When you’re at the store and you can’t decide whether or not to put your wallet down on the counter, don’t.

3. When you can’t decide whether or not to say something about someone else, don’t.

4. When you can’t decide whether or not to go for a run, go for a run.

5. When you can’t decide whether or not to make conversation around the name of a person you just met, don’t. That person has had that name their entire lives, and anything you have to say about that name has been heard by that person a thousand times. Ask about their job, talk about the weather, anything but their name. My favorite approach is to respond to the question “How are you?” with a random thought like “Good. Though on the way over here this guy on the subway ate an entire plate of nachos right next to me.”

6. When you can’t decide whether or not to capitalize a word, don’t.

7. When you can’t decide whether or not to make a comment about someone’s appearance, don’t.

8. When you can’t decide whether to handshake or hug, hug. When you can’t decide whether to hug or kiss, kiss.

9. When you can’t decide whether or not to shave, shave.

10. When you can’t decide whether or not to make a disclaimer, don’t.

I don’t want to be negative, but…

Disclaimers are an attempt to at the same time take responsibility and not take responsibility for what you’re about to say or do. You can’t have it both ways. If you don’t want to be negative, don’t be negative. You evidently DO want to be negative, you’re just hedging your negativity with this disclaimer. It’s a way of preemptively seeking forgiveness. But if you know you will need to ask forgiveness for something before you do it, you clearly don’t deserve to be forgiven. That said, I live by the maxim it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. But that’s different, that’s just taking your chances, has nothing to do with disclaimers. Fuck disclaimers.

I don’t usually do this on a first date.

11. When you can’t decide whether or not to use the word “obviously” or the phrase “of course,” don’t. If what you are about to say is truly obvious, it doesn’t need to be said. If not, you’re being insulting.

12. When you can’t decide whether or not to get out of bed, get up. Then reward yourself with a hot shower.

13. When you can’t decide whether or not to go to a wedding, don’t go. But when you can’t decide whether or not to go to a funeral, go.

14. When you can’t decide whether or not to water your plants, don’t. Everyone overwaters their plants.

15. When you can’t decide whether or not to broadcast a virtue, don’t. If you’re good at math, let them figure that out when it’s time to split up the bill. If you tell them you’re good at math before the bill comes, they’ll be at best unimpressed and at worst annoyed. Broadcasting is also the hallmark of inauthenticity: if you paint flowers in your spare time, that is something that should only be discovered by the stack of paintings in your closet found long after your death, not by the shitty paintings of flowers on your wall bearing your oversized signature.

16. When you can’t decide whether or not to use a superlative, don’t. Present your arguments with facts, and let the facts speak for themselves. Contrast

Ezekiel is the funniest comedian I’ve ever seen.

with

My sides hurt for three days after seeing Ezekiel perform last week.

17. When you can’t decide whether or not to use the phrase, “you should,” don’t. If you want someone to do something, sell it, don’t suggest it. A particularly despicable scenario is when “you should” is combined with a superlative.

That was the best book I’ve read in five years. You should read it.

What a conversation stopper. It’s not for you to tell me what I should do, and making frilly, superlative displays is for peacocks. Humans can explain.

Last month I read _The Giving Tree._ I started it on Sunday evening, and called in sick to work on Monday and Tuesday, finished it on Tuesday afternoon.

The most effective sale is accomplished by seduction, that is, the buyer doesn’t realize he’s been sold.

18. When you can’t decide whether or not to call your mother, call. Of course you should. Obviously.

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