8 Things Only Your Cool Aunt Will Tell You

I didn't have a cool aunt growing up. I wish I had, because for most of my young adult life I was pretty much ass over teakettle. Had there been a woman with a few notches in her stilettos to tell me about the stuff my parents were either too prudish to get into (leave when the threesome becomes a twosome) or not hip enough to know (a hat gives you instant personality), I might have avoided learning a few lessons the hard way.
Now that I’m mid-30s-adjacent, I still don’t entirely know what I’m doing, to be honest; but I have lived, I have loved, and I have learned. And, in doing so, I’ve become a consigliera of sorts, the kind of trusted advisor who’s going to tell you what’s really up — straight, no chaser. Being a woman-in-training has never been easy, so my hope is that the hard earned nuggets to follow will help you answer questions you didn’t even know to ask, to not take it all so seriously, and to avoid the kind of public embarrassments and private disasters that, while character building, leave you with no options in life other than comedy or writing, or worse, a combination of the two.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
On Google stalking: Wipe it after you type it.

These days, you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about your desired one instantaneously online. If your Google search goes deeper than a cursory social media glean and image scan, it’s imperative that you hit “Clear Recent History” located in the “History” tab. Because, if that guy you just started dating comes over, he might want to use your computer so he can show you a short film he directed. And, as he types his personal info into the search bar, he could find it auto-populate in 20 some-odd search variations that you've already tried. Then, there could be awkward silence (as you realize the line between curious and creepy is an ever so tenuous one), and he might leave abruptly never to text again. This is purely a hypothetical scenario, of course.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Rogue facial hair doesn’t make you any less of a lady.

Like death and taxes, facial hair is an inevitable fact of life. I know all about this because I myself contend with rogue chin hair. These aren’t blond wisps, either. They’re not peach fuzz. I don’t have anything that sounds like a girly cocktail sprouting from my face. My mandibular mauraders are so tough and coarse, I suspect they spend their spare time bandying about on Harleys. There’s not much you can do but pluck the suckers. And, I can tell you that the best place for prime hair extraction is in the car, using the sun visor mirror at about 9 a.m. The light at that hour creates an HD effect on the skin, making extraction quick, which makes it hurt less. You have to accept that the whims of nature are entirely out of your control, so keep a pair of tweezers in your change purse.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
When in doubt, look to Nora Ephron.

The ultimate cool aunt, the brilliant mind behind When Harry Met Sally obviously has the antidote to whatever heartache you’re suffering. The late journalist, columnist, essayist, and novelist churned out bon mots like Pharrell Williams produces hit singles. In one of her most famous deadpans, she wrote that her cheating husband “was capable of having sex with a venetian blind.” The protagonists in her films either know the exact thing to say in any situation, or the exact moment to say “f*ck it,” and just cry. If Hannah Horvath had an Aunt Nora in her life, she’d probably be making — if not good decisions — more informed ones about her sexual misadventures and how, exactly, to comport oneself in the workplace. Her roman à clef Heartburn and her collected essay books Crazy Salad and I Feel Bad About My Neck will also make you cry-laugh your way to feeling a little less alone in the world.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Have it all by having enough.

I wholly support Sheryl Sandberg’s choices, her work furthering the conversation for women in the workplace, and her super(wo)man ability to multi-task, but leaning in to a high-powered career while also being a great mom, a loving partner, a help to my community, all while maintaining my appearance sounds like a task suited for a very specific type of woman. Which is not me. I am risk-seeking and organizationally challenged. My notion of “having it all” is vastly different than Sheryl’s in definition and in scope. And, as of this writing, health, love and friendship, and the opportunity to have my writing read is what I need to feel content with myself and my place in the world. It is enough.

For you, this might mean being a full-time mom, a child-free artist, or the next Sandberg. But, the volume of enough will change at various stages of your life. Checking in and asking yourself just what is enough at crucial milestone will help you to define what you really need in order to have it. And, not letting that be dictated by anyone else’s definition is the easiest way to ensure you’re leaning in to the life you want.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
A radish is not a cucumber.

I love the humbleness of a potato, butter lettuce for its elegance, and the workhorse carrot. I am especially fond of the radish for its candy coloring, and I adore the cucumber for its power juicing ability. Every vegetable comes with a distinct set of characteristics, very much like the people in your life. So, getting frustrated with your bookish ex-girlfriend because she never wanted to karaoke is about as ridiculous as being pissed off at a radish for not being a cucumber — or your parsnip bestie or rutabaga parents for not being more asparagus-like. Far better to focus on all the things they do well and accept them for who they are, rather than be disappointed with who and what they are not. This kind of understanding also applies to yourself; while your peers or even parents may pressure you to strive for certain qualities you simply don’t possess, it’s up to you to accept and love the you that you are. You might say “I yam what I yam,” whenever the need arises.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Being strong is sometimes the easy way out.

I had a fantastic boyfriend in my 20s. He was sweet but strong, responsible yet funny, and, most importantly, he didn’t mind that I don’t have an indoor voice. When he wanted to take the next step in our relationship, I did the mature thing and broke up with him. I rationalized that he was too needy, too emotional, too in love with me, when I was the one who’d fallen hard. I hid behind false indifference, because I wasn’t able to tell him what a fearsome thing it was for me to be loved unconditionally. In other words, I was doing it wrong. Owning (and announcing) your feelings is one of the most courageous of human acts. It’s painful and liberating, humbling and empowering in equal measure. It lets love in and is the only way to experience a relationship of any real depth. And, if it goes horribly wrong, there’s definitely a Nora Ephron character who can relate.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Find your soul family.

Do you love your family but often feel like an alien amongst them? Do you ever look around the Thanksgiving table and feel like the butt of some practical joke? I’ve been there. But, one of the great parts about growing older is that you begin to acquire what I call a "soul family." These are the friends or actual surrogate families who speak your language, live on your planet, and treat each other like you think people should be treated. When you’re with them it feels like coming home — to a place where there is no such thing as self-consciousness, a joke that isn’t funny, or love that hasn’t been earned. Finding your soul family is really about helping you do the important business of being comfortable with the person you are — even, especially, when that's different from the person you were raised to be.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Personal style is always classic.

My grandfather’s friends called him “Dapper Dan.” His shirts were tailored in England. I never saw him wear a loafer with a sock. He paired yellow pants with argyle shirts and got away with it. What I learned from him is that you never have to follow trends or conform to anyone else’s idea of what it means to dress for the occasion, because when you have your own specific way of dressing, you always look classic.

Since true personal style is just an outer expression of one’s inner life, it means you need to have opinions about what you do and don’t like. To be able to express those likes and dislikes, you must have confidence. In order to have confidence, you must do things that are true to your spirit that make you feel good. So — bold auntly statement a'coming — in order to have personal style, you need to make yourself happy, first. So, do that. And, always let any honorary aunties in your life know how we can help.
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