21 Life Lessons I Want To Share With My Daughter On Her 21st Birthday

Listen more than you talk. This is going to be hard for you, because you are my child and my mouth runs like a duck’s ass. Image: author.

Listen more than you talk. This is going to be hard for you, because you are my child and my mouth runs like a duck’s ass. Image: author.

My oldest daughter turns 21 today. And in 10 days I turn 42, which makes me double her age (in case you didn’t want to do any division today).

Because she had just been born, my 21st birthday was celebrated in a more subdued fashion than the usual binge drinking and stripping: a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake and an elderly person’s bedtime.

There was no bar hopping, no hangover. I woke up the next day just the same as every other day, laying on my right side, my newborn in the crook of my arm, a wet spot on the bed where my enormous, milky udders breasts had overflowed during the night, the smell of vomit wafting.

Her birth turned my life upside down in the very best way a tiny human can; through her, I’ve learned some of the most profound life lessons.

By “profound lessons,” I mean “I have screwed up a lot of times.”

In my infinite wisdom, I’d like to share with her (and you) 21 things I have learned while floundering around like a fool:

1. You’re going to be floundering around like a fool.

But don’t freak out — everyone is floundering around like a fool.

There are no 21 year olds who have it all figured out, and, as far as I can tell, very few 42 year olds.

2. Just because your bank balance says you have money doesn’t mean you actually have money.

It’s a good idea to keep track of these things.

Overdraft fees are, like, $35.

Congratulations, you just went from no money to -$35.

3. Speaking of money, don’t spend a fuck-ton on your wedding.

I promise you:

A. It will not make your marriage any more successful.

B. You will at some point (probably very soon) wish you had saved that money to buy a house/take care of a baby/eat.

Save the fuck-ton.

(PS I will not spend a fuck-ton on your wedding. I will, however, pay your college tuition. Also a fuck-ton. Priorities.)

4. Speaking of marriage, make a list of five qualities you are looking for in a partner and will not compromise on.

If the person you are thinking about marrying is lacking in these qualities, make sure they are either: A. rich as shit or B. so good-looking that you are dazzled by their chiseled jaw.

JUST KIDDING. Make the list.

Also make sure that on the list are:

  1. Religion

  2. Politics

  3. Stance on abortion (pro-choice)

  4. Stance on equality (yes to all kinds)

Oh, look — I made the list for you! (Add one more of your choosing.)

5. If you choose to forgo any of these (for example, you *shudder* marry a Republican), do not expect your partner to change.

You knew what they were when you picked them up. You wouldn’t expect a scorpion not to sting you.

If your partner is a Republican, don’t expect them to be not an asshole.

6. Money can’t buy you happiness.

But it sure is nice to be miserable on a tropical island.

7. That said, capitalism is an evil lure preying on your insecurity and your insatiable desire to have all the shit.

It is sucking you in, with its shiny diamonds and supple leather.

There are a few things worth spending money on: a house, a running car, a good pair of shoes, maybe some Lululemon yoga pants (those are REALLY nice pants) — the rest of it is fleeting.

Take the money you would have spent on the $270 sparkly-ass jeans and save it, because Social Security is dying and if you don’t have any retirement, you’re going to end up living either:

A. With your kids

B. In a box

Neither of which you will enjoy.

8. Learn to cook some decent meals.

Roast a chicken. Make spaghetti. Chicken soup.

Eating shitty fast food sucks the money from your wallet and the calcium from your bones.

It will also give you diarrhea. (See me for further instruction on the chicken thing.)

9. Learn how to carve a chicken.

(Hint: NOT upside-down. I mean, that would be RIDICULOUS. I would NEVER do that [for two years].)

10. Impress your friends! Make your own frosting.

If your friends don't like homemade buttercream, there is something wrong with them.

Image: author.

11. Listen more than you talk.

This is going to be hard for you, because you are my child and my mouth runs like a duck’s ass.

12. Know the definition of “diet.”

Di·et ˈdīət/: a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.


14. Diets will fuck up your relationship with food and you will spend the next 21 years trying to repair it.

Also, cake.

It's good.

15.That whole Oprah Super Sensational Sunday shit nonsense: “Do what you love and the money will follow”? Bullshit.

You can and should do what you love, but sometimes you will have to do something you don’t love, because you like shelter and food.

Oprah can say that because she’s fucking OPRAH.

16. Don’t put water in hot oil.

Remember that time Matt almost caught the ceiling on fire?

Yeah. That.

17. If you do put water in hot oil and it explodes everywhere, you are going to be prepared.

(Buy a fire extinguisher. Keep it under the kitchen sink.)

18. Eat olive oil, avocado, nuts, and fish, and do not look at the calories.

Fat is not the enemy — Weight Watchers is the enemy (and by association, Oprah. See 15).

Part two: Don't look at any calories. Eat when hungry. Stop when full.

19. Sleep.


Once you have a baby you’re never sleeping again.

I’m still lying awake worrying about you.

20. Don’t be an asshole.

21. They don’t have to understand your journey — it’s not for them.

AKA: Haters gonna hate.

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