After 36 Birthdays, Here Are 10 “Rules for Life”


I recently turned thirty-six—an age when you begin the slow march to senescence by a thousand tiny, FitBit-monitored steps.  But you also ripen into a little something I’d like to call “wisdom.”  Indeed, your bildungsroman days may be over, but your many experiences as a child and young adult, office worker and terror suspect, and, for some, parent or grandparent have already enriched you with a deeper perspective on life.

megan mcardle's rules for life

Inspired by friend of the blog Megan McArdle, we decided to come up with a list of important lessons that may guide you, young pups, from the treacherous plain of fetal personhood to the high and even plateau of young adulthood. (Keep in mind that we are not legally liable for any consequences that result from following this advice.)

1. Start an IRA as soon you can. Yes, everything from 401k to American Express is one big shell-game scam run for the benefit of vampiric Wall Street vultures in Greenwich, Connecticut.  But, as they say, you can’t win if you don’t play.  Capitalism may not exist by the time I reach retirement; I certainly don’t expect to have a job thirty years from now, even if the retirement age is raised to 85 by President Roy Moore IV.  But it’s kind of like Pascal’s Wager about believing in God: my nest egg might not exist amid the flaming ruins of the floating city of New Miami… but if it does, then I will be sitting pretty.

2. Never buy a pack of Newports from a homeless man in Manhattan. He will take off his sunglasses and show you his one empty eye socket, and you’ll develop a smoking habit that will take years to beat.  Studies have shown that any form of tobacco use is detrimental to health; it hurts not only you but society as a whole, contributing to the rising costs of the US healthcare system.

3. Marry up. America’s core mythology remains Horatio Alger: if you work hard, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and rise from even the most abject poverty to the loftiest heights of capitalism, like Andrew Carnegie or the Duck Dynasty.  However, the myth is just that—a myth—and even if it weren’t, all that work is just too much work.  Marrying someone with greater resources than you is a major life hack.  A self-made entrepreneur is fine, but a rich family with inherited wealth is even better.

4. Don’t get in fights over pool tables in bars. Nine times in ten, it will work out fine. But that tenth time, you get clocked by a seven-foot tall guy holding a cue ball in his fist, and spend the night in the hospital.


5. Psychiatrists are only drug dealers. Use them as prescribed.  Many a young lad or lass goes to a shrink to get actual help with their emotional problems, only to get spun out of the room so fast you think you’re a Russian hooker getting dumped off a ski-doo by Donald Trump.  They work on volume, so getting the patients in and out as fast as possible is their business model.  Once you recognize this reality, you and your psychiatrist can forge a mutually beneficial partnership.

6. If someone offers you acid, in any situation, take it. I once turned down an offer from a dealer in the bathroom at a Radiohead concert, and I’ve always regretted it.  My article got rejected by the Journal of American Culture the very next day.  Coincidence?

7. Don’t try to get into EDM. There’s a reason why it didn’t work the first few times you tried it.  It’s basically the adult version of your mom putting you in front of Teletubbies so she can make dinner.

8. Don’t pretend to be a Republican just to vote in their primary. You will never shake the taint of traitorous insincerity, nor the memory of the disdainful and righteous glares of elderly women when you request the GOP ballot.

9. Go to bed angry. Talking about problems only leads to more problems. If pressing down your issues and stuffing them away for years and years was good enough for our parents, and their parents before them, then it should be good enough for us.

10. And finally, give Lana Del Rey a chance. Yes, she may seem like a goth version of Madonna circa “Like a Prayer” (actually, that sounds awesome), but there’s a lot more to her. It’s good music to swoon to as American capitalism literally and knowingly burns the entire world to the ground.  Give in to Sister Lana.  You won’t regret it.