Tip 38: Always Be Yourself…But Don’t Expect to Date

Sweet 19 and never been dated, as the saying goes.

University of Mary Washington / October 2004 / At Least It's a Good Story

University of Mary Washington / October 2005 / At Least It’s a Good Story

But things are different now–you’re in college, with a fresh crop of uninterested guys ripe for the picking. And what better place to be rejected at the next educational tier than at your first Halloween party.

Brimming with the misguided hope of an East Coast autumn romance, you travel to a dilapidated building where your school’s one underground frat is hosting this October soiree. It’s the kind of place that serves as a welcome reminder to update your Tetanus shots, but, hey, COLLEGE!

Unfortunately, your toothpaste costume isn’t the…hit…you anticipated. Nor is it drawing the male attention you’re seeking. “What are the chances,” you say to yourself, scanning the room, “that this year’s most popular costume is a slut?!” What a coincidence!

Furthermore, you start to realize that when presented with a tube of toothpaste or said loose women, college boys pick the latter. This epiphany most clearly manifests itself as two drunk dudes start Night At The Roxbury’ing you, your felt-covered body getting bounced back and forth in a drunken sandwich as one guy begins chanting, “Squeeze the tube! Squeeze the tube!”

You manage to escape the human pinball machine, only to inform one illiterate classmate that no, you’re not a lamp shade. Hence the CREST written on your body.

Costume in shambles from all the manhandling, you decide to call it a night. You got a main squeeze–just not the kind you wanted.

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Tip 37: Get Your Life Together

It’s your 26th birthday. Naturally, you want to spend it by roadtripping to the City of Brotherly Love with your BFF in search of large roadside attractions. As the saying goes, ‘A day of a giant cellophane-encased Tastykake apple pie brings a year of good luck.’ (Unknown)

Maryland / October 2012 / At Least It's A Good Story

Maryland / October 2012 / At Least It’s A Good Story

But as you set off, you can’t help but notice that your front tire looks a little low on air. Fortunately, you’re a modern gal who wears slacks and knows how to use an air pump. Nothing a quick trip to Exxon can’t fix!

Yet as you’re filling your tire, the problem appears to be getting worse. One more mile down the road and it becomes quite clear–you’re rocking a flat.

The Verdict

The Verdict

After dropping the car off at a nearby auto shop, you spend the next two hours waiting in what can only be described as a trailer designed for conjugal visits. Sitting on a stained, grossly oversized La-Z-Boy sofa and watching The Price is Right is a sobering way to usher in your new year; one that hardly screams, ‘Your soulmate is right around the corner.’ A rat, perhaps–but not a soulmate.

But turns out there is something more sobering: Learning two hours later that–after a thorough inspection–there was nothing wrong with your vehicle. You were just so inept with the pump that you didn’t fill your tire, but rather drained it of all remaining air.

Haaaaa-py birth-dayyyyy to youuuuuu.

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Tip 36: Who Says You Can’t Go Home

When your mom tells you it’s time to clean out your childhood bedroom, you have no choice but to cry a little for no reason, then drive your grown-ass, 27-year-old self home for the weekend.

Upon arrival, you’ll face your demons. More specifically, 36 of them. Your porcelain doll collection takes up the majority of your room, and though you’ve since been cured of this frightening addiction, you could never bear the thought of tossing them. These are human beings, for God’s sake!

Maryland / July 2014 / At Least It's a Good Story

Maryland / July 2014 / At Least It’s a Good Story

And then you look at your mother, utterly exhausted from spending nearly three decades dusting 36 velvet hats, muffs and overcoats, and you realize it’s time to grow up.

“Just get rid of them all,” you announce, completely shutting down inside. “Except the Anne of Green Gables dolls! But everything else, get rid of. I don’t care.”

But having birthed you–and once also cleaning shit out of your underwear after an accident at the movie theater–Mom can sense you’re not quite ready to let go.

Being the angel that she is, she’ll suggest you just box them up for now. The selling of said dolls–human trafficking, if we’re all being honest with ourselves–can be handled at a later date.

Straight up serial killer.

Straight up serial killer.

As you’re contorting various porcelain limbs into cardboard boxes, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Why can’t you Idina up and let it go?

And then, a few minutes later, you see your Mom hunched over your dresser, holding a little something special of her own. Turns out she’s been saving your wisdom teeth for the past decade.

The demented apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

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Tip 35: Pie Waits For No Man

Some families enjoy a good wine tasting, hopping from vineyard to vineyard on a sunny afternoon. But your family enjoys a good bakery. As in, bakery after bakery after bakery.

So when you drive past a long line forming outside of a church pie sale one August, smack dab in the middle of Maine blueberry season, your natural instinct will be to pull the vehicle over with NASCAR-esque precision and speed.

One of your three travel companions has done something horrible in a past life and is now paying the price as a gluten-free Celiac. The other two enjoy traditional baked goods, but maybe don’t share your…intensity.

After exiting the vehicle and joining the back of the line, you see a woman emerge from the church hall and inform everyone that the doors will open in 10 minutes. First come, first served.

Bar Harbor, Maine / August 2013 / At Least It's a Good Story

Bar Harbor, Maine / August 2013 / At Least It’s a Good Story

With your team in place, you huddle up and begin delegating assignments like Monica wedding-dress shopping in “Friends.” When the doors open, everyone is to fan out and begin searching for blueberry pie–ideally, with exquisite lattice work and crumbles on top of the crust. When said pies are located, each individual is to stand guard until three blueberry pies can be narrowed down to one. If time remains, a second pie of an unknown flavor may also be grabbed.

What hiking trips are all about.

What hiking trips are all about.

Once inside, you find yourself pushing past church parishioners as if you’re trying to secure a spot on the final Titanic lifeboat. The next few moments are a whirlwind, throwing open lid after lid on each pie box to assess the crust work.

Five minutes later, you exit with the most beautifully crafted blueberry pie known to man. And a key lime, to boot. You’re not quite sure what went down in there–you may have killed someone, or gouged out the Reverend’s eye balls. Who’s to say?

All you know is you have two pies in your possession. And that in the heat of the moment, you signed up for a church lobster bake.


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Tip 34: Don’t Stalk Julia Roberts

Between the years 1998-2004, you may have had a somewhat disturbing and inexplicable obsession with Julia Roberts. As in, collected every magazine cover on which she appeared, recorded every interview on various loose VHS tapes, memorized her unauthorized biography, cried when she broke up with Benjamin Bratt, and organized an extremely frightening binder full of newspaper clippings–the cover of which included cut-out letters from magazines that spelled ‘America’s Sweetheart: The woman with the million-dollar smile.’ For your 14th birthday, you even had a cake with Julia Roberts’ face screen-printed on the top.

Perhaps most concerning of all, you were never apprehended by the authorities.

Fast forward to 2013. Now an arguably normal 27-year-old with no serial-killer binders dedicated to female movie stars in your possession, you’ll travel to New Mexico with a friend. But old habits die hard.

Taos, New Mexico / December 2013 / At Least It's a Good Story

Taos, New Mexico / December 2013 / At Least It’s a Good Story


As you’re headed toward Taos, you can’t help but remember that Julia spends a good portion of her time on a ranch just outside of town. You’re not in New Mexico to stalk Julia Roberts, and you want to be respectful of her privacy–but the 14-year-old in you also wants to watch her move from room to room in her home while perched in a nearby tree. The 27-year-old in you really wants to, too.

As such, you’ll spend the next 30 minutes Googling a smattering of phrases to the effect of ‘Driving directions to Julia Roberts’ private home in Taos.’ When nothing of the sort is found, you’ll resort to visiting every quilting shop in town. Everyone knows J. Ro. loves to work a pair of needles while on set.

Although Julia is nowhere to be found, you’ll eventually acknowledge the hidden blessing in it all. Some dreams are best left unrealized; some collages of Julia Roberts’ face best left under your childhood bed.

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Tip 33: The Secret Garden Was Less Secret

A hostel is no place for three young gals to spend five months in Ireland. (Did I or did I not just warn you all about Waterfalls in Tip 32?!) Thus, you’ll arrive in Galway looking for your forever home.

The challenge is that the Irish urban planners of yore were constantly wasted. As such, there are three 4 McDonough Drives in the city center alone. So when you see an ad in the Galway Advertiser for a house at this very address, you’ll spend the next 19 hours looking for it. And just for fun, it will pour the entire time. And your umbrella will break, because why not.

Approximately 10 hours into your house hunting, you’ll call the landlord and ask for help. But when dear, sweet Tom answers the phone, he’ll inform you that–funny story–he’s not at the house where you’re supposed to meet him, he’s actually at the pub. But hey, relax–there’s a key in the rafters above the door. You can just let yourselves in and have a look.

And you can drown in your pint, Tom.

Galway / June 2008 / At Least It's a Good Story

Galway / June 2008 / At Least It’s a Good Story

Once under the doorway of the correct home, you’ll face your next character-building challenge: How the HELL will you get the keys down?

You’ll reason that Liz is the lightest of the three, and as such, she’ll have to climb on your back and get the keys. You’re the base in this cheerleader pyramid, no questions asked. In an equally important role, Bridget will need to take your camera and capture the experience.

With Liz’s legs dangling around your neck, you’ll launch her skyward. The next 10 minutes will be spent alternatively laughing hysterically–Liz threatening to “piss all the way down your back”–and listening to her piece together a masterful string of expletives as she runs her hands along the “cockroach-infested” rafters.

So just do yourselves a favor and stop looking. You’ll sooner find the requisite licks to the center of a Tootsie pop.

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Tip 32: Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

The single most important thing you learn in your mid-twenties is that cheap pitchers are the Devil’s work. Unfortunately, you’ll find yourself in Barcelona in your early twenties.

More specifically, you’ll find yourself on the hostel rooftop, purchasing a pitcher of Sangria for three euros. ‘What a deal!’ you’ll say to your friends. ‘Let’s each buy a pitcher!’

Oh you sweet, naive cherubs.

The man selling pitchers of Sangria / Barcelona / August 2008 / At Least It's a Good Story

The man selling pitchers of Sangria / Barcelona / August 2008 / At Least It’s a Good Story

Pitchers in hand, you’ll join a group of fellow travelers from around the globe in an impromptu game of Waterfalls. TLC was all ‘Don’t go chasin’ and you’re all ‘I wanna chase, T-Boz!’

Unfortunately one of your new teammates is a Finnish woman with no sense of self-control. Furthermore, she’s chugging straight from a handle of Bailey’s Irish Cream, intent on destroying her body with mass quantities of lactose. So you’ll think, hey, what’s a little Sangria?! It’s got fruit!

Halfway down Satan’s wormhole, a very attractive Welsh gentleman will begin speaking to you. The conversation’s off to a good start, but then you’ll realize you’re going to vomit in approximately 28 seconds.

“Hey…umm, I’ll be right back,” you’ll say, before doing a surprisingly calm yet incredibly frantic run-walk to the hostel bathroom. Hanging out on all fours, you’ll finally get why the game is called Waterfalls. Four waterfalls, to be specific.

Your friends will find you in the bathroom half an hour later, your jean skirt now intimately involved with the tile floor. But what’s that? They’re not ready to the end the night!

So instead of making sure you’re OK, they’ll walk you back to your co-ed hostel room and leave you in there with two Danish men occupying the other set of bunks. But wait–good friend alert–they’ll also set your phone alarm for 2 a.m., at which point they’ll ask that you send confirmation, via text, that you haven’t choked to death on your own vomit. You guuyyyyssss! You.are.the.best.

But hey, lesson learned. You gotta stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. Like, three hard ciders, max.

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Tip 31: You Gotta Bleed for Love

There are many injustices in life. Being physically incapable of doing a pull-up, for example. Or eating just one Pop Tart. Or running more than 4 miles. But these are all things that are out of one’s control. Nothing can be done.

With such harsh realities in mind, you’ll meet your friends for a Valentine’s Day dinner in D.C. with the additional understanding that people who are far more undesirable than you will have significant others. Furthermore, they’ll most likely be sharing a romantic meal. Damn you, cruel world! 

Marking my territory / Washington D.C. / February 2010 / At Least It's A Good Story

Marking my territory / Washington D.C. / February 2010 / At Least It’s A Good Story

But you’ll still feel wholly unprepared when you sit down for dinner and see a woman standing next to your table, speaking with a gentleman caller in some sort of blind date situation. Clad in a fur coat that appears to be made from puppy skin, Cruella De Vil will decide to rest her wine glass next to your plate and lean her body against your table while chatting with Poor Bastard No. 1.

Though her lack of physical boundaries and restaurant etiquette are somewhat concerning, you’ll be most distressed to observe a steady stream of blood suddenly coming from her nose–the crimson drops of which are hitting the white floor next to your shoe.

Cru will not notice her actively bleeding nose, nor will her new boo seem particularly troubled by her draining orifice. The two will continue to chat and blood will continue to pool around your leg until, wait, what’s that, a second man will approach. Turns out he, too, wants a piece of this hot dish.

Now, it’s been an otherwise pleasant–if not completely devoid of love–Valentine’s Day, but enough is enough. This woman now has two potential suitors and you–a person who is not actively bleeding from any part of your body–has zero.

Bitch probably ate just one Pop Tart for breakfast, too.

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Tip 30: If You Give a Moose a Muffin, He Will Horribly Disfigure You

If you give a moose a muffin, he will NOT want some jam to go with it. He will want to trample you to death. I don’t want to point fingers, but Laura Numeroff and her G.D. children’s books may be responsible for multiple animal attacks.

With such conflicting information swirling around and no one to turn to for the truth–Steve Irwin being dead and all–you’ll head to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks with a bit of apprehension.

The area is teeming with bears, moose, bison, mountain lions and generally all creatures put on this earth to destroy humans. To complicate matters, you’ll be given a very different set of instructions depending on which animal you have the misfortune of running into on the trail.

Wyoming / May 2012 / At Least It's a Good Story

Wyoming / May 2012 / At Least It’s a Good Story


If you see a bear, for example, you must first analyze its shoulder hump to determine whether it’s black or grizzly. Whether you do this before or after you explosively shit your pants is up to you.

Next, you will need to read the bear’s “subtle” body language. This is particularly difficult for someone who, at the age of 16, thought a boy wanted to date her because he asked to borrow a marker.

Other incredibly helpful tips include speaking to the bear in a calm voice. So you’ll want to practice saying “Please be gentle as you maul my face beyond recognition” in a soothing manner.

Another useful nugget to differentiate grizzlies from black bears is the length of their claws. Remember to measure them as they’re piercing your retina.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh m’ eye!

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Tip 29: Kitchen Whisks Are No Match for Stank

Kitchen whisks, lest you get confused, are best used to stir pancake batter, not wash soiled undergarments.

But when you embark on a two-week hiking adventure in Washington state with one week’s worth of underwear and socks, even a simpleton can do the math.

Yet by day eight, you’ll be shocked at just HOW badly everything smells. Like, dry-heave inducing fragrances emanating from the trunk. At one point, you’ll accidentally run over a chipmunk and will be unable to determine if you’re smelling a tire full of bloodied rodent hair or a pair of socks.

Olympic National Park / July 2014 / At Least It's a Good Story

Olympic National Park / July 2014 / At Least It’s a Good Story

Unfortunately, you’re staying in a tiny cabin on a Native American reservation in coastal Washington and there are no laundry facilities to be had. Coffee huts every five feet, but no washers and dryers. This is a well-caffeinated, smelly people.

As such, you and your two travel companions will take to stirring your undergarments in a sink full of Tide with a kitchen whisk. If it can beat out clumps of brownie mix, surely it can beat out the stank.

But try as you might to get all Laura Ingalls Wilder with your makeshift washing process–your best friend’s boyfriend feeling not at all awkward as he stirs your delicates–your clothes will actually smell worse than ever before. Because now they’re still dirty, but they’re also damp.

Which reminds me: If you’re staying in Cabin 3, I would NOT make pancakes

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