How To Borrow From A Friend

The important thing to remember about borrowing things from friends is that you have to give whatever you took back. Do whatever it takes to remember this. Don’t put, say a book, with your own books. Keep it separate. Even set a reminder on your calendar to return it by a certain date.

When you are asking to borrow something, pay attention to your friends tone of voice. If they seem reluctant to let you borrow it, let it go. Don’t ask to borrow things that are very valuable or sentimental.

Treat anything you borrow with the absolute best care and return it in absolutely the condition you found it in. If you damage it in any way, offer to repair or replace it.

Say thank you when you return it. And if your friend asks for it back, return it ASAP.

If your friend has borrowed something:

Try to put your name on it, especially for a book or a DVD or something. People are much more likely to remember to return it.

If you need it back, just ask nicely. If they keep flaking, you might need to go to their house to get it yourself.

Don’t lend out anything that you would seriously miss if it was never returned.




(PS. Jaya, I will return your book ASAP, I promise, XOXOXO)

How To Be A Respectful Traveler


Don’t steal important monuments

We’ve already covered some points of hotel and hostel etiquette, but where you sleep is just one aspect of how you travel. If you’re one of those people who books a package tour, gets carted around in a bus and never interacts with anyone actually from the country you’re visiting, fine, keep doing what you do because you probably aren’t self-conscious about how you come off anyway. But for the rest of us, travel is an opportunity to meet new people, see new things, and understand new cultures.

The basic idea is that you need to adapt yourself to the local culture, not the other way around. Do this by researching the area. What are the tipping customs? Do you have dietary restrictions or other medical needs you need to be on top of? Can you learn some basic words in the local language? You don’t have to know everything, but you really have no excuse to not even attempt “hello” and “thank you.” Most people just appreciate the effort, and will do their best to help you out if they know you’re trying.

Also, do you need to dress differently? That last one definitely (unfortunately) applies to women. I’m going on my honeymoon to Sri Lanka and have been stocking up on light but covering clothing, since tank tops and shorts don’t really fly there. I could be all pissed about the pervasive idea that women’s bodies are inherently sexual and thus crude, and the double standard when compared to men, but I’d rather just buy some linen pants and hang out in Buddhist ruins. I’m not ready to start any revolutions yet.

Aside from knowing the rules and languages of where you’re traveling, and in general just being polite and considerate, there are also some larger political things to consider. For instance, there’s the issue of “voluntourism” and how helpful a group of well-meaning but poorly-trained westerners attempting to build houses in a remote Costa Rican village actually is. Much has been said of this, but this essay sums up the core issue well:

Our mission while at the orphanage [in Tanzania] was to build a library. Turns out that we, a group of highly educated private boarding school students were so bad at the most basic construction work that each night the men had to take down the structurally unsound bricks we had laid and rebuild the structure so that, when we woke up in the morning, we would be unaware of our failure. It is likely that this was a daily ritual. Us mixing cement and laying bricks for 6+ hours, them undoing our work after the sun set, re-laying the bricks, and then acting as if nothing had happened so that the cycle could continue.

This really does have to do with etiquette, because when you travel, you are a guest in another country. You are welcome to explore and learn and do what you want, but like any good guest, you should be leaving the place as you found it, perhaps even better than you found it. And being rude or ignoring local customs or making people rebuild your well-intentioned charity project is not leaving it as you found it.


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A Vague Guide To Maybe Hitting On Someone

when-you-try-to-flirt-with-someoneI’ve attempted to write a How To Hit On Someone post for a while now, and man, it is impossible. I now fully understand why the only options out there are either the dangerous “physically pull a woman into your lap and make her push you away” or the vague “say hi, see if you have anything in common, and then move on if there’s no spark.” It’s because any middle ground is so personal and circumstantial. Some people like having drinks bought for them, others consider it an insult. Some people enjoy being approached, while others prefer to do the approaching. There’s almost no way to write something for everyone. Which is a shame, because neither “SEX IS A CONQUEST” nor “I don’t know, do what you want?” is helpful for anyone.

So, knowing that I can’t speak for anyone else’s experiences or tastes, I want to relate some times where I have been approached by a stranger in a bar, at a concert, or in another public setting  and how it worked out, since when you’re single the general idea is that you’re supposed to meet people in public settings. Many of these were in the successful range, others were not. Take from this what you will.

Do ask what I’m reading: Once I was at a bar alone, reading a book, waiting for my boyfriend. A guy came up to me and asked what I was reading, and at that particular moment I was feeling conversational, so I started talking to him. Within 15 minutes I was drinking beer with him and all his friends at his table. If he was sincerely hitting on me it didn’t work out because, duh, my boyfriend showed up, but all in all I think we had a pretty good time.

Don’t neg me about my race: If you’re not familiar with negging, it’s the process of insulting/ignoring the person you want to woo in the hopes that they will be confused enough to sleep with you. Yeah, I don’t get it either. But once a guy outside a bar kept saying out loud to his friends while pointing at me “She’s so hot, I don’t care if she’s hispanic.” 1. I’m not hispanic 2. It doesn’t even matter what race I am because holy shit what are you talking about?? I was drunk enough to get pulled into a conversation (argument) with him, in which later he insulted my friends’ intelligence and looks (“They’re not smart like you”), and was then baffled when I wouldn’t go home with him.

Do find common interests: When I was 22 I found myself in a weird bar in New Zealand (I mean, on purpose, I did not wake up on my 22nd birthday unable to remember how I got to this country), and everyone was dancing to really clubby music and it just wasn’t my scene. A guy apparently noticed this, and began talking to me about how it wasn’t his scene either. We got some drinks, sat in a booth in the back and talked for a really long time, and then made out for an even longer time. Common interests doesn’t have to be boring!

Don’t be surprised that we have common interests: I once was with a guy who basically sent flirting into overdrive once he discovered that I could quote The Blues Brothers and agreed that the best Guinness I ever had was in Ireland. The night went well, but in hindsight I find it sort of disturbing that his reaction was less “wow, I love that thing too!” and more “you’re so cool because most girls don’t like that thing!” Lots of people like lots of different things. Girls like video games, guys like fashion, gay men like football…etc. It’s a great moment of luck if you find out someone shares your tastes, but it shouldn’t be surprising because of their sex.

Do be honest if you’re attracted to something: If you find something attractive about someone, tell them! This can be physical, like telling them they have a nice smile or you like their hair. The whole point if this dating thing is that you’re supposed to find something attractive in the other person, so that’s nice to know! In early-on flirting situations I’ve had guys compliment some aspect of my body, and it’s usually felt pretty nice. If I’m starting to become basely, lustily attracted to someone, it’s nice to know it’s mutual.

Don’t focus entirely on the sexual: If you think this person has beautiful eyes, great, but for the love of god do not make that the entire thing about them. Feeling lusted after is nice, feeling like everything you’ve been saying for the past hour has been ignored because your partner cannot ignore their attraction is another.

Unfortunately, there is an infuriating key to this, that I cannot describe any other way than don’t do any of this as anyone other than yourself. I know, the “be yourself” advice is so frustrating to hear, because duh you’ve been yourself, how you can you be anyone but yourself, but “yourself” isn’t working. But yourself will work, I promise. Being yourself isn’t about being every aspect of yourself all at once from the get go, it’s about doing things in a way that feels natural to you while still being able to test the waters with someone new. So go forth and talk to people you find attractive! It’s ok, I promise!

Have you’ve ever been successfully wooed by a stranger? Let us know how it went!

How To Be A Decent Person At A Wedding

Just make sure you look like this [Via Perez Hilton]

Just make sure you look like this [Via Perez Hilton]

The big day is finally here! You’ve sent in your RSVP, you’ve selected and sent a gift, you know what to wear, and now it’s time to see your dear friend(s)/family/strange coworker tie the knot! But what happens at a wedding and how do you know what to do?

The Ceremony

  • Show up around 15-20 minutes before the time stated on the invitation. The time on the invitation is generally the time the bride intends to walk down the aisle and you do NOT want to be skittering into the ceremony behind the bride. If you do end up late, wait until the bride is all the way at the end of the aisle and then quietly take a seat in the back.

  • If you are staying at the “official” hotel with a provided shuttle, make sure you know when and where it is picking up so you are on time!

  • Traditionally friends and family of the bride sit on the left and friends and family of the groom sit on the right. If there are two brides or two grooms, these sides may be labeled. If you are close with both,  you sit where there are less people. However, almost no one is going to care if you forget, and many couples may explicitly state that you sit wherever you want.

  • Everyone seems to stand when the bride walks down the aisle, so go with the crowd. Either the officiant should tell everyone to sit, or people should just sit when they start talking, but this doesn’t always happen. There’s not much you can do about it, but I hope if you get stuck standing that the ceremony is pretty short!

  • Obviously turn your cellphone off.

  • Many couples are starting to request that people not take pictures during the ceremony. If they haven’t specifically asked you not to, you still can, but you might consider just enjoying the moment! These days many couples post their official pictures online for people to see later and they are going to be MUCH nicer than an Instagram shot of the bride with everyone’s head in the way. Plus, no couple wants to look out at their guests and see a sea of iPhones.

  • If the ceremony is religious or has unfamiliar elements, hopefully there will be an explanation of anything you might be asked to do or not do. Otherwise, just sit back and watch.

The Reception

  • After the ceremony, there might be a variety of things happening. There might be photos, everyone might head straight into the reception, you might have to go to another location for the reception, etc.

  • When you get to the reception there might be a receiving line (there probably won’t be a receiving line), in which case, you need to stand in line and wait your turn to congratulate the couple, and greet their parents before going into the reception.

  • When you get to the reception, there might be a cocktail hour, there might be a sit down dinner, there might be assigned seats, there might be assigned tables, just go with the crowd when figuring out what to do.

  • I think cash bars are extremely poor hosting (we will get to this later), but they do happen, so keep some emergency cash on you, just in case.

  • There might be a box for cards, so put it there if you brought one.

  • In the olden days, you were supposed to stay until the bride and groom left, but since couples are more likely to stay until the bitter end now, the cake cutting has become the signal of the end of “official” activities and you can properly leave any time after that.

  • There is some debate on whether or not you must say goodbye to the couple before you leave. I say, say goodbye if you can, but don’t worry too much if you can’t find them or they are deep in conversation or dancing.

  • Many etiquette sites will tell you not to get drunk at wedding. I’m not going to say that, but you should take into consideration if you are a good or bad drunk or are likely to get sick or cause problems.

How to Take a Compliment

Pretty much

Pretty much

Is anyone actually comfortable taking a compliment? You’re probably not. For this post, we decided to both weigh in. As you may be able to tell, Victoria is much better at it than Jaya. But let’s talk. How do you take a compliment?

Victoria’s View:

Just say thanks, it’s that easy!

But seriously, it is. If you try to deny it or explain it too much, it’s just going to turn into this big awkward thing. Besides, own your awesomeness! You are great and deserve to be told so. I do think if you say “thanks, I got it at ___________” or “thanks, it was my grandmother’s” that’s totally fine and can sometimes be a nice conversation starter.

Jaya’s View:

IT’S NOT THAT EASY OMG. It’s all fine and easy when someone compliments you on an article of clothing. Duh, you can’t take credit for soldering that bracelet or creating the pattern for those pants (but if you did you should totally take credit because clearly you’re the most talented person alive). But what happens when someone compliments you…on you? Most of the time when someone calls me pretty, or says I did a good job writing an article, or says I’m smart I curl up into a ball and start making strange grunting noises until they stop. I’m not kidding. Ask Victoria. I could even feel my face twisting up just writing that sentence, as if admitting that someone has complimented me on being pretty means I think I’m pretty and that means I’m really vain and oh god it’s happening again.

I think a lot of this anxiety comes from the fact that when most people learn “don’t brag,” it bleeds into “don’t admit any good qualities about yourself ever.” Which is a shame because it is so freeing to admit to yourself that you’re good at something. On my more enlightened days, I know I’m pretty and I’m strong and I’m a half-decent writer. This doesn’t mean I think being pretty is important, or that my writing will change the world, just that I like things about myself. And with lots of work, when someone has said “You look nice” or “I liked that article,” I’ve been able to say thanks without any apologies or conditions. Just remember, no one will think you’re a monster for saying “thank you.”


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