In this final edition of Thirtyish for 2012, Kate Carraway reflects on what she’s learned from addressing readers’ problems over the past year.
Remember that early episode of Girls when Jessa says to Hannah (after Shoshanna recites some really shitty advice from a He’s Just Not That Into You knockoff), “I’m offended by all of the ‘supposed-tos.’ I don’t like women telling other women what to do, or how to do it, or when to do it.” I loved that line, despite of how every week I tell other people—women, men, whoever-you-are-with-your-ambiguous-email-names—what to do.
“Advice” is usually a code word for something else. When people ask for it, except in the rarest circumstances, they are usually asking for empathy, collusion, sympathy, or for some flesh-and-blood engagement while they work out what’s going on for themselves. And so, instead of passing out social, emotional, and sexual marching orders—because, gross—I like to think of what I do here as rumbling around with something familiar, or risking being wrong and maybe landing on some semblance of “rightness” about what to do, if such a thing exists.
In the summer, a reader emailed this: “I, too, am in the thirtyish range of career-changing, additional schooling, single versus married, big-life-decision, post-quarterlife-crisis portion of my existence and feel that [Thirtyish] always has some sort of intimate connection to what my every day life experience in this city is all about.” Which is all very “aww,” and a little nicer than the majority of missives I received from you guys in 2012. (The worst email was some lengthy and complicated variation on “stupid bitch,” of course, but I deleted it.) Still, there were some issues that kept cropping up.
Predictably, personal grooming continued to be an area of significant conflict and disagreement. (Let’s call this demonstrable phenomenon “the Body Politik,” maybe?) One guy emailed me with his thoughts on whether or not an advice-seeker should shave his testicles: “My only input is that every guy should consider a little manscaping…. You should keep it like your apartment: clean and inviting. Make it so that your partner is comfortable and enjoys spending some time there.
Not such that they are afraid to sit on the couch or drink out of a glass.” Smart, right? Another dude said, “[I] started shaving my junk a year ago and rather enjoy it. Women don’t seem to mind, either.”
Related: On the matter of beards, one commenter vehemently disagreed with my idea that you should choose your facial hair style based on what the person who touches it thinks. “DO NOT DO ‘WHAT SHE LIKES;’ this is seriously bad advice. Rock the beard and get maximum sex.” Maximum sex! And he—presumably, he—goes on: “If sex quantity is predicated upon how much or little facial hair you have, you can tell her to fuck off.”
Second only to hair issues was, what else, sex, and everything around it. When I wrote, in response to someone with noisy sex neighbours, “I love that the sex-having perpetrators are the ones who need some help, instead of everyone who is offended by everyone else all the time. (Like, sorry, but it’s true.)…” a reader commented: “Like, sorry, Kate, but that’s a completely obnoxious response. Not everyone who wants to, I don’t know, enjoy some peace and quiet in their own home is some kind of cranky fun-hater.” You’re right. I’ll own my wrongness on this one, especially since I moved back into an apartment building and remembered just how soul-stinging other people’s audible sex is. (Very.)
Of course, sometimes I need a little assistance answering your questions. This year’s Thirtyish helper-types ranged from Jonah Lehrer (who, not long after he appeared in the column, was found out to be a fabulist of incredible proportions; he has since resigned from his New Yorker gig) and Chris Gethard (who, more recently, starred on The Office as a small-time hit-man), to a couple of #1 New York Times bestselling writers: Cheryl Strayed, who wrote Wild and who weighed in on a column about fear, and Gretchen Rubin, who wrote The Happiness Project and talked to me about, well, happiness. (Make your bed every day, she says). There was also an escort, a Twitter celebrity, and a professional organizer with a show on E! The best advice of the year, though, came from Jessa on Girls, closing her rant about advice with something we can all take to heart: “Every time I have sex, it’s my choice. And if I wanted to go on some dates, I would. But I don’t. Because they’re for lesbians.”
Have a question for Kate? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.