From the Preface: “Every year, The Stranger, Seattle’s only newspaper, puts out an issue of advice for college students – all the things you need to know about life that everyone else forgot to tell you. This is a collecection of the best advice The Stranger can muster.
Across the back cover of How To Be A Person, bold text informs the reader that “YOU WILL DIE WITHOUT THIS BOOK.” It’s on the inside cover too, which assures us, once again, that “from now until the end of time, every single person who has not or will not read this book IS GOING TO BE COMPLETELY DEAD.”
Yes, this is a book about college. But there’s a reason that “college” doesn’t show up in the main heading, and is instead relegated to the sub-text beneath the title. Alternatively, the authors chose “How To Be a Person”, which turns out to be a very fitting title indeed. Here is a small sampling of the advice I was privy to upon receiving this book. As you might notice, much of it has nothing to do with college.
On Kissing: “It’s all about empathy here – do you want a weird hard tongue flicking in and out of your mouth at a rapid rate like a Komodo dragon advancing on a goat carcass?”
On Sex: “If they fall asleep, you’re fired. To sum up: friction, repetition, enthusiasm, repeat. No teeth.”
On Drinking Like an Adult: “The only rules of adult drinking are more like guidelines, and they are ones that also apply to life as a whole: Don’t get too complicated about it, and don’t be an ass”
On Pooping In Public Buildings: Not one person in the history of buttholes has ever turned to their friend and whispered, “Did you hear about Kevin? He pooped. IN THE BATHROOM. Tell everyone. Let’s make sure he never has sex again”
On Being a Good Conversationalist: “Nobody wants to hear about your dream. Nobody wants to hear about your dog. Nobody wants to hear about how you’ve noticed some people say “soda” and other people say “pop.” Instead, ask questions. Just ask questions. The only thing people love more than talking about themselves is LITERALLY NOTHING.”
On Tipping: Always tip 20% when you eat in a restaurant, unless the server literally tells you to fuck off. Then you tip 10%. This is not a joke; servers work hard, and your tip is a large part of their pay – in some restaurants, it’s all they get paid. Tip well or stay home.
On Dorm Decorations (And What They Say About You): The color fields of Rothko are cliché, but still workable for the sensitive. If you must have one, try to say something cool about it, like, “Do you know that Rothko wanted his paintings to fill your entire field of vision, so that s how far you should stand from them?” It’s true; situate you bed accordingly and you’ve got yourself a pick-up line.
This book is immensely readable. I found myself reading it at work, at dinner, even while driving (kidding) It begs to be picked up and read in the little cracks of the day where nothing is really happening. I often stumbled across little nuggets of sagely wisdom tucked away in the most unlikely of places, like this pearl that I found in the section on casual sex: ”But all that big dumb pain – it’s kind of worth it. It hardens you in all the right places and softens you up in others. It teaches you what you want. It’s what being you and dumb and growing up is all about.”
I want to assure you that not all of this book is written in these sarcastic, though often chuckle-inducing, little snippets. The largest and by far the best section of the book is the college-themed sex and relationship advice written by columnist Dan Savage. It is chock-full of advice on sexual confusion, drunken escapades, infidelity, and double standards. The college population would feel a lot more enlightened, and get laid a hell of a lot more, if they listened to Savage. For that alone, you should get this book.
How To Be a Person is scattered, frenetic, and cocksure. But that’s OK, because that’s how I’d describe pretty much everyone under 25.