An Easy 3,275-Step Guide to Finding Love


Swans mate for life. Maybe you should consider becoming a swan?

I used to write a relationship column with Allison Picard called The Scarlet Letters. Someone wrote us a very simple question and this was my response.

Dear Scarlets,

Will I ever find love?



Dear Hopeful,

Yes. No. Maybe?

We have a friend who claims, “There’s a lid for every pot.”

We disagree.

People die alone every day, often in a barcalounger in the basement of their mother’s house, watching Wheel of Fortune.

If you don’t want to be one of them, don’t be.

First, make sure you’re not an asshole. This is the biggest hurdle for many in finding love.

Once you’re sure you’re not an asshole, make your life into what you want it to be. Do the things that bring you joy.

Think about what others need for some portion of your day. Then figure out a way to help them get it without sacrificing too much of yourself.

Spend as much time as possible with your friends. This will make you a happy person that people want to be around.

Maybe that will be enough love for you.

If it isn’t, tell your friends that you don’t want to be single anymore, and that they should set you up with someone who isn’t completely insane.

And we mean ALL your friends.

Tell them you’re serious and you need their help.

Does that feel a little humiliating? Suck it up. Your life won’t change unless you allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Did you meet anyone?

If you didn’t, join a dating site.

Stop whining about it.

Yes, it’s horrible. But algorithms can be surprisingly effective when it comes to love.

When describing yourself, don’t say you “love to have fun,” or “feel as comfortable in the board room as you do in the mud.” The ability to exist in multiple locations is something almost all humans can do, unless you’re John Travolta in that plastic bubble movie.

Say something meaningful. Say something true. Say, “This is what I need to be happy.” Say, “This is who I am.”

Lying will only connect you to people who might love your fake self, which would work, we suppose, if you plan to lie for the rest of your life.

And that doesn’t sound like fun.

Did you meet anyone?

If not, try speed dating, or bingo, or volunteering with a nonprofit you believe in, or a meetup group, or walking up to an attractive stranger and saying, “You seem nice. I’m [insert your real name here] and I’m single as HELL. Wanna chat?”

What we’re saying is, DO SOMETHING.

Do something that makes you uncomfortable.

If you’ve reached the point that you’re sending a desperate-sounding question to a couple of strangers, you’ve been waiting for something to happen for a long time.

Stop waiting.

The world doesn’t owe you love. The world doesn’t owe anyone anything. The world is just minding its own business, spinning at 1,000 miles an hour and trying to hold it together, just like you are.

So if you really want love, the romantic variety, try everything before giving up.

And you might not find it.

If you don’t, then do whatever you can to be happy with the love you have all around you: your friends, your family, your ridiculous cat with one weird ear.

That love is worth just as much as romantic love. Maybe more, because it’s not as fickle, and less likely to give you shit because you didn’t wait to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode with it.

We wish you luck and all kinds of love.


The Scarlets

More Proof That Starbucks Hates Jesus

Hey, Starbucks! You're "War-against-Christmassing" wrong.

Hey, Starbucks! You’re “War-against-Christmassing” wrong.

1. Jesus applied for a barista position at the Fayetteville, AK location and was told, “Cut your hair, hippie.”

2. Lambs regularly slaughtered on the cream and sugar station.

3. Baristas ordered to work “Hail Satan” into customer interactions whenever possible.

3. Breakfast sandwiches feature bacon, and uniform is a cotton/poly blend, clearly forbidden in Leviticus 19:19.

5. When you turn water into coffee, crushing a competitor who can turn it into wine is just good business.

Going viral on the reg

Viral Particles

Very pretty particles from MERS-CoV, which I’m sure I have.

I can turn anything into cancer.

I’m like the world’s saddest magician.

Most people see a mole change a little and think, “Uh-oh. Could be cancer.”

That is rookie bullshit.

I can have a pain in the second-to biggest toe on my right foot, and think, “Bone cancer. It’s probably bone cancer. Yes, the chance of bone cancer is significantly lessened in adults without other cancers but I probably have a wily one like tooth or earlobe cancer that they never look for so they didn’t look for it in me and here it is, in my toe that weirdly hurts FOR NO REASON.”

The thing about hypochondria is that unlike the physical things that become harder as you age, convincing yourself you have some sort of infirmity gets significantly easier once you hit 40.

Now there are so many new pains and unexplained marks and bruises on my body that the list of diseases I could have has skyrocketed. That means I no longer need to create new-and-undiscovered illnesses like “healthy-feeling-fever” or “latent death.”

In my 30’s I mostly worried about cancer and schizophrenia or that might be a sociopath, but now I’ve had shingles and herpes and the plague and a heart attack, all in my head.

That’s the funny thing about hypochondria—the human brain can’t really tell the difference between when we’re imagining something or actually experiencing it—it reacts almost identically, so when I’m talking to someone who had a heart attack, my impulse is to say, “Oh, I did too,” because of that time when I had gall stones and I was sure I was dying. In my head, I was going through the exact same thing he did, I was just wrong.

And now, hypochondria has an assist in the internet, to the point that there’s now a colloquial term for people whose hypochondria is escalated by looking up their symptoms on the web: it’s called Cyberchondria.

WebMD is essentially Pinterest for hypochondriacs—all they need to add is the ability to create boards of your favorite disease families, like “Dermatological disorders I probably have,” “New viruses that are definitely going around my office” and “Cute cats that just gave me the first human case of feline leukemia.”

There are about 25 million searches for the word “cancer” on Google per month. About a million people worldwide are diagnosed with cancer in a month, so that’s approximately 24 million people searching for cancer who probably don’t have it. (I’d like to apologize to all the hypochondriacs out there for that cancer statistic. That’s just the type of thing to send them into a tailspin, so you have to remember that there are 7.3 billion people in the world, so only .0001% of them are getting diagnosed each month. I hope that makes you feel better. It made me feel better.)

As for me, it turned out that I’m not a hypochondriac, I’ve just had generalized anxiety disorder my whole life, which I just discovered recently. But for all the hypochondriacs out there: I know it’s frustrating when you keep thinking you have something and it turns out you don’t. It may be comforting to find out that even if you don’t have anything else, hypochondria is a bonafide mental illness listed in the DSM-5. So you were right. You DO have something. Congratulations?

An Open Letter to Women Who Are Getting Brazilians and Ruining it For the Rest of Us

Hey, ladies.

I get it.

There’s a lot of pressure out there to appear attractive, so I understand the desire to pluck things and shellac things and use a wand to apply coats of paraffin, methyl cellulose and pigmentation to the hair around our eyeballs to make it appear thicker and longer.

Yes, it’s weird that our culture has decided that our eyeballs don’t have enough hair around them, but others parts have too much, but even so, you’ve gone too far.

I understand that it’s complicated down there. That, in an ideal world, we should make it as simple as possible to navigate what can be a dark and confusing place.

But in the same way we currently regret razing the rainforests, the women of the future will regret your personal rainforest razing as the era when we could’ve saved ourselves a lot of pain, but chose not to.

Maybe you feel we’ve gone too far down the waxing road and we can’t turn back. Not true. Our culture’s hair decisions are clearly arbitrary and reversible.

We’ve moved on from Burt Reynolds’ mustache and the dark days of 80’s claw bangs, but we’ve also re-embraced the mutton chop and the pixie cut. That means we can go back to a simpler, more accepting time when Afros were all the rage. Everywhere.

This is about creating a new cultural contract: one that says, Yes, we all want to be attractive, we just don’t want that attractiveness to cause us more pain than a standard dental cleaning, or for our any of our personal hygiene rituals to trigger our fight-or-flight response.

We can do this if we band together. If we decide, as a gender, that pain hurts and we will no longer pay $75 to have another woman tell us about her boyfriend’s weird mole while ripping hair out of a spot we don’t even allow ourselves to see because it’s frankly kinda weird looking. (Especially when nature has provided natural cover for it, which we should USE.)

And men can make the same contract with other men about their backs and chests and balls (which are also weird looking) and we will become a culture of happy, furry people; indecipherable from our prehistoric ancestors except for the cell phones and rampant narcissism. We will go back to our roots, which we will also stop dying!

Eventually. When I’m ready.

And we’ll be content. Until we find something else to feel terrible about.

Which will be really, really soon.

Thank you.

Person of Faith

It’s time to put the Christ back in Christmas.

I’m just kidding. We don’t need to. It’s right there at the beginning of the word.

I mean, I know what people mean when they say that, but I’m an agnostic so I’m fine with the amount of Christ there currently is in Christmas. He’s in all those nativity scenes, and I invoke his name constantly in the car while stuck in holiday traffic, so I’m good.

It’s not that I’m anti-Christianity—in fact, I envy all people of faith, largely because I have a paralyzing fear of death and wish heaven was a real thing that women who sometimes sleep with people too soon and took mushrooms one time in college could get into.

Part of what I envy, though, is right there in the name. People of faith.

I wonder what it would be like to believe you know all the answers and therefore no longer have any questions. I question everything, all the time, and it’s exhausting.

And people of faith have holidays—literally holy days—they put aside to celebrate all the things they hold true.

I envied people of faith their holidays until I realized that while we don’t celebrate for the same reasons, I celebrate my faith at the same time of year they do.

I am a person for whom friendship is a religion.

Friends are where I gather all my strength.

Friends are where I find all my joy.

Friends are my confessors, my moral compass, and where I go to make sense of the unexplainable, like the science parts in Interstellar.

When I’m upset, my friends come to me and we pray together. Well, not so much pray together as cry and eat bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers while binge-watching Orange is the New Black, but the idea’s the same.

Around the holiday season, our churches are our houses. We come together and take communion in the form of casseroles with crispy onions on top and too many bottles of red wine.

And when I’m shaken to my core by a profound loss, my friends don’t try to make sense of it or remind me that it’s all part of some larger plan. They sit with me through the pain, no matter how long it takes, and tell me horrible, filthy jokes until I’ve forgotten what I lost for just long enough to laugh again. And they do that again and again.

If that doesn’t give you faith, I don’t know what will.

So, fellow People of No Faith, take heart. You have a religion. And the holiday season is when you celebrate it, by gathering together with the very reason you have faith in humanity: your friends.

Things One Might Say to a Class of Graduating Seniors.


They gave me a cap and gown. I looked like this. Approximately.

A couple weeks ago, I was asked to give the commencement address at the Oregon Episcopal School here in Portland.

Here’s the audio version of my comments:

And here’s the wordy word version:

Hey Overachievers! Try Failing!

Graduating class, faculty, parents and friends. Thank you for inviting me to speak to you here today – I’m so honored at the opportunity, and also curious as to whether the internet was broken the day I was asked, because I have a lot of incriminating tweets out there. I also appreciate the cap and gown, and that you chose to give me one of the black ones. Black is super slimming. The giant tent shape, however, less so.

I’d like to start off with a huge congratulations to the OES graduating class of 2012. I’ve heard from your college counselors that your class has 100% college acceptance this year, which is a tremendous accomplishment, and one you should be very proud of. But it also brings me to my first advice for tonight, and that’s that no one likes a showoff. Think about maybe 99% next time around, just not to seem so flashy.

So now you’re off to college. 100% of you. What sort of knowledge can I impart that will help you survive?

First off, the Freshman 15 does exist. It was actually the Freshman 40 for me, but don’t be intimidated by that because I’ve always been an overachiever. Just don’t beat yourself up if you gain a little weight in college. Your weight doesn’t define you. And the world is a rough place, so just think of it as building up your protective shell, like a tortoise or IronMan.

Secondly, there has never been, in the history of mankind, a person who did a series of Jagerbombs, and thought the next morning, “I’m so proud of the choices I made last night. I really feel like I’m growing as a person.”

Third, college is possibly the only time in your life when it’s not only okay to be terrible at things, it’s advisable.

Let me clarify, before your parents rush the stage and tackle me.

Ira Glass, the host of This American Life said a great thing about creative pursuits. He talked about this gap that happens when you start your first project. This gap between your taste, which is probably impeccable, and your talent, which is raw, and sometimes, in the beginning, nonexistent. It’s that period where you know good work when you see it, but you’re not making it yet.

It’s an uncomfortable gap, filled with self-doubt and frustration, but if you find something you love, you’ll endure it. For instance, maybe you’ve always thought structural engineering was your thing but in college, you discover a love for robotics. So you take a class, and you make a robot. And for no discernable reason you can point to, your robot starts spouting expletives at inopportune moments (I don’t know when an opportune moment to spout expletives is. A Wu Tang Clan concert?). First of all, that’s a pretty cool mistake, but second of all, GOOD. Wear that failure like a badge of honor. That failure says “I’ve been brave enough to be horrible at something, and to trust myself enough to know that won’t always be true. I’ve reached beyond my comfort zone, and look what I’ve found: a completely profane robot. I rule.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing a day that scares you.”

I say, “Shut up, Eleanor Roosevelt. Do you have any idea how many things scare me already?” Double dip recession, people eating other people’s faces off, the fact that leg warmers were fashionable not once, but twice in this country – I don’t know who’s in charge of this stuff, but it’s terrifying. So no, don’t do one thing a day that scares you. Do one thing, say, every two weeks that scares you.

That’s the schedule I’m on. I’ve been hosting a radio variety show in front of a live audience for eight years now, and every single show, every single time I stand beside that stage waiting to go on, I’m petrified. Of what? You name it. Will I ask a dumb question? Will my monologue bomb? Is my skirt tucked into my underwear? Will one of my castmates eat my face off?

Here’s something I didn’t know until just a few years ago that I wish I knew when I was your age.

Everyone is scared. No one has it figured out.

We all look at people at the top of their game, and we’re envious. We wonder what it would be like to be that successful, that self-assured, that certain of every choice that we make.

But let’s take one of those top-of-their-game people as an example – Judd Apatow. Judd is the director of The 40 Year-old Virgin and Knocked Up; and the producer of Bridesmaids…let’s call him the Francois Truffaut of movies with awkward lead characters and uncomfortable bathroom scenes that make a basquillion dollars.

Here’s what Judd said in an interview just last year:

“In every situation I walk into, I feel like the weirdo. The awkward guy…I feel that way on the set of my own movies. I never feel like I own the moment, even when I’m everyone’s boss.”

Every time you struggle, and you think you should be skating along, you think you should be smooth, and unflappable and full of nothing but self-assurance, remember this: if you’re not afraid, you’re not doing anything interesting. And b: Everyone is afraid.

And remembering that part is a good thing – it’ll help give you empathy when you run into people in your first job out of college who try to make you feel small – that’s just fear telling them that making you tiny somehow embiggens them. I may have just made that word up. But it doesn’t. Embiggen them.

In fact, here’s a secret for when that person is eventually fired and you get their job. It’s yet another piece of advice that’s going feel scary: always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Hire them. Befriend them. In college, ask them to work on projects with you.

It will be uncomfortable. It will make you feel not-so-smart. Fight that feeling, because in fact, hiring people who are smarter than you proves that, at least when it comes to hiring people, you are smarter than them.

When we first started Live Wire, I asked my friend Stacy Bolt, who I knew was a better writer than me at the time, to be on the show. And there was a hesitation, of course, because we have this strange, uniquely human fear that if someone around us looks good, that automatically makes us look bad. But it’s really just the opposite. Stacy became a huge fan favorite, and just sharing the stage with her made me, and the show, look smarter and funnier (and because she has an incredibly impressive shoe collection, almost 37% more stylish!).

But it wasn’t just her presence that made all that happen, it was the fact that creativity is a lot like sports—our game rises to match the game of those around us. Sometimes, if we work hard enough, we can even surpass them. So if you keep surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, eventually, you’ll be the smartest one in the room. But don’t get comfortable in there. As the saying goes, if you’re always the smartest person in the room, you need to find a better room. Preferably one with a comfy couch and a 100% employer-matched 401k.

And another thing – while it’s important to be aware of where you stand educationally and professionally, don’t spend a lot of time on those comparisons. Comparing your life to other people’s lives is the most immediate path to unhappiness you can take. The only life you should ever use as a comparison is your own ideal life. The question isn’t, “Am I as happy as she is?,” it’s simply, “Am I happy?”

Because you will never truly know how happy anyone is. Life is like Facebook – we all project an image of our best selves and leave out the parts where we feel awkward, or lonely, or wonder if we’ve chosen the right college, or life partner, or toilet paper. Are you happy with it, regardless of how it looks in comparison to your friend’s thicker, more luxurious toilet paper? Then yes. You made the right choice. (Although I hope it’s recycled, because this is Portland and if it’s not, the police may show up at your house.)

It’s just about time for you to get your diplomas and start partying like the rock stars that you are, but just a few more things before I go:

Be kind whenever possible, because you will always remember, and always regret the times when you were not.

Think of your life as a story, and ask yourself, “Is this a story I’d like to read? Do I like the protagonist? And which parts do I want to edit out?”

When you fall in love, be the one who loves more at least once. It will feel like a position of weakness, but it is not. You’re the brave one.

After college, you are going to go through a period in life where you wonder what the point of it all is, and whether or not you’ve made a huge mistake. That period is known as “adulthood.” Embrace it.

Yes, it’s all been done before. It just hasn’t been done by you, and that will make all the difference.

And this might be the most important thing I say tonight, so please remember it: don’t get a duvet cover for your bed. The only time the corners of the duvet and the corners of the comforter will ever line up is the very first time you put the comforter in, and after that you’ll be constantly fighting to keep the comforter from bunching up into one side of the duvet and you can get those metal clips that supposedly keep it in place, but inevitably those will annoy you too, so…y’know, just get a bedspread and be done with it.

In closing, I wish you luck, I wish you patience and happiness, and the bravery to ask the world for what you want from it and give it what it needs at every turn. And I’ll end with words from someone far more eloquent than myself, e.e. cummings:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”