There’s terrible advice, and then there’s the type of advice that makes you want to fake your death and ride bareback on a donkey through Cleveland.
Until today, I thought that the Cosmo advice to “apply a little Ben Gay to his privates for an unexpected treat” was that kind of advice. (Do not try that at home, or in any grocery store parking lots, ever.)
Turns out, though, there is at least ONE ARTICLE doling out even more questionable counsel—and it wasn’t even written by me in 2011.
Rather, this article was written by someone named John Paul, but not the II. (He’s very dead.) John Paul goes by J.P., as one does, and honestly? He’s probably a nice guy who wears cool socks and remembers his friends' kids' birthdays and maybe even likes to add spinach into his smoothies. I don’t know, are people still drinking smoothies? The other day I asked C to grab me a green juice, and he came back with a strawberry-kiwi smoothie, and I was so confused: like, WHAT IS THIS RELIC? WHO IS PERFORMING SUCH QUAINT ACTS?
The Column That Got My Attention
Anyway, I saw the column in New York Magazine’s THE CUT, which was (a) surprising because I like NY Mag and what is this heresy?!?! and (b) also very distracting, because all I could think was: which editor made this fun-filled fumble? And then I saw the author had a book out with Simon & Schuster (ohhhhhhhhh), and then I said “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” out loud, and then I paused to eat some plant-based chicken nuggets (I don’t know), and then I saw, upon further inspection, that the author is holding a white rabbit in their author photo—which totally gave them mega points. Anyone holding a rabbit in their professional headshot is A+++ in my book.
And THEN I discovered that the author's book, to my delight, was titled, Hola Papi! How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, so immediately I was like: but wait! He’s cool!!!!! JP IS COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He has to be cool with that book title! And progressive, and forward-thinking, and not someone who was, as previously suspected, a middle-aged man with a mediocre lake house with outdated oak cabinets, offering all the little girls extra-long rides on his banana boat.
In fact, I actually started reading his book and following his IG, and yes, I actually LOVE him.
So, what gives? Why such passé advice here?
Here’s what ruffled my under carriage.
“I Want More Adventure and Whimsy in My Life”
A 20-something reader wrote in to the column and said that they were feeling disillusioned with life, that they had checked off all the boxes of traditional success—they had family, they had friends, they had a comfortable salary—and yet, still felt this nagging, irksome feeling that their life was passing them by. That their youth was just sliding on by like a sprightly little Zamboni. (My words.) That they were craving a bigger adventure; that there was this ache inside of them to do something more. They spoke of wanting romance & whimsy, and (probably) a life that didn’t involve riding bareback on any donkeys through Cleveland.
My response to these types of soul conundrums? Well, this entire blog, for one. The Middle Finger Project book. And tell those haters you’ll send ‘em a Christmas card, because it is time for you to GO, GO, GO.
Which is why I was perplexed to read the columnist’s response:
“To make a long story short, yes, you’re delusional…you should practice being present, or as the motivational posters would call it, ‘living in the moment.’ We can’t materialize a private jet that will take you to some small, ambiguously European country where a handsome prince is waiting in a castle to woo you. If such a thing were possible, I wouldn’t be in the advice business. I’d be in the “that” business.”
DAMN, DUDE. Really??????????? I don’t think this person was asking for a fairy tale: what they really wanted was to not die by a thousand tiny paper cuts.
Columnist continues with the uplifting sermon:
“I suggest planting more substantial flora in your garden. It could be anything that grounds you. It could be journaling, yoga, cooking, drawing, or any new activity that gives you something to look forward to in your day, something that will reward your patience with it. That’s something fantasizing doesn’t do.”
And so I’m reading this, right, and I’m like: so basically you’re telling people who are aching for meaningful change that they should just be grateful and get a Moleskine? Right? Did I read that right?
As someone who came from the blessed kingdom of Bud Light & Carhartt, worked my way up socioeconomic ladders, suffered through periods of grand disillusionment myself, and finally become a self-made creator doing meaningful work that matters to me while encouraging others to do the same, I wanted to say: FLORA THIS, PAL. How ‘bout you come with me to Europe next time, and we’ll stay in a castle and see who’s delusional then? Except, just kidding, because the columnist mentioned that they actually travel frequently, and told the reader, with a touch of condescension, that “it’s not as entirely romantic as it sounds”—right after making a statement that would make any reader feel stupid for asking the question in the first place:
“For one reason or another, it seems I’ve become the resident expert for diagnosing this. Not sure what it is about me that attracts so many letters about leaving the country in a fit of passion.”
I’m not sure, either. 🤷♀️ But I can tell you that I was disappointed with the overall message: that dreamers are delusional, and you need to just settle down and draw a hamster.
No One Ever Accomplished Anything By Being Unromantic
So, what are we left with? Well, it’s the same old “be grateful for what you’ve got” narrative humming through the cultural consciousness like an ambitious little murder hornet, isn’t it? This isn’t about the author—I don’t know this human—but I found this particular advice to be grating, haughty, and outdated at best…clueless, crushing, and dangerous at worst.
Nothing kills a person’s potential more than the gratitude police.
Gratitude, that sneaky little do-gooder dipped in patchouli oil. While there’s a place for gratitude and its many gifts, as all the Hallmark bookmarks mention, the one place where gratitude does not belong?
Is when considering possibility.
Possibility is power. But, many of us are taught not to believe in possibility; that practicality is best.
It’s a fantasy.
You’re romanticizing reality.
LET ME AT THESE CHUMPS.
No one ever accomplished anything worthwhile by being unromantic: romance is what fuels innovation. Romance is what gives you a vision. Romance is what lets you dream about what you want your life to look like. It gives you spark, passion, enthusiasm, effervescence. Romance is being able to see what other people can’t, in a way they may never will. Romance is trusting in an idea bigger than you. Romance is feeling hungry for something you cannot yet name, but that you’re smart enough to listen to. Romance is respect: for yourself, for your yearnings, for the goodness you want from this life. Romance is a compass, and a clue. Whatever you’re feeling romantic about? Is a smoking gun—and she’s hot. Chase, run, sprint, seek her. Because without romance, all you’ve got is aimlessness. A vacant, void inner landscape of festering languish. Sure, you might have a nice house. You might have a good-paying job. You might have a nice family, and nice friends. But, do you have yourself? Do you own your life, or is your entire existence a constant ode to someone else’s agenda? Are you there? Are you real? Is your happiness yours? Or is it just a pretty little hologram, shiny and bright on the outside, but fleetingly vaporous once the lights flick off, once the world fades away, once you are alone again, and all you are left with is the choking pain of nothingness.
Do not listen to anyone who tells you that you’re being unrealistic. THEY ARE WRONG.
Please go out and do the best and brightest thing you can imagine.
Do it with all your fucking heart, and do it well.
DO NOT SHRINK.
Do not die a quiet, absent death.
Do not be dismissed.
Do not be a coward.
Your life is as exciting and adventurous as you make it. Everything else is just logistics. That, and topical pain relief cream gone bad.