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1. When You Split Your Pants
Like slipping on a banana peel, splitting your pants is something that's only supposed to happen in cartoons. But let me assure you, it happens to flesh-and-blood people too. It happened to me—ow—in church. It happened to a guy last weekend at my son's class picnic. The downside is that nobody can say to you, "It happens to everybody." It doesn't happen to everybody! It only happens to those of us who have on pants one size too snug. Which, however, does include a whole lot of us.

That said, it's one of the situations where you absolutely can't sit there feeling like a ding-dong and hope to disappear. You have to tell somebody. How else are you going to leave without exposing your bum? This person is going to have walk very, very closely behind you in order to cover you or create a diversion like knocking over a glass of vase of flowers in order to let you run out unseen. If you’re haven't realized the comedy of the pickle then, you will when your new pal has to go run buy you new pants while you stand pressed up against a wall, looking casual until the two of you can inch into the restroom. At multiple points in this Two Stooges routine, it's inevitable that both of you will begin to laugh off any and all embarrassment; perhaps hard enough that your helper will split her pants.

women laughing at a table

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2. When You’re the Fun Killer
Has it ever happened to you? The week you decide to cut out sugar, you go to a restaurant with friends. Everybody wants to split dessert, and you feel as if you have to join in and grab a spoon. It's flustering being the one who turns down a cocktail on girls' night out (in order to make an early meeting the next day) or leaves the Sunday brunch early (to go work out). Why? You feel as if you're the fun killer. You're the dry stone who can't indulge and "live a little." But living—a little or a lot, as if there is a difference—has nothing to do with apple tarts or appletinis. It has to do with making the choices that best express the mark you want to leave on earth.


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3. When You Collect For-Tourists-Only Souvenir Dolls
I'm not a big acquirer, but I am an admirer of grand sweeping passions. So please believe me when I say that the collection of kooky stuff you have hidden in that cabinet in the guest room is something to be proud of, if not displayed openly in the living room. My friend Karen collects penguins on anything. My husband collects newspaper clippings in tottering piles. My mother—a normally sophisticated, tasteful woman—collects cheap, plastic, for-tourists-only souvenir dolls from every country in the world she's ever visited, without irony: Japanese girls wearing kimonos, French girls with berets. (Many of them date back to the 1970s and have a disturbing yellow tint to their plump smiling faces.) There is usually something larger behind these collections—say, a love of travel (dolls) or historic events (clippings) or Antarctica (penguins). The visitor who can't revere the objects themselves will either see that larger motivation or not—and if they don't, they can do like their mommy taught them and find something nice and vague to say.

prom photo

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4. When You See Yourself Tagged on Facebook in a Bathing Suit as a Child or in Your Prom Dress as a Teenager
First off, you can untag the photo. But while that portrait of pimples and potbellies past is hanging there floating in cyberspace, what has really changed in your life? The same people like you as liked you before, the same people who are attracted to you are attracted to you. Nobody in their right mind would say, "Gee, I was really into Dina. But now that I see that headgear she wore in fifth grade, I just can't date her." If anything, photos such as these will endear you to people in your present life. Odds are, they have a similar one of themselves.

sad woman

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5. When You’re Not Okay
So you're crying in a restaurant full of strangers because you lost your job that afternoon. So you're unable to come up with a chipper toast at the family reunion because you haven't gotten pregnant after seven rounds of in vitro—a fact every single family member knows about. So you stand in the corner during the karaoke session when some lady starts singing "Operator," by Jim Croce, because it's the world's saddest song about betrayal and not being able to stop loving jerks. So...what?

Not being okay is not influenza. Other people will not catch it, and you can't sneeze it into their soup. Further, just about everybody has been not okay once, twice or 70 times in their lives. The compassion that being in such state usually inspires when you own up to it—or it burbles out of you without control or warning—may not make everything okay, but it is the first step in your feeling a little closer to it.


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6. When You've Got Socks in Your Sink
I may offend some readers. But here goes: Women need to stop putting crap away every two seconds. A house must be not-filthy (sorry, I just can't advocate mold, dirt and yuck), but not every toy, shoe, game, CD, key, knife, screwdriver or pair of underwear needs to be put away in its proper box, drawer, basket, cabinet or recycling can—which is decorated with cute handwritten labels. In fact, stuff can be strewn all over the place, and you can still fling open your doors and welcome in all kinds of guests, all of whom will be excited to come to your less-than-pristine rooms. Why? Because you're using all that tidy-up time to eat or laugh with those guests. Or you're using it to read or exercise or paint or do something else alone that enriches and expands your life, so that you're happy and, most importantly, not resentful of the people you live with who throw their socks across the room and into the sink. Chinese fortune cookie says: Wearing wet, soapy socks just once will train family members to keep dry laundry out of the kitchen forever.

lonely boy

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7. When You Find Out the Kid You Love Has no Friends
There are things you find out as a parent, aunt, godmother or whatever role you play to whichever child happens to rely on you. The little guy has no friends in his second-grade class. Or he has a learning problem and can't read "on level." Or he was the one who stole the radio from the store, and he is plenty old enough to know better. Your job is not to feel horrified, wish things were different and never bring this up with your friends or relatives. Your job is to listen to this kid and give him advice and guidance right now. He will be the one who's really embarrassed; you need to be the one who knows how to change his circumstance and attitude so that embarrassment doesn't turn into a life-long case of shame.

woman eating popcorn

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8. When You Ask for What You Want
At work, in bed or at the movie concession goes by too quickly not to request a buttered popcorn (with butter at the bottom, middle and top) and Raisinets and a large cherry slushie during a matinee showing of Anna Karenina because...well...that's totally gross? It's also totally delicious. And you grew up and got a job so that you could spend your money, time and calories just as you please.

Next: 10 times to absolutely always say yes