Issue #184 – “Number One” – March 14th, 2011

-Over the years, my dad has passed down to me many sage words of wisdom, including “Women don’t even understand women,” “Always keep your options open,” and “Don’t be a hero.” But perhaps the most useful piece of advice he’s ever shared with me is “Look out for number one.” What he means is that all too often people spend more time worrying about others than they do about themselves. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for “number one” – yourself. While selfishness isn’t usually looked upon as a virtue, I think it should be. Selfish people are happy and selfless people are secretly jealous of them. Sure, altruism may help you sleep at night, but so will fucking the prom queen.

-Let me clarify one point right away – there’s a big difference between looking out for number one and being an utter douchebag. You should obviously take care of your kids, be a good wingman to your buddies, volunteer, give to charity, and generally be a decent human. But there are certain decisions in life where we could all stand to be more selfish. If the opportunity arises to ditch your crazy roommate, quit your shitty job, or dump your layabout boyfriend or girlfriend, jump on it. Don’t worry about whose feelings might get hurt. Those people are only pissed off because they didn’t think of it first.

-Just as a matter of biology, men generally have an easier time being selfish than women. Every guy has been stranded in the middle of nowhere because his buddy thought he had a chance of hooking up and split. But girls are always looking out for numbers two, three, and four – their annoying fucking friends whose towering heels make it impossible to keep up. A group of girls slows to the weakest member’s pace. A group of guys slays its weakest gazelle if he represents even the slightest obstacle to getting laid.

-In my opinion, the primary reason many people choose not to look out for number one is that they fear conflict. And that’s understandable. No one enjoys breaking up with or firing someone and it’s certainly uncomfortable knowing that somewhere out there is a person who hates your guts. But if you’re gonna avoid conflict your whole life, you won’t get far. Conflict leads to change which leads to growth. The affable guy in the office who’s been at the company twenty years probably doesn’t have an enemy in the world. And look what it’s gotten him: a weird mustache and a cubicle next to you.

-It’s kind of funny, looking back on it, that my dad would so fervently remind me to look out for number one when I was growing up. Most fathers encourage their children to play nice and share. Mine taught me to put myself before others. My mom, for her part, tried to temper Dad’s message with more traditional values like respect and caring. I like to think I ended up with a good mix of both outlooks. As an adult I’ve been known to be kind and generous. You know, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience me in any way.

-I’m no expert. Hell, I don’t know what I’m doing with my life half the time. However, in the emails that I receive from advice-seeking readers around the world, I recognize one constant: inertia. One of the hardest things of all to do is alter your routine or dig yourself out of a rut. All I can recommend is that you spend one day being selfish. Fuck what your friends or your boss or your parents say and just do what you want to do. I think you’ll find that looking out for number one is quite liberating. You can get a lot done when you only care about yourself. Screw numbers two and up. You’ll deal with them tomorrow.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-I can’t stand the post wedding weekend avalanche of friend requests. Yes, our mutual friend just got married and we spent much of the past thirty-six hours together. But let’s face facts: our relationship has already peaked.

-No matter how small the bar, there should always be more than one bartender on duty. I don’t care if it’s Wednesday at three o’clock in the afternoon, there’s nothing more frustrating than a solitary, fumbling bartender. He’s the human equivalent of the one car that stalls and backs up traffic for miles.

-There seems to be a growing amount of dog-on-dog crime in my neighborhood. Every day outside my window I can hear two dogs being walked in opposite directions and then snarling and attacking each other when they cross paths. Jesus, people. Either keep your pets on a shorter leash or just let them go at it Michael Vick-style.

-My mom wants to upgrade to a BlackBerry so that she can BBM my sister, my dad, and me. I said, “Mom, you don’t even text.” She said, “But I’d send BBMs if I could.” To which I countered, “But on the new BlackBerry, texts and BBMs are exactly the same.” She pondered this for a moment and then asked, “What if I got an iPhone?” Wrong direction, Mom. We’re shooting for less complicated, not more.

-Mom is also considering coming out to LA for the weekend to visit me. Though I’d like to see my dad too, it will be a lot less stressful without him. Moms are easy to please. She just needs one museum, one outdoor excursion, and one obscure historical landmark that no one else on the fucking planet cares about. If Dad comes, we’ll have to do all of that anyway, plus I’ll have to keep him happy to boot. There’s not enough beer in the city.

-My parents are in good health – knock on wood – but they’ve recently become adamant that Caryn and I know where their wills and other important documents are located. Apparently there’s a file cabinet in the basement organized using a very sophisticated system. Doctors’ bills are located in the “D” folder. Health insurance, on the other hand, is located in the “H” folder. I asked my mom if the title to the car was under “A” for auto or “C” for car. She said she didn’t know. And this woman wants an iPhone.

-And, finally, in my past few columns, I’ve mentioned my friends’ new babies several times. In the midst of simultaneously congratulating them and mocking them (my friends, not their babies), I was informed that you’re supposed to buy a gift for your friends from their baby registry when they have a kid. I honestly had no idea there was even such a thing as a registry for babies. And, quite frankly, I’m drawing the line here. Nobody is getting a gift from me if they pop out a kid. Sorry, that’s just how it’s gonna be. I get the point of a wedding registry. It says: “You’re making an enormous mistake. Here’s a stainless steel corkscrew to numb the pain.” But if you’re merely taking part in the natural circle of life by giving birth, you’re getting squat from me. Plus, there’s one particularly brilliant aspect of my plan: I won’t be having kids for so long that by then my friends will probably forget I stiffed them. When Karo Jr. is rolling in presents, it will be the perfect opportunity to teach him about looking out for number one. Fuck me.