Kate’s Rules for an Awesome Night Out!

I’m taking a break from tales of China to post something I intended to post a while back. I mean, though I am living in a completely different country, large swathes of my life are really not very different (i.e. completely and exactly the same) so I might as well carry on writing about other stuff besides China Life.

Which I guess makes the theme/intent of this blog just to write about my life, which I have to admit feels more self-serving than I normally like to be but hey, it’s way better than the Live Journal I used to keep.

On that note…

Over this past summer I found two (actual paper) journals that I kept throughout my adolescence. I had previously thought both of them lost in the Great Clean-Out of my childhood home that happened when my parents got divorced. But someone smartly thought to save them and I now have the most horrendously painful notes about my adolescence that I could possibly wish for—in other words, COMEDY GOLD. Mostly I’m able to look back at who I was and smile (or rather guffaw with snorts mixed in between). It especially helps knowing that I’ve come a looooooooonnnnnggggg way since then—mostly in that I have lightened up a LOT, not so much in that I still watch a LOT of TV.

Many entries document such important milestones in my life as “what happened on this seasons TV finales”, “will my favorite TV couples ever get together?” and “why I’m angry with my sister today”. Other times I railed against whatever family member was being annoying/unfair or waxed poetic about what crush(es) I had that week.

Basically, they’re both humorous and bone-depth painful to read. And I’m so glad I found them. Biggest realization from reading them? I cannot spell worth a damn. Thank you spell-check!

I selected my favorite entry to start with. The plan was to post some more of my teenage writings (with adult commentary of course) as I read through them and select the parts I’m actually willing to let the world read (I’ve honestly thought about burning some of the rest haha) but they’re packed in a box back in the U.S. so it might be a while before anymore appear.

So this entry deserves a bit of a preface. The thing you need to know is I went through a phase throughout most of high school in which I never went out but I wanted to be cool. Desperately. To determine that which would make me cool, I used my go-to guide of teen movies and television shows. For example, Clarissa from “Clarissa Explains It All” was the epitome of coolness. So was Kat in “10 Things I Hate About You” (I mean, she read The Bell Jar and wanted to go to Sarah Lawrence. I had no idea what either of those were but it just HAD to be cool. Also, Heath Ledger).

This was what I wished I could be.

In any event, as many of you know, I was none of those things. I was dorky, in love with The X-Files and Harry Potter (I’m pretty sure about half my journal is filled with entries about both of those things). High school movies usually feature wild parties, lots of dating, drinking, and all sorts of debauchery—but I think by now you’re aware that this was not my life. I mostly stayed home, writing in these journals apparently. When I did “go out”, it was to the movies or the mall with friends and maybe to someone’s house to hang out.

This was the real me.

So wherever the hell this entry came from, I have no idea. It must have been my (completely misguided and ultimately hilarious) attempt to act like I went out all the time and knew what that meant enough to give advice to others (I also did read “Seventeen” and “CosmoGirl” so I think I was trying to be a columnist for some reason). What I actually ended up with is a step-by-step guide in how to dress yourself and remain deeply uncool.

Here it goes:


I’m going out to the movies tonight and I just wanted to write a little something before I left.

Apparently going to the movies was a big deal for me. Probably because it was one of the rare times I was going with friends at night rather than my family during the day. The fact that I felt the need to write a journal entry before going probably explains why that was a rare occurrence.

Kate’s Rules to an Awesome Night Out:

(and how to prepare!)

  1. Ask a bunch of chickas to go do something fun! Movies, music, even mall. If you want, invite your eye candy along as “part of the group”.

I have never before or since said the word “chickas”. I thought that sounded cool for some reason. It does not. I have also never used the word “eye candy” and am not sure why that was the choice. Probably because all I ever did was look at boys, being way to painfully shy and awkward to actually speak to any of them. It also sounds a bit shallow.

Good job teenage me.

  1. Set at LEAST 1 hr aside to get ready (for major events like Dances and PROMS, allow at least 3 HRS).

All the words that are capitalized and underlined here were actually emphatically double underlined in my journal. I was nothing if not a passionate writer. Also, apparently dances and proms are different things and any woman who takes less than an hour to get ready isn’t doing it right (for the record, it now typically takes me 20 minutes or less to get ready to go anywhere, unless it’s a Saturday and I don’t care in which case it takes me exactly no minutes).

  1. Spend some time before hand psyching yourself up, reading magazines, whatever.

Apparently getting psyched meant reading magazines that featured unrealistic beauty standards and following their advice for how to have a good time. No wonder most of my teenager years were filled with delusional ideas for how I needed to act and look. I might as well have written “spend time feeling crappy about yourself for not fitting into the box you’re supposed to” because that’s what usually happened.

  1. Begin to get ready. Put on your fav. CD and dance in front of the mirror for a minute.

I’m dating myself here with the mention of a CD, but alas, it was the age before iPods.

I also was only allowed to dance for a minute.

More than a minute would definitely have been too much and I would have been TOO pumped up to go out.


  1. Get your outfit ½ on. Bottoms on first, shoes later of course.

Only half on. Apparently this list only works if you’re wearing separates, no jumpsuits or dresses for you! And what dummy would even THINK to put shoes on at step 5?!

Come on amateur.

  1. Do your make up and hair but NOT jewelry yet.

Another emphatically double-underlined word. Apparently it was extremely important that jewelry not be applied at the wrong time. It might have sent the entire evening spiraling out of control. I might also add that I almost never wore makeup until college so I’m not sure where part 1 of this step comes from. And “doing my hair” usually consisted of showering and then using globs of gel to make it less frizzy (and therefore stick to my head) as I slicked it back into a tight pony-tail like this:


Here I am in all my glory! Wearing my standard hoodie (this one is my “I survived Salem, Mass.” hoodie, which the guy I liked said he liked, soooo…)

  1. CAREFULLY put your top on and make sure to touch up any messed up hair/makeup.

I’m not sure what prompted me to use the words “top” and “bottoms” to describe clothing but I find it absolutely hilarious now. I think the intention was to leave it as open-ended as possible so that anyone could use this advice.

That I never published anywhere or showed to anyone.

  1. Put on all jewelry.

Ok, step 8 is the acceptable time to add the jewelry, but not a moment before. Make sure to put it ALL on NOW.

  1. Fix any nail polish that needs it.

Nail polish? When did we paint our nails? Was this from an earlier-in-the-day manicure? Why are we “fixing” the polish…and how? Are we repainting them?

  1. Put on your shoes (make sure nails are DRY!)

It seems a logical conclusion to simply switch steps 9 and 10 to ensure no issues with the wet nail polish. Also note the emphasis for all those dummies who surely would have put shoes on with wet nails otherwise.

  1. Look in the mirror one last time and spritz some perfume.

Last time you can look in the mirror, better make it a good one!


  1. Catch a ride w/gal pals and head off to your night out (make sure to have some essentials with you for touch ups etc.)

Another term I have absolutely never used, “GAL PALS”?!?!?!?!

Also, make sure to mooch a ride off them and bring all the makeup you never wear.

  1. While you’re out, have FUN, don’t constantly mess w/your hair or re-apply lip gloss. You’ll never attract any guys.

This appears to be the entire goal of going out, most likely prompted from said magazines you read earlier—to attract guys.

None of this list worked in that capacity so you should probably just stop reading it now. It appears the “guys” weren’t drawn the dorky girl with a bag full of unused make-up who looked like she had indigestion and turned bright red when they ever even looked in her direction.


  1. Be coy with the guys you meet. Make them work to get your #. Then make them wait to go out w/you.


None of these are legitimate pieces of advice. I have never done any of this. It is probably directly plagiarized from something in “Seventeen” or “CosmoGirl”. Basically this entire list is about making sure no guy ever knows you actually want to go out with them—i.e. “look like you’re uncomfortable and ignore them completely”.

Good plan. This may explain my teenage dating life.


  1. When you arrive home, avoid any conversation w/the ‘rents. It spoils the evening.

The piece de resistance: “the ‘rents”. A term only used by the coolest of cool. And apparently any contact with parents whatsoever brings doom and gloom. How very teenager of me.

  1. Relish your night as you go to bed and relax to some tunes.

It’s probably only 9:30 so you have good couple of hours to imagine what your night could have looked like if you’d ditched this stupid, absurd list and just did whatever the hell you wanted.


You’re probably now well aware of why I’d have rather died than ever let anyone see this journal—and why I was never cool in high school. But I’m assuming most of you also recognize some of the horrific awkwardness of being a teenager—and hopefully laughed not only at me (it’s cool, I’m putting it out there and laughing too) but in remembrance of your own teenager-ness.

It’s something I notice about working with teenagers—the incredible sense of empathy at what they’re all going through because you vividly remember how painfully uncomfortable the whole shebang was.

You could not PAY me—or brainwash me, or threaten to remove each toenail one at a time—and get me to relive high school. But I survived it with some pretty epically funny stories, and evidently journal entries, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

There’ll eventually be more where this came from, and more writing from me (both about things here in Shanghai and my general thoughts on life). Hopefully in 15 years I’ll look back on these blog posts with a little less cringing than when I look at those journals 😉