I’ve Got a Lot to Learn


The other day I was thinking about how much stuff I don’t know that I should know. Not stuff like geography or math, but stuff that no one even attempted to teach me in school. I guess some of these things would fall into the category of “life skills,” but certainly not ones that need to be learned by experience.

It just seems like there are basic concepts that are necessary for most people to live a life that works, but that aren’t really ever taught to them in any institutionalized way. Moving in with a person who is not your roommate somehow highlights the holes in your shared knowledge. A lot becomes obvious at first, but there are things that even now, two and a half years after Frank and I moved in together, that I’m just realizing I have no idea about. Don’t worry, I made a list.

1. Cooking. My mom is an awesome cook, and she would have been thrilled if I’d showed any interest in making food when I was younger. But I didn’t. I thought cooking was lame and anti-feminist. Of course, now that I’m an adult and live hundreds of miles away, I have to watch grainy videos on the internet to figure out how to make a roux.

2. Nutrition. Kind of a corollary. Again, my folks taught us about healthy eating to the extent that they served nutritious, vegetable-rich food at every meal. It’s not like I thought ice cream was the same as milk or something. And I knew that fast food was bad for you. But when I went to college and got super fat eating whatever struck my fancy, I realized I had no actual idea about what the correct amount of food for me to eat in a day was, or how many calories were in anything, or anything like that. For example: salad is healthy and filled with vegetables, but also surprisingly high calorie. Same with bran muffins. Steak, which seems bad for you, is actually sort of good sometimes.
I basically had to learn all of that from the ground up, memorizing what is in what, and how much of what I need. Now I see a lot my friends who always had those crazy ‘I can eat anything I want’ metabolisms starting to pudge up and realizing that they too have to learn about nutrition.

3. Cleaning skills. Yes, I had to clean my room and scrub the bathroom and do dishes and stuff like that growing up. But at what age were you officially told not to mix bleach and ammonia? Or how to not cross-contaminate food? Or what kind of cleaning products won’t mess up your wood floor/countertops/tile grout? I vaguely remember hearing magical things about vinegar and lemon juice and baking soda, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were supposed to do. Cleaning skills definitely fall into the category of things I would’ve learned if I’d been paying more attention to what I was doing when I was scrubbing my bathroom toilet in high school. But when Frank and I went to clean our apartment for the first time, both of us kind of had this moment of “Uh, what is the accepted practice for this?” For example: Murphy’s Oil Soap? Who knew?

4. Personal Finance. Woof. This is a doozy. This is the one that currently making the two of us experience Consequences. I am terrible with money, and Frank is even worse. We both are naturally inclined to squeeze our eyes closed and hope each paycheck will last until the next one. Lately, in part because we’re thinking about how the hell we’ll ever be able to buy an apartment, we’ve been trying to learn not to be such idiots. I had to buy a book for this one, is how much I have no idea how to make a viable money plan.
I’m sure there are more. I don’t mean this to be a “my parents didn’t raise me right” thing. I feel certain that my parents attempted to impart knowledge about all of these skill categories to me, but then I was a teenager and refused to listen to anything they said.

There should be some kind of mandatory continuing education classes for people in their early twenties with titles like Credit Card Money is Not Free Money and Actually, a Swiffer is Not Going to Cut It. Where you could go down to the Y and have a nice man sit you down and explain budgeting to you in a way that is not scary or overly confusing. I refuse to believe that Frank and I are the only clueless ones out there. Right?