Google (have you heard of Google? How to explain. OK, imagine shouting questions at a very tall pile of leaflets) has noticed a 140% increase in “how to” searches. Top of its list is “how to… tie a tie,” followed by, “how to… kiss.” “How to… get pregnant,” is number three, followed by “lose weight” and “draw”. Six and seven are “how to… make money,” then “how to… make pancakes.” Which make me think the world is holding back. Surely, surely it’s…
How to… just be, you know, a better person, because surely, whether you’re searching for seduction advice or the trick to a decent crumble, you are trying, trying… you are scratching upwards on that grim quest for meaning through knowledge, and if you can’t be good, well, at least you can make good pancakes.
How to… tell the story about the Tinder date and the poo, conveying its local majesty, the way the girl (the girl who, when the loo wouldn’t flush on a Tinder date, wadded her turd up in tissue and chucked it out the window, except, it landed awkwardly, and so she told her date – she told her date – and as they tried to retrieve it, this turd in tissue, the result of a Nando’s dinner, she got stuck, upside down, resulting in a) the fire service being called, to break the window and rescue her, and b) the conception of a GoFundMe page to raise money to replace the window) should have a Pride of Britain award named after her, and how this couple have redefined romance, for ever.
How to… reply to: “But surely you backed everything up.”
How to… keep friends throughout your 30s, when every micro-decision, whether romantic or academic, acts as another brick in the wall between you and the person you shared a toothbrush with between 1998-1999, and when the time you spend together feels so brittle and precious you don’t have time to relax, instead holding these rare lunches slightly apart from your body, as if for best.
How to… enjoy panel comedies in 2017, now that we’ve seen how they brought the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage into our living rooms, and turned them into jolly cartoons, into boys we laughed at rather than men with the potential to take a lighter and burn our rights in front of us, like a drunk Cambridge student with a £20 note.
How to… remember what you liked about your wife, as you lie there at dawn full of nothing, and how to remember what you wanted to be, and did you maybe bury a time capsule in your childhood garden, and is there a clue in there, perhaps, a note on the back of a Polaroid which could pull you back to life, how to wake up every single morning, literally every day, and stand with the furious buzz of a Sonicare in your mouth, knowing, knowing that death exists?
How to… tell before October comes which of your colleagues is an “autuphile”, you know, one of those people that, as the first cool wind blows in, announces themselves delighted because summer is too much, too hot – these are people to notice and politely avoid until Christmas, because saying they love autumn is the meteorological equivalent of carrying a Nabokov paperback in their back pocket, a whole identity, at least until it snows, an entire look, complete with new tights and nostalgia, and printed-out recipes for stew.
How to… make choices, no, how to sift through the choices available to you, and how to have even a quarter of a clue of what you want, what you will want in 10 years’ time, whether a life in a rucksack or one packed under a buggy, whether one sharing a duvet or marrying on a beach or driving alone through Venezuela in a T-shirt ripped at the collar.
How to… do nothing, how to lean into an afternoon off, how to avoid drowning in social media grievances and in the anxieties of a Whatsapp plan, how to be allowed to do nothing, whether in a park or a bed, or in a year, when you have realised that ambition is not for you, and rather than a career, you want to work part-time in a bar and spend your days staring at the road, doing nothing, for ever.