Men in Speedos and prettifying the ugly stuff (Oprah.com) -- In 1977, my friend Brenda and I went for dinner at a little Chinese restaurant called Empress Garden. She had the lemon chicken, I had the shrimp har kow, and we each had an egg roll because in 1977 you could eat sugar and fat and deep-fried everything without its signifying that the apocalypse is at hand. Our waiter placed the entrées in front of us and ceremoniously lifted the shiny silver domes. Brenda's chicken was crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, lemony all over, and I knew in an instant that I'd made a hideous error in judgment --I should've gone with the chicken. I tell you this story to illustrate my willingness to admit when I've made a mistake. In fact, I've rarely ordered a breakfast, lunch, or dinner I didn't regret; at this very moment, I'm wishing I had an iced tea instead of a Diet Coke. But aside from the food thing and one very adorable guy in the early '80s who was all you'd want in a man except for the fact that he was also looking for all you'd want in a man, I am never, ever wrong. Now, I'm not saying I always take my own advice or trust my own instincts. I'm merely suggesting that the world would be a much better place if everyone else were to do exactly what I tell them to do. Arrogant? You bet. Narcissistic? I suppose. But c'mon, admit it, you've had the very same thought kicking around for years. Still, I'm the one with the column -- so now without further ado ... Everything I know about the world and how you (yes, you!) should live your life: 1. If you can't get a babysitter, for the love of God, stay home! I don't want to be sitting next to little Charlotte and Duncan as they fight over a Raisinet at the midnight screening of Atonement. You wanted kids, so suck it up, walk it off, subscribe to Netflix. 2. If your outgoing phone message is longer than, let's say, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian of the Year segment of the Oscars®, it's time to rerecord. 3. Calling to let your friend know you're running late does not excuse your constantly running late. 4. I'd like to say a few words to every crabby traveler who responds with disgust whenever a baby cries on an airplane. Perhaps you don't know how babies work, but there's been a study, and it turns out that giving a 4-month-old the stink eye doesn't actually accomplish anything. Either have a little compassion or a little Ambien. 5. Here's something for any gentleman who may be reading this: If you look good in a Speedo, you will look even better in virtually any other kind of swimsuit. 6. I am a cynic. I am a pessimist. I came of age with the Watergate hearings playing on the tiny TV in our avocado green kitchen. But every four years, I wrestle my apathy into submission, read up on the issues, and cast my ballot. You must vote. I don't care who you vote for (that's not really true -- I think you should be penciling in my name), but you've gotta get in the game. 7. One word: Floss. 8. Any man who begins a conversation with, "I don't want to hurt your feelings ... " is about to hurt your feelings. It's the kind of phrase that's never followed by, "... but I just don't think you're eating enough. Please have more lasagna while I get you a brownie." Other opening gambits that pretty much scream duck-and-cover include: "Don't take this the wrong way... ," "You can feel free to say no ... ," and the always popular "Look ... " 9. Enough with celeb gossip. The problems of Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears should not be competing for the headline space in our brains. We have to be smarter than that, and if we're not, we have to pretend that we are. 10. Get so excellent at something (long division, friendship, Parcheesi, removing cranberry juice stains, decoupage -- it doesn't matter what) that your genius will be impossible to ignore and your legendary expertise at removing cranberry juice stains while dividing six-digit numbers by 37 will either bring you glory beyond your wildest dreams or, at the very least, help you feel vaguely competent as you make your way through the world. 11. Allow me to demystify the entire real estate market for you: Gracious means ridiculously small. Quaint means a total wreck and ridiculously small. Spacious, airy, luxurious, and grand all mean ridiculously small. 12. I like a plastic bag and a bottle of water as much as the next self-involved me monkey, but it takes 430,000 gallons of oil to manufacture 100 million grocery bags, and if I were capable of doing even the most basic arithmetic, I'd say -- well, who are we kidding? I'm not capable of doing even the most basic arithmetic -- just know that we're in great danger of making Al Gore really, really mad. 13. Words matter. It's time to stop prettifying the ugly stuff. Spousal abuse means wife beating. Global warming means the Earth is toast. Enhanced interrogation means torture. And here's a bit of trivia for you: The Bush administration did not coin the phrase enhanced interrogation. Nor did it come from Jack Bauer on "24." Nope, it was the Gestapo that originated that little bon mot back in 1937. 14. To quote Elmer Fudd, "Be bwave, widdoe wabbit." Take a chance, wear your heart on your sleeve, ask the most attractive man in the room to dance, say what you want, demand what you're entitled to. There's a pretty decent chance that you won't get it, but who will you be if you never even try? Note: Only attempt the dance invitation if there's actual music playing. 15. Sometimes I worry that we've all become workaholics -- because getting through life can be really hard work. But (with apologies to the fine people who pay my salary every week here at the fabulous Hearst Corporation) we need to log off, go home, and remember what it is to have dinner, conversation, and sex ... not necessarily in that order.