How To Be More Likable in 10 Easy Steps

by | March 2021 A (Day 1)

  1. Always smile until your muscles hurt and your face cracks into pieces and the pieces slide off revealing the ugliness that was waiting underneath. By definition ugliness is any negative feeling. Your emotions are a burden to other people, so make sure you only share what’s happy. Social media can help with this. Fake it until you have no idea how you really feel. This will make it easier for other people to tell you how you should feel.
  2. Agree with what everyone says about you. Yes, you are a dumb bitch. Yes, you are a waste of space. Yes, your body looked better in your early 20s when your muscles were hard and you hadn’t yet discovered how breakable you are, or how much the people you care about would delight in hurting you.
  3. Be easygoing. When a casual acquaintance harasses, gropes and frightens you, be flattered. He picked you over all the more interesting and attractive girls. That must mean something. You should be grateful anyone finds you worthy of attention.
  4. Don’t take up space. Big personalities are cute on the famous, but you’re some low level bitch who exists to increase other people’s quality of life. Keep your body compact and your voice quiet and smooth. Remember that when women do fifty percent of the talking, men perceive that as one hundred percent.
  5. Don’t be a feminist. Demanding equality under the law is the same as saying all men are trash because equality would mean dragging men down to the low legal level of women, and no one wants a man-hater around.
  6. Never complain. It’s annoying and distracting. A full mouth is the only way you’ll be able to keep your valid concerns to yourself. When you can’t shove your whole fist in, start eating until your body is large enough to set off everyone’s fatphobia. Then you’ll have a new set of problems.
  7. Lose weight until you’re on the lower end of the BMI’s “normal” section. People adore the newly skinny. Doctors will think you’re healthy then, even if you live off fast food four nights a week or developed an eating disorder to get there. Everyone likes skinny people more than fat people. Disregard claims from the thin that they don’t. They’re lying because they want to be perceived as good people. The more honest will say that you’re the living embodiment of their worst fears. Don’t tell them they’re afraid of the wrong things.
  8. Pretend that intentions always matter more than the outcome. Your boyfriend was just trying to be helpful by informing his friends that you don’t drink because you’re afraid of becoming an alcoholic like your mother and her mother. Now his friends evaluate you like you’re a case study and text each other in front of you, chuckling quietly like you’re too slow to put together the puzzle of their phone pings.
  9. Be simple. Stop doing things for more than one reason. Likable people are streamlined and can say they broke up with their boyfriend for #8. But for you #8 was the latest thing on top of a mountain of low-key terrible things that you tolerated because you didn’t think you deserved better. Ignore that. Having a multi-layered inner life doesn’t help people understand you.
  10. Never over-stay your welcome. Even if you’ve checked off everything on this list, you’re still too much. There is something alive and unconquered in you. They can sense it and it exhausts them. If you suspect people are tiring of you, excuse yourself and go home. This will escalate as you gradually suspect everyone hates you. Soon you’ll only leave the house for work and groceries. That’s when they will love you the most, when you’ll receive texts like, “I miss you! We should hang out soon!” They’ll have no intention of following through, and you’ll recognize the brush off. But you’ll never understand why they felt the need to send the message in the first place.

10 Comments

  1. Jonathan Cardew

    Chelsea,

    Big fan of this!!! Love the opening line, the way you strip away a face right off, and then proceed with biting irony throughout. Great line: “There is something alive and unconquered in you.”

    If you revise this at all, I wonder how it would look with a few shorter how to instruction lines?

    Excellent piece–enjoyed this!

    –Jonathan

  2. Dennis Holmes

    Hi Chelsea, we watched The United States vs Billie Holiday last night, and this seems the perfect accompaniment to that movie. All of these biting, and ironic “How Tos” are inherent, whether one wants to focus on them or not. I love the construct, and the idea Jonathan mentions of varying the content slightly, maybe shortening one or two of the entries? But what a great start you have here!

  3. Freesia McKee

    Hi Chelsea,

    I love that you decided to take on the listicle form. I wrote so many of these in my grueling days as a paid-per-word content writer, so I find great satisfaction in reading a top 10 list that tells the truth.

    I do hope you go on to publish this because I would love to teach a piece like this in a college class full of folks in their early 20s.

    The list form does a great job of creating little containers for anger, resentment, and pain. The themes pack a greater punch this way. The writer Holly Inglesias wrote a book called “Boxing Inside the Box” about women’s prose poetry and how the compressed prose basically becomes a brick thrown in anger—very powerful. I’m seeing the same thing in your work here.

    Also, whenever I read a piece that is composed of a list of imperatives, especially ones about gender, I think of Jamaica Kincaid’s classic piece, “Girl.” I’m curious—was that piece in the back of your head when you wrote this? There are distant echoes of it! Great work.

    Freesia

    • Chelsea Stickle

      Freesia,
      Thank you for your comments! I’ll certainly submit this to places. I just have to figure out where. I wasn’t thinking about Jamaica Kincaid. This came from all the poison people’ve tried to shove down my throat. Spitting out the poison isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to throw a brick. (I didn’t know about Holly Inglesias. I frequently think in terms of burning things down, but the brick metaphor is perfect.) I love my brick stories. They might be my favorites.
      Chelsea

  4. Meg Tuite

    Hi Chelsea! This is fantastic! “Having a multi-layered inner life doesn’t help people understand you.” That was my absolute favorite, but love them all! My only suggestion would be to tighten them up a bit, and yes, then send this beauty out! LOVE!

  5. Sara Comito

    Hi Chelsea, well this has it all. I would also love to see this published. I’m certain you’d get a variety of feedback! On occasion I feel a little envious of those who don’t feel like they need to do any work on themselves, and even with what I consider a good amount of self-awareness in my late 40s, I still find myself slipping into some of this inner talk. But it comes from somewhere first, doesn’t it? Great work.

  6. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Hi Chelsea, Like everyone else has commented, this rings true. A gendered take on the old nineteen fifties “How to Win Friends and Influence People” – that was a near bible for corporate executives and salespeople of that era. Curdling. I would see if you could tighten up a little on some of the longer lists without losing the many coiled ways the steps resonate with almost all of us who are/were raised female. Like Sara, and older still, I continue to struggle with these “instructions.”

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