Action Girl's Guide to Living

This isn't a template for your life, just some rules that work for me and might make your life that much easier and fun. Some of them are serious, some of them are frivolous, if you know what's good for you you'll listen to what I'm saying. None of them are really in detail but I think you'll get the idea...

RULE 1: ACTION IS EVERYTHING! This is my number one rule to live by -- I print it over and over in my zines and comics, and I'll keep on doing it as long as I'm doing anything. Basically, what I mean is that it really doesn't matter what you say or even what you think, it's what you do that matters. It's pretty simpler: if you think it's better to eat less meat, don't talk about it or write about it or have philosophical discussions about it, just eat less meat. If you think society is sexist or racist or whaveter you think it is, don't complain about it, go out and do something to improve things -- even if it's a tiny little act that no-one but you will everknow about. Believe it or not, there's a whole school of therapy based on this idea -- they say it doesn't matter if you're a shy person, act like a person with confidence and eventually you'll be one. (Conversely, you could be the nicest person in the world, but if you act like a jerk, you will become a jerk.) Obviously it's not the solution to serious problems, but it's a good way to lead your life. More specifically, be less of a consumer and more of a creator. Don't just buy stuff -- make it! If you don't feel like you have the confidence or talent to do one thing, do another! Don't have time to do a zine? Write articles or draw comics for someone else's. You're absolutely tone deaf but you still like music? Start a label or put on a show. Where do your talents lie? You could start a t-shirt company, do a zine distribution, make cool movies with a camcorder, anything! If you think there's a need for something, don't wait for someone else to put it together, do it yourself!

RULE 2: SUPPORT OTHER'S ACTION. It's really important to support what other people are trying to do, and you can choose to spend your time/money on things that are done for something other than just profit. Shop at locally owned stores when you can. Order records from small distribtors like Septophilia. Go to local-run shows instead of big stadium shows. Spend your magazine money on zines -- you can read all the mainstream rags at the library and xerox anything you really need. Buy small-press comics and independent records. This doesn't mean you can't buy the new Green Day album, just try to buy things on small labels too. Buy t-shirts from small bands who print their own instead of $18 band shirts in the mall.

RULE 3: HAVE A CODE OF ETHICS. One of the most important things to me is sticking by my personal code of ethics. It's none of your business what that is -- everyone's is different. Whether it's based on a religion, or philisophy, or a science fiction book you read, it's important to have a system of beliefs that you live by. It doesn't need to be complicated, just a set of simple rules. You might want to include your favorite commandments and maybe add some stuff like: "don't wear polyester" "don't do hard drugs" "don't shop at Merry Go Round" "don't listen to commercial radio" -- basically whatever you want, goes. You can change the rules as you go along -- what works for you now might not be practical in ten years. But you should work out in your mind exactly what it is that you stand for, anyway. Which leads me to...

RULE 4: DON'T BE A HYPOCRITE. Once you have a code of ethics or standards or whatever, live by them. Think about your actions and how they relate to the decisions you've made about living your life. Don't make compromises, or there's no point to having the beliefs in the first place. For example, if you believe that you shouldn't eat meat because we shouldn't exploit animals, then don't wear leather. And don't use products tested on animals. Etc., etc. If you want to wear leather, then you obviously aren't actually concerned with animal rights. That's okay, but don't pretend you are. There's nothing funnier (or stupider) than leather at a PeTA demonstration. What I'm basically saying is, don't take stances you can't live up to. Don't spend your career complaining about major labels and swearing you'll never sign to one -- unless you're absolutely sure it'll never happen. There's nothing wrong with eating meat or being on a major label or doing whatever, if you're honest with yourself and everyone else about it -- but there's everything wrong with being a hypocrite.

RULE 5: Actually, this rule was a plea (in early 94) to backlash against grunge and bring back clean, neat Mod and New Wave styles. Prescient or what? I still think that looking like a slob is stupid, but apparently people are begining to agree with me -- although there's still too many people slouching arond with no "look" other than what the Gap's got on sale...

RULE 6: DON'T WASTE TIME BEING NEGATIVE. Life's much too short. Don't waste time bitching about assholes and asshole behavior. If you can do something about it, go ahead, but otherwise just go on and forget it. If someone's a complete jerk, no amount of your time and energy is going to change them, so why work yourself up? Spend that time doing something you enjoy. If you hate someone, fine, but don't make it your career.

RULE 7: BE OPEN. Sometimes it seems like there's no community more closeminded that the various "alternative" communities. Everyone seems to form their opinions and attitudes before they've finished puberty. Come on, it takes more than an issue of MaximumRockNRoll (or the Comics Journal) and a copy of Catcher in the Rye to set you on your life's course! Keep reading articles and books. Be open to things academic as well as things a little more prosaic. (Just because you think you hate ska doesn't mean you wouldn't love it if you gave it half a chance!) You don't have to welcome every new idea with open arms, just be willing to accept that the way you see things could change and grow.

RULE 8: FORGET THE "SCENE". Well, not entirely, but discard the idea that a thing has to be really underground to be legitimate. True, some bands start to suck when they sign to major labels, and most mainstream comics are rotten -- but it's not universally true. Good work is good, no matter what forum it's presented in -- whether it's an independent work seen by 15 people or a huge production seen by millions. Which brings up...

RULE 9: MOST THINGS SUCK. That pretty much sums it up. Become a more discriminating person. While you're breaking down and admitting you can appreciate a really good movie or a major label album, also try to realize that not everything that is independent is good. Anyone who seriously likes every album put about by "cool label X" or every comic put out by "cool company Y" is either a relative or has no taste. Nothing is good all the time. Don't "like" something just because it's in the genre you support. Most stuff is lame, period, no matter who puts it out. Don't waste time on things that aren't worth it, and you'll have way more time to spend doing something fun!

RULE 10: BE MORE ADVENTUROUS. I haven't always been able to follow this one. But I do my best. Don't do anything stupid, like attempt to have the "adventure" of riding the NYC subway system alone at 3 am. But try to do new things as often as you can. Go exploring by yourself. Visit friends in cities you've never been to. Eat food you've never had before. Buy one album or comic by someone you've never heard of. Watch foreign-language programming. You never know what you might discover! Cut all your hair off, or dye it. Learn to curse in foreign languages. You might not enjoy everything you try, but you might also find something that you really love.

HERE'S SOME OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: Never stop buying toys. Write letters to complain about things you don't like. Make your own clothes, or at least one thing. Do stupid tourist things with your friends. Never pay for a haircut if you can help it -- that's what friends are for (if you must -- don't spend over $10 and don't pay professionals to color your hair. And just don't even get perms, they are not worth it). Learn to cook more than just spaghettios. Don't hurt other people. Start a collection of something you like. Don't wear shoes in the house. Make elaborate valentines for your friends. Don't be so serious. Learn to do more things and feel more competent. Don't be afraid of technology. Don't care about what people think. And -- have fun!

(originally printed in the Absolute Beginner's Club Social Handbook, for the 1994 My Favorite 7", "The Last New Wave Record".)

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