Never Sell Out, Unless You Have To, So: Always Sell Out

For all of us millennials starting new careers, what is the best advice you ever received about life? I’d love to hear it as I struggle to balance health issues with a future career as a therapist. I currently have a job that I DESPISE, but it has really cushy medical benefits. Once I graduate with my Master’s degree in Counseling, I’m likely to take both a pay cut and lose the nice medical benefits, making life financially more difficult. However, I LOVE counseling. As I fight with multiple autoimmune diseases, and I’m on several (not-so-cheap) medications, how do I choose between guaranteed medical coverage or career satisfaction? 


—An Exasperated Millennial

PS. Did I mention the vast student loan debt?


First of all, congratulations on finishing your studies (almost), and that’s a grade-A bummer about the health challenges you’re facing. I have full faith that the generation one below you will fix this country’s garbage-dump health care system once and for all, but I’ll be dead by then and you’ll be old (and broke from all your medications), so what good will that do?

Second of all, all of the life advice I got was from Baby Boomers, so it was totally inapplicable bullshit.

Relatedly: One of the reasons that millennials never ask my generation for advice is that — besides all the other reasons, e.g. X is the smallest generation and so we’re kind of hard to find; you think we’re old and our oldness kind of embarrasses you to be around, etc. — your problems literally did not exist when we were young adults. The “gig” economy had yet to take hold. When someone said they had a “gig,” that meant that Mystik Spiral were playing the Steinberg Bar Mitzvah. (Yes, I did just look up the “correct” spelling of Mystik Spiral, and yes, I still would very much with Trent from “Daria.”) 

My generation may have lacked ambition, but if we could scrape some together we could usually find a job, and that job — while largely unfulfilling — would usually be a full-time position that came with health insurance. That was the entire point of “selling out” — so that you could afford shit.

The problem now is that there is literally no way to survive in contemporary America without selling out to some degree. The only people who can afford to do artistic or humanitarian work full-time are people who come from independent wealth, so they sold out before they even started. (All right, there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But she’s just one person.)

So in ’90s terms, the question you’re asking is the age-old dilemma that afflicted us all: Do you sell out? When it’s a matter of life and death, I think you gotta, for now. The good news is that you are very young and you have your entire life to change jobs like crazy until you find one you like (or don’t DESPISE) — but you can only do this if you’re still alive, and to be still alive you have to have your medicine, and to get your medicine you have to have a job with great health benefits until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fixes everything for us. 

As a stopgap measure, I’d recommend a mid-level semi-sellout. If there’s one thing my generation is great at — truly spectacular — it is half-assing things, and so I am exactly the right mentor to have in this situation, and this is precisely what you should do. As you near graduation, apply for any counseling job for which you’re eligible, but as the interview process progresses, make sure you learn about the benefits packages that every potential employer offers. Keep your current job while you’re on the market, but do literally the bare minimum possible not to make any waves or get anyone mad at you.

You may be surprised in the counseling field — if you get hired full-time by a hospital system, for example, your benefits will probably be pretty good. You may have all of your worst fears realized and have to stay in your current job as an assistant associate billing adjuster or whatever for the time being, for your health. You may also want to research options overseas — does your degree have reciprocation in literally any other developed nation? There’s your health quandary solved right there, plus you’ll have dope hours (i.e. low ones) and kickass benefits. 

Now go half-ass like the wind, and good luck. 


They’ll pry my Docs off my gnarled dead feet

I’m a Gen X-er. If I take part in the 90s-fashion-revival (the good parts, like the Docs, and the flannel and the boyfriend jeans) is that the most Gen-X thing in the world to do (like, ironically replaying fashion that was the non-ironic style statement of my existential ennui and ironic orientation to the world in the 90s so like meta-irony to the max eye-roll) or am I turning into a nostalgic Boomer pining for the glory days of my youth? I am kind of un-ironically enjoying the Air-Ware bouncy comfort on my 45 year old feet and it’s really un-ironically nice to wear non-tight pants and shirts that don’t cling.

— Please help me understand the correct thing to do. 


I am literally typing this whilst wearing baggy cutoff jeans over tights, so I think you know what to do here.


So are you as fed up as I am with the All Millennial Problems All The Time thing? Millennials get all the media attention – they have debt! they are worried about jobs in the era of global capitalism! they are good at some things and bad at some things! they like avocados!

But in some ways we kind of had it worse than them! We were expected to be financially self-supporting from the age of 18. We didn’t get to move back in with parents and save gazillions on rent. Parents didn’t routinely help with cars or down-payments on houses. There were no career or mental health counselors at school (at least not in the UK where I grew up). The word “mentor” didn’t exist.

No GSAs or legal rights or visibility for queer students, no discourse around consent or bullying or racism.  And just as we were looking for our first jobs, Thatcher and Reagan set the world economy on a collision course to hell, so those of us without connections supported ourselves through the 1990s on $600-$1000 a month with no family help. Housing prices went through the roof as people started seeing property as an investment, so many of us had no way to get on the property ladder. And we are just as screwed in terms of Social Security/Medicare as millennials, maybe more so because we’ve been paying in longer and likely will be the first generation to get zilch. At least millennials have more time to prepare for the retirement apocalypse. 

So I often think I’d like to be a millennial, living at home not paying rent, to consider my parents as my friends, to be supported by counselors and advisers and teachers who actually counsel and advise and teach, to have been able to take classes in coding and not feel like a total anachronism in today’s economy, to have my taste in toast analyzed as a meaningful social trend. Yes, the gig economy hit them just as hard, and millennials do pay far more for college than we did (the only reason I have an okay job today is because my undergrad in the UK was free).

But to read the press you’d think that no other generation has suffered under late capitalism, and I kind of think we were its first victims. And if that made us depressed ….  tough. No “honest conversation about the stigma of mental illness” for us!

Your thoughts?!

– We Walked Ten Miles Barefoot To School Every Day Then Came Home And Ate Gruel, So There Millennials


Eh, pretty much.

Why do I feel like the very people who could benefit most from our advice are probably never going to ask us for it? 

Can You Go On A Break From Your Own Sister?

My girlfriend and I are going to get married at some point, and I don’t want my sister anywhere near the wedding. As a matter of fact, I don’t want her to be a part of my life at all. She has a toxic and abusive personality that has been driving our family apart for years. She cannot be reasoned with and she refuses to seek treatment for her mental issues. I pity her, but I want happiness in my life. As she is now, she has no place in that future. She might improve, but here’s the thing. She has no job, no degree, no driver’s license, no friends or social life, no self esteem, and no motivation to do anything besides watch Friends on Netflix all day long. She can’t survive on her own and my mom will never cut her out the way I aim to. And unless my sister improves, which sadly I do not see happening, she will always be leeching off of at least my mom. 

So, what would be the best way to cut her out without also separating myself from my mom?

—-I Won’t Be There For You

How YOU doin’, IWBTfY?
So, like, your sister has issues. This much is clear. If she were a Friends character, she’d be Ursula, or probably a clothed and possibly reasonably good-looking version of Ugly Naked Guy. I won’t speak to her divisiveness or mental struggles, but I will say that, just although there’s nothing outright wrong with Rachel’s boyfriend Paolo popping a woody under Phoebe’s massage blanket, the problem arises (get it?) when that relatively predictable physiological response is directed at Phoebe as a come-on. In this vein, there’s also nothing inherently wrong with sitting on the couch all day watching TV, a.k.a. “being a slacker.”
In my day, slacking was considered, if not phat or sweet or tight or even chronic, definitely aight, cf: Troy Dyer in Reality Bites, who despite being the smartest guy in the gang’s friend group, spends all of his time cracking wise about Good Times reruns and taking bong rips on Winona Ryder’s couch. For as long as there have been couches and television, there have been grown up men- and women-children slacking on them, and far be it from me to intervene in this artform.
However. You’ll notice that Troy Dyer’s bong rips and wisecracking take place on Winona Ryder’s couch and not his mom’s. That is the primary difference between your generation and mine. Your generation’s parents (aka the only slightly older members of my own generation), having been unceremoniously kicked out and cut off by our own parents in the ’80s and ’90s after an unimpressive ’70s childhood spent being largely ignored, did what we all do, which is parent against the parenting we received.
Add to this the unfortunate economic realities that have crystallized since the ’90s — wages remain similar but the rent on, say, Monica and Rachel’s ludicrously huge West Village apartment has risen about a jabillionfold, from an untenable “rent-controlled,” let’s say $1600-2000 per month in 1994, to no amount of money in 2018 because that building has been converted into $40 million condos owned by some Russian nickel magnate’s granddaughter and she never even goes there.
If you are already predisposed to magical thinking (as anyone who watches Friends is) and your foregrounded assumption is that your job, even if you get one, will be a joke, and you will always be broke, and your love life will always be D.O.A., and on top of that you have multiple issues and an enabling parent, then unfortunately you will always be stuck in second gear and it will, indeed, never be your day, month, or even year.
And now to the matter at hand: You are, in fact, not there for your sister when the rain starts to pour, because her issues are harshing your mellow. This is 100 percent okay; you can have boundaries with family members if they’re always wigging out and you’re always bummed out at them. However. You can’t do anything about other family members’ continuing embrace of those people, and this is especially true if you’re gearing up to have a wedding, which, I hate to tell you, is an event that straight-up sucks if you’re on the planning end of it no matter what you do. 
That’s actually why weddings on ’90s sitcoms only had the primary members of the cast in attendance — like, I’m pretty sure there was a wedding on Wings at some point and the only people there were Joe, Brian, Helen, Roy, Antonio, Fay and Lowell. This was not, as you might suspect, because the producers of Wings didn’t want to go through the trouble of casting an extras or day players for one stupid subplot, but actually because ’90s sitcoms served as an excellent model of how at the milestone events of your life, you should only surround yourself with the people you actually like, or who, at the very least, will offer an excellent comedic foil to your existence.
You’re going to have to make a decision. Either you have a big wedding and invite everyone and just steer clear of your issue-laden sibling and assign one of your groomsmen the 24/7 duty of running interference and embrace the suckage (the most accurate translation of Nietzsche’s amor fati, in case anyone is wondering) — or you elope, and invite neither your mother nor your sister, and save $20,000 that you could put toward one and a half month’s rent in New York City. After all, that’s definitely what Chandler would do (or what he would have done if his wedding to Monica had any input from him), and I have a distinct feeling that you’re the Chandler in this particular milieu.


I do not know how I feel about these nostalgic 90s reboots of television shows and movies. What would a reboot of Reality Bites be like?


-NOT charmed, I’m NOT sure

What’s the dillio NCINS,

I, too, do not know how I feel about these nostalgic 90s reboots of television shows and movies. Or what about the new Charlie’s Angels, which is a nostalgic reboot of an early-aughts reboot of a 70s franchise? I don’t care if Noah Centineo is wearing very short shorts in it, it seems ridiculous. (I am aware Noah Centineo is young enough to be my child, and I’m busy dealing with my own feelings about whether that does or does not count as a LeTourneau move.)

The only reboot I’ve checked out is the new super-woke Charmed, which is…aight. I never really watched OG Charmed, and to be honest I think of it more as an early-aughts show anyway, given the depths to which Alyssa Milano’s trousers sunk on her torso in the late stages of the program (also, I distinctly remember writing trivia questions about Charmed for my weird TV-trivia-writing job, which I had from 2002-2005, RIP RTV, LOL).

As to the more important question at hand, however: What would a 2018 reboot of Reality Bites look like? Would it just be Destination Wedding, but with Ethan Hawke in the Keanu role? (Digression: Apparently Destination Wedding is a terrible film, but I really enjoyed it. It has the single most absurd sex scene I’ve ever witnessed, and also Winona and Keanu together are *chef’s kiss*).

Would it be a nostalgia reboot for the old people that has 2018 Troy getting Hey, That’s My Bike back together for a midlife crisis reunion tour of Greater Houston while Lelaina is feeling unfulfilled in her role as work-at-home helicopter mother? And then when Lelaina is shuttling the kids to trampoline self-actualization class or whatever, she gets distracted when one of them accidentally pulls up one of those creepy fake children’s YouTubes that shows the Paw Patrols dismembering each other or whatever, and she gets into a fender bender and it’s BEN STILLER AGAIN?????? And while she and Troy were so obsessed with their waify authenticity they didn’t notice they’ve become insufferable middle-aged caricatures of their former selves, Ben Stiller just stayed his actually authentic douche bag self the whole time and now he’s actually the more authentic one???? THIS SCRIPT IS COPYRIGHT ME.

I realize that what you are actually asking, NCINS, is what a reboot of Reality Bites starring today’s young people would be like — one that tackled the issues that they face, and the various ways in which their reality does or does not “bite.” Who is today’s Winona? Who is today’s Ethan? (Probably Timotheé Chalamet?) Who is today’s Janeane? Will there be cameos in parental or grand-parental roles by actual Winona, Ethan or Janeane? Who(m) will those cameos serve, since our young people don’t know who any of those legends are?

To al this I say: I don’t give a fuck, because nobody with any sense has even the remotest desire to watch that self-serving vacuous bullshit — ooh, another thing about young people! Great! Won’t someone please tell me more about what these young people are like,? Because they don’t get enough attention in the media!

This thing would probably have some character who invents a revolutionary app-based disruption of the transportation paradigm, but that app will actually just be bus stop, but they won’t know that because they’ve never seen a real bus stop before, and I am infuriated just imagining this, and I just want to go watch Singles again to cleanse my brain.

the Rollins paradox

Was Rollins doing the Gap ad a “sellout” move, or is it time to forgive?

-Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie an Answer

‘Sup GGGaA,

Let me take a sip of this black coffee — I woke up thirsty and miserable  — and endure my life of pain so as to clock in to this arbitrary new job I’ve given myself. I used to spend a fair amount of time thinking about Henry Rollins, because my ex-boyfriend Jacob was really into Blag Flag and Rollins’ later-in-life outings into stand-up comedy or spoken word or whatever the hell it was that Jacob paid $100 to take us to go see at Town Hall (the kind of staid venue where you go see David Sedaris) in…I want to say 2002? (It was a funny show, and I thank Jacob for the tickets.)

Also, I will readily admit that Rollins is a Grade-A silver fox, and I definitely would, and always would have, but it is also possible that one of the chief reasons that teenage Rebecca the inveterate narc who didn’t even have a sip of beer until after she graduated from high school and never really inhaled the pot could have the hots for Henry Rollins was that how scary and punk could he be if he did that Gap ad in 1991? (NB: he looks fly as hell in that Gap ad.)

Rollins Gap

But yes, Black Flag fans were livid about the Gap ad, and then an entirely new generation of Blag Flag fans (perhaps the hastily-conceived children of the original Black Flag fans?) were just as livid when Rollins — 55 years old at the time and technically barely a Gen-Xer himself — started shilling for Calvin Klein in 2016. Sellout! they cried (on Twitter, a website that mines your entire life for marketable information and provides an ample, comfortable platform for precisely the sort of Neo-Nazi garbaggio that Blag Flag formed to sing mean, scary punk songs about).

Rollins himself has thoughts on what it means or doesn’t mean for a punk artist to “sell out.” Check out this YouTube clip from 2009 (you know you’re old when even YouTube is old):

Rollins says he gets a lot of people writing to him angry that one of their favorite “small of fame” bands — the Buzzcocks, the Fall, the Stooges — has just been featured in an automobile ad or the like. “What a bunch of sellouts!” Blargh! Sellouts! “I understand their anger and loss,” he says, “when they feel one of their well-kept secrets has become a part of the corporate structure.” But, he says, that’s not selling out. Selling out, Rollins says, “is when you make the record you’re told to make, instead of the one you want to make.” (It’s a bit overkill to italicize Rollins, I realize, since essentially the man talks in all-caps italics all day.) “Do you have any idea what some of these bands went through to make this music?” he asks. “The fact that there might be some money in it all these years later? IS GREAT.”

Arguments over the “integrity” of punk rock — wherein something truly punk is supposed to be utterly devoid of ca$h money in homage to its progenitors’ limited means, when in reality punk was a protest cry from people with limited means, against Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan or whatever, for sticking them with those limited means in the first place — are generally made from the comfort of someone’s home by clothed and fed people who have enough fucking spare time to argue about something so ridiculous.

So, this all begs the question: Did Henry Rollins wear the crisp black Gap sleeveless tee and/or Calvins he wanted to wear? And so it’s not “selling out” at all? Is someone like Rollins only a good punk role model if he insists on suffering even if he doesn’t have to, just to please his audience? Isn’t that selling out?

Granted: Henry Rollins once did a blog about how he read The Castle and didn’t see what the big deal was and thus Kafka sucked, and on the two-sentence basis of that dismissal, my ex-boyfriend Jacob also decided Kafka sucked, despite any number of respectful entreaties about my own dissertation work, which makes me somewhat more knowledgable on the life and work of Franz Kafka than an aging punk icon who shills for Calvin Klein.

And so the larger question here is: What, if anything, do our icons of authenticity owe us? What do we feel they owe us? What does that actually say about us? Was Kafka a sellout, too?

I don’t know how Rollins feels about Ludwig Wittgenstein, but I’ll take the liberty of conflating the two and say that these may be the wrong questions to be asking in the first place. And that of which we cannot speak, we must rise above.

Now, please enjoy the ads on this website.

Hello, young people.

I am here to help you. Or possibly mock you. But mostly help you? I don’t know. I’m bursting with fruit flavor and I’ve got some unmotivated and sometimes ironic advice for today’s confused beginner adults. Anonymity guaranteed (yours, not mine). Post a question in the comments or email me.