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“Advice I wished I’d known before now”: Lucy Mangan shares her tips for life


I’ve mentioned here before, I think, what a hack addict I am. As a woman of severely limited practical or any other kind of skills – bar a certain mastery of the subordinate clause, which I can see coming in terrifically handy when the apocalypse arrives – life hacks have rapidly become my life blood. 

I think it’s because I’ve suffered from a dearth of instruction and guidance as I’ve wended my way through the years. I come from a family that believes that to ask for help or advice is a mortal sin – you live solely on your own recognizance. Either solve your problems yourself or crawl off into a ditch and die quietly. So I solicit nothing. My general air of hostility and Bitchy Resting Face (neither deliberate, BTW) has further ensured that advice has rarely been offered unprompted. 

But I am not about to let that stop me offering you the benefit of such wisdom as I have gleaned during my own beaconless wanderings. Oh no. Here are my nuggets of advice, wrested from the unwilling earth of experience, for your edification:

1. If you fall in love with someone who exactly shares your idea of what constitutes the right volume for the TV or who can cook or fix computers and you can’t, marry them. It is as good a basis for happiness as any, and a lot better than some.  

2. If you fall in love with someone who has any kind of phlegm-based problems when you first get together, do not bind yourself to them for life. Mucus does not diminish with the passing of the years.

3. Never lose touch with anyone who makes you laugh. Do you know how many people you meet after 30 who make you laugh? None, that’s how many.

4. When conflicted about any situation, but especially a work one, ask yourself, “What would a man do?” It’s terrifically simple and tremendously helpful. You don’t then have to DO what you think a man would do – it’s just a useful objective-ish scale against which to measure your own instincts and adjust them, if you so wish, accordingly. 

5. Always ask for more money. More money than you think you’re worth. More money that they’re offering. More money than you think they’ve budgeted for. Because the chances are that you’re wrong, that you undervalue yourself and that even the “more” you’re asking for is still well within what the offeror had in mind. (Also, see [4] – it is always what a man would do.)

6. Save your money. Save as much of your money as you can. Tell no-one that you do this. Just do it. It is not always possible to save money, I know. But this is why you must do it when you can. Every woman needs a running away fund, so that you can run away from a dangerous rental property, or a terrible job, or – in the worst case scenario – a dangerous, terrible partner.

7. If you are in your 20s, do as Nora Ephron advises – put on a bikini, admire yourself in the mirror, and don’t take it off until you are 34.

8. Don’t take 34 as a meaningful number – it’s just the one she chose, mainly because it scans well for comic effect. Wear a bikini for as long as you like. 

9. Or not at all.

10. Try some drugs. Not all the drugs. But some. Maybe in a bikini, why not? I’ve never done either and I’m beginning to think that was a mistake. See you next week, hopefully a bit older, colder, bolder and out of my tree.



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