Each year, around this time, we look back at the year’s most read New York Times Styles articles and ask: 1. What just happened? 2. What does it all mean? 3. What can we learn from these stories to live a better life in the new year?
1. Just … be Jonathan Van Ness
The “Queer Eye” grooming expert and memoirist embodies many of the tenets of better personhood: He overcame a difficult past (sexual abuse, drug addiction and an HIV diagnosis) to become the gorgeous and inspiring person we know today. “I want people to realize you’re never too broken to be fixed,” he said.
And perhaps the most useful lesson in this profile: “Namaste” is a gracious yet effective way to end an unwanted conversation.
2. Don’t, like, cheat
Move over, helicopters, there’s a new problematic parent in town. Enter the snowplow parent — one who removes obstacles from a child’s path, clearing the way to success. They came into the spotlight this year with their most extreme behavior yet: the college admissions scandal of 2019, in which parents who are famous or rich, or both, paid universities and coaches to cheat their children’s ways into college.
3. Hug a boomer/Xer/millennial/zoomer
In case you missed it: Gen Z is mad at boomers for the state of the world; boomers are mad at Gen Z for being so dismissive; Gen X feels forgotten and yet resents even themselves; and, not making anything much better, is the fact that five generations are currently coexisting in the workplace.
4. Think before you cancel
Sometimes canceling is warranted. And sometimes it’s just bullying, as some of these teenagers’ stories show. As one child put it, “We all do cringey things and make dumb mistakes and whatever. But social media’s existence has brought that into a place where people can take something you did back then and make it who you are now.”
5. Live your life like a rom-com
As this Modern Love essay showed, sometimes a practical decision (not to get married at 18) can lead to a very romantic story (planning to meet at the New York Public Library at 4 p.m. on the first Sunday in April five years later — and then doing it) and a happily ever after (they’ve been married for 35 years).
6. Protect thy acid mantle
Yeah, we had no idea what that was, either. It’s “the protective film of natural oils, amino acids and sweat that covers your skin. Damage it with too much scrubbing or neutralize it with alkaline washes and you’re on your way to barrier problems: inflammation, allergies, breakouts.” In summary: You’re probably using too many products on your face, so … stop.
7. Sleep until at least 6 a.m.
We can’t all be Tim Cook, Jennifer Aniston, Bob Iger or Kris Jenner and wake up around 4 a.m. without serious impact on our immune systems, mental cognition, stress levels and blood pressure. But it’s cute that for a minute we thought we could.
8. Buy stock in leggings
Because they’re not going away anytime soon, writes our fashion director and chief fashion critic: “For Gen Y, they tend to be lifestyle signifiers that have more to do with health and activity than, say, everyday work wear; for Gen Z-ers, who largely reject uniformity and traditional labels, they are simply a basic, the equivalent of jeans. They are something you put on without thought.”
9. Use your office bathroom as it was intended
Pooping is a privilege — if you’re doing it normally, it means your body is working as it should, and isn’t that nice? So, to quote the Mamas and the Papas in a song that had nothing to do with bathroom behavior: “Go where you wanna go.” Your colleagues don’t actually care.
10. Learn your personality type
11. Take a quick little break from booze
You may be planning a Drynuary, which makes you among the sober curious, “a new generation of kinda-sorta temporary temperance crusaders” who are taking a more mindful approach to their drinking, but don’t feel that their relationship to alcohol requires a 12-step program. As a result, some of these folks feel so good that they attend things like early morning raves. But, don’t worry: You don’t have to.
12. Do nothing for 20 minutes
Another thing to file under Things-That-Other-People-Swear-By is transcendental meditation. For one, Katy Perry has said of TM, “I will feel neuro pathways open, a halo of lights. And I’m so much sharper. I just fire up!” Our wellness columnist took a course, didn’t quite feel a halo of lights, but found that the routine took hold and helped give her perspective throughout the day.
13. Or do absolutely nothing for even longer
These San Francisco dudes are depriving themselves of many things, including conversation and eye contact, in order to experience more feelings later. According to James Sinka, a practitioner of dopamine fasting, “Your brain and your biology have become adapted to high levels of stimulus so our project is to reset those receptors so you’re satiated again.” In other words, a life without exclamation points — at least for a few quiet days.