By Julia Carpenter
Adulthood has no eureka moment. Author and blogger Kelly Williams Brown, whose new book Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps came out this week, believes true maturity is instead built on smaller stepping stones: using the correct screwdriver, wearing sunscreen, not going around telling everyone the foolish thing your friend did at 14.
"Those moments of feeling together and in-control, we kind of need them," Brown says. "Because life is chaotic, and so much is out of our control, and at any moment there's like 18 million things we're worried about, but when a little worry crosses your path and you're like, 'No, I've got it,' that's a great feeling." Indeed. And so, using her book and enlisting her boyfriend David and good friend Markus as a guide, Brown created a special male-centric appendix for Esquire.com.
1. Learn to tie a tie. Even better: learn how to tie a bow tie. Even better than better: learn to fold a pocket square. It takes sharp dressing to another level. "You don't even have to have it memorized," Brown says. Just go here. And here. And here.
2. Wear the right amount of cologne. Brilliant tip: shower, towel off, then spray your cologne on - then put your clothes on. "That way the cologne is on you, not on your clothes. You have to get a little bit closer."
3. Build a fire. At the very least, know how to light a grill. "I know a lot of guys don't like to cook that much, but even if you're 21, you can grill. You can buy a little Weber-style kettle grill for $18 at a garage sale. Get some lighter fluid. Go get some chicken thighs, pour some Italian dressing over them, and that's your marinade. Then sit around, drink a beer. Let it happen."
4. Know how to take care of a hungover lady. Brown and co. have this broken down to a science. "Here's what you're going to do: have some coconut water on hand. You have some delivery on speed dial so you can get her some food, and then you have one rom-com for her to watch, and Markus suggested Love, Actually." Really, anything set in England or starring Hugh Grant will do.
5. Ask a woman on a date. A real date. And no, gentlemen, "group hang" does not qualify. "I think there's something very charming if someone asks you out on a date. They have the intention, but they also have a plan. They don't leave it all up to you. So even something simple like, 'You know, it was so great to see you after that party the other day. Do you want to grab drinks after work on Friday?'" The date doesn't need to break the bank, either. Brown's examples: walk around a park together and point out the ridiculous things that other people are wearing, or go to Goodwill and try to find the most hideous item there.
6. Enjoy the company of old people. For life advice, but also just for fun. "Old men will give you the greatest fashion advice. They know how to look sharp. They know how to be put-together. They know about the pocket square. These are the people who won World War II. And old women are even better - they've reached the 'do not give a fk' stage."
7. The more time you spend talking about yourself and how great you are, the less great you seem. Next time you catch yourself yakking on about work, take a minute to reassess. "It's always the people who never say much about what they're doing who you later you find out - 'Oh, he said work was going well?' and someone's like, 'He just won the Nobel.'"
8. Ironing in general. Particularly a dress shirt. Yes, you can own an iron. And yes, you can even own an ironing board. And when you actually put them to use, you can elevate your everyday style from "eh" to "Okay." "I had a guy friend, and he ironed almost everything before he wore it. Even a T-shirt - he'd give it a quick iron. And his clothes always looked great. It's hard to look super-capable if you're also very wrinkly. Wrinkly and capable are often mutually exclusive topics." Cautionary tip: On the iron, it will say what temp it needs to be for your fabric. Follow that. "Don't think 'Oh, I'm going to turn it up all the way for masculine manliness." Also make sure you're always moving the iron - otherwise, burns happen.
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9. Crack open your car manual - and actually read it. You don't have to be John Travolta in "Greased Lightnin," but little things like changing a car headlight can save you time and, more important, money. "Know what's in your manual. Flip through it. You'll be surprised at how much stuff you can do yourself if you just know what's in the manual."
10. Be a thoughtful gifter. Notice the girl likes something. One time she'll say, 'Oh, I love this bracelet. Oh, this blouse is so pretty. Oh, this is such a cute little pot for my house.' Just remember one of those times. File it away. Go buy that thing. Wait three months. Give it to her. She will be yours forever."