Advice for a New Human


fiction by Chiara Barzini


Do not break bones when you come into the world. I’d like to hold you in one hand, like a breathing lump. Avoid echoing your father’s tone. Tell me I’m pretty. Be careful if you have a brother. Try not to strangle him. I will try not to speak as a baby to you. Will you try not to scream at me? When the time comes, I know I can expect you to hate everything I love. In that case, I’ll wait.

Please try, just once, to hug a tree. It is grounding. I would prefer it if you resembled me more than your grandmother or grandfather… That way we can be closer. Avoid running up marble stairs. You can split your eyebrow. I will be happy to take you to the emergency room. You will have a pediatrician and a dentist. I am going to have your documents well organized.

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW: Your father knows how to cook fish. I might put your life in danger. If you think you’re not loved, open your arms and you shall receive. The woods by our house are filled with wild boars. The boars look a lot like “The Nothing” from The Never Ending Story. It might make you sad to know that the Childlike Empress from Fantastica was my yoga teacher once. She is no longer the most beautiful girl in the world. She is petite and struggles to work off Broadway as an actress. Having been the Childlike Empress in The Never Ending Story is a fun fact on her web site.

WHAT TO FEAR: When stairs squeak, hide under your blanket. It means the monster is coming. If you breathe he will smell you, find you, and eat you alive. Beware of vampires. They live in your closet and are never dead.

WHAT TO EAT: If you like bunnies or baby goats, don’t eat them. If you like calves you can give them carrots. I like horses because they are unpredictable and a symbol of freedom. If you dream of horses it means passion and excitement are on the way. We in the family try also to not eat horses.

FILMS: See them with me, not with your father. He will fill you with Westerns and will convince you I only watch American romantic comedies, which is not wholly true.

PETS: Once my dog killed a kitten and I thought he was a murderer. I didn’t understand that he was just playing with it as if it were a ball. I will make sure there are no misunderstandings between you and the dog: you are a human being, not a ball.

PARTIES: If you like parties make sure you know how to dance, or at least make sure you feel like dancing. Remember: there is no failure in life.

SICKNESS AND DISEASE: If you feel like you’re getting the stomach flu, rush to a safe bathroom or bedroom. Do not stall. If you’re on a busy street and want to buy something, resist the urge. Use caution. Stay in bed. Close your eyes. Reading will only make things worse.

ABOUT DOLPHINS: You’re going to see them from a boat one day, and you’re going to want to touch them. You’re going to wish they could come right out of the water and make a flip for you. Please don’t ask too much of them. Be content with just seeing the dolphins. Always wanting more can make you very unhappy. True happiness is within, so don’t expect to pet each and every animal you see.

MUSIC: You’re allowed to blast it. You’re allowed to rollerblade in the living room listening to Material Girl. You are encouraged to appreciate the Beach Boys, but watch your mouth when you say California is the best because your father doesn’t agree.

CRUDITES: Refers to vegetables. Not raw ground beef. That’s tartar.

ECSTACY: You will ingest it at some point. That’s fine. Watch out: it’s very bad for your spine.

TAVOR: Same as Xanax, a psychopharmaceutical drug that makes you not feel anything: no fear or love or anxiety or doubt, just a little bit of sadness. If you have to resort to taking it, please come talk to me first. We can try different solutions.

LOSS: It is inevitable. It hurts and stings and leaves you breathless. Sometimes it’s a good way to lose weight. You’re not going to understand this until later, but I am warning you: this is the toughest one to get over in life, so start asking me about it early on.

CREST: It is both toothpaste and a way in which you might want to style your hair when you reach a certain age. I say: go with both.

CHARM: If you’re pretty it can screw you. Remember it’s the most powerful thing in the world. Even when you are not intelligent.

CARETAKERS: Are supposed to take care of you. They pick you up and sign your documents. They let you not go to school and take you to the doctor. Do not mistake them with your husband.

TABLOIDS: Your grandmother loves all stories that have to do with obesity and aliens.

ORACLES: Are to be trusted only if you don’t have cancer.

GENERALLY: I am a Capricorn, and sometimes I have a hard time expressing my emotions. They are all there, just jammed underneath a shield. Don’t think I am incapable of empathy or love. I am a great lover. Sometimes not very honest with others. It is not easy for me to speak my opinion immediately. This is why I am giving you these basic life instructions in written form. Remember the part about opening your arms and receiving love. I meant it. Welcome home.


Chiara Barzini