1. Right this minute, everybody needs to stop chanting that blueberries are healthy and full of antioxidants. The next person who announces this gets his or her nose poked with a fork. Please stop insisting that everybody join the blueberry cult. Yes, blueberries are fruit. Yes, they are cute. Yes, they are nature's M&Ms. But that's it. Enough already with the blueberries. (I carry the fork on me at all times; the tines may sting.)

2. If you are sitting next to a person who is driving, do not take a sharp intake of breath to indicate danger when another car passes too close, looks as if it might stop short or when the driver is turning into her garage. This is not helpful and does not promote safety; trust me on this one. It is annoying.

3. Do not say to any person who is more than 11 pounds overweight, "Kale salads are genuinely delicious." Any one over a size sub-zero (which is a refrigerator and not an actual size) already feels overweight and does not need to hear about salads. Hearing about leafy greens (or a certain berry we won't discuss) will only make the other person unhappy and force them to order a sea salt caramel sundae with extra whipped cream as consolation.

4. Stop telling people that the hardest thing you do is not hard. Whether that is raising twins, maintaining a cheese-free diet, running triathlons, creating a wildflower garden, balancing in three-inch heels or writing a book, you know it isn't easy. If somebody compliments you on your perseverance, stamina and talent, accept the comment with grace and gratitude. Do not diminish yourself or the other person by explaining how you do it in your sleep or while making fruit smoothies, which, by the way, are full of healthy ingredients.

5. Do not gawk at the poor soul who has been pulled over by the police. The poor soul is having a bad day.

6. Do not think it is OK for you to text at the table, at the wheel, at a meeting, at a wedding, at the movies, at a wake or on a date. Even if you're making eye contact and have that weird vacant smile people plaster on their faces while their thumbs are doing "Riverdance," it irritates others.

7. Even when you speak ironically and with cool hipness about dumb TV shows you watch, you are still making conversation about dumb TV shows. Switch to another topic.

8. Talking about dumb TV shows is still better than talking about your most recent physical ailment. Yes, people would rather hear your opinion concerning "Wife Swap" than listen to a detailed report concerning your recent visit to the gastroenterologist.

9. Don't throw your gum out the window. Somebody will step in it or a bird will eat it and die. Gum lasts longer than any other substance in the universe. After Armageddon, the only things that will be left are roaches and gum.

10. Do not give replaceable lovers irreplaceable gifts. Offer to others only what you can afford to lose.

11. Don't be late. If you're going to be late, call.

12. Don't assume that your ex, your siblings, your parents, your high school classmates or your former colleagues have precisely the same memories you do.

13. Don't assume a plant is a good gift.

14. Don't be anybody's fool. Sometime it's appropriate to pick up your hat, say your goodbyes, and go - taking with you the small amount of goodwill and dignity you have left.

15. Don't repeat compliments offered to you by salespeople. Salespeople are trying to make a commission, and saying to your startled friends, "But the personal shopper said I looked absolutely fabulous in orange knit!" will only make them feel shy in front of you and lower their eyes.

16. Stop taking pennies from the bowl near register if you don't really need them or if - especially if - you never put any in yourself.

17. Stop worrying. Tomorrow is promised to no one - not even those who subsist on a diet entirely of blueberries. Enjoy yourself right this minute.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a columnist for the Hartford Courant.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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