‘Adulting’ Author Kelly Williams Brown’s Open Letters to the Girls of ‘Girls’ on How to Grow Up


This week, the hilarious Kelly Williams Brown of Adulting publishes her first book, Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps , a witty and wise instruction manual for getting it together at — let’s not lie — pretty much any age. To put her skills to the test, we asked Brown to give a little advice to the women in our lives that are most in need of it — the characters of Girls, of course. After the jump, find Brown’s open letters (she’s careful to note, “These letters would be unspeakably rude, if these people weren’t, um, fictional”) to Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa.

Dear Marnie,

Leave poor Charlie alone.

Everyone understands why you are not happy with the way things have turned out. You are pretty and smart and have thin upper arms and wealthy parents. These things smooth out a lot of bumps in the first 22 years of a lady’s life. Now, it’s complicated and hard and there are lots and lots of people who want to be in same the tiny, cruel world that you do.

But Charlie? He is neither the source of this problem nor the solution to it. He’s just a kind guy that you have too much ugly history with to ever really make it work.

Aside from Shoshanna, you are the closest to happiness. You know what you want even if you don’t want to admit it out loud. Marnie, if you feel like a rich banker will make you happy, go for it. A life of wealth where you didn’t have to worry about paying the bills but still could do things you find stimulating and glamorous sounds perfect for you. Just… just don’t let anyone lock you in a weird Duncan Sheik-playing tower ever again, OK? “Non-consensual” and “Duncan Sheik” need to be mutually exclusive concepts for all of us to feel safe.

Anyway. Back to your prospective banker. We all want things that we find shameful. The important calculus, though, is whether it makes you happy, not what Hannah thinks of it.

In the meantime, there are meaningful jobs out there that you will be great at. It probably won’t be in the art world, but then again, it won’t involve hot pants either. Go for that middle path, Marnie.

Namaste, Kelly

Dear Hannah,

First: you have to confront your OCD. You know, and we do too, that it’s not a joke or a punchline or something to keep around so you can write a book about later. It’s something that leaves your ears bleeding, which is to say, something very wrong that you have to take seriously.

Find a psychiatrist you like. If you don’t like the first one, go see another one. See them when you don’t feel like it. It’s easy to pull mental illness up around and over you like a malevolent down blanket, but don’t. You successfully dealt with it before and you can do it again.

And then, when you are well, when you don’t feel the need to cause symmetrical damage to your eardrums? Get outside yourself. Volunteer, join Teach for America, move to North Dakota — anything that takes you out of the tight orbit you’re moving in. It’ll make you a better writer, but more importantly, it will give you some perspective. With a few notable exceptions, we shouldn’t spend our early 20s writing about ourselves. The world is big and interesting; take your considerable talent and go find beautiful things to write about.

Also, while I do applaud your unorthodox fashion choices, it’s pretty important that you choose one of the following each time you leave the house: pants, shorts, skirt, or dress.

You’ll be OK, Kelly

Dear Jessa,

You have a long fucking road ahead of you. My jury is a little out on this one. It’s possible, I suppose, that the reason you are so socially destructive is that you’re just doing you. But many people — most people — who are chaos vectors aren’t doing it because they’re happy. They’re doing it because it gives them something more dazzling to feel than their own self-hatred, at least for a moment.

So for now, Jessa, whether you’re in column A or column B, your job is actually the simplest. Leases, mastering the art of hand-washing delicates, pet health insurance — these things mean nothing to someone for whom a box of puppies gets the level of attention and care most people give a cookie bouquet. The only thing you need to focus on is not permanently fucking up your or other people’s lives. So!

1. No white and/or needle drugs; 2. Go get an IUD so you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant for, like, ten years. Use condoms, too; 3. Stay away from people who have significant others. Yes, I know — You get to be a blonde, futuristic-haired wrecking ball! Fun! Boom! Explosions! Walking away without looking over your shoulder! — but Jessa, there are lots of parts of you that are good. And so many men who aren’t in love with someone else. Aim your tornado self toward those particular trailer parks. 4. Once a year, go somewhere unstimulating and be alone with your thoughts for as long as you can stand. It won’t kill you.

Seriously, Kelly

Dear Shoshanna,

You, my friend, are good to go. Your internal architecture is top-notch.

I love your side-sock bun, your bright, beady-eyed enthusiasm, your apartment that looks like Hello Kitty’s fever dream. But most of all, I love that unlike all your friends, you don’t hate yourself, which means there’s no hatred to take out on others. You feel a sense of benevolent duty toward those you care about, and when you hurt them, it tears you up inside.

The things we laugh at you about? Those are details. Those are surface things, and some day you will fall out of love with emoji-as-verbs in text messages. You’ll discover colors that exist outside the Disney Princess spectrum.

Shoshanna, I like you so much that it pains me to give you advice because I worry that it will hurt your feelings. I like you so much that I’m concerned about this even though you’re fictional.

But here it comes: You can (and should!) always be as Shoshanna-like as possible to the people who love you. But this world of ours is a cruel and cold one, Shoshanna, and so in the next few years, you’ll need to hold your cards a little closer to your chest. We all know it’s just your adorable naïveté and joie de Pink by Victoria’s Secret, but others will mistake it for stupidity and try to take advantage of you. Because they are assholes who do not understand what a beautiful heart looks like when they see one.

Wait, Shoshanna … Shoshanna, please come back. Please? Oh my God, Shoshanna, I’m so sorry. Really. I think you are just the greatest. Let’s just go get some Greek yogurt, OK?