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Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Neil asks: I'm a poor student on a tight budget: how do you recommend I live my life TO THE MAX?

Neil, you have said a mouthful. How, indeed, can a poor student live his life TO THE MAX? Or, in this economic climate . . . how can anyone live TO THE MAX?

As a now-world-famous-and-excessively-almost-repulsively-rich author* who was once the poorest student imaginable, I am an expert on this subject. Sure, I travel exclusively by private blimp or blimp-car and wear clothes made of 100% mirrorball and hang out with fancy moguls like John Green**, but I remember the lean years.

Despite appearances, I can still relate.

The answer is . . . style. And true style costs nothing.

It’s a way of BEING. Many aristocratic families have gone bust, yet maintained TO THE MAX lifestyles because they understand this principle. Now, you can too. Here are just a few ways of adding STYLE to your student/otherwise underpaid existence.


Groucho Marx said that he didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member. He had style in excess. But I suggest a club that ONLY wants you as a member. Because, what’s a club, anyway? A place of privacy where you can do exactly as you wish!

I first developed this theory in third grade, when I developed a “club” for myself devoted entirely to the reading of books about dinosaurs and mythology. I pretended my pencil was a cigarette and my juice box was a cocktail . . . and suddenly, it wasn’t indoor recess anymore. I was AT THE CLUB.*** I kicked back at my desk, smoking and drinking away, enjoying my reading. Sure, my club smelled like lunchmeat and sneakers, but hey . . . I WAS AT THE CLUB.

So, you’re broke and staying in on Friday night to watch episodes of Doctor Who and eat discounted snack puffs out of a shoebox because you don’t have a bowl? Oh, so you’re a member of the TARDIS CLUB. How stylish of you! Maybe later, you will chat online with other members of branches of the Tardis Club, but only if you feel like it. The Club is all about the luxury of choice.


You can do the usual things in this regard—start wearing a monocle and a top hat, give your hair a formal name like “Sir Jenkins” (as in, “I am going out today to get Sir Jenkins trimmed. Do watch my monocle.”). But real style goes deeper, and it shows in the way you treat other people. People with Style show real class with everyone they meet, especially staff.

Maybe you don’t have the money to tip everyone who serves you anything. Maybe you can barely afford that coffee you just bought and are planning on eating six sugar packets for lunch. It doesn’t mean you can’t treat the staff (who probably make more than you) with class.

“See here!” you exclaim. “This cup of the piping hot and caffeinated is the best I’ve had since the derby! You don’t get this kind of quality everywhere, and you should know it. Let me shake your hand!”

*shake hands, whether they want to or not*

“Now,” you can add, “what are the chances that you have any recently expired but actually edible foodstuffs that can’t legally be sold? As a personal favor to you, I’d like to dispose of them in my special organic recycling machine.”

By this point, the staff will know you have Style, and you might just get some of those day-old tuna wraps, which you can east quietly, by yourself, in the parking lot. And by “by yourself, in the parking lot”, I mean, YOUR PRIVATE OUTDOOR DINING AREA!

I’ll just eat this out here, on the patio!


People of style know that only trashy people throw themselves at the latest trends. Everyone hates the new rich. When you have style, you know that true quality is OLD. You don’t replace stuff when it gets a little hinky! That’s just when it starts to get good!

So that busted IKEA desk of yours, and those beaten-up sneakers, and that faded sweater, the car that only works on Tuesdays . . . the stink of QUALITY is on all of it. You should actually feel bad for those fools running around in their right-off-the-racks stuff, with the shiny new phones and iPods and cars. They don’t know how that looks to people of your caliber. It’s funny, really. Oh well, not everyone can have STYLE, like you!

You and Sir Jenkins have STYLE.

Alyssa asks: How do i know whether or not the English boy i met online is a creeper or not!? this is very bad as i kind of REALLY like him now...HELP!!

First, let me ask. Was it this guy? Or this one? If so, STOP IMMEDIATELY and get in touch with me.

Some people just have THE CREEPY. For example, say someone says to you, “Your hair smells nice.”

IN NON-CREEPY: I just noticed a faint, flowery fragrance, and in looking around, noticed there was no other source but your hair. It’s very pleasant. You are obviously a clean person who makes solid choices when it comes to hair care products.

IN CREEPY: I just sniffed your head and I wanted you to know it.

Sometimes, people clearly read one way or another. Sometimes, as I think might be happening to you Alyssa, you just can’t tell. And the accent and cup of tea might be confusing you further. Which is why I have developed my fool-proof Creepy Questionnaire. Try slipping in some of these questions in your next chat!

1. “Personal space” means:

a. A zone of a foot or more around another human being that should be assumed and respected—like national airspace. To enter it, you need permission.
b. A concept referring to emotional or lifestyle conditions, in which another person can have their own friends, activities, or interests.
c. What I want . . . is to be inside your skin with you.

2. A “breakup” is:

a. A frequently painful, but often necessary, dissolution of a relationship.
b. This annoying thing where you get a “restraining order.”

3. When you first visit the house of your beloved, what do you do?

a. Look around curiously.
b. Sit down nervously.
c. I usually sneak in through a window, so I have to be very quiet. Once in, though, I mark the place by touching every important object at least once—I mean, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, clothing, stuff like that.
d. I already live in a crawlspace in your basement but you don’t know.

4. The correct amount of time to spend together is:

a. It varies. Maybe a lot, maybe a little.
b. As much as we can!
c. You imply we would be apart. WHY WOULD WE BE APART???

5. “Privacy” means:

a. Some things are for your eyes only. Like a diary.
b. YOU HAVE A DIARY??? How did I MISS that?

6. What would be your ideal first date?

a. Something fun and casual—maybe a movie or a bite to eat.
b. Something carefully planned and romantic—like going dancing or taking a walk somewhere really special.
c. You’d give me some of your fingernail clippings, then I’d tell you every single thought in my head in real time, forever. Because when you say first, I know you mean first and only. We are TOGETHER now. The objective is COMPLETE.

I hope this helps.

* Standards vary. Mine are exceptionally low.
** Who I once saw eat crushed Doritos off a hotel floor.
*** See previous posts about being an only child.

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Blogger Nadia Murti said...

I LOVE quality!

But would a true creeper answer those truthfully?

1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*in breathy voice* STYLE!

1:54 AM  
Blogger Miss Tammy said...

Dear Ask MJ:
Any suggestions for writing prompts that I can give my very talented minions...I mean young adults...at our next writer's group meeting?

2:03 AM  
Anonymous bee said...

funny as usual! but did you know that that thing about heirlooms is actually kinda true?? the old rich do look at the noveau rich that way! It's totally tacky for them!

2:06 AM  
Blogger Rosalie Bass said...

English boys are divine. I have a QUESTION, though:

What do you think of the way teenagers speak these days? Why do you think proper English is fading out in high schools? Can you tell us your interpretation of the phrase, "Yo shortie dat jawn be salty?"

3:55 AM  
Blogger downyegg said...

The suggested creepers are hilarious. Good job identifying common threats to the teenage girl.
Question: I am very bad with the maths, so if I have an eight page paper due in (theoretically) six hours, and given that House is airing tonight, what is the probability that I will not complete said paper in the allotted time?

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question: So today is my birthday, and although I was trying to be happy and excited, I still felt the same. I couldn't feel happy on my birthday, and that scares me. I turned 15, so what advice can you give a 15 on how to still feel the thrills of life? Cause I think I am losing all sense of what's real.

6:37 AM  
Blogger delightfully mediocre said...

Great advice, as usual! Related to your 18 Things To Do Whenever list and as Frank is demonstrating so well up there, HATS! People in hats simply ooze style. Even old hats - a successful hat is in how you wear it, not what it looks like. At least, I think so.

(That is Frank Sinatra... right? Oh jeez.)

My question: Should I go camping this weekend? It's supposed to be kind of cold, but it's been a very long winter.

7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you find such fantastic pictures and videos for your blog that really relate to the topic? What is your secret source?

8:07 AM  
Blogger Miss May said...

I seem to spend a huge amount of time googling incredibly random and inane subjects. I spent all of yesterday researching the history of the leap year.

How much time, spent googling a day, do you think is normal?

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Suvi said...

I can see it now - the STYLE. I am amazed. All these years I've lived surrounded by STYLE, and I haven't realized it! I must be blind.

And I agree with you: In the dictionary, below the word creepy, there is a picture of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. At least there should be.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Sydney said...

Suvi, I could not possibly agree more. Edward is a class-A creeper.

Bella: "Where were you last night?"
Edward: "Watching you sleep."
B: "W...what?"
E: "Yeah. Like every night."
B: "..."

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How tall are you?
Like, would you say that you are short or relatively tall?

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Steph said...

Why do you look so serious in you author pics and when we see you on youtube are like the funnist person ever?

12:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen are you aware that Edward Cullen would get "VERY CREEPER" on your creeper quiz.

6:29 AM  
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