12 Life Lessons I Learned From Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’

by Olivia Harrison

It’s been five years since the release of Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants, and five years later it continues to be the most important piece of literature in my life. I read it for the first time on a beach vacation the summer before I went off to college, and it blew my world right open. In my opinion, this book belongs on the same shelf as The Second Sex, A Room of One’s Own, and The Feminine Mystique. Bossypants permanently changed the way I think about life (and not to mention, the way I communicated with my sister— we quote it back and forth to one another all day, every day). Notably, I also recited her essay, “All Girls Must Be Everything” from memory in a public speaking class I was required to take my sophomore year (it was the only thing that got me through that class— I’m a writer, not a speaker).

Bossypants Cover Tina Fey 200px.jpeg

Fey’s memoir didn’t just change my life, it also really shook things up in the publishing world. According to U.S. News, the unprecedented success of Bossypants “confirmed a market for smart, funny nonfiction such as Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

The book has sold over one million copies in the U.S. and over 150,000 copies on Audible. (If you haven’t listened to the audio book, stop everything you’re doing and turn it on immediately. I promise you won’t regret it. Trust me, it’s Grammy-nominated.) In honor of the five-year anniversary of Bossypants, here’s a list of 12 life lessons I learned from Tina Fey’s book. The book offers important thoughts on being a professional woman, dating, raising children, and beauty, so take notes.

1. “Some people say, ‘Never let them see you cry.’ I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”
Women are constantly being told not to cry. It’s not professional. No one will ever take you seriously if you do. I prefer this take on the issue, though. Using your tears as power, now that’s what we need to be teaching women in the workplace.

2. “When choosing sexual partners, remember: Talent is not sexually transmittable.”
This advice comes in the second paragraph of the book’s intro, and I reference it often when evaluating whether or not I should sleep with someone.

3. “If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: who cares?”
This is an important thing to keep in mind since we’re constantly being bombarded with beauty tips. Make-up advice, hair styling tips, skincare regimes, they can all be a lot of fun, but Tina reminds us that we should never take it too seriously.


4. “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”
These words of wisdom actually originate from Tina’s life partner and fellow fierce, funny feminist Amy Poehler. Amy’s declaration of “I don’t fucking care if you like it” came in response to Jimmy Fallon once complaining that something she was doing wasn’t “cute,” and it teaches us all to be ourselves and don’t give a hoot what others think. A hard but important lesson for anyone.

5. “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”
A hilarious take on the old-school advice of jumping into things feet-first. Fey follows up this statement by reminding her readers that this is a hard lesson for her since she comes from a generation where a lot of people died on waterslides.

6. “You could put a blond wig on a hot-water heater and some dude would try to fuck it.”
Though I have not tested this theory, I believe it to be true. Absolutely no offense intended to my yellow-haired sistaz out there.

11. “When Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your fucking life.”
I think this a good gauge for figuring out if I’m spreading myself too thin. When I feel overwhelmed, I make a point to stop and ask, “What would Oprah think about all this?”

7. “Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions.”
She continues this key lesson by explaining: “No one wants to go to a doctor who says, ‘I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?’ Make statements, with your actions and your voice.” Speak your truth, girl. No questions asked.

8. “Obviously, as an adult I realize this girl-on-girl sabotage is the third worst kind of female behavior, right behind saying ‘like’ all the time and leaving your baby in a dumpster.”
A vital reminder that women need to support on another. We can’t be turning on each other, gals. We already have enough working against us. Oh and try not to say, “like” so much. 

9. “The definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.”
Fey is sure to point out that this is a very rough theory, but think about how many times you’ve heard a man dismiss a woman by simply saying, “that bitch is crazy.” I don’t work in show business, but I believe it, and the theory seems to apply elsewhere.


10. “Feminists do the best Photoshop”
In a nod to her BUST cover photo shoot, Fey explains, “Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color. They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they may take out some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light.” (Side-note: this is how I first found out about BUST Magazine, and after hearing what she had to say about the magazine, I made it my mission to devour every issue I could find and someday work there. Told you this book changed my life. Thanks, T.)

12. “It’s just fun! Don’t over think it!”
Though this quote is in reference to when the housekeepers on cruise ships sculpt your towels into animals wearing your sunglass, I think it applies to life in general. I use it regularly when trying to remind myself and others to let your mind take a rest and just enjoy the ride.

Above all else, Bossypants taught me that humor can be seriously powerful. Discussing love, sex, beauty, gender politics, almost everything is hard. But bringing in your personal experiences and sense of humor can help you be heard. 

Images via Bust Magazine, Amazon, and Buzzfeed

More from BUST

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Tina Fey And Amy Poehler Honored Carol Burnett And It Gave Us All The Feels

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler And Maya Rudolph Have A Group Text And We Want In

11. “When Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your fucking life.”
I think this a good gauge for figuring out if I’m spreading myself too thin. When I feel overwhelmed, I make a point to stop and ask, “What would Oprah think about all this.”

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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