April 19, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

20 minutes

Do anything you want, but not for more than 20 minutes (and a few seconds) at a time.
By Katia De Sessa*
Published: 2017-06-28

fter 34 years of life experience, searching, mistakes made, of small victories, and lots of dark chocolate spangled with nuts, I've finally reached the transcendent conclusion that the longest human beings can tolerate anything is 20 minutes.

A few succinct examples help prove my point.

• Length of time you can spend on Facebook or any other social media platform: 20 minutes.

Linger and you risk boredom, not to mention growing annoyance at the world that then leads to a surge in repressed anger left over from youth, after which come acrimonious Tweets and a steep drop-off in followers, not to mention neck pain, pretty much in that order.

• Length of time you can tolerate pain: 20 minutes.

Wax shouldn't stay on the human body for more than 20 minutes, and not only because it hurts. Again, boredom kicks in, after which the bed you're lying on feels all wrong and whatever your beauty consultant is droning on about sounds idiotic, followed by ringing or buzzing or barking emanating from your phone. Move on, it says.

Stay camped out too long and inner angst (and rage) creeps in.

• Women in labor deserve a medal for simply surviving any given 20 minutes. I grant them an exemption.

• Length of time you can listen to advice or criticism: 20 minutes, tops.

But listening gets an asterisk. If someone asks me for advice, and whatever it they want advice about is complicated, I need at least 10 minutes to organize my neurons to focus on their problem — which incidentally I probably don't even care about — and another 15 minutes to package and export my wisdom. Since I want everyone to accept whatever I have to say as not only wise but definitive, I'm certainly not going accept disagreement, which means factoring in more time to convince you I'm absolutely and irrevocably right.

This creates a parallel problem, namely that you'll stop even listening at about the 15-munute mark. This leaves us with two choices: either you refrain from ever asking me for advice again or you keep looking me straight in the eyes even if you've stopped listening, since I've invested precious time in you. The 20-minute rule also applies to me, so you know I'll stop.

• Twenty-minutes is also the lifespan of patience in reading an article you may soon realize hasn't remotely contributed to your quality of life. (If anyone's still reading this, pick up the grand prize at the door).

At this point I should tell you that I'm still involved with "my" him — Giorgio — and that it's going well, thank you for asking. I managed to survive my doldrums without help from a shrink. I still have two friends who I see about 10 minutes a week.

So life goes on. Which is another way of saying that if I really thought life were as uninspiring as Melania Trump's pretty face I'd already have packed my bags and set out on a global tour in which I'd dispense free therapeutic hugs.

Now then, take out your calculator or rev up your phone and add up all the concepts covered in this column. Do that and (take my word for it) you'll come up with a surprising total: 166. Break 166 down into three numbers, you get 1,6,6, and if you add them all together you get 13. Next, you add 1+3, which gets you 4. Bingo.

That's just where I want to be, since 4 is my favorite number. Considering I wrote this on the run, I see the numerical possibilities as an augury.

Maybe this time around I actually wrote something sensible. Or maybe I'm just incredibly lucky. And now you're all in on my luck — until my 20 minutes run out.

Print | Email | | | 1


Play your hand

Feigning a cold, calm and calculating demeanor can make you feel in control, but is it worth it for a lifetime?


When you start smoking again after nearly five years, it's time to come to terms with celestial bodies, and your own.

Ending happy endings

A Friday night watching "Bridget Jones's Diary" (again) has its all-too-painful logic.

The alternative

Alternatives come in different shapes and sizes. But there's no telling if opting for one solves anything.

Bumps in the dream

The author grew up dreaming of America as the Promised Land she'd eventually get to. She still will, but the promise isn't the same.

More Living archive

Day and Boarding International High School in the Heart of Rome

Everything you need to know about visiting or moving to Tuscany, Italy.