Monthly Archives: June 2008

#51: Don’t Go Thinking This Is Normal

Do you remember the first time you saw a naked old person? There you were, all young and smooth-skinned and tight-bodied, thinking that was normal because you looked like everybody on TV. And then there was the shock of how different the old person looked: big gut, droopy boobs, wobbly butt, ewwww.

Except now that you’re the wobbly, droopy old person, it’s all too easy to start thinking you look normal. Everybody’s stomach sticks out like that! All thighs come packed with cellulite, everyone has a fupa.

Except they don’t. I’m not saying your body has to look like a 28-year-old’s; I’m just asking that you be realistic about the changes time has wrought. And please, at the beach this summer, don’t subject me to that gut flopping over a Speedo.

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Weekend Review: I’m Not Going To Stop and I Can’t Make Me

Now that How Not To Act Old has hit the 50-post mark, there’s too much here for any of us to keep in our heads. Especially me.

Therefore, I bring you the Weekend Review, in which I digest (and no, that is not a digestion discussion) the messages of previous posts, for those of you who are too lazy, too addled, too busy, or too forgetful to do it yourself.

Our first topic: Ways we’re not going to stop acting old, no matter what anybody (including a noted authority such as myself) says.

There’s some misconception that the message of HNTAO is that you’ve got to quit doing everything outlined here, no matter how much you like it. That’s not true. Rather, what I’m saying is that you should know that doing these things equals acting old, but you might want or need to do them anyway. My personal list of what I won’t or can’t stop doing:


#28:Listening to Springsteen — I genuinely believe Bruce is a genius. Plus, his hero is Philip Roth, who’s one of my heroes too. Plus, how could I work out without Bruce? You might be able to persuade me to offload my Motown, my reggae, my Donna Summer. But I’m forever strapped around Bruce’s engines.

#42: Reading — Come on, guys, did you really think I was serious about this one? Though as time goes on I find myself, like the rest of America, reading less and writing more.

#37: Throwing Dinner Parties — I received several (okay: one) impassioned pleas on this subject from valued dinner party guests. Don’t worry, I won’t stop. But once this blog starts turning big money, I’m hiring a cook.

#17: Drinking Cosmos — I know better than to order them in public anymore, and bars have started using a too-sweet mix. But in the privacy of my own home, the frozen Cosmo is turning into the drink of the summer: fresh-squeezed lime, a splash of cranberry juice, a little simple syrup, lots of vodka, and ice in a blender. Mmmmm.

#46: Hoping Lauren Conrad Will Go Away — Sorry, LC. Nothing personal. But one of the few good things about being in my 80s will be that I’ll no longer see your face on every cover.

#30: Emailing — I’d rather give up my Saturday night sex date.

#48: Man-Bashing — I love men, I really do. But since women of my generation didn’t get Title IX, this became our sport instead. And I need my workout.


#21: Leaving Messages — Too convenient.

#9: Planning — Too enamored of security.

#29: Eternal Dieting — Too enamored of both eating and looking good.

#41: Being Excited About Mondays — I love to work, and unless I’m forced to become a poodle-groomer, I don’t think that’s going to stop any time soon.

#49: Curbing My Cynicism — Definitely too late to become more innocent, plus skepticism and negativity are among my most adorable traits!

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#50: No, That Was Not Mary-Kate and Olsen You Saw On The Number 66 Bus

First off, it’s Mary-Kate and Ashley. Secondly, you can too tell them apart. Mary-Kate is a little shorter, skinnier, darker-haired and all-over pointier: that’s her on the right in the photo. And if that still isn’t clear, in breaking news Spencer Pratt told UsWeekly that Mary-Kate is “the less cute twin.”

The Olsen twins, for those who spent the past few decades on the planet Xebo, jointly played the baby on Full House and went on to become billionaires by doing something visible only to 11-year-old girls. And while they certainly seem to be everywhere, everywhere does not include your suburban commuter bus. Nor did you see one or both of them in your local pizza parlor (they subsist on air) or trying on shoes in Sports Authority.

Faux-sightings of vaguely-familiar baby celebrities is a common failing of the old. Yes, they all look alike. But that young, sweet, too-thin girl you saw on your local commuter bus was just the waif next door.

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#49: Curb Your Cynicism

When my kids really want to torture me, they say: “It’s all good.” They know I hate that phrase. It is not all good! The war in Iraq is not good! Children starving in Namibia and being abused in New Jersey is not good! My own day hasn’t even been half good!

So does this attitude make me a cynic? Undoubtedly. But it also makes me old.

I think the young like the “it’s all good” thing because they still want to believe that everything happens for the best. That guy that broke their heart? There’s a sweeter one around the corner. Didn’t get the job? Wouldn’t have liked it anyway.

I’d like to believe this too. But cynic that I am, I can’t. Still, it’s all better if you cloak that negative viewpoint.

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#48: Enough With The Man-Bashing

Sad, isn’t it? I mean, there go half my jokes. And nearly all my fun.

That’s right, it’s time to retire those quips about male refrigerator blindness and brains in penises. But before we declare an absolute moratorium, let me just tell you my favorite man-bashing joke, first relayed to me by the divine Mave Maclean of Hampstead, England:

Q: What do you call the useless bit of flesh attached to a penis?

A: A man.

For those unregenerate man-bashers among you, there are plenty more great jokes out there.

But if you’re determined to act younger, you should know that man-bashing has gone the way of bra-burning and do-it-yourself gynecology, another relic of old-style feminism. Feminists today love men, appreciate men, even revel in gender differences without needing to feel that men are in any way inferior to women, a stance I wholeheartedly support.

At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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#47: Don’t Be A Chicken

Old people certainly don’t have a monopoly on fear. Some common fears — spiders, public speaking, even flying — may even be ones we’ve faced and conquered. But change and novelty, not so much. The fear of newness even has a name: Caicophobia.

Maybe you’re afraid to try a different haircut, since your current style has worked so well for you since 1993. Vacation in Virginia instead of Vermont? Undergo hynosis, or try bungee-jumping? Chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken. Not to mention the big fear inherent in doing something like moving across the country or changing careers, which forces you back into the position of being a rank beginner and so relatively ignorant and powerless, not a comfortable position for those of us who’ve achieved some measure of security and stature in our lives.

But being afraid to embrace the unknown can shorten your lifespan, at least if you’re a rat. One study shows that scaredy-cat rats die sooner than adventuresome ones. You’re safer bungee-jumping, in other words, than you are stressing over what will happen if you take the leap.

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#46: Stop Hoping Lauren Conrad Will Just Go Away

If you’re wondering who Lauren Conrad is, you’re worse off than I thought. Or better off: It might be preferable to live in blissful ignorance of Lauren, Heidi, Audrina, Spencer, and Brody (huh? who?) than to suffer the weekly — nay, daily, hourly — torture of wondering why Lauren et al are famous and when they’re just going to go away.

Never, that’s when. And yes, Lauren and her friends are richer than you, they’re treated more nicely, they get way more free goodies and fabulous job offers and they most certainly get lots more sex and love too. Of course it’s not fair, naturally you deserve it more, but hoping the world will see the error of its ways and turn its attention from them to you is just, well, immature.

My recommendation: Start watching The Hills (that’s the show whose dramatic arc follows the real breaking of Lauren’s real-life nail). While you’re at it, catch up on your Gossip Girl, which is The Wire by comparison. It may not be good for your soul, but it is good entertainment.

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#45: Don’t Live In A Big House and Complain About Money

We get it that maybe you bought your house a couple of booms ago when prices were low, so you’re really not as rich as you look. We understand that the taxes on a house that big are through the roof (so to speak), and you don’t even want to think about what your heating bill is going to be this year.

And to all that we say: Oh, boo hoo.

If you’re lucky and old enough to live in a big house or a sprawling apartment you bought in 1986 for $200,000, you’re not allowed to poor-mouth. Yes, even if you’ve got cash flow problems. Sure, even if you’re only halfway through putting the second kid through college. If you need money so badly, sell the house and move into the kind of place you can buy for $200,000 these days: a car.

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#44: Quit Bossing Everybody Around

So you think you know it all, do you? Think you’re so on top of everything that you know best what everybody else should be doing, and you won’t hesitate to tell them?

I’ve seen this phenomenon before, on the first few seasons of Survivor. It was always the older person who thought they had such superior experience in hut-building and berry-picking and fish-spearing that they could organize the whole camp and tell everyone what to do and that that would make their teammates respect and value them.

And guess what’s happened? That’s right: voted off. The young hotties would sit there and smile and nod and then go to tribal council and, zap. So you be a smiler and a nodder too, and the boss of only yourself.

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#43: Don’t Fear Rap

Rap music may seem like part of the plot by the evil young to drive us all to mass suicide so they can grab our high-paying jobs and steal our needlepoint pillows, but I’m here to tell you, you needn’t be afraid of rap. After being tortured for countless hours in the car by rap music, I’ve even come to like some of it, though that might just be the Stockholm Syndrome.

True, the only rap music I actually like are the oldies. My number one favorite is the immortal Biggie Smalls singing Back To Cali — he’s heading west for “the wine, the women, and the weed.” I like to quote it when I’m trying to get my 15-year-old son out of bed in the morning: “Yo, Big, get your ass UP.” Though Biggie’s been dead for more than a decade now, listening to him never fails to make me feel youngish. Another song (are they called songs?) I really like is Wu Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M, which stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me, which sounds positively elderly. And then there’s — well, that’s about it.

I was unaware until ten minutes ago that a professional Rappin’ Granny performed at The Emmys last year. She was pretty good, too, except she worked that dowdy housedress a little too hard. Can a mature woman, even a white one, rap without turning herself into a laughingstock? Let’s go to the youtubeotape.

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#42: Torch Your Books

If you don’t want to act old, you’ve got to stop reading. Everything except Harry Potter, of course. And whatever is this season’s DaVinci Code. And of course, my books.

But studies show that reading books is in decline among people in all age groups, though most especially the young. Fiftyish women are the most likely to read books (surprise, surprise), while young males are playing Grand Theft Auto or looking at internet porn instead.

If you’re not about to trade in Anna Karenina for Niko Bellic (if you don’t know who that is, ask your teenage son), you may want to revisit your youth by reading Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, to remember why you starting having sex with everybody you could get your hands on; Sue Miller’s The Good Mother, to remember why you stopped; and Sheila Weller’s Girls Like Us, to remember the women you wished you were (and are ultimately glad you’re not).

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#41: Don’t Get Too Excited About Mondays

Hello, my name is Pam, and I am a Monday Lover. It’s not that I don’t like weekends, exactly. But on the weekends I spend a lot of time doing all those household chores — laundry, grocery shopping, weeding — I don’t have time to do during the week. My husband and kids are around, wanting to be cooked for, driven around, and sometimes even communed with.

And then on Monday morning, they all leave. I’m alone, free to work without distraction or interruption. I don’t feel guilty about writing instead of going to the bookstore with my husband or making pasta for my son. And if I sometimes sneak out for lunch with a friend, it’s nobody’s business but my own.

But when I was young, weekends meant fun and freedom and sex, and Monday meant a return to drudgery and imprisonment in some dumb job. Would I go back to that time? No. I love loving Mondays. But I wouldn’t mind loving Saturdays and Sundays a little bit more.


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#40: Scratch The Golf Game

Some sports are young and some sports are old. Examples?

Basketball is young; baseball is old.

Snowboarding is young; skiing is old.

Skateboarding is young; roller-skating is old.

And golf is old. So old I can’t even think of something similar-yet-different (miniature golf? no; croquet? nah) to put on the young side of the equation

Why? Expensive, is one big reason. Slow. Not all that strenuous. Outfits not very cute. And the shoes!

Plus, golf takes planning: You need to reserve the course days, weeks, or even years in advance.  And it takes patience, a quality that tends to increase with age.

The only thing about golf that has any youth appeal are the carts. I would like to ride around a golf course in one of those carts. I just don’t want to have to wear shoes with cleats or hit any little balls out of the sand.

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#39: Don’t Wake Up Before Dawn

At the risk of breaking one of my own rules nearly as soon as I set it down, getting up when it’s still dark outside is what Seinfeld’s parents did. Remember? Jerry goes to visit and is awakened in the dark to find his parents in the kitchen making coffee and squeezing juice. “We thought we’d let you sleep in,” they say. To which he responds, aghast, “It’s 5:30 in the morning!”


I was up at 6 today, Sunday morning. And that’s after going to bed at almost 11! Even when I do stay up really late, till midnight, I wake up at 6.

I blame my children, for making me wake up at or before dawn for all those years, to nurse them or watch cartoons with them or drive them to school. Now, although they ridicule me for waking up early, I can’t stop. But at least I’m conscious enough to know it’s an old-people thing.

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#38: Break That Saturday Night Sex Routine

I know what you do on Saturday nights. Or, if your kids are old enough to sleep in, Saturday or Sunday mornings. You have sex, or should I say, you fulfill your conjugal duty.

Let me just assure you that I agree there are lots of good reasons to corral sex into a regular, convenient time slot. I totally get it (totally, dude) that Tuesday mornings are too rushed, Thursday nights you’re too tired, that every other day is too often (it is, honey) yet you can’t let the frequency dwindle to once a month or you’d have to get d-i-v-o-r-c-e-d.

And yet, every-Saturday-night-whether-you-want-to-or-not sex has a way of making you not want to. Has a way of reducing what once was fun and thrilling and satisfying and relationship-building to just another duty, like taking out the recycling on Monday morning. It’s what you do when you’re too old and/or you’ve been married too long to listen to your body instead of the calendar.

Sorry, I was going to wind up with something pithy, but I have to go cry now.

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#37: Cancel The Dinner Party

I didn’t start throwing dinner parties until I was nearly 40. Too much work, too difficult to coordinate all those dishes, plus who was going to take care of the kids while I shopped and cooked and cleaned and uncorked the wine and lit the candles and changed into a comfortable-yet-cleavage-baring dress and led the sparkling conversation?

And then, on our tenth wedding anniversary, I asked my husband what he’d change about me if he could, and he said he’d like it if I was able to give a nice dinner party. And so I learned. In fact, I got really good at it. Moving to the suburbs, living in a house with a real dining room, having more time on Saturday once our kids got older, we came to really enjoy dinner parties — giving as well as getting.

But now I think it’s time to stop. I’m tired. Plus, they all start to feel the same. Now that I’m acting younger, I’m going to start inviting my friends over to share a keg and a bag of potato chips — if they’re really lucky, a pot of chili — on Saturday nights.

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#36: Enough With The Seinfeld, Already!

Maybe you faithfully sat in front of the TV every Thursday night (remember those pre-TiVo days?) for Seinfeld‘s entire first run. Maybe you still catch the syndicated shows nearly every night, just like your parents watch The Nightly News and your kids watch The Simpsons. Maybe you’ve gotten the boxed sets as gifts for every occasion over the past few years. And maybe you can genuinely relate nearly everything that happens in your life to a Seinfeld episode.

But listen, the real-life Jerry has moved on. He’s got a young wife, little kids, a struggling new career as a voice-over actor: When you’ve got that much money, you can buy yourself a twenty-years-younger life. Larry David has moved on with his new family, the Blacks. All the other Seinfeld players have moved on, with shows and futures of their own. OK, most of them.

Before you move on, too, though, I want you to know that the Pam, Pam, Pam episode — aka The Soul Mate, written by Peter Mehlman — is about me, me, me.


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#35: De-hyphenate Your Name

There was a brief moment when name-hyphenization seemed like the answer to all marital-equality issues. A moment when two people might have gotten married and become Pamela and Richard Redmond-Satran. (Not that we ever did that: My husband declined to take the Redmond, so I just dragged both names behind me like a big fat butt, without the hyphen connecting them.)

But back to you: The whole hyphen thing seemed like a good idea for about a minute and a half, until the jokes started about what would happen when Gabriella Redmond-Satran (not one of our real children) married Marmaduke Martini-O’Flaherty. Would their child be called Maximilian Redmond-Satran-Martini-O’Flaherty?

And then there was the question of whose name went first, and whether the husband as well as the wife would adopt the hyphenization, until the notion just collapsed. Before that, however, several hundred people got married and hyphenated their names. All those people are now over the age of 50. Or just sound like it.


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#34: Don’t Fear The Thong

All right, you know you’re not supposed to wear granny panties. But what’s wrong with bikinis? Why does acting young have to mean wearing a thong?

Thongs are…..uncomfortable. Even the ones that are supposed to be comfortable are uncomfortable. They make you feel like you have an intractable wedgie. Plus, they make you feel completely exposed. Like you’re hardly wearing any underwear at all.

But listen, that’s the next step: Going commando, ala Britney. So think of thong-wearing as a compromise in sexiness.


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#33: No Digestion Discussions, Ever

If you want to avoid acting old, do not discuss your digestive tract in any way, ever, says my friend and fellow writer Christina Baker Kline. That means no talk of bran muffins or lactose intolerance, no references to regularity or heartburn, no jokes about gas or “tummy troubles.”

We all know it happens, but the world just doesn’t want to hear about it, okay? Quietly chew on your Tums and down your prophylactic Bean-O. Silently excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and afterwards, don’t regale us with tales of what happened there. Keep all burps, farts, gurgles, acid indigestion, and reflux episodes, as much as possible, to yourself.

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