Monthly Archives: July 2008

#82: Stop All That Moving Around

Fifties basketball star Dr. Sylvia Colston-Stills, 71, still shoots hoops every day.  Though she may hang up her hightops after reading this.

Fifties basketball star Dr. Sylvia Colston-Stills, 71, still shoots hoops every day. Though she may hang up her hightops after reading this.

Here’s a counterintuitive directive: If you want not to act old, you’ve got to knock off all that surfing, skating, basketball-playing and cardio-kickboxing you’ve evidently been doing. Lying on the couch, staying out of the gym, and sitting on the sidelines are the sports of the young, while middle-aged and older people are the ones who are joining ice hockey teams and wearing themselves out on elliptical trainers.

So says a new British study, which found that more and more middle-aged and older people are exercising and playing sports, while fewer young people are exercising than ten years ago. My scientific analysis: We’ve been doing all that kayaking and cycling in a misguided attempt to be thinner and more limber — aka, younger — and to stave off dying. The evil young, meanwhile, say, Ha! We’re thin and limber without even trying. And we know we’re never gonna die.

Well, ha back atcha, evil young. I now know there’s an infinitely easier and more effective way to act younger: sit on my big fat ass. So sayonara, Zumba. Bye-bye, Bikram. If I lounge here long enough, everybody’s going to think I’m 28 again.

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#81: Learn To Type With Your Thumbs

Old people behavior of which I am guilty: Holding your phone at arm’s length (so you can read the numbers and letters, natch!) and then typing with your index finger.

No no no no. You’ve got to pretend your index finger doesn’t even exist. Forget the middle, ring, and pinky fingers too.

The young way to dial your phone or to text or type on your BlackBerry or iPhone is with your thumbs. Yes, all with your thumbs.

There are online guides to thumb-typing, like this one by Mark Rejhon. Following this method would probably work, but I’m too impatient and probably even too old to read past step 2 in the directions.

Instead, I’ve been entertaining myself by typing away as fast as I can (not fast) with my thumbs on my new iPhone (yes! I’m so cool!) and then chuckling over what mistakes I make and how the iPhone corrects them. Except sometimes the corrections are funnier than the mistakes.

The other night I was trying to type “there’s no fucking way….” except what showed up on the screen was “there’s no ducking way…..”

So I typed it again, but this time with my index finger, checking old people-style to make sure I was hitting the right keys. That’s when I saw that it was the iPhone that was automatically changing my fucking to ducking. Not so cool!

Here’s a demonstration of iPhone thumb-typing, extolling the virtues of the autocorrect feature. But this guy is obviously not telling the whole ducking story:

, Apple

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#s 75-80: How Not To Act Old Around Your Babysitter

You and your babysitter, you’re a team, compadres, right? Riiiiiiiight. It may have occurred to you, somewhere in the years you’ve been employing childcare, that your sitter is a lot closer in age to your nine-year-old than she is to you. You may think that you’re both the adults, in league against the kids, but you’re wrong.

Jen Singer, the creator of and author of You’re a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either), offers these tips for not acting (too) old around your babysitter:

1. Text your babysitters. They don’t do phone calls, and they really don’t want to talk to you, especially when you call them while they’re out with friends.

2. Know what the hell Twitter is. A plus: Actually use it to keep in contact with your sitter and children.

3. Do not attempt to impress your sitters with modern lingo, such as referring to your husband as your “baby daddy.”

4. Resist the urge to point out that the ring tone on their cell phone was originally recorded by Prince, whom you saw in concert while wearing leg warmers and a Flashdance style dress.

5. Don’t lecture them on how the M in MTV used to refer to “Music.” You know, back when Prince was hot and so were you.

6. Try not to appear as though you’ve just been punched in the stomach when your babysitter tells you that when you got married in 1991, she had not yet been born.


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#74: Forget the Sixties Nostalgia

So, you were at Woodstock? Ate mushrooms with Kesey, chanted with Ram Dass, wrote poetry naked with Ginsberg?

I’m sure that was all mind-blowingly groovy, but I have news for you, Grandpa (and Grandma): Reminiscing about the sixties now is like recalling Prohibition was when we were young. Cue wavering voice: “Let me tell you, sonny, we got up to some crazy shenanigans in those speakeasies.” For those of you who are mathematically challenged, it’s been 40 whole years since 1968, the same amount of time as 1968 was from 1928.

As further illustration of how long ago that all was, check out these words coined in 1928, from the Online Entymology Dictionary, a very dry name for one of the very best sites I know. Nookie with a bimbo, anyone? But words brought to you by 1968 don’t sound much more modern: unisex, dweeb, and the Fosbury Flop.

The point: The sixties are ancient history and not of great interest to anyone who wasn’t actually there. So too the seventies: We really don’t need to know who did what to whom that night you went to Plato’s Retreat (ewwww, you did?) or what you snorted with whom at Studio 54. Even the eighties, which I basically missed thanks to the joys of parenthood, are getting kind of antique.

As one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons, by Jack Ziegler, goes: “The sixties are over. The seventies are over. The eighties, for God’s sake, are over.” And now the nineties are over, and pretty soon the oughties will be over too.

Young people are allowed to have nostalgia for the decades and icons of their childhoods: early Madonna and late Kurt Cobain, leg warmers and flannel shirts. You can reminisce about where you were in Y2K.


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#73: Cancel the Trip to Provence

Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence hit the bestseller list in 1991, whereupon every American who could afford it rented a villa in the south of France. If you figure that most of those people were at least 30 when they developed their passion for Provence, they’re now nearly 50. And like them, Provence is peut etre un peu past its prime.

That’s right: If you want not to act old, you’ve got to give up your fields of lavender, your striped hammocks, your country markets selling homemade olives and artisanal wine. No more brightly-printed table linens, buckets of sunflowers, espadrilles or straw hats. The ancient mas with cornflower-blue shutters, vine-hung pergola, and swimming pool must be traded in for someplace more au courant, youthful.

Like where, you may ask? Not, God forbid, Tuscany. That’s just Provence with pasta. The Cotswolds and Cornwall, Umbria and the Dordogne are similarly played: the Mojitos, the Burberries of vacation destinations.

How about Berlin? Berlin is young, hip, happening. (I see you there, making a face, envisioning a grim gray city patrolled by scary guards in great coats. But that’s an old image. Now Berlin is all emerging artists and musicians and cool lofts, or so I’ve heard. I have no desire to actually go there.)

Vietnam could work, or really anywhere that only old people remember as a war-torn wasteland. Croatia. Syria. Libya. Iraq. Whooops, maybe not yet: We’ll leave our children to bask in Basra.

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#72: C’mon, Tell Us All About Your Sex Life

How often do you have sex? Do you have orgasms? Only when you masturbate or during intercourse too? What exactly makes you come? How do you move, what do you think about, how long does it take?

What? What’s that you say? That information is too personal? Well, you must be over 40.

Which details about your sex life you’re willing to divulge to whom varies greatly depending on how old you are, a study conducted solely in my head shows. Here, my findings by age:

Under 21 — Happily share half-naked pictures of self and divulge all details of hookups — who, what, how big, how good, etc. — with several hundred Facebook “friends.” At least that’s my fear.

21-30 — No shame about strutting around naked at the gym or lifting up shirt to display boobs at party. Will freely discuss all aspects of sex life — including details on partners, habits, and problems — with friends, colleagues, and random strangers they encounter at a meetup. (What’s a meetup? That’s another post.)

30-40 — Will openly talk about everything from orgasms to waxing habits to porn viewership with anyone they’ve met more than, say, once.

40-50 — Most follow the Sex and the City model, sharing intimate details with closest friends but otherwise keeping it quiet.

50-60 –– People in their fifties, who came of age during the Sexual Revolution, may be open enough to experiment with sex toys, positions, and fantasies, but usually not to talk about it. Not even with their closest friends. Maybe not even with the person they’re doing it with.

60 plus — The door is firmly shut and they’ve thrown away the key.

My evidence: Watch how nervous Barbara Walters gets during this sex discussion on The View:

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#71: Never Admit You Hated “The Dark Knight”

Like most other Americans last weekend, I went to see The Dark Knight, aka the new Batman movie.

Here was my experience of watching the film:

Wow, Heath Ledger really does look weird. Scary. And yet strangely…comical. Those wrinkles under that makeup. That lizard tongue. And that voice, that accent, he sounds like someone, I can’t quite place it….

I wonder how Christian Bale gets so hunky and then so skinny over and over again. What kind of diet does he go on? What’s his training regime? I wonder whether that would work for me….

And speaking of thin, Maggie Gyllenhaal looks pretty good. But is she suposed to be the same exact character that Katie Holmes was in the last movie? If Batman’s so powerful, how come he doesn’t notice she’s a different person?

Why is that Chinese guy taking all the money to China? And why is Batman going to China to get it back? Why does he care about the bad guys’ money? I’m a little confused though I’m sure it will all come clear.

Heath Ledger’s voice. It sounds kind of Midwestern, kind of effeminate. Maybe someone who used to be on TV….

So is Morgan Freeman God? Are he and Michael Caine kind of the same person? Are all old guys in movies wise but deferential supporters of young guys? Should I blog about that?

Oh no, I’m really not following this. Maybe if I stop thinking about How Not To Act Old, I’ll pick up the thread.

Why, whenever I hear Heath Ledger’s voice, do I think of Carol Burnett?

Is Maggie Gyllenhaal dead or alive? Is Gary Oldman honest or corrupt? Is Aaron Eckhart tall or short? Is Gotham City supposed to be New York or Chicago? And who the hell are those people on that boat?

On the movie, I totally give up. But Heath’s voice, I’ve got it! He sounds just like this campy gay actor who was on Carol Burnett and then on Hollywood Squares, Paul somebody, Paul Paul Paul: Paul Lynde!

I was relieved, when I came out of the movie, to find that my husband had had the same experience. But when we got home and told our 18-year-old son about it, he looked at us like he wanted to take us out behind the garage and put us down now, before we crumbled into dust all on our own.

The Dark Knight is a highly revered film, he told us, with “an 82 metascore.” The most esteemed critics on the planet were calling it a masterpiece and Heath Ledger’s performance legendary. Plus, Heath Ledger’s tragic life and early death have put him above criticism, and definitely above ridicule. So obviously we were wrong, due to being hopelessly out of it.

The lesson: Don’t admit to any young people of your acquaintance that you are baffled by or hate The Dark Knight. But just between us, on the Paul Lynde thing: Am I right or what?


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#70: No Hovering

Dear Marge,

I realize that, in the 396 public bathrooms I’ve visited in the past week on the road, someone else might have been the culprit. But the fact is, the only one I really suspect is you.

I know your mom told you that sitting on the seat of a public toilet could give you a disease. Mommy watched to make sure you hovered over the toilet without letting anything touch anything. Ever since, you’ve found it impossible to allow yourself to actually sit down on a public toilet, so instead you pee half-standing up.

But your aging thighs aren’t up to holding you steady, so guess what, Marge: You sprinkle the seat. You flush and leave and when I enter the stall, there is your pee left all over for ME to sit in. Or clean up. Maybe you feel all clean and smug and satisfied because YOU avoided sitting on the public toilet seat. But did you ever stop to think about what you’re doing to me?

I’m going to stop now and do some deep breathing, but if you want to read more on the evils of hovering, see the even-funnier material in Jill Soloway’s brilliant and underappreciated Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants.

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#69: Enough With The Jane Austen Worship

I like Jane Austen as much as the next novel-writing-and-reading middle-aged woman, which is to say, a lot. Which is really to say, way, way too much.

Do we actually need a whole genre of books about modern Jane Austen lovers, entire clothing lines devoted to Jane Austen wear, multiple tour companies eager to guide you through Jane Austen locales? How about lessons in how to take tea, dance, cook, garden, and of course write a la Jane Austen? There are Jane Austen Festivals and Jane Austen book groups, Jane Austen dolls and Jane Austen tee shirts, Jane Austen movies and Jane Austen bloggers.

Even our babies are not exempt from Jane’s omni-influence: The names Emma, Darcy, and yes, Austen are rising in popularity.

A couple of the most entertainingly over-the-top examples of Jane Austen worship: The Jane Austen action figure. (That’s her in all her plastic glory on the right.) And this tour of Jane Austen’s Google Earth.

It’s not that Jane hasn’t written some great books, but there’s something a little too order-seeking, rich man-loving, and sanitized (i.e. fussily middle-aged) about the J.A. Mania. Why not devote equal attention to the Brontes, who pulled back the curtain on a wilder brand of early womanhood? Or to modern masters like Alice Munro or Louise Erdrich, who are far less widely known and sell many fewer books than Jane Austen. Listen, I love Pride & Prejudice, but my favorite book last year was Lionel (female) Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World.


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#68: Mooch Off Your Parents

With more “kids” living longer than ever with their parents, why shouldn’t you, in the interest of acting younger, join the trend? And it’s not only a home you can mooch (or sponge, bum, leech, or scab) off mom and dad, but food, furniture, vacations, clothing, and actual cash money.

Catherine Finn, who is a bona fide futurist with a Washington firm called Social Technologies, advises those who don’t want to act old: “Be over-dependent on your parents. Have them lend you money or buy you something you really don’t need. Go a step further and move in with your parents. Then complain about how terrible it is to live with your parents.”

Some useful things you can do with your time and money once mom and dad are footing the bill: Get an MFA in poetry, explaining to your parents that this will eventually lead to a lucrative career in teaching other people to write poetry. Start a rock band, which will definitely hit it big any day now. Invest in Marc Jacobs clothing, which will make you look amazingly cool for two months, at which point you’ll have to throw it all out and start over. Become a rich and famous blogger, citing me as a role model.

If your parents are so elderly that they’re dependent on you, or if they’re uncool enough to have actually died, then your only hope is to try and get adopted by some nice elderly couple who would allow you to mooch in exchange for watching Jeopardy with them while you eat dinner and getting up on the ladder to clean out the gutters because you know Dad can’t do that anymore. However, as an older orphan I tried to get adopted once, and I’m sorry to tell you it didn’t work out.

What if your grownup kids are already mooching off you? Here’s the plan: You all move in with your parents. Then, late at night, when Josh and Jess are out clubbing, and Mom and Dad are upstairs in a martini-and-Percocet-induced haze, you sneak out, run as fast and far as you can, and leave no forwarding address. There comes a point when even the hardest-core moochacha needs her independence.

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#67: Don’t Put It In Cruise Control

Remember cruise control? When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up and get myself a fancy car with cruise control. I’d set that baby at 75, sit back, and feel like one of the Jetsons.

Well, I now have a car with cruise control. I guess. The fact is that I’ve never used it. My husband has never used it. I even forgot what it was called until I just went out and looked in the manual. The last person I heard of using cruise control was my father-in-law, back in the 90s, and it seemed like a relic even then.

Cruise control is one of those technological innovations that was futuristic until it was suddenly passe. The subject of acting old as it connects to cars and driving can be confusing. Is it older to drive a hot red sportscar or a big old Cadillac? To creep along hunched over the wheel or drive like a maniac?

But when it comes to putting it in cruise control, literally as well as figuratively, the connection is clear. Which reminds me of a joke told today in the writing class I’m taking with the divine Lynda Barry, author of the excellent new book What It Is, who is either the youngest old person I’ve ever met or the world’s oldest living child. Here’s Lynda’s joke:

One day Helen and Mary, two old and aged friends, went out for a drive. They come to a stop sign and Helen sailed right through. Mary was nervous but didn’t say anything. They come to another stop sign, and again, Helen didn’t even slow down. Then they came to a red light, and Helen just kept going, barely avoiding oncoming cars.

Finally Mary had to say something. “Helen,” she said, “why didn’t you stop at those stop signs and that red light?”

“Oh,” Helen said. “Am I driving?”


I’m leaving the fashion and beauty advice to How Not To Look Old. But I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this hair salon I passed today, in case you want a hairstyle that is not merely young or old but otherworldly.

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#66: Don’t Die. Or Even Consider The Possibility of Dying.

During the three or four hours I spent last night at the emergency room (Don’t ask: You know I am forbidden by the Rules of Not Acting Old to talk about my health), I read a really great passage in a novel called In The Woods by Tana French that goes like this:

“We think about death so little, these days, except to flail hysterically at it with trendy forms of exercise and high-fiber cereals and nicotine patches……Now death is uncool, old-fashioned.”

Death is uncool: I love it! It’s absolutely true. Death is so not done these days that, unless your brain stem has been removed and you’re older than, say, 105, you can never ever admit that dying might lie somewhere in your future.

Death is more uncool than flabby jowls, more uncool than cellulite, more uncool even than wearing your pants belted just under your manboobs. Death is more uncool than driving a Lincoln, more uncool than talking about your gallbladder operation, more uncool than smoking cigars around the baby.

What’s more, dying is a deliberately uncool act, like walking into J.C. Penney and buying yourself a pair of gray plastic oxfords and wearing them with knee-high hose and a pair of culottes. I mean, how dare you be so clueless? Haven’t you heard of pilates? Super low calorie diets and red wine? Energy field healing? Seat belts? Dying: There’s no damn excuse!

If you want not to act old, you’ve got to behave as the young do — as if you’re going to live forever. But unlike the young, who can skip dinner and slam back six martinis and dance till five and then go to work at eight, you’ve got to drink nothing stronger than vitamin water and get at least seven hours sleep to feel as if you’re not going to drop dead right on the spot. But even a life that’s no longer worth living is better than death, the ultimate uncool.


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#65: Screw the Housework

You get married, you buy a house, you have kids, and even if you keep working (obviously I’m talking to the women here), somehow it becomes all about the housework.

Here’s what I mean: Ask a 52-year-old woman to describe her perfect man, and somehow housework will creep into the description. He’s great in bed, and he changes the sheets! He can cook you a great dinner, listen to you talk throughout the meal, and happily cleans up afterward. Come to think of it, we can do without the sex and the conversation as long as he does the housework.

Think of your ideal life, and again housework inserts itself. You’d love a big gorgeous house that cleans itself! Cozy family dinners without the dirty dishes. A beautiful wardrobe without laundry. Great parties with none of the shopping, cooking, and post-party swabbing.

Well, of course, I hear you saying. We know all too well what it takes to run a home and a life. These things don’t just happen: They take work, effort, and you know who ends up doing it all! Of course we want a guy who knows his way around a vacuum!

Yes, but… didn’t feel this way when you were 22. (I wish I had, I hear you thinking.) No, you don’t really wish you had. You wanted to have sex and fun and wear cute clothes and go to yoga and listen to music and have a cool job and not only is that okay for 22, but it might improve the view from 52 also. The problem with housework is that it takes so much time and energy you don’t have anything left over for creativity and the life of the mind. You spend all those years keeping a perfect house because you think people are going to judge you by it and then suddenly the kids are grown up and you downsize to a condo and you have no career and no hobbies and nothing interesting to talk about.

What? Oh, right. This is supposed to be funny. I nearly forgot. Here, watch this:

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#64: Don’t Fear The Tat

Tat is of course short for tattoo, and the truth is, I do fear them. The neck tattoo is, to me, what shaggy hair and elephant bells and leather jackets were to our parents: A sign of both danger and decay. Show me a neck tattoo, and I’ll show you a pregnant 15-year-old who drinks Pepsi for breakfast and lives in a trailer with plumbing that drains into a wading pool.

Of course, I could show you a neck tattoo, and you might show me Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice aka Mrs. David Beckham. Or Eva Longoria, aka the Desperate Housewife who would never really live in the suburbs. Or Angelina Jolie or Ben Affleck or Amy Winehouse (there’s a role model) or just about any contestant on any reality show, tattoos, neck or otherwise, seeming to be a prerequisite for crossing the Hollywood town line.

Why would anyone get a tattoo? That’s a very good question. In fact, let’s do a Q and A on the subject with a noted authority, me:

Why would anyone get a tattoo?

The young get tattoos for the sole purpose of setting themselves apart from the old. “I’m nothing like you,” the tattoo signals, “and I want to make sure the entire world knows it, so I’m going to etch this large dark blue and red symbol on my neck. Just so there’s never any confusion. And I mean never, ever, ever.”

Exactly! That’s the problem with tattoos: They’re so permanent! Why would anyone want to mark their body with a symbol of something or someone (“Billy Bob”) they might not care about in two decades or even two months?

The young believe that who and what they are now, they will stay forever, and the tattoo is evidence of a superstitious belief that making a permanent mark will create a permanent condition. Or at least that’s what studies show.

What’s with the Asian symbol thing? Why would a kid who’s not Asian, has no desire to travel through Thailand or Mongolia, and can barely write and read English choose to put a Chinese character on his shoulder or forearm?

As with so much else, it’s Angelina’s fault. Right, Jen?

Won’t having a tattoo make it hard to get a good job? Look terrible if you want to wear a strapless wedding gown? Be difficult and painful to remove if you change your mind when you’re 35?

Yes! That’s what I keep telling them! But nobody listens!

But you’re so intelligent! So right! Why won’t they listen?

Because they think I’m old and out of it and that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that they’re never going to feel the way I feel or be the way I am. And my only consolation is knowing for sure what a 50-year-old butt looks like, and why a fat red rose would not add anything to the picture.

What to do if confronted with a young tattooed person? “Don’t try to look “kewl” and “hip” by asking said kid where they “got their ink done” or comment on their “nice tats”. Eew,” says Denise Garratt, aka The Internet Research Geek. “Just stop staring, take your book or coffee and walk quickly and quietly to your Volvo and don’t look back.”


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#63: Never Admit You Have No Freaking Clue Who Leighton, Cuttino, Rihanna, Jensen, Dane or Feist Are

Admit it: They all swim together, these strangely-named, androgynous-sounding, ethnically-ambiguous young stars of film, television, music, and sports. Is Leighton male, female, or both? Is Cuttino America’s Next Top Model and Feist the frisky young soccer player? Is Jensen a member of a brother band while Dane is embroiled in babymamadrama? Or vice versa, or none or all of the above?

Quiz time!

Match the photos below with the appropriate names.

1 2 3

4 5 6

a. Leighton b. Cuttino c. Feist d. Dane e. Rihanna f. Jensen

Okay, now let’s make it a little harder. Match the names above to the person’s other name. And yes, this is a trick question because, in a couple of cases, the person in question uses their last name as a first (or an only). Here are the other names:

Robyn, Ackles, Meester, Mobley, Leslie, Cook

And now, since you’re so smart, match the names and the pictures to the possible occupations:

Supernatural soap star, Standup comedian, Gossip Girl, Canadian folksinger, Barbadian pop singer, Los Angeles Clipper

And the answers are:

1. Leslie Feist
, who goes by her last name only, is a Canadian folksinger best known for her song “1234” in the Apple commercial.

2. Robyn Rihanna, who also goes by her last name only, is a Barbadian pop singer and Grammy winner who looks amazing in sparkly dresses.

3. Dane Cook is a standup comic and star of movies so dumb you’d only see them in a desperate and probably unsuccessful attempt to bond with your 15-year-old son.

4. Cuttino Mobley is a Los Angeles Clipper, which reportedly means he plays professional basketball.

5. Jensen Ackles is a former soap star who’s now in a television show called Supernatural, which I’ve never heard of either.

6. Leighton Meester is one of the stars of Gossip Girl, a show which your teenager undoubtedly loves because the characters as much (more!) money and sex as adults, with none of the icky responsibility. Enjoy!


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#62: Don’t Be Shocked By A Touch of Girl-On-Girl

Hold onto your knickers, Grandma: Lots of girls kiss other girls these days. And I’m not talking air kisses. And I mean straight girls. I mean very straight girls, such as pledged virgins who are looking to explore the boundaries of their sexuality without crossing over that thin pink line.

Cue old people style reminiscence: I remember when I first heard about the straight girl-on-girl phenomenon. I was at a writers’ colony, working on my novel Younger, and left for the day to visit my twentysomething nieces Kimberly and Katie. Over dinner, I grilled them about what life was like for young women these days, and they told me about date rape drugs, and digital romance, and dressing professionally in the age of Paris Hilton.

And then one of them said, very casually, “Oh, and of course there’s the thing about girls making out with other girls.” That’s the point at which I spilled my Cosmo and my eyes popped out of my head and landed on the table. Yes, K & K informed me. It had become fairly standard for girlfriends to suck face (they didn’t use that term; I heard it in On Golden Pond) as part of the evening’s entertainment, to amuse onlooking guys as well as themselves.

Well, blow me down. When I went back to the writers’ institution colony and told this tale, the other middle-aged poetry scribblers were as shocked as I was. But a young woman who taught at a Southern college knew all about the new faux lesbians. “All my female students do it,” she said. “It’s especially popular among the pledged virgins.”

I wrote it into the book, and I’ve been on the lookout for casual girl-on-girl action ever since, though it still doesn’t seem to have hit my suburban New Jersey neighborhood. But if you’re in a bar in the city and you see two girls kissing passionately, don’t be shocked or assume they’re lesbians. And next time you’re feeling affectionate toward another mom in your book group or your BFF, you might consider forgoing the peck on the cheek and slipping her a little tongue.


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#61: Know The Difference Between A Brotha and A Bro

Here is one of those weird cultural distinctions that almost every young person knows (my son Owen first enlightened me) and most old people are unaware of. What’s a Bro? And how is that different from a Brotha and a Brother — not to mention a brother from another mother and a brother from another planet?

Bros, for the uninitiated, are upmarket yos. They typically wear baseball caps, either frontward or backward, though these may occasionally be substituted for with tennis visors or stocking caps. In summer they wear sunglasses, cargo shorts, Adidas rubber slip-ons with a team tee shirt or a polo shirt; in winter jeans and athletic shoes.

In New England, almost every young male who isn’t a Goth or a Brotha is a Bro. In the West, Bros are a slightly different breed: less preppy frat boy, more truck-driving, beer-chugging buckaroo.

Bros are usually but not necessarily white. A Brotha, by constrast, is always black. Bros are proud to be Bros, though others may use the term in a derogatory manner. A Brotha is a more benign and all-encompassing term, to the point that an online site for black men is called

A Brotha may call a fellow Brotha “Dawg” — or at least Randy Jackson does. A Bro will call a fellow Bro “Bro” — “What’s up, Bro?” — and might have a Golden Lab embroidered on his baseball cap.

Brotha’s girlfriends may be called Sistahs. Female Bros are sometimes called Bro Hoes. Bros might call themselves Bromosapiens. (Now you know what they’re doing alone up there in their rooms all night: Making this stuff up, or at least figuring it out.)

A Youtube video popular among the younger set can be found by googling “bro rape.” Because as an old person I find it dumb and offensive — though I suspect I’d feel that way even if I were 22 — I’ll leave you to ferret it out for yourself.

For Live Bro Action, I prefer to direct you to this clip of actual Bros onstage, helping the band Pennywise sing the “Bro Hymn”:

In contrast, here is singer Angie Stone with a woman’s view of Brothahood:


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#60: Garage Your Hog

Having just returned from a 700-mile road trip, I can tell you with certainty that every motorcyclist on the American highway is at least 56 years old. All the biker babes have Nice ‘N’ Easy covering their gray and pot bellies straining against their leather pants. Motorcyclists may think that roaring along on a hog makes them look cool, or young, but as the elderly vehicle of choice, bikes are right up there with Winnebagos.

How did motorcyles go from being a symbol of youthful rebellion to one of middle-aged desperation? The timeline begins with Marlon Brando looking young and hot in The Wild Ones, in 1953. Hippies and bikers united in the counter-cultural beliefs in the 1960s, until the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels to police their concert at Altamont in 1969. A fan was killed, a riot ensued, and the image of motorcyclists went from cool to terrifying in two seconds flat.

It got even weirder after that, when a band of Angels plotted to kill Mick Jagger, attacking the Hamptons by boat.

These image problems discouraged young people from taking up motorcycling over the past few decades, so that now most of the active motorcyclists are middle-aged or older. If it’s youthfulness you’re after, trade in that hog for something more daring, like racing junk. Or a fixed-gear bicycle. Look Ma, no brakes!

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#59: Don’t Bogart That Watermelon

Breaking July 4th warning: Eating watermelon, says a new study, can have the same effect as popping Viagra. Yes, ladies and gents, the aging males at your holiday picnic may discover a new fondness for the large pink fruit. The secret ingredient is something called citrulline, according to news reports, and eating a lot of it can make Gramps feel as sprightly as a 14-year-old boy.

Better stock up on extra watermelons for your 4th of July barbeque. Watch yourself around anyone who has a suspicious number of rinds on his plate. And be on the lookout for opportunities to say: Is that a watermelon in your pants, or have you just been overeating?

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#s 54, 55, 56, 57 & 58: Special 4th of July Oldness Alerts

All right, I’ve got to leave you alone for a couple of days now, and I don’t want to catch you Acting Old while I’m away:

#54: Don’t Call July 4th “Our Nation’s Birthday.” Outmoded holiday nicknames — Turkey Day, St. Paddy’s Day — are lame and old.

#55: Don’t Hang One Of Those Flag Bunting Things On Your Front Porch. Very D.A.R.: colonial, dowdy, old. Though I have to admit I have a perverse fondness for these half-circle flags and have one I bought at a yard sale years ago that I can neither bring myself to hang nor get rid of.

#56: Don’t Plant Your Metal Folding Chair Right At The Curb On The Parade Route. Let the little kids hog the front rows. You stand gracefully in back, and if you get tired, go home and take a nice nap.

#57: No over-themed food. No red-white-and-blue potato salad, no cupcakes with little flags sticking out of them, no jello mold. Although Jello Mold might be so old it’s young again.

#58: Watch those Oooohs and Aaaahs. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the number of times someone has seen Fourth of July fireworks and their audible ooohs and aaahs, with grannies, who ought to be so jaded they barely glance skyward, invariably the most vocal. I was going to say you should therefore contain yourself, but you know what, screw it. If getting old means you’re more comfortable showing your excitement over an everyday wonder, bring on the birthdays. Oooooh!

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