I’m 50 today. Here are some very important life lessons I’ve learned along the way.
- If you find a comfortable bra that fits buy three or four (or as many as you can afford). The joy of a well-fitted and comfortable bra can’t be overstated. If you buy enough when they get all stretchy (i.e. they are loose on the tightest hooks) get fitted again as some time will have passed and your size may have changed. When you buy your bra it should fit well on the loosest hook (there are several sets of hooks because the bra will stretch over time)
- Get started with topical tretinoin (vitamin A or Retin-A early. This is the only facial product that actually builds collagen so it will minimize fine lines but not make you look unnaturally smooth. It also treats acne so total bonus. If tretinoin irritates your skin start with an over-the-counter retinol as a gateway drug to buy yourself up to the prescription strength (although the prescription was just approved for over-the-counter!).
- If you think the shoes you are trying on in the store pinch just a little take them off and hand them back. You can never count on them stretching the right way or pinching less with time. I have a closest full of shoes that lured me in with their beauty only to betray me with blisters and extreme foot pain. If I had bought Apple stock along the way instead of these uncomfortable shoes I would be nearing retirement.
- Don’t change your physical appearance for your partner. They shouldn’t be thinking of ways you could look better, “If you only had…” are four of the worst words I have heard in a relationship. If they want someone with straight hair or bigger breasts, if those things matter that much to them, then they should have chosen someone who looks that way to begin with. If they have caveats to your physical appearance then they are thinking of themselves and not you. If you like straight hair or want bigger breasts for you great, just don’t change yourself for someone else.
- Don’t expect someone else to change. It obviously goes both ways with appearance, but this is also about behaviors. Dating someone and thinking they will change how they act is a fantasy. People show you who they are very quickly. Whether you wished they were neater, or helped with the laundry more, or liked to hold hands it doesn’t matter – the way they are is likely the way they’ll stay.
- Don’t move in with someone until you have been dating for at least nine months. Science tells us that when you are first dating your brain lights up on an MRI the exact same way it would light up if you were on opioids. Yes, love is a drug so Huey Lewis was right. When you are high on love/lust everything is great – the things that you maybe deep down wish were different don’t matter because you are in love! It’s all good (sort of like wearing beer goggles for nine months). Eventually your brain chemistry has evened out and you can assess things in a more sober light. I have twice moved in with someone after 2-3 months and then when things soured around 9 or 10 months I kept thinking, “But things were so good before.” Of course they were, I was high on love and ignoring red flags right, left, and center. I didn’t kick them out because I just kept thinking it could all be fixed and we could go back to how it was, but if course that never happened. Once someone has moved in it is much harder to break up.
- Never fake an orgasm. Sex is communication and if you can’t tell your partner it’s not working then there’s a bigger issue. If you are going to have sex with someone you should be able to tell them (kindly of course) what you like and/or show them. If they are not invested in your orgasm why are they your sexual partner? Maybe you aren’t really in the mood or it’s not working for whatever reason. I read in Peggy Orenstein’s great book Girls & Sex that some young women (and probably older women too) fake orgasms just to “get it over with.” Wanting to do something sexual just to please your partner is fine as long that’s a reciprocal thing. Many women really enjoy the physical closeness of sex and how everything else feels even without the orgasm so it can still be tons of fun and feel good, just be honest if it’s not working orgasmically. Faking it isn’t going to make it better next time.
- You don’t need a partner to be complete. The most alone I have felt in my life is when I was in a bad marriage. It looked great on the outside, but I was miserable. Society still has this view that women must be with someone and it’s bullshit. Joan River’s used to have this great riff on it – as long as you had a man you were okay. He’s eighty? Great, bring him along. He’d dead? Is he a man? Prop him up and bring him along.
- Your love for someone isn’t conditional on them loving you back. Often in relationships it’s a game of chicken to see who will say, “I love you” first. I know people who are two years into a committed relationship and there is still too much fear to say those three words. Love is a gift. You don’t give a gift expecting one in return you give a gift to see the smile on someone’s face when they receive it. A month old baby doesn’t understand love and is not able to express it in any way, but that doesn’t stop parents from loving them and telling them. If you love someone tell them. If they tell you they love you, wonderful just don’t expect it. If they make you feel loved but just can’t say it maybe that is enough for you and that’s okay. The big fear is that the other person doesn’t love you back and will tell you. While that might be very hard to hear and hurt like hell it’s important information. However, even if they don’t love you back that doesn’t change that you love them.