Notes to a Young Lady upon reaching her majority

big shoes I had a ladies' lunch with an old friend today. I know it was a ladies' lunch and not a girly lunch because:

  • a goodly amount of time was spent discussing Things of a Lady Nature, like our shameful confessions about listening to talk radio and our surprise over the arrival of a new kind of belly fat that laughs at our attempts to dislodge it
  • an equally healthy amount of time was spent marveling that we are the exact same age as the Possible Next President of the United States
  • the above morbid topics unfolded with a level of enjoyment and detachment that simply didn't exist in my 20s or 30s

Here's the thing, whippersnappers: I like being a lady of a certain age, 46 1/2, to be precise. I don't mind being called "ma'am." And the only reason I'm at all upset that I'll be turning 50 in less than four years is because I've finally realized that time is not, in fact, infinite, and I have way more shit to do than I probably have years left in which to do it. Less still, should that Mayan calendar business prove true.

More and more things have been happening lately to remind me of these days of my life slipping away like sands in the hourglass of time. A dear friend whom I've known for 25 years turns 50 this year and asks for some reminiscences, a few stories and observations picked up along the way, which is something old people ask for and other old people accommodate. Another old friend has taken to insisting I call her "my friend I've had the longest." I turn things down and accept other things not because they are or are not "happening," but because they are things I do or do not want to do with the time I have left.

I got another request lately from another old friend: she has a stepdaughter who is leaving girlhood and entering her official womanhood. Which, in this country, anyway, means she is too old to pose for Playboy and old enough to buy her own Marlboros and Tickle Pink at the White Hen. (Do they still sell Tickle Pink? Are there, for that matter, still White Hens?) My friend asked her circle of friends if they could gather some thoughts to honor this auspicious transition, since apparently, the vision quest had to be bumped on account of exurban sprawl.

So here, my young lassie, are my words to you. You won't mind if these other lovely people read them, will you?

The List of Things I Hope Missy Will Take to Heart as She Leaves Girl-dom Behind

  1. Live within your means.
  2. Always wear shoes in which you can flee an assailant.
  3. Do something creative every single day. If nothing else, it will help you expand your notion of creativity.
  4. Do not listen to anyone or anything that tells you when you should have sex except for that small voice inside you.
  5. And that small voice? It's always right.
  6. About everything.
  7. Be yourself, but be gracious.
  8. Screw resolutions, but always have goals.
  9. Everything in moderation, moderation inclusive.
  10. You are beautiful.
  11. No, seriously, you are beautiful.
  12. Anyone who thinks you're not is not someone you need to concern yourself with overly.
  13. Develop your "I believe" speech. Revisit it every year or so.
  14. Never stop asking questions.
  15. Realize, however, that there are such things as stupid questions, as well as people who will make your life unpleasant for asking them. Spare yourself unnecessary cruelty and cultivate a circle of trusted advisers to consult with as needed.
  16. Speaking of which, sparing yourself unnecessary cruelty is a great idea, in general.
  17. As is asking for help.
  18. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
  19. Have friends who are older and younger, as well as friends of your own age.
  20. And it should go without saying, but make sure fully 75% are women.
  21. Take stock, but try not to beat yourself up over perceived shortcomings.
  22. Take care of your teeth. When the world blows up, dental care will be hard to come by.
  23. Read M.F.K. Fisher, Virginia Woolf and my newsletter.
  24. Don't read women's magazines.
  25. Oprah excepted.
  26. Don't dis your sisters.
  27. Even the ones whose heads seem so far up their asses they couldn't see you flipping them the bird in broad (no pun intended) daylight.
  28. Build bridges, not walls.
  29. Be very careful who and what you give up work for.
  30. Keep your tools sharp.
  31. That goes double for the toolkit.
  32. Try to spend time in nature and with animals.
  33. The only person who should be the boss of you is the person cutting your paycheck.
  34. And even then, be very clear about your limits.
  35. Remember that mental health is a necessity, not a luxury.
  36. Know the difference between meat and treats, but don't deny yourself either.
  37. Give more than you get.
  38. But don't keep a scorecard.
  39. If at all possible, live in another major metro area before settling down.
  40. And no suburbs until absolutely necessary.
  41. Avoid TV unless you're being paid to watch it.
  42. Acquire private health insurance and keep it, even if your employer has a plan.
  43. Never skip a pap smear, mammogram, or, down the road, colonoscopy.
  44. Explore.
  45. Have a lot of (safe) sex.
  46. Develop a list of go-to books, films, and songs for difficult times.
  47. Find something to do that gives you joy outside of your work, even if your work gives you joy.
  48. Avoid PowerPoint.
  49. Travel light.
  50. Make peace with the living while they're alive; it's much harder to do once they're gone.

Congratulations, young lady. We're glad to have you in the club...

xxx c

Image by Big Swede Guy via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.