1. Make plaid flannel pajamas look sultry.
2. Run gracefully along the beach on a grey winter morn wearing boots, and not get that “Ohmigosh I’ve got sand in my socks, and I just twisted my ankle” look that normal people get.
3. Wear hats without getting staticky hair.
4. Gaze out of a frosted window beside their fake spouse, both wearing matching turtlenecks, and somehow look cozy, not corny.
5. Sit around the house in matchy-matchy pj’s and look romantic and festive, not disheveled.
6. Wear belted mom jeans and tucked-in button-downs and look . . . well, not great, but certainly better than you or I would look. I imagine a lot of trick lighting and safety pins are involved.
7. Wear flimsy, sequined dresses with leg warmers and boots, and somehow make it work. (Exhibit A: The Nordstrom catalog. Exhibit B: The J. Crew catalog. Exhibit C: Me. I rest my case.)
8. Pose for a photo alone in front of a Christmas tree, and not get labeled “That Poor Girl Whose Date Ducked Out of the Party Early.”
9. Grimace or growl at the camera. This is not socially acceptable in other settings—only models can get away with it.
10. Wear ear muffs and look cute. (Okay, NOT. I’m not sure anyone looks fantastic in ear muffs—except maybe those platinum blonde Swedish models who pose on ski lifts and such. I guess if you’re Swedish, and have ice-blue eyes, and ski lifts are your native habitat, you were genetically designed to look good in ear muffs.)
11. Jump and kick their heels in the air while walking through random Christmas tree farms and scenic meadows. Non-models end up arrested or medicated for such behavior.
12. Wear 16 ethnic necklaces, 13 bangle bracelets, 5 watches (and perhaps even a Santa hat) and not look over-accessorized.
13. Drink many mugs of what appears to be steaming coffee, and yet maintain a mouthful of blindingly white teeth. (Perhaps the secret is to lovingly caress the mug as models do in catalogs, but never actually sip the coffee.)
I can’t wait to be an old person. Really. I think senior citizens are the coolest—I could hang out in retirement homes all day and have a blast. (Crystal Waters and I are alike in that way—it’s one of my favorite things about her.) I think that adoring my own grandparents the way I do has taught me to admire and appreciate and just thoroughly be delighted by the generations that have come before us. I could have listed a hundred things I’ve learned from senior citizens, but . . . sigh . . . you only get thirteen.
My beloved grandmother, holding my beloved daughter
1. Laugh a lot. You’ll live longer.
2. Eat dinner at home. You’ll save money and stay married.
3. Save hotel soaps. You might need them in case of a hurricane or soap shortage. (And bar soap never goes bad, so you can save it for years. Really.)
4. Write letters. Real ones, with pen and paper.
5. Make friends with your neighbors.
6. Good advice is priceless. When you find someone who gives good advice, be quiet and listen.
7. All senior citizens in America are secretly required to attend water aerobics. You will not be arrested if you don’t go, but you will risk total social annihilation. The good news is, your fellow water aerobics participants will become best friends with each other and go out for coffee after class, so really, water aerobics is THE place to be after age seventy-five.
8. When it’s time to get a hearing aid, go for the good ones. The cheap ones just don’t cut it. And you should always, always keep hearing aid batteries on hand, just in case. You don’t want to miss a word your water aerobics friends are saying.
9. You can freeze almost anything.* Really. Even milk, and shredded cheese, and damp laundry that needs ironing, and wax spilled on fabric, and stamps that you want to pull off of envelopes that you didn’t mean to stamp so you can reuse the (unused) stamps later. (*You cannot, however, freeze sour cream.)
10. A little bacon never hurt anybody, but a lot of bacon did.
11. Those chain emails that warn you that you’ll be horribly mangled in a freak accident if you don’t forward the email on in the next five minutes to fifty friends . . . well, they’re probably not true, but you never know, so you should go ahead and forward them, just in case.
12. Cool shoes are overrated, and oftentimes ridiculous—especially uber-high heels. Comfort is where it’s at if you want to be a mall-walker all the way into your nineties. (Which I definitely do. Exercising AND window shopping, all at the same time? I don’t know why the whole world doesn’t exercise this way.) Three cheers for Aerosoles, anyone? I’ve totally bought some before, and they were surprisingly adorable.
13. If you are a single man over the age of seventy-five, and want to find the love of your life, volunteer to drive the church bus on all the adult field trips. You’ll be married in less than a year. (Corollary: If you are a single woman over the age of seventy-five, and want to find a husband, go on field trips with your church. Smile at the bus driver. I must warn you: the competition will be fierce, so bring your A game, and wear a little lipstick.)
Okay, I lied. Here are five more things I’ve learned, but since I’m not numbering them, I consider them bonus lessons, and so this isn’t really a list of eighteen things. Think of it as “read thirteen, get five free.” Like a pre-Black Friday special, only in life lessons disseminated via blog.
—You don’t need new stuff. Old stuff works just fine. And redecorating? Forgeddaboudit.
—If you like having real teeth, you should floss. (Ahem, Mr. “I Have Good Teeth So I Don’t Need to Floss”—nudge, nudge. You know who you are. You have been warned via blog post. If you think flossing is time-consuming, word on the street is, denture care is a beast.)
—Buy cars the size of boats. Sure, they’re hard to park, but everyone else on the road will get out of your way.
—Pay attention to politics, even when it drives you crazy.
—And one of my favorite lessons of all: A good book and a comfy recliner are all you need for a thrilling evening. You can travel the world without ever leaving your living room.