How to be 50: How to Romanticize Your Past


By Charlotte Latvala

It’s possible that your past was not all that fascinating. We here at How to be 50, for example, spent much of the 1990s swilling Sutter Home and contemplating another serving of General Tso’s chicken. Our evenings were carefully planned around new episodes of “thirtysomething” and we rarely bought anything that wasn’t 30% off at Macy’s.

But what tale didn’t benefit from a little careful editing? Read on for tips on how to embellish, gloss over, and/or fabricate your real past into something worthwhile.

  • Borrow other people’s stories. Did your college roommate hike the entire Appalachian Trail? Sky-dive? Fight her way back from bankruptcy and a coke habit? Don’t let long-ago friends grab all the glory when you can claim it for your own! Rule of thumb: If it happened before the Internet, no one can prove it’s not true.
  • Post lots of #tbt shots on Instagram. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if they’re you or not – with the terrible clothes and hair of our youth, most of us are unrecognizable in old photos anyway.
Is this really what How to be 50 looked like in 1980? Who knows?

Is this really what How to be 50 looked like in 1980? Who knows?

  • Always refer to the past as “a simpler, more innocent time.” Even though your teens and twenties took place during the most crime-filled, drug-infested, sex-crazed era of United States history, it’s important to cling to the rose-colored version where you frolicked through the streets drinking Kool-Aid (not the insane dangerous kind) and playing turn-of-the-century games with sticks.
  • Insist on taking vacations to places where your own family dragged you, no matter how seedy and run-down these tourist spots have become. While there, complain bitterly about how much better things used to be.
You can't go home again, but you can visit tacky tourist destinations anytime!

You can’t go home again, but you can visit tacky tourist destinations anytime!

  • Brag about the obscure bands you may or may not have seen back in the day. Is anyone really going to check whether or not the Hoodoo Gurus played The Decade back in 1984? (Don’t remember the really cool bands? That’s what Pandora is for!)
  • Refer coyly to romantic partners who may or may not have existed. If they lived in your mind, then they are worth remembering. Likewise, if a celebrity grew up within 300 miles of you, imply that you were acquaintances.
  • Hum your favorite old cigarette jingles as though they were hymns of praise.
Fighting and switching were the only two options.

Fighting and switching were the only two options.

  • Perfect the half-smile. No need to brag about your past when this mysterious expression says “Oh, what tales I could tell!” (No need to let on that you’re dreaming about a nice cold white zinfandel.)
Every girl's favorite wine, circa 1985.

Every girl’s favorite wine, circa 1985.



Filed under 1980s, humor, middle-aged, self-help

9 responses to “How to be 50: How to Romanticize Your Past

  1. Sutter Home…. [shudder] I get a hangover headache just looking at the bottle.

  2. Quick day trip or even shopping trips, can be carefully enhanced into crazy wild road trips. “Watching the sun rise over the sand, as saltwater lapped at my feet”, instead of “I passed out drunk, woke up in sandbox at the school playground, my order of fries in a puddle of water at my feet”.

  3. “If it happened before the Internet no one can prove it isn’t true” – Hahaha!

  4. This is great! Just the other day friends and I were comparing “famous people we’re connected to” stories. We laughed so hard when the best I could come up with was that my college roommate’s cousin was married (for a short time) to John Mellencamp’s cousin. haha!
    I am going to start taking this advice immediately. 🙂

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