Category Archives: middle-aged

How to be 50: How to Shop for College


As August drags on, many of us need to go college shopping. You may remember this fun ritual from your own undergraduate days, when you rampaged through Sears, locked in mortal combat with your mother over whether to buy the neon green or dusty rose colored towels. Never fear, it’s just as much fun on the other end. Follow these tips for a shopping adventure to delight everyone.

horse blanket

If you went to college in the eighties, you had one of these blankets. 

  • Keep reminding your child that life wasn’t soft and comfortable when you went to college; a six-pack of Bud and a hot plate with a frayed cord were plenty good enough for you.
  • Insist on purchasing several items from her college’s “forbidden” list. Assure your kid that “It belongs to my roommate!” is an iron-clad excuse for any misdemeanor.

These are more like friendly suggestions than rules.

  • Go to Bed Bath and Beyond with a six-inch wad of coupons from other retailers. As you present each one, say: “I know this isn’t from here, but am I allowed to use it?” To involve your child, have her stand next to you recording the hijinks on her iPhone.
  • Insist that she buy bedding in shades of green and yellow, because you’re “sure she’s going to be put in Slytherin.”

Your kid is a little Draco.  

  • Encourage your child to have one full-out tantrum in the retail establishment of her choice, for old time’s sake.
  • Burst into Home Depot and demand to know where they keep the bikini line trimmers.

No, not these. 

  • When the cashier announces your grand total, fall down on the floor in a pretend faint. Wave your hand weakly in front of your face and croak “Smelling…salts.”
  • Write passive-aggressive notes on your kid’s brand new white board when she’s not looking.
  • Likewise, take a Sharpie and scrawl “I can see what you’re doing” on her new mirror.

For years, a parent’s best friend. 


  • Confuse her completely by threatening to shop online next year.




Filed under college, middle-aged, parents, shopping, Uncategorized

How to be 50: How to Help Your Kid Pick a College

By Charlotte Latvala

The ivy halls beckon.

The ivy halls beckon.

Let’s face it: At 50, we barely remember why we chose the college we did. Maybe we randomly picked a school close to home, or gravitated to the university where our current girlfriend/boyfriend was headed. If our parents were involved, it was only to co-sign the student loans.

The expectations are different today. Your child’s success, after all, is your success, and nothing is more important than shoving your kid vigorously in the right direction. Here’s a little road map to help:

  • Tell him if he doesn’t attend the college of your choice, he’s out of the will.
  • When he reminds you that your net worth is basically whatever your old Pink Floyd albums would fetch on eBay, throw darts at a map until one lands on a college town. Announce, in your best Christopher Lee voice, “Then Fate has sealed your decision.”
The enemy approaches, and it is the first tuition payment.

The enemy approaches, and it is the first tuition payment.

  • Add some clarity by repeating “This is the MOST IMPORTANT DECISION OF YOUR LIFE” on an hourly basis as your kid pours over college brochures and web sites.
  • Keep the mood light by saying, “No pressure now!” disregarding the fact that you’ve compared him to an overachieving sibling for the past four years.
  • When consulting with high school guidance counselors, use the royal “we.” (Caveat: You should only do this if you have a superstar child you enjoy taking full credit for.)
We're gloating over our good grades!

We’re gloating over our good grades!

  • Spend thousands of dollars on SAT prep classes so your child can test higher than his actual ability and make it into a college he isn’t prepared for. (Later, complain bitterly when he drops out.)
  • Insist that he visit your alma mater. Tell long, pointless stories of your undergrad hi-jinks, culminating in a bawdy tale involving a freezing cold night, minimal clothing, and a cafeteria tray.
What tales this piece of molded plastic could tell!

What tales this piece of molded plastic could tell!

  • Ask the tour guide embarrassing personal questions. Repeatedly reference beer pong to show how hip you still are. Ask loudly, “Was that a guy or a girl?” whenever a student with a man bun walks by.
What manner of bun is this?

Explain yourself, bun-man!

  • Elbow the other parents on the tour and say “Well, we didn’t have THAT in the eighties if you know what I mean!” (You don’t actually mean anything but this is a wonderful ploy to get your child to walk quickly away from you and finish a tiresome tour in a hurry.)
  • Back at home, repeatedly call the admissions office to ask if your kid is “blowing everyone else out of the water.”
  • Once he gets into school – any school – hold a bonfire and burn all the college brochures that accumulated in the past year. Trust us, you won’t want to relive any of this.
Ring of College Fire.

Ring of College Fire.


Filed under college, college admissions, humor, lists, middle-aged

How to be 50: How to Host Thanksgiving

By Charlotte Latvala

If you roast a turkey, 2015 law dictates you must immediately share the bounty on social media.

If you successfully roast a turkey, a new 2015 law dictates you must immediately share your accomplishment on social media.

Now that you’re deep into middle age, the holidays have changed. It’s more likely that you’ll be hosting the shindig this year, rather than traipsing over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house with two cans of cranberry sauce in your purse and a grudge in your heart.

Of course, there’s no shortage of know-it-alls to consult for tips. We suggest the How to be 50 way instead. That is:

  • Invite only family members who have a history of bad blood. Passive-aggressive barbs will distract from any sub-standard food.
  • Create a sense of holiday mirth by requesting each guest bring the same food item. Watch with delight as, one by one, they realize the entire meal consists of Pillsbury crescent rolls.
Everyone giggle at once.

Everyone giggle at once.

  • Or, pare down the guest list by offering “frozen pizza du jour” as the main course. If anyone questions your holiday choice, announce that you have a moral issue with celebrating the white European patriarchy responsible for Stove Top stuffing.
  • Be clear that offers of cash are always welcome. In fact, put a basket in the entryway with a sign that says “Tips Appreciated” and a smiley face. Threaten to host Thanksgiving Pledge Week next year if “guests like you” don’t contribute.
No contribution is too big.

No contribution is too big.

  • To further jeopardize your chances of hosting again, allow your cat to dance all over the counter while you’re assembling the green bean casserole, pretending you don’t notice the shower of hair descending on the cream of mushroom soup.
Confound your guests by making it clear that your cat is king.

Confound your guests by making it clear that your cat is king.

  • If anyone so much as hints at complaining, accuse them of “host-shaming” and post an angry diatribe on your blog.
  • When it’s your turn to offer up what you’re thankful for, say (with a tiny catch in your throat) that you’re grateful so many relatives generously offered to put up your Christmas decorations after dinner. It was wonderfully sweet of everyone! What a lovely way to repay you for dinner! Everyone grab a box of lights and a ladder!
Don't worry, little nutcracker man -- you're next!

Don’t worry, little nutcracker man — you’re next!

  • Come up with some fun after-dinner games. “Who can draw Uncle Conspiracy Theory into a political argument first?” and “How many glasses of Pinot Grigio will it take for Aunt Crazy to start singing her favorite Backstreet Boys songs?” are grown-up favorites, but “Let’s ID the hair in the crescent roll!” works for any age.
  • To clear the house out in a hurry, flip a breaker and loudly announce, “Oh darn, we can’t watch the Big Game!” No one will suspect foul play, because honestly, aren’t you a little old for such pranks?
Football socks please everyone; the game, not so much.

Football socks please everyone; the game, not so much.



Filed under families, humor, middle-aged, Thanksgiving

How to be 50: How to Drive

By Charlotte Latvala

The open road beckons. If only you remembered where you put the car keys.

The open road beckons. If only you could remember where you put the car keys.

At your age, you don’t need anyone telling you how to drive. Not your spouse, not your kids, and especially not that crackpot pedestrian who screamed at you this morning when you “almost took her out.” (What was she doing in the middle of the crosswalk, anyway?)

But still. A quick review never hurts. (It’s 35-plus years since you took Driver’s Ed, after all – and you were pretty distracted by that cute junior two rows in front of you.) To stay in tip-top shape behind the wheel:

  • Don’t drink and drive. We’re not talking alcohol. With a 50-year-old bladder, forget water, juice, and soda as well. Frantically looking for a rest area and keeping your legs squeezed together at 70 mph does not make for safe driving.
Even this seemingly innocuous bottle can be a threat to the middle-aged driver.

Even this seemingly innocuous bottle can be a threat to the middle-aged driver.

  • Don’t drive at night. You’ll make people nervous if you say you can’t see well, so use creative excuses, like “Our library just instituted a zero-tolerance return policy, so I need to finish Gone Girl tonight or I’m toast.”
  • To mix things up, set your GPS to locations in Middle-earth.
Grima Wormtongue is the perfect guide to your destination. (As long it's in Rohan.)

Grima Wormtongue is the perfect guide to your destination. (As long as it’s in Rohan.)

  • Barrage the other drivers with sarcastic comments. It’s a time-honored tradition that the older the driver, the sassier the commentary. “Pick a lane, princess!” or “Turn signal, moron!” are ok, but why not ramp up your game with taunts like “Who taught you to drive, a one-armed blind guitarist in a Motley Crue tribute band?
  • On the other hand, road rage is so 2013. Fill yourself with road love instead; toss flower petals at other motorists and shout “Keep smiling!” “You’re the best!” and “I love you! I honestly love you!” to all truck drivers.
Perfect gift for your fellow travelers!

Perfect gift for your fellow travelers!

  • Every now and then, careen erratically down an empty side street to give your passengers that enjoyable “runaway roller coaster” feeling.
  • Buy a classic mid-life crisis car. Any convertible counts, as long as it’s not the old Cozy Coupe collecting cobwebs in the garage.
This baby'll turn some heads.

This baby’ll turn some heads.

  • As you pull out of your driveway, roll the window down and screech, “I CAN’T DRIVE…FIFTY-FIVE!” to your confused teenagers.
  • Pass out deli-style numbers to anyone in the car who wants to lodge a complaint.
  • Refuse to drive your kids anywhere until they say the magic words. Which are: “This tank of gas is on me.”
Fill 'er up.

Fill ‘er up.


Filed under cars, driving, humor, middle-aged

How to be 50: How to Update Your Decor

By Charlotte Latvala

A Pac-Man table is equally at home in formal or casual settings.

A Pac-Man table is equally at home in formal or casual settings.

If you’re 50, and you’ve lived in the same home for years, you’ve got your style down pat, even if you haven’t revised it since 1988.

Here at How to be 50, we’re not overly concerned with trends. That’s why Pinterest is confusing to us. (Not to mention, we always want to pronounce it “Pin-Interest.” We also hate crafts.)

But we at How to be 50 don’t want your hipster neighbors making fun of you. So next time you’re cruising Home Depot, think about:

  • Transforming your basement into a “retro” game room. You’ve already got your husband’s dusty old foosball table. Just add a few Breakfast Club posters and a boom box to finish the vintage look.
Guaranteed to launch a thousand boring stories from middle-aged people.

Guaranteed to launch a thousand boring stories from middle-aged guests.

  • The wallpaper border dilemma. Sure, those little roses all around the top of your living room were super-hip in the Laura Ashley era, but now they look dated and old-ladyish. You could go through the trouble of ripping them down, but why bother? Just cover the whole thing with painters’ tape, which makes you look industrious.
A thousand sins can be quickly covered with this stuff.

A thousand sins can be quickly covered with this stuff.

  • Or go all Banksy on your walls. Instead of merely pretending to paint, why not make a clever political statement with graffiti art?
  • Over-sized television dominating the living room? Throw some popcorn on the floor and start referring to your “home theater.”
Serve extra butter and your house gets rave reviews!

Serve extra butter and your house gets rave reviews!

  • Call your outdated ranch home “mid-century modern,” implying you are purposely keeping it that way. Remind guests (with a hint of condescension) that hideous avocado green accessories are “period.”
People used to pay for this color. Some still do.

People used to pay for this color. Some still do.

  • Piles of junk (books, suitcases, pizza boxes) are no longer a problem. Just plonk a lamp on top and you’re all Pinterest quirky-artsy.
This passes for imaginative decorating these days.

This passes for imaginative decorating these days.

  • Proper lighting is the secret to a fabulous room, so remove as many light bulbs as possible. (Guests can turn on iPhone flashlights if they have to find the bathroom.)
  • Hideous chair you can’t afford to replace? Make up a heart-tugging story about why you can’t part with it. (It’s where: Spouse proposed; dog expired; you decided to quit your job and become a full-time blogger one gin-and-tonic-soaked midnight last year.)
  • If all else fails, get a cat. A cute kitten distracts the eye from any awful décor.
If there's a kitten, nothing else matters.

Kitten = decorating magic.


Filed under decorating, humor, middle-aged, remodeling

How to be 50: How to Dance

By Charlotte Latvala

"Everybody dance now" is  sometimes a command that must be obeyed.

“Everybody dance now” is sometimes a command that must be obeyed.

Do you need to dance, at 50? Well, sure, you say. I like to toss on an old Wham! CD and boogie around my living room every now and then.

But that’s not what we mean. In mid-life, there are occasions when you need to dance in public, including but not limited to: Your kid’s wedding; the annual work-related social event your spouse drags you to; and one of those rare but glorious funerals where the music starts and everyone hits the dance floor.

Don’t let the rhythm catch you unprepared. Instead:*

  • Fuel up. A healthy snack before you hit the floor is as important as a good beat.
A perfect pairing.

A perfect pairing.

  • Remember it’s not 1982. So stop yelling at the DJ to play The Psychedelic Furs.
  • Don’t whip. Don’t nae nae either. It’s cute when a toddler or very elderly person experiments with the latest dance craze. You, not so much.
  • Remove any highly restrictive clothing (i.e. suit jackets, belts, Spanx) before you a bust a move.
  • On second thought, never use the phrase “bust a move.”
  • To distract everyone from your dancing, release a few dozen balloons during your favorite song.
Up, up, and away goes everyone's attention.

Up, up, and away goes everyone’s attention.

  • If the evening involves line-dancing, tape a large R and L on the appropriate shoes.
  • Under no circumstances should you reference Grease. Not the movie, not the musical, not John Travolta. Just, no.
  • If you’re hell-bent on re-enacting the 1970s, stick to The Hustle and forget about The Bump. Making people wince with your awful dancing is one thing; inflicting bodily injury quite another.
You know you remember the steps.

You know you remember the steps.

  • Don’t squeal “Wikki, wikki, wikki!” and pantomime “scratching” when the DJ plays something remotely resembling rap.
  • Likewise, please stop shouting requests for George Michael songs. It’s only funny once.
Half of Wham! but all of our hearts.

Half of Wham! but all of our hearts.

  • When you see someone filming you with an iPhone, do not – we repeat DO NOT – shout “I’m gonna twerk now!” and begin wiggling your backside. Because that’s the video that will show up at the family reunion, the office Christmas party, and quite possibly your own funeral.

* If your goal is to embarrass your children with your dancing, please disregard all of the above advice.


Filed under dance, dancing, humor, middle-aged

How to be 50: How to Feel Better About Yourself

By Charlotte Latvala

Be truthful: You’re not where you imagined you’d be, some decades back. Because, at 20, you pictured yourself living in a Duran Duran video, or at least working at some cool job like Martha Quinn’s.

Martha was a great role model. But not necessarily for you.

Martha was a great role model. But not necessarily for you.

The reality is that you have a pile of bills, an unpredictably leaky roof, and eyesight so bad you need to magnify your screen to 140% just to check Facebook.

But there’s no cause for sadness. You can feel better about your underachieving ways without tiresome soul-searching. Try these shortcuts instead: Continue reading


Filed under eighties, humor, lists, middle-aged

How to be 50: How to Argue with your Spouse*

By Charlotte Latvala

FullSizeRender (4)

Decades ago, you and your spouse* had heated arguments that went on for hours. Days, even. Your relationship was a spicy stew of emotion; you fought hard and made up passionately.

At 50, it’s harder to get quite so riled up, especially with someone you’ve known since you both dressed like Joan Jett. When you do fight these days, your goal is usually to wrap it up by the time Dancing with the Stars comes on.  

But just in case you need a refresher: Continue reading


Filed under fighting, humor, marriage, middle-aged, self-help

How to be 50: How to Find More Energy

By Charlotte Latvala

You, most days.

You, around 3 p.m. most days.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that at 50, you have as much energy as a damp paper towel. And not one of the expensive, super-absorbent ones you can use over and over again, either.

So here at How to be 50, we’ve come up with some ingenious and scientifically proven ways to combat the mental and physical sludge. Such as: Continue reading


Filed under exhausted, humor, middle-aged, self-help

How to be 50: How to Get out of Stuff You Don’t Want to Do

By Charlotte Latvala

One of the wonderful things about turning 50 is that you no longer feel obligated to participate in unpleasant social functions.

But simply shouting “Hell, no!” won’t win you any friends when someone asks you to chaperone a high school event or coordinate the neighborhood garage sale. So the next time some busy-body suggests you lend a hand, pitch in, or do your share, just… Continue reading


Filed under humor, mid-life, middle-aged, self-help