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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 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

How to be 50: How to Throw a 50th Birthday Party

By Charlotte Latvala

Every milestone deserves a mug.

Every milestone deserves a mug.

Once you turn 50, you discover that one of your new duties is throwing parties for all your equally ancient friends. Don’t sulk; instead, consider it a wonderful chance for revenge!

Of course, you’ll need some black balloons. And don’t forget to:

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Filed under 50, birthday, humor, lists, middle-aged, parties

How to be 50: 25 Things You Won’t Miss

By Charlotte Latvala

Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1981.

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1981.

It’s tempting, now that you’re 50, to wax nostalgic about the good old days. After all, back in the 1980s your metabolism was 10 times faster, you could remember all the members of The Smiths (not just Morrissey and Johnny Marr), and you were blithely unaware of the hazards of genetically modified foods.

All that, and you could function amazingly well on four hours of sleep.

But was the past actually better? Well, do you really want to go back to the days when you had to carry your mobile phone in a sack as big as a diaper bag? What about schlepping a diaper bag, period? And how about these other not-so-good memories? Such as:

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Filed under 1970s, 1980s, humor, lists, mid-life

How to be 50: How to Live Vicariously through Your Children

By Charlotte Latvala


If you have children, it is your God-given right – no, it is your duty – to live your life through them.

Otherwise, why do the little fiends exist?

Ok, we’re being facetious. They exist to fetch wine and hummus when you don’t feel like walking all the way to the kitchen. But by 50, you deserve more. Whether your children are 13 or 30, they should fulfill every desire, whim, and wistful longing you ever had.
To begin:

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Filed under humor, kids, mid-life, parenting, self-help

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. Continue reading


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

How to be 50: How to Retire


By Charlotte Latvala

Retirement? What? you’re saying – I’m only 50, for crying out loud. And although you’ve heard those urban myths about people retiring at 50, you’ve never met anyone who actually has.

Still, the Big R is kinda, sorta looming. Mathematically, you’re closer to retirement than, say, having your first legal drink.

And because you’re the sort of 50-year-old who’s reading How to be 50 instead of Forbes, you probably need some friendly advice about facing this major milestone.

First and foremost: You can’t just stop working.

You need money. You need a plan. You need a dream.

But mostly, you need money.

How to be 50 can’t simply write you a check. But, as usual, we do offer some handy shortcuts: Continue reading


Filed under humor, lists, mid-life, retirement, self-help