Life Lessons — Things I Know at 37: That Happened


ColumnLife lessons at [insert decade here] articles geared toward women are super popular. Here’s one more.

I turned 37 a few weeks ago and a number of my people are about to cross from the 30s to the 40s, including my husband.

So I read other people’s life lessons. I think, do I know that? Will I find that out later? Do I agree with that? Did I know that sooner than the person writing this—meaning, did I win? Just kidding about that last one.

What You Learn in Your 40s,” published at the end of February in the New York Times, is the latest in a long string of articles for and by women about what we wish we knew, what we know now and what we know we don’t know yet.

In my estimation, although I am a few years behind in my own evolution, Pamela Druckerman got a few things really right—and one really wrong—in her Times piece.

The best of her learnings: “There are no soul mates… It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.” And: “When you meet someone extremely charming, be cautious instead of dazzled.” Good one, Pamela.

And the worst, her glib last line: •”When you’re unsure if it’s a woman or a man, it’s a woman.” First, this is simply not true. Second, it falls into the transphobic category.

See this year’s Ellen Degeneres Oscar joke gone wrong about Liza Minnelli for a lesson in how thoughtless comments about presumed sex and gender can really hurt feelings—even when those jokes come from one of the most vocal supporters in the LGBTQ community.

So, I offer you a few life lessons I have picked up (in addition to the obvious one about not making transphobic jokes):

This is what 37-year-olds look like.

People who are younger than I am remark: “You don’t look 37!” I do, though. I think this is what most urban-dwelling 37-year-olds look like. What people mean, I think, is: You don’t look old like my mom did when she was 37. But, the reality is, our moms probably didn’t look any older than we do, but we thought everyone over 16 was really, really old.

You and your person can take separate vacations—and maybe should.

My husband and I went on a snowboarding trip to Utah with friends last winter. The thing is, I don’t snowboard. Or ski. Or like being cold. I had fun with him and my friends, but it was kind of not my thing. This year, I went on a yoga retreat in Mexico and he went to Denver to snowboard. We both had a blast and will be traveling together later in the year.

You don’t have to have children.

I have written before about being childfree by choice, but this bears repeating. My experience as a friend to many moms has taught me that  having a kid is really, really hard and you should only do it if you want to. This shouldn’t need to be said, but people still seem to think that opting out of being a mom is a radical and strange thing.

Popcorn and green juice for dinner is totally okay—just not all of the time.

I’m basically the healthiest I have ever been. Over the last 10 years, I have quit smoking, drinking alcohol and eating meat. I do yoga and spin on a regular basis. Sometimes I eat popcorn covered in fake butter and tons of salt for dinner, slug down a green juice, then eat a bowl of cashews and two Lara bars and call it a day. I’m good with that.

If you can throw money at a fight you and your person keep re-having to solve the problem, do so.

This is why we have someone come clean the house twice a month and why we got a second car.

Surprise birthday presents are not as good as asking for what you want.

This year, I wanted one of those fancy coffee makers that makes one cup at a time. More than that, I wanted not to do the research about which one to get, not to read the directions and not to have to set it up. I got all of these things and I am thrilled.

As I careen toward 40, I get why it’s reassuring to think about what I know and believe. There’s comfort in thinking: At least I have some things figured out.

I also agree with most people who write these “I’m so much smarter than I was when I was 20-something” essays that there’s danger in putting all your smarts out there into the public realm—and calling them smarts.

I mean, there’s a great chance that in 10 years, or five, or one, I will read this and think: Wow, that was really stupid.

Which leads me to a last thing that I have learned: Nothing on the internet will ever really go away and I don’t care. This is who I am today.

That Happened is Libby Lowe’s weekly column for EcoSalon analyzing media, news and pop culture through a feminist lens. Keep in touch with Libby @LibbyLowe.

Image: Selfie featuring an Orange Is the New Black cell phone case.

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