life lessons
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

1. One magical word takes care of squats and ex-boyfriends.

When we are young—or even 32—we often say yes to everything because we're worried that we won't know what we'll like if we don't try it. But by 39-ish, you've tried it all: cigarettes, hot yoga, prescription sleep aids, at-home hair color, eyebrow threading, energy bars, acupuncture, sparkling water, tap water, Chinese language lessons, Caribbean cruises with your parents and face masks made of unidentifiable yet somehow still organic vegetable products. (I don't care what you say; you will never convince me that's avocado.) You know what you like—and what you don't. For example: Indian food. This seems like a thing you are supposed to like because everyone else likes it. "Indian food, who doesn't like Indian food?" I don't. I will no longer pretend to. I have found the word NO and I like it. No to the naan. No to the mango chutney. No. Here's another thing I like to say no to: Parties where ex-boyfriends or people I don't like will be. Why do we go to these places where we know something frustrating could potentially happen? Do you often find yourself uttering the phrase, "I feel like I should go?" You do not need to go. You are busy that night. You are busy every night, forever. Remember that. Also: You never have to do a squat again. Did someone tell you that you were going to die if you didn't squat? They were liars. All you have to say is no.

2. All your crazy friends are gone.

Take a look around. Do you remember that girl who would go out to dinner with you and forget her wallet at home every single time? You haven't talked to her in five years. Remember that charming guy with the drug problem who used to leave you stoned messages at 3 a.m.? You haven't seen him since the early aughts. A college friend who hates her co-workers, hates her job, hates her boyfriend, hates your spouse, hates, hates, hates. The last time you saw her was on Facebook, and that's just fine with you. (P.S. She's still hating.) The competitors, the strivers, the clingers—they're all out of your life. The drama is no longer alluring; it is merely repetitive. In your 40s, you shed those who bring you down and surround yourself with the most positive people you know.

3. Those sex rumors are true.

I had a lot of fun in my 20s. And by "fun," I mean sometimes I wish I could remember their names; and, sometimes, I'm glad I can't. (Perhaps that is another essay entirely, titled "Top 9 Mistakes I Made in My 20s.") But I do not think I fully recognized what fun meant until I started having sex in my 40s. I thought it was just a fantasy being dangled in front of me, this notion of being in your prime, but it is all blessedly true. It is as if all the machinery has finally clicked into gear. I trust myself more; I know my body better; and, I don't feel like I have to justify my sexual proclivities. If you can't accept your desires by the time you're 40, when will you ever?

4. You're always right...

At least when it comes to your feelings. They're your feelings, and there are no such things as wrong ones. Don't second-guess them! Deciding what you do with them is the real challenge.

Next: The one thing you need for events requiring formal attire