8 Things You Need to Know Before You Turn 48 1/2

A few crucial truths from the hilarious, wise, wish-she-were-your-best-friend author of Love Bomb: A Novel.

1. You'll never have to hand-wash your gravy boat again.

Life on the way to 50—or after it—just doesn't involve fancy dinner parties with droll adults eating multiple courses on plates that can't even go in the dishwasher. You no longer need to prove your immaculate hosting skills or impress a new boss. You just want to spend a few hours with some pasta, a few bottles of wine, a few good friends. Unless you're Martha Stewart or have full-time help, your wedding china will eventually wind up in some niece's garage, then on Craigslist.

2. You can forget how to ride a bike.

Especially if you haven't climbed on one for three or four decades. You also can forget how to put on pantyhose without tearing them, the names of practically all of your former classmates and the name of the movie you watched last night. But you'll never forget the smell of your middle-school locker, the feel of your first puppy's soft fur or the taste of your mother's Sunday breakfasts.

3. Your baby stays your baby.

Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems. Sooner or later, a heartbroken adult child will be back in the bedroom you long ago converted into a den, going to sleep just as you're waking up. You'll help him with his job search, listen to his breakup woes and do his laundry (which, at 48 1/2, is surprisingly one of the more pleasant things you get to do for your grown kid). And although you desperately want him back out in the world on his own and will do everything to help him out the door, it's still oddly comforting to look in the refrigerator and discover that he has eaten the leftovers you were saving for lunch.

4. No more Little League Games = More Time for Foreplay.

Clearly, you're not going at it like you did when you just met (unless you've just met, in which case, congratulations!). But due to some mystery of evolutionary biology, after years of your husband being in overdrive and you being in neutral, your two sex drives have finally shifted into the same gear. As with your dinner parties, sex is less frequent but more relaxed. Plus, you can finally afford a good mattress.

5. Smile and the world smiles with you. Even if you do it with your mouth closed.

You expected wrinkles. But the tooth thing?!? No one warned you that your bottom teeth would suddenly miss each other, and begin to huddle together. Dentists call it physiological mesial drift. Now your teeth overlap like fans in some Japanese ceremonial dance.

6. Tenderness is more important than passion.

You can do tenderness with really crooked teeth.

7. You'll always be young at night.

In real life, you'll notice that everyone at the party doesn't turn toward you the second you enter the room and that waiters speak to you a little too loudly. But in your dreams, you will still mesmerize attractive strangers; they will still look deeply into your eyes as they take your hand. No one needs roots touched up or reading glasses. What's most alluring about this alternate nocturnal universe isn't that you're remaining hot for potential scintillating soul mates. It's the thrill of getting to hang out again with the people you've lost—to death, time or just distance. Sometimes you need your dream to remember how much you miss them. And guess what? In that dream, they don't age either.

8. You finally, kind of, almost understand the idea about patience.

As far back as those college admission letters—when important news still got delivered by the postman—you've been urged to be patient. After dealing with wireless contracts, IRAs, credit card companies and health insurance for a couple of decades, you'd like to think nothing can ruffle you now; but you're still going to be irritated when you go through 20 menu choices on an automated system only to be put on hold, then cut off. Still, you finally have the wisdom to understand that whatever news you're waiting for will come. Or not. And that life isn't an app you can instantly download. You may never learn to be as relaxed as you want to be. But at least you've become less outraged, less dramatic, more patient with your own impatience.