If You Want My Advice . . .

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, September 3, 2006

Dear Mr. Weingarten:

Can you think of anything you know now in your fifties that you wish you'd known in your twenties?


David Gratz, a longtime D.C. reader in his twenties

Yes, David, I have some tips for navigating the exciting journey that lies ahead.

(1) For the rest of your life, you will remain locked into whatever music you currently listen to. Trust me, it happens to everyone. It happened to me. Given the quality of popular music of the 1960s, I am fine. Given the quality of popular music of the 2000s, you are toast. Suggestion: Get a job as a jackhammer operator, wear no ear protection, go deaf. At least your taste in music won't make you a source of contemptuous merriment to your children, the way my parents were to me.

(2) Cleanse your language of certain callow affectations common to your generation, for they will not serve you well later in life. I, for example, employed the word "groovy" well into my twenties, until I once used it as a panelist on a TV political talk show, while discussing the sociopolitical ramifications of a gubernatorial veto. The studio audience actually laughed. In your case, when being interviewed about your nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, you do not want to say, "I was, like, 'No way,' and the president goes, 'For realz, yo,' and . . ."

(3) Resist a tendency to become sedentary. I am a man who once strode confidently for miles through the septic streets of the South Bronx just to experience the rush of danger. Today, as I write these words, I am seated in my basement office, drinking cold, three-day-old coffee, so as to avoid the physical ordeal of climbing the stairs to the kitchen. Floating on the coffee is a burnt match. I am simply avoiding it.

(4) Accept gracefully what you cannot change. As you age, you will steadily gain wisdom. Unfortunately, it goes right to your prostate gland. This explains why, as a young man, your prostate is the size of a walnut, but as you get older it is the size of a Wal-Mart. The good news is that there are drugs to at least partially control this. The bad news is that these drugs have side effects that can include -- this is the truth; I am reading it right from the package insert -- "breast enlargement."

(5) The index of male physical pleasure can be plotted by two lines on a chart. One of these lines, which begins very high in one's younger years, represents the pleasures of the bedroom. The other, which begins quite low, represents the pleasures of the bathroom. I am assured by men older than I that these lines eventually intersect. I do not want to presume to tell you how to prepare for this moment, but I will share my plan, if it will be of help. When those two lines intersect, I will commit hari-kari. I will aim for my stomach, but will probably hit my prostate.

(6) There is a reason that many young women are attracted to older men. It's a trick we know. Once you know it, too, you will be able to combine the vigor of youth with the allure of age, and become a monster babe magnet for all those women formerly attracted to old guys like me.

(7) What, you thought I was going to reveal it? Don't be an idiot.

(8) Practice preemptive temperance. You know how you can get completely wasted one night, and the next morning you're okay? Well, one day, that won't be true anymore. And I mean "one day." This change will occur, literally, overnight, and you will discover it too late, as I did, when I arrived for work unshaven, with mismatched shoes, on a Saturday.

(9) Above all else, avoid self-delusion. It is a narcotic, and the crash from sudden withdrawal is almost unendurable. You are going to try to remain blissfully unaware that you are aging. You will think, for example, that you could still be the second baseman for the Yankees if you just got yourself back in shape, and this fantasy will persist well into your forties, when you are the general dimensions of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. But one day something will make you realize that you are both in irreversible decline and a miserable failure. Example: Your new boss is younger than you. Better example: The new president of the United States is younger than you. Best example: The new pope is younger than you, and then he dies.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com.

Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon.

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