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The Experts in Your Life: What They Know That You Don't

When we know better, we do better! Get the real scoop behind things that matter

Sometimes the people who help get us through life don't tell us everything. Here are the journeyman secrets, awkward truths and indispensable intel, straight from the source.

What They Know That You Don't, Waiter

Photographyy by John Loomis

Toddlers crawling on the floor? Not cute!

The Waiter
Matt Pfau, 44
Director of restaurant operations, Touch of Italy, with five locations in Maryland and Delaware

It's really not OK to let kids crawl on the floor under the table. It's gross down there, for one thing. But when kids are going crazy and they're bothering other diners, I know how to expedite their service and get them out of here!

It's fine for you to come in and ask to be left alone. A lot of people come in here and sit by themselves, and it's by choice. I have one customer whose husband passed away and she moved into this area. She walked in and asked if she could sit by herself at the bar, and I said, "Of course. You're safe here." She's met groups here, but she also still comes in to sit by herself.

The Flight Attendant
Jeralyn Nickel, 71

49-year veteran, now with American Airlines, Dallas

Yes, seats are getting smaller. On the Airbus planes, especially. You can pay for more space, but really, the little additional room you get is not worth $50.

Use the restroom in the terminal. I understand the older we get, the more bathroom issues we have. But I'm still trying to figure out why so many people board the plane and go straight to the bathroom. Why would you want to use that cramped little stall when there are spacious restrooms just a few steps from the gate?

You really should take your physical condition into account if you want to sit in the emergency exit row. Those doors, for one thing, are really heavy for a smaller, older person to handle. Then I had one man, he had to be 350 pounds. There was no way he was ever going to be able to get his big butt out that emergency exit.

The Hair Stylist
Paige Simmons, 45
Owner, Paige Simmons Salon, Nashville

A lot of women 50 and older don't get it. Most of us, including me, don't want to accept things that are happening. For one, your hormones change so your hair is going to change. And when you start to go gray, it's growing in with your old hair, and the two don't play well. It may not lie smoothly, you might start having cowlicks, you may have to change your part. Your hair gets drier and it thins. But it isn't damaged; it's just gray. A few changes will make a big difference.

I hate it, hate it, hate it when men want me to color their hair. It will never look natural. You always know when a man has colored his hair. Men don't have all of that richness in their hair. Even box color has more pigment in it than men need.

What They Know That You Don't, Veterinarian

Photography courtesy of Tuskeegee University School of Veterinary Medicine

Cats and dogs aren't the only worthy pets.

The Veterinarian
Caroline B. Schaffer, 70
Veterinarian and founding director, Center for the Study of Human-Animal Interdependent Relationships, Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine, Tuskegee, Ala.

You should have talked to me first. People come in with a new dog and say, "What do you think?" I look at it and think, It is unhealthy. Do you have the financial ability to provide for your new pet? A big dog can knock you over, and a small one can be a problem if you step on it. The new pet might leave puddles that cause falls.

It's vital to plan ahead on the chance your pet outlives you. Put something in your will, of course, but even more important, let others know that you've made arrangements for a pet's care.

Think beyond dogs and cats. A little goldfish can give companionship. And for a frequent traveler, it's a lot to easier to find someone to look after a goldfish than to pay a huge boarding fee for a dog.

The Millennial
Jenny Kutner, 24

Senior staff writer at the millennial news website Mic, Brooklyn

Your timeline isn't my timeline. Millennials are often called out for being a little too choosy and entitled and wanting certain things in a very specific way. It's because we can. Previous social movements and battles have made it that way.

Careers are different now. I've often heard from boomers that jumping jobs looks really bad. I've had three jobs in 2 1/2 years. Millennials' concept of a career involves doing a lot of different things. My job — blogging and writing for the internet — was not even professionalized when I was a high school senior.

How you and I view the world might not be the same. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But I ask a lot of questions and don't trust systems and institutions. A lot of boomers do trust systems and institutions. On both sides, it requires patience and understanding.

The Marriage Counselor
Susan Fletcher, 53 

Psychologist, couples therapist, author and blogger (, Plano, Texas

Think again about buying that second home or taking that trip of a lifetime. They often only make things worse. They are exterior things. What you really should be doing is investing in yourselves—spending the time and, perhaps, money trying to get to your root problems.

Don't try to convince yourselves that sex isn't important. A man trying to deal with his wife's low sexual desire, for example, tells himself it's not important so he won't feel rejected. Then he loses the real emotional connection.

You really should have a filter. I'm constantly amazed at how much you talk about your bodily functions with your spouse. That's not an opportunity for closeness. It's icky.

Sleep together even when you're angry. You can't always resolve all of your problems with each other before you go to bed. It just doesn't happen. Sleeping together shows your commitment to each other. Otherwise you can get all passive-aggressive and polarize the relationship.