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50 Things You Need to Know by 50

1. How to Have Great Sex After 30 Years of Marriage

(Sue Johanson, Talk Sex)

Talk about cellulite. Talk about wrinkles. Ignoring changes in your body won't make them go away.

Dress up like Tarzan. Or a nurse. No one else will know.

Guess what? Many older couples don't like penetration. Luckily it's not the only way to have fun.

Do the dishes naked.

Waiting until you're in the mood is baloney. Try going along with your partner when you don't feel like it. You might be surprised.

Take a vacation. It's amazing what happens in Nassau.

2. How to Forgive

(George Takei, Star Trek, Heroes)

I grew up in U.S. internment camps during World War II. We were surrounded by barbed wire fences and machine guns. We took communal showers and meals, and a searchlight followed us on night runs to the latrine. After the war my mother and father couldn't find housing, and I had a teacher who called me "little Jap boy." That stung. But my parents taught me that being bitter only pickles the one that stews in the brine. Good advice. The bullies were the ones stewing in their own spite and ignorance. Once you realize that those who hurt you also hurt themselves, it is easier to forgive them. And that's liberating.

3. Law of the Olive Garden

The waitress is not hitting on you. Being friendly is her job.

4. No matter how many times you bring your mitt to the game, the manager will never gaze out into the stands, land his eyes on you, and say, "Hey, how about that guy?"

5. Save Money

(Suze Orman)

The easiest way to save money is to raise your FICO score, which determines how much interest you pay on everything from credit cards to mortgages. If you could raise your score from 500 to 760, for example, you'd save $78 a month on car payments for a $20,000 vehicle. So how do you do that? Thirty percent of your FICO score is your debt-to-credit-limit ratio. If you can't pay off your credit card, request an increase in your limit—but promise that you won't actually use the extra credit. The other thing you can do (and FICO hates when I share this tip, but it works) is to have a relative with a high score add your name as an authorized user to his or her cards. Your relative doesn't actually have to give you a card in order to do this. This will help your score, without lowering your loved one's.

6. How to Lose Weight (Eat. Less.)

7. Look Like You've Lost Weight

  • Grow your sideburns 1/2 inch longer.
  • Style your hair 1/4 inch higher than normal to make your face seem thinner.
  • Wear rectangular-framed glasses.
  • Choose a three-button suit, instead of a two-.
  • Remember the basics: vertical stripes.

8. Find the Bathroom in Five Languages

Spanish: ¿Dónde está el baño?

French: Où sont les toilettes?

Japanese: Toire wa doko desu ka?

Swahili: Choo kiko wapi?

Klingon: nuqDaq 'oH puchpa' 'e'?

9. Find Your Keys

(Michael Solomon, findologist)

Do you usually put your keys on your desk, then grab a snack? Look for the keys in the pantry. See, life is full of routine motions; items get lost when wires get crossed. To stay on target while you search, repeat (out loud) "keys, keys, keys." If all else fails, look in your car. Cars are Bermuda Triangles for lost stuff.

10. How to Speak in Public

(Johnny Uy, president of Toastmasters International)

  • Visualize. It's easier to do something if you've done it before. Imagine the toast going well, and by the time you get to the podium, you're actually giving your spiel a second time.
  • Be genuine. You're funny? Great. But if you're not, don't force it. Concentrate on your strengths. Tell a touching anecdote—those can often work better than wisecracks anyway.
  • The "picture the audience naked" thing? Doesn't work.

11. We're all really, really small, in the grand scheme of things.

12. How to Die

The point of the party is not your leaving it. Apologize for any breakage, thank your hosts, listen when they say they were glad you could come, mean it when you say you had a wonderful time, then grab your coat and go. Make sure the door closes behind you. Don't forget your hat.

13. Fire Someone

(Donald Trump)

Whether you're supernice or just plain blunt, the result is always the same: the person has been fired, and they're going to hate your guts. Time might lessen the impact, but initially they aren't going to take kindly to your trying to make it seem okay, because it's not okay by them. So just be honest and let everyone move on.

14. Sing in Public

(Engelbert Humperdinck)

In karaoke the most important thing is to pick a song by someone you really admire, and take the best of that person while giving the song the best of you. If you are not a singer but want to be part of the fun, pick a cheeky song and act silly. If you can't even catch a melody, let alone carry one, just speak the lyrics. Pretend you are Richard Harris.

15. How to Give a Compliment (Sincerely.)

16. How to Take a Compliment

(Kathy Ireland)

A compliment is a gift. It's not relevant that you may not agree with the giver's opinion of you. In some ways the compliment is not even about you; it's about the fact that someone else cared enough to think of you and to share his or her thoughts in a positive way. So the best way to handle one? With a heartfelt "thank you."

17. Ask for a Date

(Isaac Hayes)

Start by using the code flirting phrase "I think I've seen you before." If she says yes, take her to the best restaurant you know. If she says no, you can try to change her mind, but don't push it. And always remember to be a gentleman.

18. A Recipe to Wow and Amaze Your Friends

(Masaharu Morimoto, Iron Chef and owner of Morimoto, in Philadelphia)

King crab is a favorite with guests. Offer small servings as an appetizer, or one leg per person as an indulgence.

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Chinese chili bean paste (tobanjan)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons tobiko caviar

4 pounds king crab legs

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish

  1. Combine the mayonnaise, tobanjan, sesame oil, lemon juice, and lime juice in a small bowl. Blend well, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days, until ready to use. Stir in the tobiko caviar just before you cook the crab legs.
  2. Cut each crab leg into 4 portions. Using kitchen scissors, cut off the top half of the shell of each section to expose the meat.
  3. Position the broiler rack about 6 inches from the heat and preheat the broiler. Arrange the crab legs, meat side up, on a baking sheet. Broil until the crab begins to color, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the crab from the oven and coat the meat with the mayonnaise
  5. Arrange the crab legs on a nice platter and garnish them with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.

19. Law of Host Gifts

The $25 wine won't impress them any more than the $10 wine.

20. You are not going to win the lottery.

21. How to Grieve

"After the first death, there is no other," wrote Dylan Thomas. That doesn't mean the ones that come after won't break your heart, but it's the first that punches your soul's passport. Welcome, fellow human, to a different country than the one you woke up to this morning. The air's different here; so is the scenery. Your knees don't work so well; in fact, you may want to fall to them.

For a precious little while, you are allowed to be stunned into silence, or to shriek, or to talk—recounting stories of who he was, what she meant to you, and how it all came to an end. Tell those stories. Some people may try to enforce "The Rules," to wit: Enough of This Drama Is Enough. Ignore them. Besides, if you treat yourself gently and take the time you need, someday soon you'll hear the faint but steady voice of your own good sense. Play music you love, sit in the sunshine if you can find some, and if anyone offers you a hand, hold it. Let them feed the cat, too, because they want to be useful. If your good sense does not kick in on its own, help it along: scramble some eggs. It will feel strange at first. But if you pretend that scrambling eggs is normal, eventually it will become normal. Soon you can squeeze some orange juice, too.

For some of us the stay in this new country seems endless. But time passes, seasons change, and, truly, would those we grieve for want us to mope? Come with me, back into the world. We'll return to this land someday, all too soon, but in the meantime the garden needs weeding, the bills need paying. Your other loved ones need you. And you, my sweet friend, you could use a shampoo. —Larkin Warren

22. How to Get a Law Passed

Representative Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey estimates he's been asked to sponsor some 10,000 bills by constituents. If you want yours at the top of the stack, Andrews suggests this game plan.

Don't waste your congressperson's time whining about what's broken. Your law should propose a way to fix it.

Become a special-interest group. Want a law making bike helmets mandatory? Maybe there's a helmet company that would love that law. Creative allegiances are key.

Bury the hatchet. You'll need support from both parties for your bill to have any chance.

Get on a moving train. Attach your idea to a bill that's already in the pipeline. Find active legislation at

23. What to Do if You Get a Letter From the IRS

(Henry Bloch, cofounder of H&R Block)

First, figure out why you're being audited. A lot of the time the IRS won't mention the reason—but you have the right to know. So call them, or have your tax preparer call them. They probably want to go over a portion of your return, such as your charitable deductions. Next, prepare by gathering all of your related paperwork. Remember, dealing with the IRS is the opposite of normal law. Usually you're innocent until proven guilty. The IRS assumes something is taxable; you have to prove it's not. Be courteous, answer any questions, but don't volunteer information.

24. Deliver Bad News

(Maureen Killackey, M.D., oncologist, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City)

  • Do it in private. And don't wedge it in between your lunch date and your yoga class. Nothing hurts worse than "Now that I've broken your heart, gotta run!" Making yourself available will reassure the other person that you care about his or her feelings.
  • Go slowly. When people are in shock, they don't process information well. Pause between bombshells to ask "Are you understanding what I'm saying?"
  • The six worst words to use in this situation are "I know just how you feel." Better: "I can't imagine how this feels."
  • Develop a plan. Action steps are important to helping the other person realize there is a way to deal with a difficult situation.

25. Law of Jimmy Page

The likelihood of hearing Led Zeppelin on a classic-rock station is proportional to the lateness of the hour. (Steve Miller Band is inversely proportional.)

26. Raise Teenagers

(Henry Winkler, father of three)

You know what I learned to do? I learned to shut up. I used to talk so much, thinking I was passing on these important lessons. I'd tell my son Max, "Sit down at your desk. You can't stand and do homework. You can't lie on your bed and do homework. You can't listen to music and do homework." But when I calmed down, the grades were there. He was standing at his desk, he was lying on his bed, he was listening to music, and he was thriving. I'd been giving him advice I'd heard all my life, but it turned out not to be true.

27. Travel to Exotic Places and Not Get (a) a Parasite or (b) Shot

(Wolf Blitzer)

Once I stayed at a really dumpy hotel in Belarus and had one of those nights where you say "Hmm. I think I'll just sleep in this chair. In my clothes." Since then, I've formulated some travel rules.

Before you travel, go to and look for news about your destination. If you plan on being anywhere for a while, register with the U.S. Embassy in the country where you're going so they can keep tabs on you. Concerned about food safety? Bring some emergency rations. I usually pack canned tuna or packaged crackers and cheese, and vitamins to boost my immune system. Watch out for bottled water. I've been to some countries where they just put some tap water in a container and call it bottled. Look for an unbroken seal.

28. How to Navigate the Company Picnic

No good can come of a company picnic. You're not going to get a raise based on your skills at the kickball game. On the other hand, a lot of bad things could happen. Avoid those traps like a grownup.

Land mine: You arrive too early and know no one.

Tactic: Make insta-pals by playing host—show newcomers to the food or booze.

Land mine: Diet-busting food table

Tactic: Eat by color: anything green (celery, broccoli) or red (grapes, radishes) is okay; anything white (mashed potatoes, ranch dip) is off-limits.

Land mine: Free beer

Tactic: Keep your water cup filled at all times to avoid the "I drank beer because I was thirsty" excuse.

Land mine: No indoor plumbing

Tactic: Use the Porta Potti closest to the party. Everyone assumes it's the most used, so it's actually the least (hence, the cleanest).

Land mine: Photographer for the company newsletter

Tactic: Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth; this will erase a double chin. Don't face the camera head-on—a three-quarter shot reduces the appearance of wrinkles. And do a spinach check.

Land mine: Sam, "The Snooze," from Accounting

Tactic: "Will you excuse me?" Don't claim you need to find the bathroom (maybe he does, too). Just ask to be excused. What's he going to say? No?

Land mine: Forced revelry

Tactic: Win the three-legged race by pairing up with someone of your build; you'll have a similar gait.

Land mine: Your new boss, who is 12

Tactic: Skip work talk. Don't call her a whippersnapper. Find non-age-related common ground by discussing movies, music, or travel.

Land mine: The colleague who arrives when you want to leave

Tactic: "Hey, I was looking for you all day" (you weren't). "I'll catch up with you later" (you won't).

29. Amuse Your Grandchildren

(Kirk Douglas)

Keeping kids amused is actually not very difficult. The trick my grandchildren love is a simple one that's been used for years.

  • Show the child your right hand, with your thumb sticking out.
  • With your left hand, "erase" the thumb by pretending to grab it off (though really it's folded into your right palm).
  • After that, the choices are limitless: you can pull the thumb out of your ear or out of your mouth, and finish by putting the thumb back on.

30. Score an Upgrade

(Peter Greenberg, NBC travel editor)

Don't be the putz who asks for one. Instead, chat with the gal at the gate about sports. Hobbies. Anything but the upgrade. Eventually, without asking, you'll hear the magic words: Let me see your ticket. Post-trip, mail your gal a thank-you. Next flight, look for her. Jo's AWOL? Repeat the steps. You now have something in common with the new gate gal. You both know Jo. Get it?

31. Four Books You Should Have Read but Probably Didn't

Book: Ulysses

Plot: An ordinary guy bums around Dublin.

Theme: Mundanity is good.

Book: War and Peace

Plot: Pierre marries a bad girl, then a good girl, and tries to assassinate Napoleon.

Theme: Meaning is good.

Book: The Fountainhead

Plot: Rebel Howard faces off against suck-up Peter for the love of ice-queen Dominique.

Theme: Egotism is good.

Book: Any Harry Potter novel

Plot: Boy wizard and pals battle Lord Voldemort.

Theme: Friends are good; adults are dim.

32. Don't try to talk like a teen. By the time you understand their lingo, it won't be cool anymore.

33. Save a Life

Raise your right hand and repeat: "I will not stand by like a worthless idiot when someone is dying." That's what most people do when someone is choking, bleeding, suffering cardiac arrest, or otherwise exiting the earth, says paramedic Jerry Johnston, who's gone on 10,000 calls in 24 years. So take a first-aid course, and take Johnston's tips.

  • Skip mouth-to-mouth. A recent study found that CPR recipients fared better when they received just chest thrusts with no artificial breathing.
  • Rehearse the 911 call. Can you quickly explain clear directions to your house? Do you know what meds everyone takes?
  • Use the top ER. Which hospital near you has a Level-3 emergency room, the best for heart attacks and strokes? Find out right now.
  • Locate the nearest defibrillator. Do you have one of these heart-starting gadgets at your work site? Is there one in the diner across the street? These babies are easy to use, take no training, and save thousands of lives each year.

34. Save the Planet (Mom)

  • Don't make a mess in the common areas. We all have to live here.
  • If you buy it, use it.
  • I don't care who started it. You end it!
  • Pick up your room. Then clean it. Just one minute: you call that clean?
  • What do you need a car for? The exercise will do you good.

35. How to Say You're Sorry

(Al Roker)

Look the person straight in the eye and say "I'm sorry." Don't embellish it by making excuses or trying to explain why you screwed up. Just ask for forgiveness.

36. Know How Much Is Enough

            Bare Minimum            Average user  Supergeek

Digital cameras           2 megapixels (E-mail photos to buddies)       5 megapixels (Print out 4"-by-6" for display)  10 megapixels (Move over, Annie Leibovitz)

Cell phone minutes     50 prepaid (Keep in car for emergencies)      500 (Weekly calls to all the kids)        1,000+ (What's a landline?)

Internet access           56k modem (E-mail weekly)  Cable or DSL (E-mail daily)    T1 line (You are a Tauren in World of Warcraft)

Laptop memory          512 MB (Word processing)     1G (Internet surfing and e-mail)         2G+ (You know there is still an outdoors, yes?)

37. How to Shoot a Skyhook

(Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)

The 50-plus player can still run with a younger crowd at the park or fitness club, but it's best to avoid knocking around in the mosh pit under the basket. One trick the guys won't see coming? The skyhook. You don't have to be seven feet two: this is one of those rare times in life when someone says to you "Size doesn't matter" and means it.

Remember, the idea behind the skyhook is to always keep your body between the defensive player and the ball.

  • Step 1 Use both hands to tuck the ball under your chin.
  • Step 2 Step parallel to the basket with your left foot.
  • Step 3 Use your momentum from that step to launch yourself up into the air.
  • Step 4 As you rise into the air, turn to your left shoulder and extend the ball over your head with your right hand.
  • Step 5 As you release the ball, aim for the center of the closest part of the rim, arching your shot so it will drop behind the rim.

Think of it as an athletic version of the Hokey Pokey: you put your left foot out, you bring your right arm up, you toss the ball in the hoop, then you shake it all about.

What makes this shot effective is that most young players have never had to guard against it, so you'll catch your opponent flatfooted. As the ball drops through the net with a satisfying swish, you can then walk away singing: "That's what it's all about!"

38. You don't have to be an Internet wiz to have some favorite websites.

Consolidated reviews from scads of news outlets. In case your local film critic is a hack.

Find the cheapest gas near you.

An urban legend debunker to help you check the veracity of those "Chicken-boy found in cave!" e-mail forwards.

Does your plane seat have extra legroom and a power port, or just an overly chummy proximity to the john?

A citizen-written encyclopedia, replete with entries you'll never find in Britannica.

Run by folks with nothing better to do than scour the Internet for sales. Bless them.

39. Make Peace With Your Parents

If the population scientists are right and life expectancies continue to rise, we'll soon see an unprecedented demographic pileup, a strange passage of late adulthood in which everyone in their 60s still has living parents. Expect some awkwardness: millennia of evolution have failed to equip either generation for such an extended voyage. How, for example, should you define caregiving roles when you and Dad both need hip replacements? Or gracefully accept unsolicited motherly advice on your grandparenting skills? The bonus time you have with your parents will be much more pleasant if you remember the following:

Your parents won't change. The dynamics of the parent-offspring relationship are hard-wired during adolescence. Even if scientists keep your mother alive for 300 years, she will never stop commenting on your hair, or lack thereof. She may surprise you in other ways—she might learn how to download ring tones or eat cilantro or blog. But the big things, those are set. And that will never stop driving you crazy. A 65-year-old friend of mine likes to complain about her mother's inflexibility. Her mother is 100. "It's like she'll never change!" the woman marvels, as if it is not unreasonable to expect growth from someone born when the Great White Fleet sailed. The push and pull is as it should be. Unraveling the central riddle of existence—how did these two strange people create me?—is the job of a lifetime. The hopeless optimism that demands progress in a relationship with our parents is the same force that will cure cancer and colonize Mars. "They are what they are," we may tell ourselves. Then we pick at the lock, right up to the end. —David Dudley

40. How to Take a Fall

(Hulk Hogan)

Hold your breath.

41. Law of Pain Medicine

When the doc asks how bad it hurts on a scale of 1 to 10, say 8.

42. How to Stay Married

For pragmatists: Agree never to speak the word divorce, ever.

For poets: Pretend your relationship is a road trip. Your wedding was the Holland Tunnel. Your life is the New Jersey Turnpike. Death is Philadelphia. Pretend there are no exits, only rest stops.

43. Make Friends Offer to drive people to the airport.

44. Score a Day Off

Claim back pain. It's an easy injury to get medical documentation for, says Joe L., a workers' comp exec. "There's a 70 percent chance an MRI will show something wrong in your lower back, even if you feel fine."

45. Tell a Joke

(Art Linkletter)

Start by saying, "There's this marvelous joke I just heard Bill Cosby do." Bill Cosby didn't do it, of course—it's your joke. But you say it was Bill because if it doesn't get a laugh, now it's Bill's problem. Everyone just says, "I guess Bill Cosby isn't funny."

46. Smoking is bad. Still.

47. How to Be Afraid

Remember, fear is human. When smoke fills the cabin, you don't want the pilot to say "Passengers, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Sorry, FDR.

48. Divide Heirlooms Without a Will

  1. Take back what you bought. Ernie gets the earrings he gave Mom, etc.
  2. Claim small things room by room; draw straws to determine picking order.
  3. Use sealed bids for big-ticket items: write the highest cash price you'll pay.
  4. Make a detailed will today. Unless you hate your kids.

49. Have "The Driving Talk"

Be kind. Be specific ("Mom, I saw you received two traffic tickets this month"). Be motivated by concern for her safety. Be reassuring: she'll still get where she needs to go. Be willing to listen when your kids have the talk with you.

50. If someone says "Smell this," don't.

Thanks to Todd Albertson, Jean-Noel Bassior, Denis Boyles, Nicole Flores, Ron Geraci, Monica Hesse, and AARP The Magazine editors.

Related video: Editor Steven Slon hits the streets to ask "What does it mean to be a grownup?"