Some thoughts on being young (from an old fart).

Dear friends,

My cousin Kate wrote a blog post recently wherein she discussed one of the essential markers of adulthood, namely the need to self-manage.

Don’t let my dry description of her essay dissuade you from reading. Kate is beautiful, funny, and smart (a powerful combination!) and her reflection is entertaining and worth your time.

But it got me thinking — as you’ll see if you also read my comment following her post — that she might be worrying for nothing. Kate writes:

And while bills are the true mark of growing up, realizing that you have to self-govern from here on out is slightly intimidating. It’s not by any means a bad thing, but it’s not exactly something I’ve had to do before. I’m not entirely sure what it entails . . . Doing my dishes consistently and not waiting till every pair of underwear I own is in the dirty clothes to do laundry seems like the way to move in the right direction.

I’ve recently decided that squandering your 20s isn’t such a bad thing. Ask Mr. Mom, who knows me better than anyone. I’ve been a very serious person for a very long time. Kicking up my heels, even in my youth, never seemed advisable. I’ve never pulled an all-nighter (for any reason, noble or otherwise), I’ve never gotten sloppy drunk (tipsy is my limit), and I’ve never thrown caution to the wind about anything more monumental than costume jewelry. Joan is so light-hearted and spontaneous, said no one ever.

In fact, in my 20s, I had a bad rap as a wet blanket. I wasn’t trying to be, but I was focused on my goals, namely to earn my degree, get a good job, and make something of myself. I did earn my degree (two, actually) and I landed a series of good jobs, including the one I’m in now. Whether or not I made “something” of myself is a judgement for others. Along the way, I paid a lot of bills, washed a lot of dishes and underwear, acted responsibly in every way I knew how, and in some ways mastered the art of self-governance. Now, at age 49, I’m just not sure self-governance is all it’s cracked up to be. At least not in your 20s, for Pete’s sake.

So that’s why I advised my cousin Kate (and, frankly, would give my daughter Kate the same advice if asked) to live it up.

Be young! Be single! Be carefree! (I started to make a parenthetical joke here warning CupKate not to be flunk-out-of-college carefree, but the truth is she’s so much like her mother in the self-management department that the joke fell flat.)

I know what you’re thinking. I sound ripe for a midlife crisis. I really don’t think that is what’s going on here. I already upended my life once — last year — and when given the chance I didn’t set my compass to throw-it-all-away-for-a-life-fling. Instead, I went for balance and equanimity.

However, anyone out there reading this can take it from a very serious, very responsible, very self-managed woman that the world probably needs a whole lot more fun and a whole lot less temperance. Which is why I’m going to eat two chili dogs for dinner, drop my clothes on my closet floor when I change from office attire to yoga pants, and bliss out for the whole evening in front of the television. Consider it my mini-revolution (hey . . . baby steps).

Viva unsanctioned frivolity!

With gratitude {for a cousin who reminded me it’s possible to simultaneously stay young and get old},

Joan, who once worked for a very conservative employer where a boss thought the workers were celebrating way too much and therefore distributed a memorandum banning “unsanctioned frivolity,” a phrase she now aspires to have included in her obituary, preceded by the words “frequently encouraged”


  1. Don Hill says:

    I’ll believe you’ve arrived, when you leave your cloths in the middle of the bedroom floor. D&H

  2. And there we have it ! Another oxymoron (sanctioned frivolity) located and safely re-established back in its pen where it was frankly grateful to be back in custody and cared for rather than risking it all out in the wilds.

    Past that I’ll call one small point of order – if you are going to get all the way into your 50’s before you have a crisis then calling it “mid-life” is going to set you a long old row to hoe, gal. If it is fun you are after having? There’s nothing approaching a crisis in any such effort (just remember to stretch first and stay hydrated!).

  3. OK OK just one other thing….

    Joan Marie, I will make the case you are constitutionally incapable of being an old fart. You simply weren’t born with the correct equipment. You can be an old fart’s wife, you can be a crone (though that doesn’t carry the same feeling) . You can call yourself a biddy, an old bag or a hag. I’ll even allow geezerette.

    Why would I even care? Because I am in RAS territory (rapidly approaching sixty) and I feel it is my work as trailblazer to share my “been there” wisdom with you, that’s why. You’re welcome, dear. And please leave your teacup in the sink and straighten that antimacassar before you leave.

  4. Maridel says:

    Is the direct correlative of unsanctioned frivolity open-toed shoes? I am in RAS territory too, so I’ll just piggyback on texasdeb and agree that you should “remember to stretch first and stay hydrated.”

  5. Oh dear sweet cousin you are much too kind!! After reading your comment on my post yesterday, I left the remains of mac and cheese in a pan on my stove! It’s still there….. and there it will remain until tonight when I get home from work!! Thanks for reminding me it’s ok to be in my 20s!!

  6. “Frequently encouraged unsanctioned frivolity” sounds AWESOME. I’m a lot like you in that I’m very practical and focused. I think “Sizzle is so light-hearted and spontaneous, said no one ever.” is totally true about me too. But I have been drunk, tried pot, and dated a lot (of the wrong!) men so I guess I’ve cut loose once or twice?

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