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Articles for Baby Boomers

Things We Should Probably Never

Do Again After 50

By Jacquelyn Mitchard

There is just about nothing I could do when I was 16 that I cannot do now except hang-up calls and the splits. I can't explain to my children the sheer innocent malice of hang-up calls, a simple pleasure robbed from them by caller ID.

But I digress.

There are things I did at 16 so excruciating in retrospect that simply thinking about them in that shadow hour before dawn causes me to make the sound you make when you hit your tailbone really hard more than a moan, less than a shriek.

Some of my friends still can do splits. One even played a starring role in a French farce (requiring splits and a harem costume) that she first acted in 25 years ago. When I cried, "Brava!" I was cheering for her just-plain moxie. But, also, I was cheering for my just-plain joy that it was she rather than I up there in the I Dream of Jeannie outfit, sliding slowly into that really precarious position, as we all held our collective breath.

Last summer, when my brother did the limbo, I had similar agita. Now, my brother is a hockey ref. He's fit, flexible and only recently 50. In this case, his feat was perhaps technically more egregious since it was not tropical-resort limbo, but graduation-barbecue-suburban-lawn limbo; the question "How low can you go?" was as much philosophical as physical. How low he could go, in other words, had as much to do with the comfort of his teenage children (who, with their friends, made like Secretariat for the nearest break in the hedge) as it had to do with my brother.

By the way, he indeed did get very low, with very little pain in part because he was so far past feeling any.

That's the thing about throwing a kegger after the age of 50. A person might feel limber enough to limbo. Everything might be uproarious fun, in the moment. The risk is hindsight: You might look back at some lasting damage, up to and including moderate disability. When you're 16, or 22, or 25, or even 31 and 3 months well, tides of youth, and fortunes of war. However, at 50, as George Orwell said, everyone has the face he deserves. Now, at 50, we might not all have the face or the fate we deserve. (I sure don't.) Still, we must all do what we can to avoid doing what we must not.


With fate and that rearview mirror in mind, here are a few things beyond the limbo I'm quite probably beyond doing. So, join me in just saying no to:

Jell-O shots.
Karaoke after midnight.
Karaoke after Jell-O shots.
Trying to break a plank with your head.
Mud wrestling (intentional).
Crowd surfing to the mosh pit.
Joining the Moose. Joining the circus. Joining the ashram.
Drinking champagne from your son's girlfriend's shoe.
Drinking champagne from your daughter's boyfriend's shoe.
Drinking champagne from your own shoe.
Xtreme bingo cruises.
Collecting owls made of shells, frogs made of ceramic or lawn gnomes made of anything really, really anything.
Playing basketball in high heels.
Throwing a wet T-shirt contest. Throwing a wet nightshirt contest.
Getting publicly and verbally excited about the number of stamps in your passport, zeroes in your paycheck, capital letters before or after your name (unless they're H.R.H.), number of names on your phone-favorites list, number of people you could have married, the size of your acreage or the size of your anything else.
Explaining your personal role in the fact that your kids "never really got into any of that stuff "
Explaining your personal role in the fact that your kids got into an Ivy League college.
Explaining your personal role in starting the rumor that Paul was dead.
Single-spacing your Christmas letter.
The Dougie.
Giving up ever.

About the Author


Jacquelyn Mitchard, the best-selling author of 20 books, lives near Madison, Wis., with her family. Her next novel, Second Nature: A Love Story, was published in September, 2011 by Random House.

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