#36: How to age gracefully, or at least with fewer regrets.

Eric Manfred of The Snarky Senior gives us advice on aging.

Today, we talk about aging with Erica Manfred of The Snarky Senior.

Have a question? Drop me a line at defaultefriend@gmail.com, DM me on Twitter at @default_friend, or send me a question on CuriousCat.


I met the wonderful Erica Manfred in a Zoom for Substack mentees a few weeks ago.

I loved the concept of her newsletter, The Snarky Senior, in large part because the writing kicks ass, but also partially due to my own insecurity about aging.

I first asked her for advice on aging for myself (!!), and then received this question on CuriousCat:

I'm about to turn 29 and am terrified about soon being 30. I feel like it's the last year of my life and as soon as I turn 30 I will stop having any value to society.

She very generously answered, via what she would have told her younger self, had she had the chance.

Hello young Erica, it’s me, old Erica.  Here are some do’s and don’ts for a happy life as an Erica.  Or at least a more OK life considering how neurotic you are.

1.     STOP SMOKING. COLD TURKEY. THIS MINUTE.  If you keep smoking two packs a day for another ten years, you will get COPD in your sixties and lung cancer in your seventies.     Getting old is not a picnic, but it’s a hell of a lot easier if you’re not coughing and gasping for breath.  Just do it.

2.     BRUSH AND FLOSS RELIGIOUSLY.   It is no fun to become a toothless old hag.  You know you have terrible teeth, but you can save them if you stop smoking and start flossing.   By the time you are forty your teeth will start falling out unless you take care of them NOW.

3.     STOP DIETING.   You are merely chubby now, but ten more years of yo-yo dieting will put you over 200 pounds and on the way to a gastric bypass.   Eat whatever you want, but listen to your body and let it tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full.   Make this book your new bible: Overcoming Overeating by Carol Munter and Jane Hirschmann.   You will not get thin, but you will be less fat.   Accept yourself the way you are.

4.     DON’T GET MARRIED.  You have terrible taste in men.  You are attracted to losers who treat you like dirt.  Fat girls tend to be desperate when it comes to men, and you are no exception.   You will wind up marrying the wrong man. He will make your life miserable, in ways you can’t even imagine.  You will rationalize this terrible decision by writing a funny essay for Cosmopolitan entitled “In Defense of Desperation” but it will be a total crock.   It should have been called “In Defense of Self-Deception.” 

5.     KEEP SCREWING AROUND.  Girls today seem to think it’s OK to just hook up, but we didn’t back then.   You go enjoy sex, have a lot more of it.  But make the guy wear a condom because a very nasty disease called AIDS is coming and it might kill you if you don’t.  

6.     DON’T STAY WITH A GUY UNLESS YOU LIKE THE WAY HE SMELLS. That’s how you wound up marrying the loser.   You kept rationalizing that the sex would get better.  It never did.   And he punished you for that—big time.

7.     BUY THAT COTTAGE YOU RENTED IN THE HAMPTONS.  Don’t be an idiot.  It cost all of $11,000.  No excuses.  You may not have $11,000 but someone—probably your parents--will loan you the money.  You will become a millionaire from that investment. Getting old is way more fun when you have money.  And a place in the Hamptons.  

8.     DON’T LEAVE NEW YORK CITY.  So you love the Catskills and think you want a house there. Get over it.   Don’t give up that gorgeous rent-stabilized apartment in Washington Heights.  Once you leave New York you can’t go back.   You are a City girl and New York is your home.  If you leave you will regret it for the rest of your life.

9.     BE AMBITIOUS.  You are a terrific writer, even though you don’t know it yet.  OK, it’s hard for women.  Feminism hasn’t been invented yet.  But it will be.  When it is, don’t be intimidated by all those outspoken women in your consciousness-raising group.  They’ll be your friends if you let them.  And they’ll inspire you.

10.  DON’T WORRY ABOUT HAVING A BABY.    You don’t like babies, you like older kids. Foster a couple of them.  Saving lives is so much better than adding to the excess population.   

11.  TREASURE YOUR GIRLFRIENDS.   To hell with marriage.  Nurture your friendships, especially with fellow writers.   You’re much better at friendship than love.