A young reader of mine shares a birthday month with me. She turned 22 when I turned 53. So, for her and for every other younger woman, I want to say that I’ve learned some valuable things about life, love, and being female over the past half-century. I hope that by passing them on to you, I’ll save you some precious time:
1) You are at least ten times prettier than you think you are. That holds true no matter how pretty you already think you are! Don’t believe me? Ask your mother/auntie/grannie if she thought she was pretty when she was twenty. She’ll say, "no." Then find a photo of her at that age. See what I mean?
2) The only thing you should be faking is confidence. If you don’t have it yet, pretend you do. In every new situation, pretend you’re not nervous, pretend you’re not afraid. After a few times doing this, the pretend part disappears.
3) Want to try something new, like painting, skiing, running your own business? Go to the library and borrow ten different books on the subject. Skim through them all, find the ones that have the most vital information and study them. Then see number 2.
4) No matter how old you get, remember what it was like to be a nine-year old girl. Remember the feeling of freedom. If you’ve already forgotten, do a cartwheel. You can so still do one. Savor that feeling. Wake up with it every day. You’ll stay young until the day you die.
5) In the same vein, cut or potted flowers are never a waste of money. Because every time we glance at them, they remind us how much beauty there can be in the world.
6) Speaking of money, starting right this moment, whether you’re twenty or sixty, you can change your finances around. Don’t leave someone else completely in charge, whether it’s your husband, partner, parents or banker. Become financially savvy. Financial independence gives you the freedom to walk away from many bad situations. How do you know you’re in bad situation? See number seven.
7) If your stomach hurts and you haven’t got a virus, you’re in a bad situation. Before you know what it is, your stomach always does. Give yourself some time to ponder what it might be that’s making your stomach hurt. Chances are you already know, you just don’t want to believe it, for some reason. You can ignore advice from your friends, even your own brain, but you can’t ignore your stomach, because the stomach never lies. Oh, and by the way? Drowning your stomach in alcohol won’t make it stop telling you the truth, either.
8) When meeting someone new and he or she seems to be behaving like an assh*le, show compassion first. If after you display your sincere compassion, they are still acting like an assh*le, walk away. If they follow you, call the police.
9) Wear sunscreen on your face, neck and hands every day, winter and summer. I don’t care how dark your skin naturally is. Wear it. You’ll remember me when you look in the mirror at age fifty. Always keep in mind that your Body is directly connected to your Spirit. Look after your body. Exercise, brush and floss your teeth. Put nothing in your body that can permanently harm your spirit, including the wrong man.
10) And if you are in bed with a man and he’s the right man- meaning your stomach doesn’t hurt, he’s smiling at you, he knows your name, he’s not drunk and neither are you- for goddsakes- enjoy yourself. He is not at all thinking about how fat your thighs look.
Patricia Volonakis Davis is the author of Harlot’s Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss and Greece