I worked as a physical therapist for about 15 years, which means I’ve met my share of senior citizens. Injuries don’t discriminate, so I’ve had the pleasure of meeting older folks of all types: healthy, struggling, happy, grumpy, rich, poor, motivated, reluctant, married, widowed, divorced. They brought with them years and years of life experiences.
As I worked out shoulder kinks and educated older people on the proper way to exercise their core muscles, we often talked about those life experiences. And as a younger person, they just loved to give me advice on everything from my finances to my love life.
You must travel! Travel now because someday you’ll have a bunch of kids, and it’ll be too late.
Don’t have kids! They’ll suck the life out of you.
But have kids! They will be the best thing you ever did.
Make sure you start saving money right now, or you’ll never ever retire.
But don’t take life too seriously! You’re only young once. Go out and spend that money.
You probably should exercise so that you don’t end up with a screwed-up back like mine.
Life will throw some curveballs at you. Try to hang in there and throw ’em back.
Along with giving advice, the older people I hung out with also really loved to talk about their relationships. All of their relationships. For better or for worse. I was newly married when I first started working, so whenever I met a couple who had been together for a really long time (and seemed to still like each other), I would ask them their secrets to a successful marriage. The most common response came from the men and usually went something like this, “Marry a guy who’s handsome and funny!” And then the wives would dislocate their eyeballs because they rolled them so hard, proving people are actually more alike than we think, and boys don’t change.
Other responses included:
Marry someone totally different from you. Then you won’t get sick of them.
If you go to bed angry, give ’em a kiss anyway.
Physical touch is the most important thing.
Emotional support is the most important thing.
Making each other laugh is THE MOST important thing.
But the advice that really stuck with me over the years came from an older couple who, when I met them, seemed to be #RelationshipGoals personified. I remember that the older gentleman was a super-snazzy dresser. (Oh god, if I say snazzy, do I have to sign up for AARP?) He had on a bowtie and suspenders and he was making that extra effort to be attentive to his wife. She did her part by laughing genuinely at all the things he said. They looked each other in the eye and seemed to have about a million inside jokes.
As we stretched and exercised, I asked, “So how long have you two been together?”
Man: Oh, 30 years. We’re practically newlyweds.
*wink wink nudge nudge*
They both start giggling.
Oh lord, I thought.
Woman: Yes, this is the second marriage for both of us.
Man: Second time’s been the charm!
Me: So, what’s the secret to this marriage? You guys seem to like each other quite a bit for being together for 30 years.
Man: Well, in my first marriage, I thought I had to be “the man.” I thought that I had to make all of the decisions for our life, and I just took over everything, and well, that didn’t work out in the long run. This time, we decided that she’s the boss. And I like it. We both like it.
There was a long pause while they looked at each other and smiled like this adorable but sort of unrealistic commercial.
I found myself thinking about this conversation recently after reading about the sexist advice given by Phyllis Schlafly’s niece Suzanne Venker on Fox & Friends. She said that women ought to be “more compliant and less dictatorial” in their marriages and that it was men’s “natural state” to be the “alpha” and for women to be the “beta.”
Let’s just pause for a moment while we all collectively catch our breaths from laughing our asses off.
Good luck with that, Suzanne Venker. I’d rather take the advice of this kick-ass old couple I met 10 years ago who were doing marriage right. In fact, their advice and “Don’t ever go to the paint aisle in Home Depot together” make up the majority of my entire relationship philosophy. And my husband and I are doing great.
Also, I make sure to remind him of this lovely couple’s conversation whenever we disagree on something. Because screw freaking Suzanne.