Midlife etiquette rules from Gen-X women

The Midlife Woman’s Version of New York Magazine’s Etiquette Rules

Call it etiquette or basic advice or the wisdom that comes with living—ultimately, you do you.

Once upon a time back in the mid aughts, when technology was really starting to take over our lives, I pitched an idea to write a modern manners column for Real Simple (an old magazine with ink, as well as my workplace) but it never took hold. “No one cares about technology,” I was told. Ahem.

Back then, life moved at the speed of a Palm Pilot; now, it moves so much faster as the interwebs are ever more interwoven in our everyday lives. Social mores have shifted, too. After reading New York Magazine’s now-viral article on etiquette—and the counterpoint, and Buzzfeed’s tech version (which was so illuminating)—we decided we too would weigh in with our multi-decade experience of life online and off. 

We asked ourselves, we asked our friends in midlife media (yup, it’s a thing), and we asked TueNighter regulars about the etiquette they’d recommend to our comrades in (aging) arms. Some of it is etiquette; some is just good advice.

Think of this as a jumping off point and add your own etiquette ideas in the comments below. Are they hard and fast rules? Well, no. We’ve lived this long, we can basically do and say what we want, right?

Dating, Love & Sex

1. Dating again? Use protection. Sure, you had that hysterectomy, but girl, STDs still exist.

2. You can ask him on a date. Really. 

3. Don’t talk to your high school flame on Facebook. It’s just not worth it. 

4. Listen during couples therapy and take comfort in the fact that the therapist totally agrees with you.

5. Lube, lube, lube. Lube is your best friend. There is no such thing as too much lube.

— Cindy Gallop, Founder & CEO, MakeLoveNotPorn 

6. Don’t fret if he can’t perform. Let him make it up to you in other ways. 

— Tracy Lynn Lloyd, imtraceylloyd.com

Work & Money

7. If you see something, say something. If someone refers to your 54-year-old CEO friend as “sweetheart,”  call them out on it. Publicly.

8. Don’t call me a “legend” in a job interview and then not give me the courtesy of a second interview.

— Sari Botton, Oldster

9. Bring back the 80’s and take Nancy’s advice: Just Say No. Refuse to do the invisible work you’re not getting credit for anyway.

— Jackie Ghedine, Modern Gen X Woman

10. Ladies, make room for each other at the table. No one is stealing your chair.

— Jackie Ghedine

Health & Menopause

11. Menopause? Talk about it. Loudly.

13. Go ahead and pluck that chin hair. It won’t create a beard. (You know you can’t resist. Enjoy the pluck.)

14. Don’t wake up anyone over 40 if they’re napping, unless you’re about to miss a flight or Ed McMahon is at your door with a check.

15. In this, the year of our Beyoncé 2023, we are not comparing ourselves to 20-something bodies with “I wish I could —.” No, you don’t. Your body took you here. Be nice to it and give it a snack and a stretch and whatever clothes feel good.

— Corbette Pasko, @Corrbette on IG and TT

16. Don’t sweat the hot flash in public. And a hot tip: Athletic wear tops are a fantastic option if you’re experiencing hot flashes; they are designed to wick away sweat. You can still be a hottie even with hot flashes.

— Kendra Scott, YoFlyAunty

17. Everything in your midlife body that feels “off” is probably perimenopause. Even the itchy things. Unless you have crabs. Then it’s definitely crabs. 

— Ellie Dvorkin Dunn and Julia Granacki, Circling the Drain Podcast

18. Make self-care whatever you want it to be. Sometimes that means plopping onto the sofa with a big blanket, a pint of Häagen-Dazs, and a “MILF Manor” marathon. 

— Tracy Lynn Lloyd


19. Paraphrasing Buzzfeed: If you’re using speakerphone, always let your conversation partner  know who else is in the room with you.

20. Counterpointing Buzzfeed: We say go ahead and use a GIF as a text reply. So those people under 30 roll their eyes. WHO CARES. (Obviously, we take this one personally).

21. There’s now an edit function for text messages you’ve already sent on an iPhone. Use it.

22. When sending an email, always start with something positive before you drop any bad news.. 

23. Voicemail is dead. Don’t even think about leaving one.

24. Don’t ask how a friend or relative is doing in the comment section of their posts. It’s awkward. (Someone posts a vacation pic and under it I see, “This is beautiful where is this your uncle and I miss you and we cleaned off the golf cart today, Aunt Pat.”)

Corbette Pasko

25. When you take a selfie with a friend let her approve the pic before you post it, even if you look absolutely fabulous! 

Kathy Cano-Murillo, Crafty Chica

26. Learn the tech. Just find a YouTube video with instructions. There’s an 8-year-old in Australia who knows how to do it. Stop saying you’re incompetent.

— Corbette Pasko

Social Events & Travel

27. Thank you notes still matter. And it’s okay to type that note if your handwriting is atrocious, like ours is.

28. When your friend cancels brunch at the last minute, reply with “ah, you’re the best”, because you know you didn’t want to go out either.  

Jennifer Reitman, DAME Magazine

29. Resist the urge to make your [insert aching body part here] issues a party conversation starter.

Kathy Cano-Murillo

30. Do the thing. Travel to new places, go back to college, live in another country, pivot your career. It’s never too late. You’ll only regret what you didn’t try. 

— Aubrey Hubbell, Co-founder, Hazel

Age Stuff

31. Don’t generation-bash. You were once 20, too. And one day, they will be 50— and will probably be that nurse taking care of you, so….

32. Learn to respect the pronouns. Sure, it’s new for us, but Gen-X, we’re nothing if not adaptable. Respect how someone identifies and they’ll respect you.

33. You can be corny. You get to be corny. You’ve earned it.

34. Don’t give ageist birthday cards unless you want to be an offensive a-hole. It’s not happening yet, but there will be a day when that crude card will elicit an eyebrow raise and a sheesh. 

— Mimi Ison, HeyMiddleAge

35. I know you hate it when some kid calls you “bro”, but you’ll never win that argument, so just accept it.

— DJ Crystal Clear, @DJCrystalClear

36. Never be afraid to tell people your age.

— Stacy London, @StacyLondon

37. Don’t say “you look good for your age.” It sounds like a compliment but adding the qualifier “for your age,” really means that you don’t look bad for an old person. Just say “you look great.” 

— Mimi Ison

Family & Friendship

38. Wait two to three years after kiddos fly the nest before converting their rooms, because sometimes they do come back… and more than once.

39. Show up when your friend is going through a loss, illness or divorce. Whether that means a simple phone call, sending them a meal, or coming over to take out their trash. 

40. There is no such thing as TMI. Talk to your friends about ALL of your bodily weirdness. Chances are if you’re going through it, they are, too. 

— Ellie Dvorkin Dunn and Julia Granacki

41. Call your friends and sing to them on their birthdays! They truly appreciate the effort, and it’s cheaper than buying them dinner!

DJ Crystal Clear

42. Normalize talking about our beefs to the people we actually have them with, instead of triangulating by bitching to other people instead.

— Sari Botton

Beauty & Fashion

43. Wear what you want to wear. Period. Same goes for hair. But please wear something nice on Zoom calls.

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