Last weekend I attended a birthday party for my friend Margaret, who just turned 50. When asked to give a speech, she simply said, "I'm glad to be getting older."

I've thought about her response and decided that the really good thing about aging is that you know stuff you didn't know when you were younger. Not that it does you much good. But still! Learning — growing!

Since the party I've been making a list of things I know NOW that I didn't know THEN, which I am passing along to you free of charge. Yes! I know! Very civic-minded of me! Here goes.

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS A PRE-SCHOOLER:

Your stomach walls won't stick together if you accidentally swallow your gum.

The real reason your mom wanted you to take a nap was so she could take one herself.

Eating candy before dinner doesn't really spoil your appetite.

Your dad was the tooth fairy.

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS IN GRADE SCHOOL:

Blue cheese salad dressing really does taste better than Thousand Island.

Boys threw snowballs at your head because they thought you were cute and not because they hated you. Dude. You should have enjoyed it while you had the chance.

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS IN JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL:

Seventh grade doesn't last forever.

Being fitted for a "training" bra at JC Penney isn't the most embarrassing thing that can happen to you.

Life still goes on even if no one gives you a second look at the "Hello Dance."

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL:

You were nowhere near as smart as you thought you were the night you graduated.

Your parents were flaming geniuses.

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE:

You probably won't change the world (although — this is a good thing! — you certainly can make a difference in the lives of the people who live with you).

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS FIRST MARRIED:

The little idiosyncrasies that bug you about each other now won't matter later; on the other hand, there's plenty of stuff coming down the pipe that'll drive you both crazy.

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS A YOUNG MOTHER:

It sooooo does not matter what pre-school your kid goes to.

The middle-aged ladies who told you that children grow up too fast were right.

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS IN MY 30s:

Everyone else barely had his/her head above water, too.

STUFF I DIDN'T KNOW WHEN I WAS IN MY 40s:

You have much less control over things than you thought you did. That's the bad news.

The good news is, you probably looked a lot better than you realized.

STUFF I DON'T KNOW NOW:

Oh please. Don't get me started. It could fill a book.

(Happy birthday, Margaret. May your 50s be truly fabulous.)


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