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August 13, 2009

This Wonderful Life: When in doubt, turn to Oprah

When you turn 50, you get an invitation to join AARP.

When you turn 40, you get a note that says, ``Just shut up now, and do what Oprah tells you.’’

Unlike the AARP invite, this note isn’t a literal piece of mail. It’s more of a pervasive cultural message broadcast from every magazine cover, cosmetics ad and Hollywood plot. Being 40 puts you in a new category — namely, the category of no longer being able to trust your own instincts, particularly where fashion and beauty are concerned.

Your unreliable nature may extend to other things, as well. Your impaired judgment regarding your children’s clothing, music and general habits is so obvious as to hardly bear mentioning. Your children will mention it, however. Often.

Your ineptness may extend even farther, well into territory you thought was safe. For instance, what you thought you knew about success, priorities, wealth, health and even your own inner life is quite possibly completely wrong. It’s okay. Oprah understands.

Oprah has never been there herself, because she is smarter than you (and me, and all of us). But she and the rest of Team Oprah are more than happy to pitch in to help set you straight.

It isn’t just Oprah, of course; it’s nearly a national pastime.

We’re pretty attractive targets, when you stop to think about it.

By age 40, or thereabouts, we’ve grown wise enough to accept that we still have a lot to learn. We may not be suggestible, like we were at 15, but we’re open to suggestion. And maybe you start thinking in a different way about life’s Big Questions.

Why are we here?

What have I contributed to the world?

Am I too old to wear leggings? I call it the Grand Legging Question. And I will admit that I spend more time than I’d like pondering it.

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