There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to give up certain things. Like borrowing his dad’s car as his main mode of transportation. Or thinking of shorts as “business casual.” Or trying adventurous haircuts. Above all, there are certain words and phrases that you just shouldn’t be using any more. Under any circumstances.
Yes, yes, we know, we’re not the boss of you. Nobody can tell you what to do. But there’s a big difference between having a unique and colorful personality in your 40s and saying things that shouldn’t be coming out of the word-hole of an emotionally mature adult male. We wouldn’t dream of telling you what political beliefs you should have, or the only appropriate religious convictions, or even what kind of music you should listen to. We just think that a man who’s been on the planet for at least four decades shouldn’t be saying things like, “That is so sus.” (If you had to Google what “sus” means, then you’ve just proved our point.)
To create the definitive list of words and phrases that a man in his 40s should exorcise from his vocabulary with extreme prejudice, we enlisted the help of Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette coach from New Jersey, and Richie Frieman, a manners expert and author of REPLY ALL…and Other Ways to Tank Your Career. And for more on language you may not want to say, check out the 100 Slang Terms from the 20th Century No One Uses Anymore.
Frieman has a special rule for deciding whether to use a word like “amazeballs” in his adult conversations. “If the kid’s in a pre-teen drama on the Disney Channel would or have said it, I do not.” And for more fun trivia, check out the 40 Facts So Funny They’re Hard to Believe.
“Does this shirt go with these pants?”
If you’ve made it this far in life and you’re still not sure how different colors go (or don’t go) together, it’s a miracle you ever leave the house in anything but a tracksuit. It was a cry for help in your 20s, but in your 40s it’s the equivalent of asking, “Should I get a Justin Bieber tattoo?” You should be able to figure that one out on your own.
But fine, if you’re still confused, Frieman has a suggestion. “If you’re having trouble matching, stick to basic colors, with no stripes and or designs,” he says. “The Amish nailed that theory.” And if you’re looking to get your Benjamin Button on, steal these 100 Anti-Aging Secrets for Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever.
“How much should we tip?”
“A man over 40 shouldn’t have to ask what to tip,” Pachter says. “He should know.” Nobody really believes that you’re confused about the right amount for a gratuity. What they’re hearing is, “I don’t want to pay 20%, but I’m worried I’ll look like a jerk.”
“Don’t throw me under the bus.”
Frieman says this phrase still permeates offices across the country “like the foul odor of burnt popcorn in the microwave.” If you’re unfamiliar with it, good for you. It has something to do with being sabotaged or professionally ruined.
“It also implies you can’t recover, as you wouldn’t be able to if an actual bus ran over you,” says Frieman. Using it in any context doesn’t demonstrate linguistic originality. It just demonstrates that you watch a lot of reality TV. Instead, burnish your lexicon by memorizing the 30 Latin Phrases So Genius You’ll Sound Like a Master Orator.
You’re no longer in college, buddy.
“Does that make sense?”
“What you’re really telling a person is ‘You’re a complete moron if you don’t get it by now’,” says Frieman. Stop being condescending. If you’re worried that you’re not being understood, maybe you focus on getting better at communicating. And for more language tips, check out the 40 Words People Over 40 Wouldn’t Understand.
“I’m a feminist.”
As our columnist noted, “real male feminists don’t need to constantly tell people they’re feminists. It’s just obvious because they, you know, respect women and stuff.” But when you’re in your in your 40s, it’s doubly lame, because underneath the comment is also a desire to be hip or relevant. Don’t do it!
We’re no fans of grammar purists, but even they have a point about this one. When most people punctuate a sentence with “literally,” they don’t literally mean “literally.” They mean “figuratively.” Or they do mean “literally,” but they’re confused by what “literally” means?
It’s a crutch word, enjoyed by linguistic amateurs who’ve just discovered a fun new toy. Saying “literally” demonstrates that you’re relatively new to the arena of expressing your thoughts and opinions out loud. A man in his 40s should be confident enough with language not to be tempted by “literally.” And for more ways of aging gracefully, here are 40 Things to Let Go of In Your 40s.
The ugly stepbrother to amazeballs, says Frieman. “Is it that much of a struggle to finish the term adorable?” he asks. “It’s really not that difficult. You won’t get winded by doing it either. I have faith in my fellow 40 year-olds.”
“I don’t have time for a vacation.”
Sounds like a great game plan. It’s not like working too hard leads to cancer, or could be a risk for cardiovascular disease, or even mental problems. Just stay in the office all week, and don’t even think about giving yourself a break. I’m sure it’ll work out fine! “Are you trying to make yourself look important?” Pachter asks. “Grownups know how to work hard, and then take time for themselves.” Also, grownups make it to old age. And for more on things you shouldn’t say, here are the 40 Words That Will Instantly Reveal Your True Age.
“Is nice!” (in a Borat voice.)
“Sasha Baron Cohen could very well be one of the greatest comedic minds of this century,” says Frieman, “but you are not. Your attempt to imitate him will only sound like you’re poking fun at every person with an accent that isn’t from England.” As a general rule, trying to recreate comedic performances—whether it’s a Seinfeld bit or your favorite Monty Python routine—is best left to people too young to know better. With age comes wisdom, and the realization that nobody will ever, ever say to you, “Not only had I never heard that Chris Rock joke, you did it so much better than he ever could.”
If that sentence ever comes out of your mouth, all we have to say is, “You are just adorbs.” No, seriously, just stop it. It’s not the sentiment we have a problem with, it’s the word. “Bossy is all you have?” Frieman asks. If you’re going to accuse someone of being overbearing, there are so many word choices that don’t make you sound like a preteen.
“Say it like you mean it,” Frieman suggests. “‘You’re a complete jerk!’ Now, I’m taking my ball and going home.” Though if you find yourself kicking back with someone who is literally bossy—this can only mean your boss—learn how to have a drink with the boss without losing your job.
“Don’t leave me hanging!”
If you’re waiting for a high-five to be reciprocated but the other guy’s hand hasn’t budged, that’s when you pretend you were doing something else—combing your own hair, reaching for a ceiling fan, anything at all. What you don’t do is keep your hand dangling up in the air, and implore the other person to complete the weird male ritual that you should’ve given up back when you stopped using a backpack for a briefcase.
“Let’s do some shots!”
You know what doesn’t look good on a 40-year old? Jaegerbombs. Frieman claims that when a man in his fourth decade suggests doing shots, what he’s really saying is, “I wish I was still in college.” That doesn’t sound like you, does it? Do you wish you were back in college? Of course not. Sure, the lack of real responsibility was fun, but if you recall, it also involved Jaegerbombs, which were never as much fun going out as they were coming in.
The word “supposably” is to the English language what crocs are to footwear. They’re not actually shoes, but eh, whatever, they’re close enough.
Again, no such word exists. Are you really 40?
“Limited access to email.”
“Even in 1996, when AOL was handing out CDs with 1,000 free hours in the mail, no one had limited access to email,” says Frieman. “In a day and age where 90% of businesses rely on email, and it’s on the very device you hold dear, every single person has access to email.”
If you tell somebody you can’t get back to them because of “limited access to email,” they know you’re lying. And you should be smart enough by now to know that your lie hasn’t worked since the mid-90s.
It’s kind of like saying “Not to punch you in the face” before you punch somebody in the face. Saying “no offense” is not a magic spell that stops the offensive thing you’re about to say from being offensive. “When you say, ‘no offense,’ you’re not asking for their leniency,” says Frieman. “You’re telling them you’re about to rip into them.”
If you’re over 40 and you just used the word “sweet” as an exclamation after hearing some amazingly good news, we don’t need to tell you that you’ve just done wrong. All you have to do is look around the room and gauge everyone’s reaction.
We’re not exactly sure why somebody would substitute“preggers” for the more conventional, accurate term. “It’s okay to say pregnant,” Pachter insists. Maybe “preggers” sounds less daunting and life-altering, and doesn’t immediately remind you that you and your partner will soon be responsible for a small, helpless human being? Because nothing says “I am ready for fatherhood” like using a word that makes pregnancy sound like a hypoallergenic dog breed.
“Yello-o” (as a phone greeting)
“And buh-bye,” says Frieman.
“I’m gonna sit this one out.”
In your 20s and 30s, skipping on the chance to do something fun is no big deal, because odds are you’ll be right back in the game tomorrow. But in your 40s, declining invitations to go out with the boys, or go to a show, or join in a pickup game, or take a crazy road trip for no reason is the first step towards giving up completely. Of course it’s easier to stay home and veg out in front of the TV, but that’s how your muscles start to atrophy. Don’t give your body permission to be an old man.
Back when you were younger, calling the Internet “the Interwebs” was funny, because you were pretending to be some dense old dude who couldn’t understand modern technology. “Can I get that information on the Interwebs?” Ha ha! That’s totally not you! Well guess what, you’re in your 40s now, and it’s only a matter of time before some new technology comes along that you don’t quite get. It’s time to stop making fun of people who might be you in a few years.
“I need to use the little boys’ room.”
“There are things you do to hang onto your youth, and then there are things you do to make it look like you’ve never grown up,” says Frieman. You know what sentence has never been said by anyone ever? “Oh, that Tom is so cute when he says he has to go to the little boys’ room, isn’t he?” Even if your prostate is flaring up, you don’t have the right to say this.
The only people allowed to use the word “ma’am” are old Southern gentlemen in white suits, anyone enlisted in the military (because all soldiers are just intrinsically polite), and guys in their teens or early 20s. Everybody else should know better.
Calling somebody “ma’am” is making a rude assumption about her age and/or marital status. A woman likes being called “ma’am” as much as you enjoy being called “Gramps.”
“Blow it up!”
The exploding fist bump, accompanied by sound effects and wiggling fingers (to simulate fireballs and shrapnel), is especially egregious behavior among older men. “If handshakes were bands, then the exploding fist bump would be a mixture of Ace of Base and that Gangnam Style guy,” says Frieman.
“In a world where bro handshakes can be a solid way of bonding with someone on a more down to earth level, the exploding fist bump simply says, ‘I’m trying to be cool, but unless you’re a toddler, I’m a complete goober.’”
“Is it that time of the month?”
“The answer to this question is none of your business,” Pachter says. “The question should not be asked.” Also, and we mean this in the most supportive, non-judgmental way possible, we’re shocked you’re still getting laid in your 40s. You know that every thought that pops into your brain isn’t something you need to say out loud, right?
You should never try to pick up high-school lingo when you’re 22 years removed from high school.
“[Pop star half your age] is so hot.”
It could be Lorde, or Miley Cyrus, or Ariana Grande. The point is, she’s young enough to be your daughter. “40-year-olds say this because they still believe that the 20-something in them would actually have a chance to sleep with said pop star,” says Frieman.
“That’s phat with a p!”
There are many reasons you shouldn’t be saying “phat.” For one thing, it’s just a way of loudly announcing, “I bought my first hip-hop record on cassette!”
Unless you’re employed by a federal agency like the FBI or the CIA, there’s no reason for a man in the prime of his life to use an acronym. OMG? As Pachter says, “Grown men express their enthusiasm using words.”
Come on now, are you in such a hurry that you can’t manage to say both “what’s” and “up”? We’ll tell you s’up, you’re probably still living in your parents’ basement, that’s s’up.
“If I could rearrange the alphabet, I’d put ‘U’ and ‘I’ together”
Sorry, buddy, but you’re way too old for cheesy pick-up lines. But if you just can’t help it, consider one of these 50 Pick-Up Lines So Cheesy They Just Might Work.
“Have you gained weight?”
You may have been able to get away with this in your 20s, when asking somebody if they’ve put on a few pounds meant they’d probably skipped the gym a few days.
In your 40s, accusing somebody of being noticeably more rotund is like pointing out that their hair is thinning or their beard is getting grayer. “This is a phrase that every time it comes out of your mouth, the words hang in mid air, then turn to you, give you the middle finger, and then slap you in the face” says Frieman.
“I don’t give a rat’s behind.”
What does it even mean?
Frieman is happy to complete the sentence for you. “Sorry, but… I do not care about your feelings and I will upset you.” That’s what you meant, right?
“I am not a happy camper.”
We wouldn’t be a happy camper either if we were 40-something years old and still hanging out with prepubescents at a sleepaway camp. Oh wait, that’s not “literally” what you meant?
“A grown man should be able to express his anger in a more straightforward, assertive manner,” says Pachter. Like saying “I’m not happy.”
“I’ll cut a man.”
The joke isn’t working. “How is this even a thing?” Frieman asks. “Unless you’re doing 20 in maximum prison, no one finds this useful. It doesn’t add to a conversation or make a situation more lighthearted.”
“To be honest…”
We know you didn’t mean “I’m finally going to tell you the truth after years of telling you nothing but lies,” but to be honest, that’s what it sounds like whenever you begin a sentence this way.
“I’m not in the place to commit to someone right now.”
Listen, Casanova, nobody’s buying it. That’s like saying “I’m not ready at this point in my life to have a full-time job with health insurance,” or “I need a little more time before I’m ready to commit to living in an apartment without three guy roommates.”
What are we waiting for exactly? “You still think you have a chance at the 25 year old recent grad at your office?” Frieman asks. “You don’t, and not wanting to commit does not mean something better is around the corner. It means you’re nuts.” In other words, yes, you’re ready to commit, and here’s how you’re going to do it.
“Have you heard the new Cardi B?”
It’s totally fine to stay current with the hippest new artists and musicians. (Seriously: good for you!) But if you’re a man over 40 dropping references to songs with lyrics like, “I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks; I like going to the jeweler, I put rocks on my watch,” you’re going to have to trust us: You’ll come off as nothing less than cringeworthy.
“It’s way too late for me now.”
What’s too late? Switching careers? Starting a family? Traveling to India? For starters, it’s not true. But also this type of negative thinking has no place in your life. Make a list of the things you truly want to accomplish—or do—and set forth a plan for getting them done.
“Everything would be so much easier if I were in my 20s or 30s.”
Maybe they would be. But think about it: Was life actually easier when you were younger? Were you really coasting through your younger decades as if on air? No! You were living your life just as you are now—dealing with all of the challenges that face anyone navigating life on planet Earth. So ditch the Eeyore and focus on the things in your life that you have control over.
“Here comes the mid-life crisis”
Fact: That mid-life crisis isn’t necessarily an inevitability, so why bring it up? Saying this to anyone will only sow feelings of doubt and insecurity in your life. Cut it out, brother!
“Because I said so.”
If you’re a dad, remember that you’re a dad in 2018—not 1958. Our knowledge of good parenting has evolved, and you’re expected to be thoughtful and explain your actions these days.
“Not at my age.”
Steve Carell. Bryan Cranston. Simon Cowell. Bob Ross. Regis Philbin. Tommy Lee Jones. Do you know what they all have in common? They found success after 40. Guess what? You can, too.
“I’ll never get back into shape.”
Sure, your metabolism has been dinged and you can’t eat pizza and burgers every night. But as our roundup of 50 Amazing Over-40 Bodies shows, it’s never too late achieve the body of your dreams. For help, don’t miss the 40 Ways to Get a Great Beach Body after 40.
It’s 2018. Donald Trump is President of the United States, your phone recognizes your face, and we have self-driving electric cars. Literally nothing is impossible.
“Why Didn’t You Get an A?”
If you’ve never asked your middle-manager friend why they’re not a CEO yet, it seems a little silly to ask your son or daughter why they got a B instead of an A. While it’s fine to suggest that your child prepare better for future tests, asking them why they didn’t do perfectly is anything but motivational.
“I was drunk.”
You’re a long way from college, and you can never, ever, explain away any of your misguided actions—no matter how innocuous or offensive—by saying that you were tipsy. You’re a grown man, so it’s high time you acted like it.
“Haters gonna hate.”
The sentiment is a good one—some people are just critical with no real substance and should be ignored—but there is probably a better way of expressing this than by using a lyric from a Taylor Swift song.
Frieman recommends avoiding language that’s dripping with teen angst, an emotion you should have long overgrown by now. “And besides,” he adds, “we all know that you’re secretly singing ‘Shake It Off’ in your head in a high-pitched woman’s voice.”
The implication of “adulting” is that you’re engaged in an act of unprecedented maturity and responsibility. One cannot be an adult and also take part in adulting. That’d be like a lawyer who says, “I’ve been lawyering.” Unless what you’re really trying to say is, “I’ve been emotionally and intellectually stunted for decades, but I think it’s finally time to try acting like a grown up.”
“I’m having all the feels.”
When you’re experiencing strong emotions but you feel self-conscious and silly about it, this is the phrase used to distance yourself from genuine displays of vulnerability. If you’re 40 and still incapable of being comfortable with sadness or even, heaven forbid, the occasional tears, don’t make it worse by calling it “the feels.”
“Do you know who I am?”
We’ll save you some time. If you have to ask that question, no, they don’t know who you are. And besides, you should be confident enough with your accomplishments and status in the world that demanding recognition is completely unnecessary. If they don’t know you, that’s not your problem, is it?
“With all due respect…”
This one made the list of the “Top 10 Most Irritating Expressions in the English Language,” according to University of Oxford researchers. And we totally get why. Any sentence that begins with “all due respect” is almost certainly followed by something jaw-droppingly disrespectful. What you really mean to say is, “I’m about to insult you now but I don’t want you to think I’m a jerk.”
“Jump the shark”
It’s ironic that this pop culture reference—an allusion to a Happy Days episode where the Fonz tries to jump over a shark while wearing water skis—is meant to indicate that something has become old and irrelevant, and yet anyone using a phrase like “jump the shark” is also inadvertently announcing that they too are old and irrelevant. Don’t jump the shark by saying “Jump the shark.”
“You need help moving a couch and you’ll pay me in free pizza and soda? Sounds great!”
We’re all big boys now, and we can afford to hire movers for heavy lifting. At the very least, you shouldn’t be doing any manual labor for a friend if he’s only offering to pay you in food.
“Everything happens for a reason.”
Frieman calls it “hands down the most empty-hearted approach to being empathetic.” Because it doesn’t actually offer any solace or genuine sympathy. It’s just a lackluster way of notating that a friend is suffering. “So your wife left you and you got canned from your job? Well, that stinks but it must have happened for a reason.” Wow… thanks so much for caring.
“If you really loved me, you would…”
No, no, no, no. Are you seriously putting conditions on your relationships now? There is no way this sentence ends with anything but emotional blackmail. If somebody really loves you, then they really love you, end of story. There is no “but only if you remember to buy groceries this week” written in small print in some imaginary emotional contract.
“Sorry not sorry”
“It shows that you did think about being sorry but then decided you’re beneath having any moral compass and decided to hold the grudge instead,” says Frieman. This is a level of passive aggressiveness that’s unbecoming in a teenager, but it makes a 40-year-old look like the most petty human alive.
“Wanna trade Pokémon cards?”
You hardcore Pokémon fans will likely remind us that the age range listed on the packaging is “6+.” While it’s true that 40 is in the plus range, it’s a bit too far in the other direction from 6. Donate your Pokémon cards to your favorite nephew and join the rest of us in the adult world.
It’s very difficult to say this without sounding condescending. Unless you’re saying it to a child and you’re his parent, there’s absolutely no reason these two words should ever come out of your mouth. What it’s basically saying is, “I disagree with you but rather than have a respectful debate, I’m going to accuse you of having a temper tantrum so that you’ll be embarrassed and stop talking.” Be better than that.
“Boys will be boys.”
A classic phrase that Frieman says really means, “See, I’m allowed to be a raging jerk! It’s in my nature.” It’s actually not in your nature at all. It’s just an excuse to cover up flagrant immaturity rather than address the real problem, which is that you are probably being “a world class [jerk],” says Frieman.
“Check out my dad bod.”
In case you haven’t heard, that whole “Dad Bods are sexy” trend is officially over. Nobody is impressed that your body is shaped like a pear, or that your belly has an adorable jiggle to it. Drop the phrase “dad bod” immediately and head to your nearest gym.
“Oh my gosh, am I turning into my father?”
Here’s a spoiler alert for you You’re not “turning” into your father. At this point, you became your father a long, long time ago. Sorry you’re just realizing it now!
“I could jump that.”
Guys grow up with an obsessive need to show off to each other with physical feats of strength and agility. That might be fine when you’re younger, and making the leap over a guardrail or picnic table probably won’t result in a trip to the emergency room. These days, well, maybe you just go ahead and dial 911 now.
“This is music? Sounds like a bunch of racket to me.”
This is one of the worst old man stereotypes. It’s okay not to enjoy or even understand modern music when you reach 40. But it’s not okay to moan and growl about it, as if music stopped being interesting the moment it’s not reminding you of high school. Save the criticism and just get back to the tunes you love.
“I only wear shorts.”
We know people claim shorts are trendy now, but trust us on this, a 40-year-old man who walks into a job interview wearing shorts is probably not getting a call. And don’t even think about showing up for a date in a pair.
“Girl, why aren’t you smiling?”
Allow us to answer for her. She’s not smiling because she’s having a conversation with a condescending, misogynistic jerk.
It makes no sense why a grown-up adult would want to have a group of close friends who share the same aesthetics as the social cliques in high school. “Having mutual goals with your buddies is great,” says Frieman. “But by calling them your ‘squad,’ you just took a giant 25-year step back in time.”
“I’m just gonna pull a little money for the weekend from my 401k.”
Look, we don’t want to get into a whole “why you might want to hang on to your 401k” argument with you, but it’s not supposed to be treated like a piggy bank. Imagine a savings account, but one guarded by a ferocious Rottweiler with spikes on his collar, and you get the general idea of how much it should be avoided.
“I forgot to get her anything for our anniversary, so I’ll just pick up some flowers at a gas station on the way home.”
Best of luck with your upcoming divorce proceedings.
“Who wants to drive to Vegas? No, I mean right now. It’s only 15 hours.”
We love road trips as much as the next guy. But at 40, road trips are something that should be planned in advance and not proposed in the middle of the night after you and your guy friends have finished a six-pack and are looking for something crazy to do. There’s an easier way to get to Vegas. It’s called booking a flight and a hotel room and then taking a few days to pack your bags.
“Who’s my doctor? Whoever is working at the ER.”
That may have cut it in your 20s, but at 40 your medical check-ups should be happening more frequently and not just when you can’t make the bleeding stop. Also, there’s a thing called health insurance that you should really look into.
“You seem moody. Is it that time of the month?”
Never, ever, ever say this. Ever. No, seriously, ever. It’s offensive and demeaning and makes you look like a clueless moron who doesn’t understand the first thing about human anatomy.
“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”
This justification for drinking, regardless of the time of day, is always creepy but gets especially troublesome when said by a guy in his 40s. If you need a midday alcoholic beverage so much that you have to mention what time it is in Scotland, it might be time to admit that you have a drinking problem.
“If I don’t have enough to pay my bills this month, I can always ask my parents for a loan.”
It’s good to have a financial safety net in case of emergencies, but they shouldn’t be the people who raised you. Repeat after us: Your parents are not an ATM. You’re an adult with (hopefully) a job. You can figure out your financial problems without asking Mom and Dad to bail you out again.
“I’d like to have kids someday.”
Someday? We’re not sure if you’re aware of how human fertility works, but your biological clock is ticking and it’s getting close to midnight. Oh sure, there are guys who have kids late in life. Mick Jagger had his eighth child when he was 73. But he also has a 30-year-old girlfriend. And he’s Mick Jagger. Our point is, at 40 it’s time to stop saying “someday.” That day is now or it’s time to decide parenting isn’t in the cards for you.
Beginning a sentence with hashtag, as if what you’re about to say could be a trending topic on Twitter, is juvenile on a level that should be embarrassing to you. Or as Frieman says, “Hashtag, you’re not a seven-year-old who just got their PlayStation remotes taken away for not doing their homework.”
“Wait, hold on, before we eat, I want to take a photo of our food for Instagram.”
Unless you’re eating something really exotic, like fried tarantula or a live cobra heart, the rest of the world doesn’t need to see it. We’re sure your pastrami sandwich with a side of chips is fascinating to you, but believe us, nobody else cares.
“Well, I don’t really want to go out tonight, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
One of the best things about reaching middle age is that you’re finally free of the social obligation to go out every weekend. Or even if you do go out, you could be back home by 8:00 p.m. without any misgivings. Feeling guilty about not staying out ’til dawn cause you want your friends to think you’re cool is an emotion you should have retired years ago.
“Let’s order pizza instead.”
What are you, a college kid doing an all-nighter studying for midterms? You’re a 40-year-old adult, and you deserve better. How about going to a nice restaurant and trying something with more complex ingredients then pepperoni and cheese? Or even better, spend some time in your kitchen and make a meal with lots of heart-healthy veggies.
“I hate my job, but it’s too late to change careers.”
If you truly hate it, sticking with your soul-crushing job is nothing short of masochistic. It’s not like you’re counting down the days to retirement. You still have plenty of productive years left, and they should be spent doing something you truly love, that makes you excited every morning to get out of bed and get to the office. Otherwise, you might as well be working in a coal mine.
“I thought you were on a diet?”
Whether directed at a spouse, a relative, or anyone else, you’re fooling yourself if you think this question is going to elicit a response like, “Oh yeah, I totally forgot. Thanks for reminding me!” No, they’re going to think you’re making a snide comment about their weight and nutritional choices. And we kind of agree with them. Stop being judgmental and mind your business.
“Pajamas bottoms count as pants, right?”
Maybe they did when you were going to Pearl Jam concerts in the early ’90s, but not so much anymore. Now, it’s just a shorthand to let the rest of the world know, “I’ve kind of given up.”
Trying to police other people’s emotions, telling them exactly what they are or aren’t feeling, is manipulative dirty pool and has no place in an adult conversation. How would you enjoy it if somebody told you, “You’re just saying that because you have unresolved father issues?” Stop trying to explain other people’s emotions to them and stick with what you know best.
“My roommate still owes me his share of the utilities”
Dude, that’s got to be rough. The only thing worse is when your roommate drinks the last of your OJ and he didn’t even pay for it! Buzzkill, am I right? Hey, here’s a crazy idea. Why don’t you tell your roommate that you’re moving out and getting your own place, because you’re 40 years old now and having a roommate is ridiculous at this age. If you do live with someone else, it should be someone that you don’t refer to as “Bro”.
“It’s not rocket science.”
Obviously it’s not rocket science. Whatever you’re talking about, unless you’re debating Neil DeGrasse Tyson, is probably not rocket science. This attempt at overstating the obvious to make someone feel stupid—or, as might be claimed, remind them that this isn’t as hard as they think—is lazy cheerleading at its worst. It’s like telling someone they can learn a foreign language because “It’s not like you’re walking on the moon.” Well duh.
“What’s your sign?”
Oh please. Even if you mean this ironically—“Look at me, I’m using the most cliché pick-up line of all time, which makes me hilarious and attractive”—it’s still beneath you. If you really want to meet someone, here’s a suggestion. Walk over to her and introduce yourself. Yes, believe it or not, a 40-year-old can just talk to a person without some stupidly clever line to break the ice.
A fine choice, says Frieman, “if you’re a surfer in the ’80s. But since you’re not one—or if you were back then, you’ve since grown out of it—the phrase should be put out to sea.” Frieman’s biggest concern with sick isn’t just that it’s grossly outdated but that “most people can’t resist extending the vowel for a good ten seconds, so it’s like, ‘Siiiiiiiiiiiiick’.”
“Guacamole counts as a vegetable, right?”
Aa avocado, the main ingredient in guacamole, is technically a fruit. But if what you’re insinuating is, “The only thing I’ve had in recent memory that’s vaguely nutritious is guacamole,” we don’t have good news for you. Sure, it’s got a lot of vitamins and minerals, but a medium-sized avocado also has about 270 calories and 25 grams of fat. Thinking of guacamole as a health food is like thinking you’re eating a vegetables because ketchup is made of tomatoes.
“I forgot to put on sunscreen, but I should be fine.”
Forgetting sunscreen isn’t like forgetting a jacket when it’s going to be a little chilly out. Especially in your 40s, protecting your skin from harmful UVB rays, which can cause skin cancer and most sunburns, should be at the top of your priority list.
A word that manages to be vague and alarmist at the same time. “It’s only reiterating the notion that you’ve made a bad decision or done something so idiotic the impending result will only cause you pain and frustration,” claims Frieman. “Saying it out loud won’t make time go backwards, it just make the situation worse.” Here’s what a responsible 40-year-old should say instead: “I screwed up… big time.”
“I spent the morning getting into a heated argument with a stranger on Twitter.”
Is there anything that fills a 40-year-old with more existential self-loathing then realizing they’ve wasted valuable minutes (or even hours) getting into a meaningless cyber-scuffle with some anonymous (and likely teenage) Internet troll? You could have done, well, pretty much anything else with your day and it would’ve been more productive.
“Working hard or hardly working?”
Frieman says that this question always sounds like it’s being asked “by some sleazy boss from the ’60s, with slick-backed hair, a cigarette in one hand and a tumbler of bourbon in the other, and he adds a wink for good measure.” In other words, it’s not a thing that an adult male in 2018 should be saying to anybody. It sounds like your real question is “you’re just pretending to work, right?” Well then just go ahead and ask that!
“You mind if I vape?”
No, but we think you’re an idiot for ingesting that stuff into your lungs. Yes, okay, we know, “it’s not as harmful as cigarette smoke.” That’s what we’re told anyway. But the jury’s still out on the long term health consequences of vaping, and it’s definitely not a habit that a 40-year-old should be picking up.
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Even dogs get insulted by this one. Why not just come out and say what you really mean? “I don’t want to do it because I’m lazy and would rather stay at home in sweatpants.” You absolutely can learn new tricks, regardless of your age, but it’s going to require at least a modicum of effort. So stop blaming this metaphorical dog and put on your big-boy pants.
“It’s okay if we stay out late drinking, I’ll just call in sick to work tomorrow.”
It’s always a risk to do this, especially in an age of social media. All it takes is one Instagram or Facebook photo of your “night out” to be seen by the boss and you could be in serious trouble. Do you really want to be the 40-year-old who was fired for drinking too many craft beers and then thinking he could sleep in?
“I don’t even want to know what my credit score is.”
If you’re living in denial about your credit history, you’re like the guy who hasn’t been to a doctor in decades because he’s terrified of getting bad news. The longer you go without getting a check-up, the worse the prognosis might be. Stop living with your head in the sand and take a long, hard look at the reality.
“What doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger.”
That’s not true, and you should know it by now. What doesn’t kill you just might kill you the next time. At 40, the less you partake in things that come close to killing you (and definitely aren’t making you stronger), the better. Has anyone ever said “Texting and driving almost killed me, but at least it made me stronger?”
No, they haven’t, because it’s insane. And now that you’ve mastered what not to say, learn what not to do, and check out the 40 Common Mistakes No Man Over 40 Should Make.
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