Things Women Over Fifty Shouldn’t Say


By Michelle Combs

Why, after living five decades, do we find we’re supposed to limit our vocabulary and retire words or phrases? There are scores of articles that tell midlife women what they should and shouldn’t be saying. I am puzzled by this.

Apparently, one word mature women aren’t supposed to say is “panties”.

Who decided we shouldn’t call our panties, panties? What should we call panties? Underwear? Foundation garments? Bloomers? Underpinnings? Unmentionables?

We’re also supposed to put a lid on swearing. I find that unacceptable. For instance, what are we supposed to do when we stub our toes? I don’t care who you are, when you catch a baby toe on the edge of the dresser, nice words fly out the window and blue words fly out of your mouth. Also, when we’re kids, we’re told we can’t swear until we are adults. I am an adult and have built a sizeable cursing vocabulary. Now, I’m supposed to unlearn 35 years of hard work?

Women over 50 are supposed to steer clear of current slang. Why? You know who doesn’t steer clear of current slang? My 77-year-old mother. She has recently taken to expressing surprise by saying “Whoa, dog”. She does this without irony and with the perfect inflection. She also sometimes modifies phrases. For instance, when we have a phone conversation, she ends our calls not with “peace out”, rather “peace and out”. I told her she added a word, but she likes her way better. I’m glad she says the phrase her way. We should be who we are. Do you think slang is how you’ll be memorialized? Here lies Betty Lou. She said “groovy” to the bitter end.

I’m not taking the advice of people who feel qualified to tell me what words I can use and not use. I’ve been around a while, I’ve lived through a lot. I have earned the right to use any words I choose.

I do have some suggestions for words or phrases we should stop using. Perhaps, these words or phrases shouldn’t be used by anyone, but by the time we’re fifty, we should know better:

Why is she wearing that? – Do you know who it helps when we judge other women for how they choose to adorn themselves? No one. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down. Who cares if Delores is wearing leggings? How does it hurt you if Mary Alice is wearing a mini skirt? Younger women are watching. Let’s show them how to do this. Let’s show them that being supportive is preferable to being judgmental and superficial.

Yes and/or No – Yes and no are two powerful and important words. I am not suggesting that we cease using the words “yes” and “no”. I am suggesting that we cease saying “yes” when we want to say “no” and we stop saying “no” when we want to say “yes”. Say no to demands on your time when you have overextended yourself. Or, even if you are not stretched thin and you just want to say no. Self-care is important. Conversely, say yes to adventures. Say yes to “me” time. We’re all going to die, you know. You might as well experience as much peace as you can while you can. Correctly using “yes” and “no” brings forth all kinds of peace.

I can’t – The “I can’t” phrase is acceptable when you are asked to babysit your neighbor’s second cousin’s baby monkey for the summer. But stop saying “I can’t” to new experiences. Now is the time. There is still something you dream of doing or trying. Don’t say “I can’t” to finding your passion. Don’t say “I can’t” to taking time for yourself. I’m not saying time is running out, I’m just saying that time is definitely running.

I’m sorry – Did you hurt someone, inadvertently or on purpose? Physically or emotionally? Then saying “I’m sorry” is appropriate. Are you speaking to someone who suffered a loss? Again, use “I’m sorry”. When is “I’m sorry” not appropriate? “I’m sorry” is not appropriate if you aren’t fucking sorry. If you start a sentence with “I’m sorry” and end with something shitty like “but Janice in accounting looks like she puts her makeup on with a putty knife”, then you aren’t sorry. You’re just mean. Also, don’t say “sorry” when asking for help or when you disagree with someone. We don’t have to apologize for existing or having opinions. Say you are sorry when you are actually sorry.

Here’s the thing. We don’t have to let anyone dictate to us what words are appropriate for us to use. The concept is ridiculous. We can express ourselves in any manner we desire. We can use words that help us feel empowered. We can use any turn of phrase to make ourselves heard.

I am not saying that we should have carte blanche to all the words. Words of hatred and divisiveness and exclusion have no business in anyone’s vocabulary. Words spoken to manipulate, denigrate, or betray should be swallowed and forgotten. Those words aside, putting constraints our language is silly and I hope that no one is surprised if we choose to ignore those constraints.

Peace and out.

About the author

Find out more about Michelle and get more funny, insightful posts over at her blog Rubber Shoes in Hell

How to find balance in your 40s and beyond

Break free of judgements and self doubt.

Achieve the balanced life you are looking for with a whole of site subscription to our online learning programs.
Subscribe to our monthly payment and you can have unlimited and unrestricted access to all of our courses, from all our coaches.

Get motivated with Natalie Cook, redesign your life, turn your passions into purpose, rediscover and reinvent yourself or find your inner wisdom.

Get 24/7, 365 days of access to over $1200 worth of content for $30 a month (cancel anytime!).

Find your balance with our online learning programs

Michelle Combs

Michelle Poston Combs blogs at Rubber Shoes In Hell. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Blunt Moms, In The Powder Room, Vibrant Nation, Better After Fifty, Midlife Boulevard, Mock Moms, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and Erma Bombecks Writers' Workshop. Rubber Shoes In Hell started in March 2013. Michelle adores blogging and has explored various subjects including parental narcissism, depression, anxiety, and menopause.


  1. Lisa K

    July 9, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Love Michelle’s work!! Her blog is the best way to start the week 🙂

  2. Grace

    July 11, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Love love love!!!! Truer words never spoken. I love being in my 50’s!!

  3. Erin

    July 12, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Well said ! I totally agree. Thanks for writing this.

  4. Tena

    July 17, 2017 at 10:21 pm


  5. Cathy

    July 17, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    You always hit the nail on the head. Thanks, Michelle!

  6. Pam Twilegar

    July 17, 2017 at 11:21 pm

    Perfectly stated, Michelle! Bravely done. Might I also suggest that we remove “should” from our over 50 vocabulary? Perhaps we could replace it with “Divine.” Not in the same sentence, of course, but just lose the should sentences and insert more divine sentences and phrases.

  7. Haralee

    July 17, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Right On Mamma!

  8. MJ Brown

    July 17, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    Once again, Michelle’s words ring true. Well done!

  9. Babbalou

    July 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

    This is all so true! But as a seriously older person, I’ve gotten into trouble using young people’s trendy phrases. For example my son had to explain that I should NOT say “I’m hooking up with Jody today!” when I mean I’m meeting her for coffee. Turns out it means something sexual. Who knew? Ugh, I’d been saying it for a long time. That’s what happens when your kids grow up and leave home – no one is monitoring mom’s behavior!

  10. Rene Perdue

    July 18, 2017 at 12:49 am

    So true! Love this!

  11. Rafaella

    July 18, 2017 at 12:57 am

    My 30-something coworker used groovy the other day. I teased her then apologized. You do you girl. 😀

  12. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    July 18, 2017 at 1:01 am

    Good advice.

  13. Melinda

    July 18, 2017 at 1:18 am

    As usual, Michelle is on point. Must say, however, I have never liked “panties;” it seems an unnecessarily demeaning and silly term for underwear. Just MHO, though — it’s all groovy.

  14. BarbaraM

    July 18, 2017 at 2:46 am

    Michelle’s blogs are always “right on”. Of course, that just added 10 more years to my “Things not to say after 50”. The only phrase that truly annoys me (at any age) is “no problem” instead of saying “You’re welcome”. I get that every time I’m ready to hang up the phone with a customer service person or ask a question of someone. When I say ‘thank you’, please, don’t say ‘no problem’.

  15. Deborah Sale-Butler

    July 18, 2017 at 3:06 am

    I’ve never been a fan of self-censorship in language, and as a woman over fifty, I agree with Michelle that we’ve earned the right to say what we want and what we mean, without being mean. That was a kick-ass piece. Peace out.

  16. Doug in Oakland

    July 18, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Hi Michelle!
    My friend Sara used to say “I’m sorry” so much that someone bought her a tee shirt with “I’m not sorry” across the front.

  17. Shani

    July 18, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Preach Michelle! You always have a way of saying the truth in ways that put a smile on my face. Well done.

  18. Mary-Anne

    July 18, 2017 at 5:35 am

    Ah yes. I have to work on the “I’m sorry” thing. I can’t help it really. I am Canadian. Sorry is our go-to word.
    But ya, at 61, I need to give that one a rest!

  19. b+ (Retire in Style Blog)

    July 18, 2017 at 8:43 am

    I am loving that you mother is almost my age. Does she write or do you write for both of you? As for limiting my language because of my age…that has never occurred to me. Cussing as though I have a disorder of some type has. There is a difference though.

    What to go Michelle. You must make your mother very proud.

    • michelle

      July 18, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Hello b+!

      My mother does not write. She used to paint and is very talented, now she enjoys quilting and is also very talented at that. She doesn’t curse a lot and is often appalled at what her daughters are willing to say (I have 2 younger sisters) but she looks past that and shakes her head. haha. And yes, she is very proud of me. I have a great momma.

  20. Peggy L

    July 18, 2017 at 11:03 am

    I’m another “I’m sorry” person. Thankfully, it’s for the times I feel guilty or when I have to pass along irritating news. Hopefully I’ve left the mean girl stuff safely in that last century.

    Michelle, another reminder that over 50 is not a bad thing at all.

  21. Maria P

    July 18, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    “I am an adult and have built a sizeable cursing vocabulary. Now, I’m supposed to unlearn 35 years of hard work?” 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂
    I am just starting to hit my stride at 54😋

  22. Cathy

    July 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    No one tells it better than Michelle! Yes, I’m middle-aged, I’ll say what I want, wear what I want and be who I want. But I also believe that may involve a few sincere “sorry” responses, and I’m okay with that, too!

  23. Joni

    July 21, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

  24. Bryce Warden

    July 28, 2017 at 6:01 am

    I’m late to the party….this is so true. So past caring about what I should/shouldn’t say-wear-think-do-be – over it, all of IT. Peace and out as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *