40 things I’ve learned about life, and myself, by age 40

Image by the wonderful Stuart F Taylor

I’m turning 40 this month. Which feels weird when I write it down like that – in my heart I am (and will always be) nineteen – just on the cusp of adulthood, excited for what it might bring. In reality, I’ve been an adult for longer than I was ever a child. I pay council tax! I have a bad back! I own three different types of spirit level! I wouldn’t normally announce my birthday on the blog, but because this one’s a biggie I thought it might be fun to mark it by throwing a virtual party – support me on Patreon (at any level) and sign up to the Zoom hangout on Sunday 24th March – 6-8pm UK time, though we may well go on longer than that if people want to. I’ll read you a selection of my favourite posts from the last 12.5 years of this blog, and we’ll drink stuff and chat and you can ask me anything you’d like to know about GOTN, the audio project, sex blogging and which of the many many exceptional cocks I’ve ingested over the years is my special absolute favourite. Meanwhile, here’s a random list of 40 things I’ve learned before the age of 40.

  1. It is better for me to be happy and poor than bored and sad and financially secure. This will not be true for everyone. Some people really suit rich boredom. Befriend them – they often buy dinner.
  2. Kisses are usually better when you slow the fuck down.
  3. Most men don’t care about your stretchmarks.
  4. The right men won’t care about your body hair.
  5. 90% of emails do not need your immediate attention.
  6. 100% of tweets need no response at all.
  7. When you find a style of jeans that fits well, buy four pairs immediately.
  8. Oat milk tastes better and lasts longer. But it makes a really shit mac and cheese.
  9. Financial commitment is not compulsory in a romantic relationship: no one who truly loves you will ask you to give up your security.
  10. You’re allowed to have a party on your own.
  11. Three things you should never do when you’re miserable: reply to online comments, eat junk food, go shopping for shoes.
  12. Most people love being asked about themselves. If in doubt, ask questions.
  13. The best way to get better at writing is to do it and do it and do it.
  14. That thing you’re about to impulse buy from Amazon? You don’t need it.
  15. Your Mum always wants you to call her.
  16. If they prescribe you antibiotics at the doctor or the dentist, save time by buying Canesten when you pick up the medication: it will definitely give you thrush.
  17. Courage is a muscle.
  18. So is willpower.
  19. Sex is better when you settle in for it – get water, go for a piss, switch to softer lighting, pick a decent soundtrack, get comfy.
  20. You can learn a lot about someone by telling them ‘no.’
  21. The best drug is MDMA. The second best drug is a bit more MDMA.
  22. [This one took me by surprise, but it’s well worth noting] Putting the time and effort into bonding with a child is incredibly rewarding. There’s no joy quite like seeing a toddler’s face light up when auntie walks into the room.
  23. Three things in life you can never have enough of: baths, storage space and snacks for a long train journey.
  24. The more challenging the hike, the better a pint tastes at the end of it.
  25. If you’re struggling to write and be creative, support other writers and creatives. That way you can cling on to the coat-tails of their success, while pretending that you’re a super worthy and kind person, when actually you’re just terrified that your own brand of hardcore-misogynist-gang-bang-porn mixed with overly-saccharine Scrubs-style introspection isn’t really anything to write home about.
  26. Wear sunscreen. In fact, according to the lady in my skin clinic, we should all be wearing sunscreen every single day regardless of whether we’re going outside. Spoiler: I do not do this.
  27. “I’m tired” is a good enough reason to leave any party.
  28. “I want one” is a good enough reason to ask for a hug.
  29. You definitely don’t need that many pairs of black ankle boots.
  30. Make sure you’ve been for a wee before you settle down to paint your nails.
  31. Never leave a compliment unspoken.
  32. Walking isn’t a magic fix for mental health, but putting one foot in front of the other is easier than thinking yourself well.
  33. Open your fucking windows or everything will go mouldy.
  34. Buying the wood and the tools isn’t enough to complete a project – you have to actually use them.
  35. Your migraine triggers are: flickering lights, stress, dehydration, and weed that’s sat in the jar for more than a couple of months.
  36. If someone shouts at you, if someone frightens you, you are always allowed to leave.
  37. Most people have never really been asked what they like in bed. Not properly. Not in detail. It’s hard for someone to articulate that which they never thought they’d need to say aloud. Have patience. Give examples. Listen closely. Ask more questions.
  38. Spend more time on the balls.
  39. Stop putting smartphones in the pockets of your oversized hoodies. They always always fall out.
  40. Friendship is everything. A terrible job can be made bearable by an office pal you can bitch to. The worst days can be rendered less dismal with a phone call to someone you love. Friendship is found inside family as well as outside it. In romantic relationships too – the person you love most should always be your friend, and should treat you at least as well as your best mates do. Your friends will love them in turn, as long as they’re bringing you joy.

Friendship is everything.

The hardest moments in life are made easier when you’ve got people who can talk you through them, and the most exciting days will be heightened by sharing them too – even if it’s just to send a WhatsApp to the group chat letting them all know you got laid. The best friends won’t ever be jealous of your success, they will celebrate with you. And your life will be richer for celebrating their victories too. Good friends will gently tell you when you’re being a dickhead, and remind you who you are when you’re getting lost. They’ll fight for you and comfort you and buy you cider and take the piss and drag you through the dark times when you’re ready to give it all up.

It’s not romantic love that makes the world go round – friendship is fucking everything.

40 things… and a few more?

If you’ve got any fun tips for me to carry through till I hit 50, I would be more than delighted to hear them below. As I say, this list of 40 things I’ve learned is pretty random – I’ve definitely learned more than this in my four decades on this planet, like how to bleed a radiator and the Japanese word for ‘cock’. But of all the stuff I’ve learned, the friendship one has proven to be the most valuable by a fucking mile.

Come join me on Patreon (annual subs are currently set to maximum discount so you can be a member for a full year – get early access to new audio, monthly updates, bonus stories, etc – for around £20/$20) and sign up for the hangout on 24th March, share your tips below, or simply take this opportunity to tell me how great you think I am and how I have definitely done something valuable with my brief time in existence and not just pissed it all up the wall getting horny about fingering.



  • Jamie says:

    HELL YES to number 3.

    Took me ages (until I was 40, funnily enough) to realise that once I was naked with a bloke, he wasn’t going to turn away gagging or anything: at that point, they’re *way* past caring about my stretch marks (I grew over a foot and half in height over the summer when I was about 11, my skin did not keep up with this development, and the results are permanent) or anything else that makes up my body that I’m worrying about.

    They’re already having having good sex – they’re with me, it’s a given – and are about to have an orgasm they will remember for years. My stretch marks, big alopecia patch on my leg, giant hobbit feet, beer belly, etc, are so far down the list of what’s going on they’re invisible.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hell yes to all of this. One of the things I have found it hardest to overcome as I grow older is the idea that ‘all bodies are beautiful except mine.’ In practice I know that where others are concerned, I can find infinite hotness in everybody (because it’s so much about detail, focus, and how someone carries themself/what they do to/for me) but I can never really find that in myself. I have had more fleeting glimpses of this contentment/comfort as I get older, so my hopes are high that maybe I’ll have even more of these over the next decade.

  • Not The LBC Guy says:

    One that I am trying to manifest more these days – you can be the person who’s always right, or you can be the person who everyone’s happy to see walk into the room, but you can’t be both. And the second person gets invited to more parties.

    • Girl on the net says:

      OOOH this is a very good one, and is one I think I have never really had articulated to me so plainly. But it’s definitely something I started realising as I withdrew a bit from a particular community I was involved in a while ago – it was very full of people who were *right* but not *kind* and I realised ‘right’ isn’t actually always the most important thing to be ;-)

  • I listened to this on Patreon before reading it, and it’s even more prescient when it’s in your voice.

    I’m not 40 yet – I turn 39 around the same time as you turn 40 – but there’s a lot I have learned in my time on Earth. I’m not going to usurp yours by doing a massive list, but I’ll suggest one:

    – Pee after sex. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s worth doing for members of all genders. You are likely to need to and, even if you don’t, try. It really helps.

    I am with you SO HARD on number 22 as well. I’ve long since known that I’ll never want children of my own, but I’m a silly funny favourite uncle for my niece, who I love with my whole heart. Whether she’s sliding down my legs because she can, doing gymnastics on the sofa because it’s there, beaming her way through my wedding or proudly declaring to me that she has a ball, her smile is the most radiant thing in the world.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ahhh peeing after sex is a good one too =) And hooray for being the fun uncle – it’s such a joy isn’t it? Not wanting kids doesn’t ever mean one has to dislike children – there are so many ways to have fulfilling and nurturing relationships with children in your life. I absolutely love watching my friends and siblings become parents too.

  • Terry Bull says:

    Masturbation is better than bad sex

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ooh good one. I’d add that often masturbation is better even than *very good* sex. Sometimes you just fancy a wank =)

  • ftandhubby says:

    “Never leave a compliment unspoken.” Going to work on this one.
    Happy Birthday!

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Ooh, good list!
    I’m still a few years off 40, but some of these I have some experience with and can agree on. For a start, you’re right about the ankle boots… :D
    But also about the spending time with kids one. I’ve been an uncle for a couple of years now, have been enjoying it but still feel like I want to put more time into bonding with my nieces. As a kid, you never realise just how much joy you give to people around you…
    I was going to say this blog itself would make for a great audio (similar to the original ‘Wear Sunscreen’ track of course) but have seen from the comment above that you’ve already done that.
    Well, if I’m free that evening, maybe I’ll re-sign up to the Patreon temporarily to join the festivities, and hear some other audios.
    Oh, and for what it’s worth, happy birthday for whenever it is – not expecting you to reveal your actual date of birth here of course! But we can consider 24th March as your official birthday. :)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ohhh you are very welcome to come to the chat whether you’re a Patreon or not – you’re always so supportive and lovely in comments, pls do feel free to just ask me for the link in an email if you ever fancy joining the hangouts. I’ll email you the link to this one now.

      And haha I am glad it’s not just me with the ankle boots. They’re so tempting though! So many different kinds! An infinity of lovely sexy black ankle boots! =)

  • Molly says:

    Ohh I have an amendment to the antibiotics ones I only learned recently. Go online and buy a stash of generic thursh meds from an online chemist for the price of a single dose of canastean from Boots etc.

    And my sensible one… write a will, if you get hit by the proverbial bus it is a gift from beyond the grave to those who have to sort out your affairs. They will be thankful you did and mutter under their breath about what a fucking mess this is, if you didn’t.

    Oh and say I love you to the people you love liberally and often.

    Opps one final one, love it not a pie, you can love many people but for the love of them always remember time is a pie and if you have too many partners no one gets a yummy slice of time pie. Not even you


    • Girl on the net says:

      OH FUCK you have reminded me that I’ve written a will but not yet had it countersigned or whatever the thing is you need to do to make it properly legal. Thanks Molly =) And THIS oh my god yes this a million per cent…

      “say I love you to the people you love liberally and often.”

      Love is not a special treat you need to measure out carefully in order to avoid spoiling people or (why do people still believe this?) rub off the magic. It’s always nice to say you love someone when you do. I love you loads, Molly. You’re an exceptional person <3


  • Lola & HH says:

    Happy Birthday! 19 is a great age to be – mentally!

  • SwearyPrincess says:

    re 21: absolutely :D there’s a reason I’ll be a raver til I die…

    re 37: I got asked this at the weekend, and I was absolutely stumped. Felt kinda depressing that I’d never really been given the opportunity to find out, and it took til I was 44 to be asked despite having had a lot of sex in my life, but it should be fun working it out!

  • Ellory says:

    What a fantastic list! I’ve got a few years on you but your list still 100% applies. I would simply add that it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve invested in a relationship, if it feels wrong and you cannot be your best self with your partner, the sooner you get out, the better. I kick myself not for the loss of the relationship I invested in so wholly, but for the time I wasted before I was free to become whole.

  • Julie says:

    Great list and lots of wisdom in these comments. I’m here because of No 25, not feeling creative myself, so reading your creativity. I hope you have the best birthday. I’d love to come along to the party, but on this occasion I’ll be having my own as will be in Vienna. Apparently it will involve going to the opera and also down in a sewer used in filming the Third Man. I’ve married a great man but his interests can be weird (that’s not withstanding his kinky side). Anyway, I’ll be raising a glass of something to you, your 40’s and much more of this writing stuff.

  • Megan says:

    a bit late to the party (been a busy week), but:
    * let your partner(s) seduce you. if you’re in that in-between place where you don’t actively _want_ to play, but don’t actively _not_ want to, either, let them give it a go. it’s amazing how often “meh” can become “ooohhhh”
    * it is perfectly ok to wish for someone to be happy, healthy, and far, far away from you

  • M (Anonymous) says:

    Does #14 apply to Amazon only?
    I ASK because i totally bought a wand and a plug from Doxy after reading your blog a couple weeks ago – which was 100% impulse buy ;-)

    (I just recieved an email saying the package is on its way – hooray!)

    Personally, I would rephrase #14 for me as such:
    Only do impulse buys when you *really* mean it :-)

    Enjoy your Birthday Party!

  • Blavatsky von Geeshmeister says:

    Never step on a manhole in a developing country, literally and metaphorically

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