When I turned 40, a lady I know gave me some advice about the next decade: “Don’t think of yourself as a matron; think of yourself like a toddler among all the older ladies.” If I take that to heart, that means today (which is also my 50th birthday) I’m basically a teenager. As usual, I’m obsessing over what to wear. Day One of my sixth decade. That seems like an event worth dressing for. I’m hoping to do that with some age-appropriate attitude: a leopard print scarf and boots.

To my eye, nothing says “Dare me!” like animal prints. I learned that from the original Cheetah Girl, my niece Tessa. When she was about three, my husband tried to direct her toward or away from something. She looked him square in the eye and said, “You are not the boss of me!” Let me say that I do believe in raising obedient children, but wasn’t Tess right in a way? Doesn’t everyone want to be free from bondage? That seems like a decent mantra to embrace at any age.

At 50, here’s what I know:

1) a lot more than I used to

2) a lot less than I want to

3) I can learn from anyone of any age

When it comes to style, my nieces have always carried sway with me. Here are Emily and Tessa at a wedding Labor Day weekend, totally rockn’ these LBDs. Emily’s dress is by Forever 21. Tess found hers for $40 in Ridgeland, MS at the Shoe Gallery. They claim to be the largest shoe store in the south, but I loved the huge and wonderful assortment of clothes, jewelry and handbags. It’s one of those stores worth driving out of your way to shop. Forget their web site! It’s nothing like the store.

Later this week: where to find great animal prints and how to wear them!