If I had read Allison Pearson’s how hard can it be? a year in advance of my 50th birthday, I may not have allocated an entire year to celebrating it. This book and it’s fictional story lay out in no uncertain terms the “challenges” attendant with this number rolling around on your age dial as a female. The author explores some rather grim and scarily on target transitions with a brave honesty and a deft wit. As I will always check the box next to the word LAUGH vs. the word CRY this book is a gift for that – I laughed OUT LOUD a lot at the very circumstances which could easily make one curl up in a tight ball and cry.
Bravo to you Allison Pearson, for bringing Kate Reddy back into our lives to help us learn more about ourselves and to reinforce that we are clearly not alone. You nailed each and every uncomfortable bit of the reality of this stage in the game. I will be buying MULTIPLE copies of this book and handing them out like glasses of rose at a summer BBQ.
By page 25 I determined a great deal of what she had to say needed to be underlined. I went and retrieved a pencil for the cause. My kids looked at me in surprise and said “Mom, are you annotating your book??” To which I replied ” Why yes! Yes I am.” Here is just a smattering of some the valid topics hilariously and sagely covered between the covers of this book. If you are a woman of a certain age – I highly recommend you grab this book and READ IT.
“There are days when I think I would love to have been a mother in the era when parents were still adults who selfishly got on with their own lives and drank cocktails in the evening while the children did their best to please and fit in. By the time it was my turn, it was the other way around.”
On mild Memory Loss…
“Each month, each week, each day it gets slightly harder to retrieve the things that I know. Correction. The things that I know that I knew. At forty nine years of age, the tip of the tongue has become a very crowded place.”
On balancing work and motherhood…
“I ended up with a handful of over demanding, underpaid projects which I had to fit in around my primary role as chauffer/shopper/laundress/caregiver/cook/party planner/nurse/dog walker/homework invigilator/Internet killjoy.”
“One virtue of eyesight deteriorating with age is you can’t see yourself very well; at least that twisted old bitch, Mother Nature, got that bit right.”
On the Kids rampant use of Technology…
“I give up. Emily is upstairs with friends and they’re not speaking. Ben is downstairs speaking with friends, but they’re not here. They’re miles away in another part of town. The kids are right: I am from the past. But they are from some Mad Max post apocalyptic future where mankind has dispensed from the civilities and physical interaction of all previous centuries.”
On Menopause (she talks A LOT about Menopause)…*
“ The thought of all of those hormones going out like the tide, leaving my body arid and dried out. Uch. “Barren” was the word my grandmother used when a woman couldn’t get pregnant. Such a cruel world, “barren” – biblical in its harshness. Like a land that can’t be tilled. Like a seed that can’t be sown. You don’t think about being fertile when you are fertile, do you? Not once in the past thirty five years did I wake up and think, “Yay, I’m fertile.”
On the Sandwich Stage of life…
“The elderly require the same patience you give to small children – gentle encouragement, repetition, endless reassurance – only, what feels endearing in the young can be plain irritating in the old. With both to attend to simultaneously, you are the squished ham in the sandwich, piggy in the middle.”
On Getting “work” Done..
”There are three other people sitting in the waiting area, and we are all studiedly avoiding each other’s eyes. Despite the soothing, zen like decor and the piped music there is a sticky shame in being here. Everyone wants to stay young, but no one wants to be caught in the act of trying to stay young through artifice. It has to be our guilty secret, as “undetectable” as the clinic’s work.”
On The Passage of Time…
“Time changes everything except something within which is always surprised by change. I forget who said that, but they were dead right, weren’t they?”
On Social Media..
“I think of Emily and how much harder it is for girls growing up now with social media. Their mistakes are magnified, any loneliness broadcast to the world. There is a lot to be said for living an unobserved life.”
“Funny, isn’t it? You spend the first five years of a child’s life praying they will go to sleep and stay asleep. When they become a teenager,you spend every morning trying to wake them up.”
“By the time you’ve figured out what works, youth has got its coat on and is hurrying out the door, and you spend your time and money finding lotions and potions and procedures that will strive to re-create the effect that Mother Nature bestowed for free. The one that you took totally for granted.”
*In the afterword the author speaks to her detailed coverage of menopause. She writes: “Not many novels feature the menopause, although half of the human race will go through it. With the help of Dr. Louise Newson, I tried to tell the bloody truth. An expert in hormone replacement therapy, Dr. Newson believes that no woman should have to suffer Kate’s debilitating symptoms. I agree. Let’s break that taboo for good.”
I agree too Allison Pearson – yes let’s!
And do I really regret allocating an entire year to celebrating my birthday!?? Absolutely not. Turning 50 does have it’s challenges, but who doesn’t love a good challenge? It is certainly better than the alternative and I am grateful for that and that alone is cause for celebration. Cheers!