…I can’t say whether the despair I regularly feel is statistical or situational—the world is both literally and figuratively on fire, after all; I don’t trust anyone who isn’t despairing on some level. But as a woman, I also know that there can’t be any discussion of unhappiness at any numerical point of what we call “midlife” without acknowledging the powerful cultural narratives of gender and aging.
Those narratives, and the economic, political, sexual, and pop cultural impact of them, are at the center of two new books. Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis and Susan J. Douglas’s In Our Prime: How Older Women are Reinventing the Road Ahead both approach their subject matter from generational perspectives, each starting from a place of unsettled personal clarity: Well, shit, I got old. Now what?