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Within a few hours of publication, nearly 50 people had posted 5-star ratings on Amazon for a new book called The Second Half of Your Life. I was not one of them.
On the face of it, The Second Half of Your Life by Jill Shaw Ruddock should be right up my alley. I read it recently after a visiting friend from England left me a copy and found myself initially bored, then indignant and ever since I’ve been musing on why my feelings about turning 50 seem to be so very different from Jill Shaw Ruddock’s. Even the title of her book - The Second Half of Your Life – is nothing like the way I see myself as I head into my 50s.
I feel now as I have always felt: that I am just starting out.
It seems to me that life isn’t a linear thing to be marked in stages. It certainly isn’t delineated into two halves like a football game. For me, life is a constant stream of new experiences, choices to be made, uncertainties to try to overcome, new things to learn…..
When young, I was always on the brink of some new and defining experience: starting school, leaving home, falling in love, going to college, first job. As a 30-something, I got married, shifted careers to start a company, changed countries. In my 40s, the only constant (I am happy and proud to say) was my marriage; I started out in a new country (the US), changed careers, forged new and important friendships….
In my 50s, I’m just starting out – as an American citizen, the founder of a growing website, a marriage that after 20 years is also starting out on a new, more mature, deeper phase. Who knows where all this is going. Sometimes it’s scary, mostly it’s a blast.
The Second Half of Your Life is meant to impart a positive message to a woman turning 50. She is going through menopausal mood swings (well, actually I can relate to that) and has to look forward to thinning hair, sagging skin and flagging libido. And Jill Shaw Ruddock actually wants us to embrace all of this inevitable decline on the grounds that estrogen is no longer boss. She says that as we are no longer dominated by this hormone that enslaves us to having babies and nurturing others as we were in the first half our lives, we can finally get on with doing things for ourselves. Our hair may be falling out, sex painful and wrinkles deepening, but at least we can get a hobby or even a new job.
So out of practice at doing anything for herself is the reader of The Second Half of Your Life perceived to be that she has to be reminded that there are basic fundamentals to grasp, such as the need to exercise and eat right. Empty nesters who also find themselves single again are given dating advice that I found extraordinarily patronizing, including being told that women over 50 should never ask a man on a date! What? Didn’t we stop agonizing about what might be construed as desperate way back in our teenage years? Haven’t we had plenty of practice at dealing with rejection of one sort or another? Hasn’t a 50-year old women in 2011 earned the right to take a chance and, heck, just pick up her smart phone and call a guy.
For all that the message of The Second Half of Your Life is supposed to be positive, I found it gloomy and defeatist. “Old is the new old”, says Ruddock Smith. No, no, no! Old is old. It is to be postponed for as long as possible. I have zero intention of aging gracefully. That’s doesn’t mean that I want to turn the clock back. I am very proud to have reached the milestone of my age (51). But I am not reconciled to getting old. No way. With the help of diet, exercise and a damn good eye cream I hope that I’ll keep on the winning side of the battle against aging.
Most of all, I hope I never ever lose that feeling that I’m just starting out.