Books to read: There Are No Grown-Ups
I finally got round to reading Pamela Druckerman’s latest book There Are No Grown-Ups, on holiday. Well, on the return journey – a delayed flight helped. Although the author’s focus is on being in her 40s and winging it, this is a symptom we experience in our 50s-and-beyond, too. Anyhow, I enjoyed the book and Druckerman’s chatty, self-aware writing style. Described as a midlife coming of age story, I found the chapters on ‘How to be wise’ and ‘How to say no’ helpful and informative. OK, so maybe I didn’t need a holiday or a book to tell me that I don’t want to be permanently plugged into social media, but There Are No Grown-Ups helped to validate my feelings. As the author says, midlife is ‘busy’ or what the ‘Dutch economist Lans Bovenberg describes as the “rush hour of life”. A period when we’re all multitasking like maniacs, with little time to think, socialise off-line, or read… I honestly thought by the age of 54, I might have sorted out my work-life balance and found the space to kick-back and relax. But, no. I obviously need to embrace Druckerman’s tips on how to edit your life. Including:
‘Be lucid about the trade-offs you’re making – saying yes to one thing means saying no to another.
Follow your verve: when you’re trying to decide between several options pay attention to which one energizes you and which one makes you feel tired just thinking about it. Even as a grown-up, it’s OK to choose the option that feels like more fun.
Say no, nicely.
Do small things immediately, if you can.
Don’t let the internet eat your life.’ (Enough said).
The chapter on ‘How to dress’ isn’t groundbreaking but having struggled with what to wear in her mid-40s, Druckerman finally (with the help of a stylist) realises it’s important to dress to suit her body shape, find a uniform and then add a little flair. Druckerman is an American living in Paris, where, as we all know, ageing is viewed differently than in the UK and North America. The French woman’s aim is to be bien dans son age, as she points out in the chapter on ‘How to age gracefully.’
‘Looking good as you get older requires accentuating and enjoying what’s specific to you rather than striving for cookie cutter perfection. As women get older they look like they have a story. The French adjustment is to treat that story not as unwelcome baggage, but as part of the woman’s specificity and allure. It would be odd to reach the forties or older without having this.’
Going on to add, ‘ I’m not sure if I’m bien dans mon age yet, but I’m working on it…It requires believing that your particular shape, mind and assortment of qualities – including your age – have a valid place in the world. It means making a choice about how you’re going to age. And it means believing that the person in the mirror is you.’
There Are No Grown-Ups is not prescriptive, it’s a book that says have a look at yourself – and be honest. Sound advice for women of all ages. Oh and one thing I’ve realised with age and a bit of distance is that, even though at the time it may feel like a big deal, 40 is nothing.