walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

_Inventing the Rest of Our Lives_, Suzanne Braun Levine

Subtitled: Women in Second Adulthood What Matters What Works What's Next

The back cover says Ms. Levine was the first editor of Ms. magazine. She's clearly a second-wave feminist, altho I think she's actually a year or few early to be a boomer.

Regular readers of my blog know I have some issues with second wave feminists. They will be unsurprised that I have issues with this book. But I will leave aside, for the moment, the second-wave stuff, and get right into the real problem with this book: it's just loaded with incorrect information.

Examples:

page 192 of the paperback: "For example, diabetic women are less likely than non-diabetic women to suffer from osteoporosis"

This pulled me right up short, since there's such an intricate dance between blood sugars and the osteoblast/osteoclast cycle. Sure enough:

http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/20/3/153

"In the Iowa Women’s Health Study, women with type 1 diabetes were 12.25 times more likely to report having had a fracture compared to women without diabetes.10"

"Schwartz et al.,15 in a large prospective study of older women obtained from the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures, confirmed that women with type 2 diabetes experience higher fracture rates in regions of the hip, humerus, and foot than do nondiabetic women."

Seems pretty straightforward. Date on the article is 2002. Date on the book is 2005 so no obvious reason why she wouldn't have known about this EXCEPT that there had previously been this idea that people with type 2 diabetes tend to be heavier and heavier people tend to be less likely to have osteoporosis. But as watchers of the most recent season of The Biggest Loser have probably started to suspect, if you are heavy enough to have screwed up blood sugars, you can exercise yourself into hip fractures even as a 20 something woman or man. Which is pretty amazing, if you think about it.

Should one expect accurate medical information from a book about finding your authentic adult voice as a 50+ woman from the boomer or earlier cohorts? Well, I don't know. But that's an annoying error, and given that she's got a whole chunk devoted to figuring out how to manage health with the assistance of a doc who is still a believer in HRT, and a chiropractor/kinesiologist and homeopath who put her on some sort of cleanse in hopes of improving her cholesterol, I think she's got _some_ responsibility to get the details right.

I'll just assert here that there are a scattering of more and less serious errors throughout the book. It's frustrating.

There are also some really weird, apparent contradictions buried in this book. She seems to like Jungian psychology (especially James Hillman), with its archetypes, essentializing and spiral models of human life and character. But at the same time, she keeps reiterating that we are not ourselves, only older. I'm having a lot of trouble making those two things compatible. I think they aren't. She also really wants to connect to younger women, and wants them to listen to her, but tells stories that indicate that while she'll make some effort when they reach out to her, she doesn't make much of an effort to reach out to them. More creepy still are the sections where she discusses her feelings about growing older, comparing herself and her age to the age of those around her, and her feelings to contempt and disgust for older women. She gets that this is a problem, and I suppose she deserves some points for self-insight and being willing to expose such an unpleasant part of herself to the public at large. But how many points do people get for admitting to being racist? Should she really get much patting on the back for being ageist? I don't know. As consciousness raising, it has some merit. But like the title of Ephron's book (_I Feel Bad About My Neck_), it just creeps me out.

I am not the target audience for this book. I turn 40 this year; this book is nominally aimed at women turning 50ish, but is written from a very 60ish perspective from a women who is very much of-her-cohort. Some of what she talks about I can relate to: retiring from a career and having a lot of time on your hands can be really vertigo inducing. But while there were moments of connection, mostly I just kind of went, it took until you were _50_ to figure that out? Really? And the gender assumptions! Goddess! In some ways, it is worst when she talks about relating to children and grandchildren.

The still-obsessed with grooming and appearance is kinda creepy, but I'm sort of resigned to it. The casual male-bashing while, almost in the same breath, male-role-worshipping, as always, incredibly annoying. I could go on. I could!

I bought this in 2006, IIRC, because I read an interesting review of it, possibly in Bitch magazine, more likely somewhere else (maybe an Amazon rec?). I really wish I hadn't. I wish I hadn't decided to read it when I unpacked it, so I could move it along. And I'm _not_ going to recommend it to any of my numerous friends (all in their 40s or early 50s) who are currently trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. I don't recommend it to you, either. It's going to TitleTrader.
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