Fifty is the New Fifty by Suzanne Braun Levine is a book written for older women, those approaching or already ensconced in middle-age. When I saw the book in the bookstore, I initially overlooked it, assuming the title was along the lines of “fifty is the new thirty.” Like many women I know, there is no need to be what we are not. Being fifty is as wonderful as being any other age. To desire to be something you cannot be is an exercise in futility. I refuse to invest in that mentality and seek resources that celebrate a woman’s age at every age.
This book does precisely that, each chapter focusing on a different facet of a woman’s life. The author talks about this time in a woman’s life as a “Second Adulthood,” a term I did not especially find necessary or even appropriate. It’s like suggesting there’s also a second childhood (there isn’t!) or third adulthood. I’m content with one journey through being an adult and don’t need to subdivide it beyond what my body will naturally do for me (aka menopause).
Chapter by chapter, Levine addresses how women redefine themselves through learning to say “no” to those things that no longer offer fulfillment, how friendships with other women also change, how older women can mentor younger ones, and the changes above and beyond the purely physical aspect of menopause. There are many stories of other women’s lives. So while one woman shares a story of leaving a life or lifestyle behind, another woman’s story focuses on going deeper into who she has always been. Career changes, relationships ending or beginning, traveling to a new country or moving into a new home. Life doesn’t necessarily settle down with age but that’s as much because women have learned not to settle. Becoming older, Levine suggests, means coming into her own and she encourages the reader to not follow anyone else’s path but forge her own, regardless of what the perceived consequences may be.
I didn’t especially connect with some of the chapters and felt that the last chapter, in particular, felt forced, as though the author didn’t know how she wanted to end her book so she tried to write something profound. Profundity should feel organic, not simply tacked on. There’s enough good content to make this book a good one for its target audience but I still prefer Victoria Moran’s Younger by the Day, a book I recommend to all women who are approaching menopause, and all that this change implies. On a purely practical level, I also recommend The Best of Everything After 50 by Barbara Hannah Grufferman. I would recommend this book after those, if more information and/or encouragement is needed to journey through the 50s and beyond.