A bestselling American author and journalist living in Paris investigates the “undeniably transitional” decade of the 40s.
As she neared the end of her 30s, Druckerman (Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, 2013, etc.) suddenly noticed how people—and especially Parisian waiters—addressed her using the matronly “madame” rather than the more youthful “mademoiselle.” To understand the “new rules” of maturity, the author began to assess every aspect of her life. The marriage and more stable life Druckerman acquired by her mid-30s brought with them a need to remove the dysfunctional friendships that she collected with ease in her youth. The French-born children she had with her British husband made her feel like the “ruler of a tiny country” always subject to judgment by her opinionated “subjects.” Middle age also gave new impetus to last-fling experiments—e.g., the ménage-à-trois she planned for her husband’s 40th birthday—and the author offers extended ruminations on wrinkles, arm cellulite, and the fashion faux pas of older women. When a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (for which Druckerman was successfully treated) put her face to face with her mortality, she was unexpectedly overcome with new gratitude for being alive. Research into middle age revealed that the so-called midlife crisis was actually “a cultural construct,” but one that nevertheless continued to offer those seeking answers—like the author—a narrative for how “life [was] supposed to go.” In the end, French culture offered her the most satisfying answer: that aging was a matter of learning how to feel comfortable in one’s skin and “live out the best version of [one’s] age.” Half memoir and half ironic how-to guide, Druckerman’s book is not only a humorous meditation on the gains and pains of a time in life “when you become who you are”; it is also a thought-provoking meditation on “what it means to be a grown-up.”
A trenchant and witty book on maturity and “middle-age shock.”