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SECRET PATHS by Terri Apter


Women in the New Midlife

by Terri Apter

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03766-5
Publisher: Norton

A forceful examination of women who find in their 40s and 50s a psychological growth hormone to replace lost estrogen. Apter (Working Women Don't Have Wives, 1993, etc.) chose 80 British and American women between the ages of 39 and 55 for this study, interviewing and observing them over approximately four years. Although most students of women at midlife choose 50 as a point of departure, Apter believes it is in their 40s that women begin to reassess their lives and their choices. Her subjects are classified into four role types: the traditional, who tend to cast themselves as mothers, wives, helpers; the innovators, career women pioneering in the working world of men; the expansive, who break away from past patterns and set new goals; and the protestors, who try to harness powerful adolescent energy constrained earlier by circumstance. What all these subjects have in common is an urge at some point in their 40s to reevaluate their lives, first with alarm, then with resignation, and finally with determination to face change and take risks. As a result of these internal, often unvoiced struggles, subtle shifts in attitude may herald dramatic revisions of lifestyle, like turning down a long-sought law partnership, or more delicate fine-tuning of personal relationships. The introductory chapter is an outstanding synopsis of the new context in which women find themselves: a society that still renders women over 50 invisible, but in which those very women are filled with energy, hope, and a willingness ``to construct a new self and a new future.'' Apter tends to dismiss menopause as a midlife marker, ignoring the fact that it may trigger the painful but rewarding process of reappraisal that she describes. For middle-class women over 40, a sometimes eloquent, always readable mirror of their struggle to come to terms with growing older in a society still oriented to youth and beauty. (Author tour)