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The New Math of Old Age

Boomer women need to learn the (chronological) facts of life

But just when you’re ready to shout “Enough, girlfriend!” Jackson sneaks in a piece of practical advice or a heartfelt recollection. She writes warmly of her grandmother, for example, who loved desserts — “all desserts” — claimed she was allergic to vegetables, and whose sole form of cardio was pushing a shopping cart at the A&P. Grandma Dot died peacefully in her sleep at 86.

And many readers will identify when Jackson writes, “I remember the first time I realized I looked old. Everyone remembers the first time …. It’s that … heart-stopping moment when you look at your reflection and go, ‘Holy [sh*t], who is that old lady standing next to me?’”

The phrase “between a rock and a hot place” refers to the author’s menopausal quandary: Take hormone-replacement therapy (and accept what’s said to be an increased chance of cancer, heart disease and stroke) or suffer the vile physical and mental consequences (night sweats, weight gain, mood swings, hair loss and more). She eventually settles on controversial “bio-identicals,” or hormones said to match what the body produced in abundance before menopause. The play-by-play on her decision is long-winded, but it offers useful information.

Jackson also has a lively take on work. “I want to retire when I’m dead,” she announces. “That’s the day I plan to stop working.” Regrettably for her, Hollywood had other ideas: Jackson’s screenwriting gigs dried up when she hit her late 40s. In response, she indulged in six months of crying jags. Then, heeding Virginia Woolf’s advice to “arrange whatever pieces come your way,” she set about reinventing herself. Jackson arranged her pieces into Lucky Ducks, a feature-length documentary about raising teenagers; she urges readers to assemble something of their own.

One topic Jackson profitably could have skirted is money. It sounds like she has lots of the stuff (“I am the poster child for boomer consumerism”), blinding her to the fact that others may lack it. Her boosterish discourse on plastic surgery and Botox, for example, is followed by some half-hearted savings tips.

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