The books that help us to embrace middle-age

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By contrast, the British author Clover Stroud, herself a Gen-X woman, is wary of this notion that, as we age, we need not be concerned about what others think of us. As she tells BBC Culture over the phone: “I really dislike that poem about wearing purple”. (The poem is Warning by Jenny Joseph, best known for its opening lines: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”) As Stroud puts it: “It’s important not to care but I don’t agree with this mistaken idea about being a batty hippy in purple, wafting about in eccentric clothes. As I age, I still want to be the powerful person that I am.”

Stroud, 46, who is still in the midst of parenting young children, has written two memoirs, The Wild Other and My Wild and Sleepless Nights. Her next book, out in 2022, will be about bereavement. “I have a huge attachment to our generation, the rave generation. After the 1980s there was a strong desire for connection with other human beings, cutting across the classes. We didn’t have the sense of status and class of the previous generation, or the generations that came after, I think. It was hedonistic and good fun, and an almost ritualised way of being with other people, a kind of group joy that was profound.”

So how does she see this generational mindset playing out in middle age? “I hope that what it will mean is we’ll be able to embrace and fully move into mid and late life with a greater sense of joy and ownership,” she says. “Asserting our right to be visible, refusing to accept the invisibility of middle age. It’s about attitude and confidence. Too much has been written about how awful middle age is. I love the fact that as I get older my life becomes brighter and more powerful, and that I have a more clearly defined sense of self with age.” It is, in Stroud’s view, a good moment for a woman to reach middle age. “Just as there’s a feeling now that women’s 20s and 30s are not defined by motherhood, we’re moving away from the idea that women’s fertility is central to everything. And I hope we’ll see social change. It feels like it’s on the horizon. I want to go into it running at full tilt.” Reaching mid-life, is, she says, “like driving a really good car and getting into a high gear – really motoring.”



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