Middle age loves its platitudes, chiefly the ones about hard-won wisdom and the many things that once seemed important but no longer do as you face down impending mortality and irrelevance. And don’t forget the ones about small things that are far more important than you’d realized. Among the many indignities of aging is the irresistible temptation to reach for some menu of bromides and convey to the world those invaluable lessons about living.
This isn’t exactly scintillating stuff, and for women writers the ground is especially well trod. The demise of your looks and sexual attractiveness (colloquially known as fuckability) a few decades before men suffer the same fate—sorry, we’ve heard it, and heard it some more. The condition is insulting enough minus the compensatory nuggets of sagacity about how not fretting over your looks is freeing, or about how getting laid is still fun just not that important, and guess what: Men aren’t so crucial after all! Loving yourself is what really matters.
Then there’s the mandatory wryness. God save me from wryness.
Admittedly I’m not the best audience for fare like this—I’m the kind of person who, upon encountering any version of the statement “I’m the kind of person who … ,” instantly disbelieves whatever comes next. The little Freud in me hears dissimulation, overassertion, someone trying to strong-arm the world into seeing her in a flattering way, like an aging film star through a Vaselined lens. Over dinner recently, an acquaintance (single and approaching a certain age) returned repeatedly to the theme of not wanting to be coupled. She wondered why people kept insisting she get coupled, and proleptically bemoaned how much narrower her life would be were she coupled. What I heard was someone desperate to couple.
Having confessed to what an enormous bitch I am, I can only assume that the reason I wasn’t invited to contribute to the latest volume in the Bitch franchise, The Bitch Is Back—successor to 2002’s best-selling The Bitch in the House—is my obvious failure to fit the profile prescribed by the subtitle, Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier. While I’m definitely older, I’ve learned nothing, and given the state of things, I feel pretty sure the only people getting happier are the ones who are heavily medicated.