By Ann Levin
When veteran screenwriter Tracey Jackson stopped getting work in Hollywood, she tried to convince herself that she wasn’t another victim of an industry that worships youth. For months, the 40-something Jackson humiliated herself in meetings pitching movies aimed at teenage boys to the slighter older crowd of boys who reign in Tinseltown.
When that didn’t work, Jackson wallowed in self-pity. Finally, after months of trying to resuscitate her near-comatose career, Jackson sucked it up with the help of a quote from Virginia Woolf — “Arrange whatever pieces come your way” — and made a documentary about taking her spoiled teenager to the slums of India.
There her daughter, then enrolled in a private school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, experienced what it was like to use a pit toilet and eat gruel for lunch instead of at the fancy Madison Avenue diner around the corner from their apartment where she would charge up to $1,000 a month on her mother’s credit card. Voila. The kid shaped up, and Jackson had a project, and eventually, a new career.
Jackson, whose screenwriting credits include Confessions of a Shopaholic, relates this tale of upper-middle-class suffering and redemption in Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is Not the New Thirty (Harper, $25.99) a self-help book that purports to tell female baby boomers the truth about aging.
Chapter by chapter, Jackson takes on topics about which much ink has been spilled since the first boomer qualified for a senior discount. These include menopause (a nightmare) and the related topic of sex after menopause (try sex toys); diet and exercise (essential), and how they might stave off age-related disease (along with MRIs, EKGs and CT scans); finding a new, rewarding job (vital) if you’ve been downsized from your first (inevitable); sending the kids off to college (devastating); plastic surgery (do it); post-50 money woes (scary but not hopeless); post-50 dating woes (manageable with the Internet); and finally, the biggest woe of all — watching loved ones die (terrible, but what can you do about it?).
Jackson works very hard to convince us that 50 is not the new 30, and that if we believe otherwise, we are “delusional.” She marshals statistics, reminisces about her own mother and grandmother at 50, tosses off one-liners like the comedy writer she once was, and recounts uplifting anecdotes and aphorisms from her circle of high-achieving friends, relatives and physicians.
The book isn’t without its funny and poignant moments. The problem is, it exists to demolish a slogan — that today’s 50-year-olds are 20 years younger than their chronological age — that no one in his or her right mind would believe to begin with. — AP