Between a Rock and a Hot Place
Why Fifty Is the New Fifty
—O, the Oprah magazine
"Tracey Jackson confronts the speed bumps of life with wit, brilliant insights, and...common sense....Between a Rock and a Hot Place is more than a good read, it’s good company."
—John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Hollywood screenwriter Tracey Jackson (The Guru, Ashes to Ashes, The Other End of the Line, The Ivy Chronicles, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and others), delivers a funny, fearless, no-holds-barred look at what it really means to turn 50 today. Offering insight into the joys, hurdles, and life lessons surrounding the half-century mark, Jackson explores topics as wide-ranging as hormone replacement therapy, online dating, lifts, nips, tucks, libidos, finances, coping with death, and preparing for the future.
Praise For Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is the New Fifty…
— Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
— O, The Oprah Magazine
“Finally, there is a voice of reality to counter the claims of a youth-oriented culture and put forward the idea that successful aging isn’t about denying reality…. Jackson writes with the humor of Nora Ephron, the honesty of a fiftysomething, and the reality of medical science.”
— Library Journal
“A fiercely funny book about a most unfunny subject-aging.”
— Erica Jong
“Glib, gossipy, and genuinely gutsy, Jackson’s take on this middle-aged milestone will have any woman who is 50, approaching 50, or waving bye-bye in the rear-view mirror wondering, ‘Who is this woman and how did she get inside my head?’”
“The cure for fear is laughter, and this book offers a powerful antidote to all the scary aspects of aging. Jackson’s stunning candor and sparkling high spirits will have women of all ages laughing as they confront everything from menopause to wrinkles, thanks to this funny, practical and engaging book.”
— Susan Cheever
“Tracey Jackson confronts the speed bumps of life with wit, brilliant insights, and the kind of common sense that leaves you wondering, ‘Now, why didn’t I think of that?’ Between a Rock and a Hot Place is more than a good read, it’s good company.”
— John Berendt
“Between a Rock and a Hot Place is sexy, witty, energizing, smart, and full of terrific advice…. Run, do not walk, to get the book, and then call your nutritionist, your GYN, your health club, your nearest Whole Foods, your mothers and daughters, and tell them all about it.”
— Judy Collins
Harper Paperbacks, 9780061669286, 304pp.
Publication Date: February 21, 2012
About the Author
A screenwriter for seventeen years, Tracey Jackson has written and sold films to all the major studios. She blogs on her own website and for the Huffington Post. She lives in New York City with her husband, Glenn Horowitz, and two daughters. You can follow her on Twitter @ TraceyJackson4.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
In the opening chapter of Between a Rock and a Hot Place, Tracey looks back in time to try and figure out how “fifty” has changed over the years. How did we even get to a place where one can actually assert that, “fifty is the new thirty”? Tracey uses her grandmother and her mother as examples of how fifty has changed over the last few decades. When you look back in your own life, how were your grandmother, aunts and mother different at fifty or sixty than you are today? What changes do you see in older women today compared to those of yesteryear? Do you think we’re better off, or worse? Are we trying too hard, like Tracey’s mother, or was it better to buy a big girdle and eat some more cake like Tracey’s grandmother?
Why fifty? Tracey bases much of her book on why fifty is not the new thirty. Why do you think fifty is such a turning point both psychologically and emotionally? Why do you think many people consider fifty as the beginning of being old? Do you see it this way? Also, why is thirty such an appealing age? What changed in your life between these two decades?
Many people think every book about fifty-year old-women is another menopause book. While Between a Rock and a Hot Place is not exclusively a health book, menopause does play a part. In chapter two Tracey deals with her own battle with menopause and the conflicting information that doctors and society send her – and our—way. Menopause affected many things in her life: her mood, her libido, her sense of self. How has menopause changed your life? What differences do you notice in your quality of life? Like Tracey, do you grapple with seeking relief through HRT, or are you happy to sit it out? Do you think society overplays or underplays the importance of this enormous change in a woman’s life? How can we help and support each other as we enter this stage of life, which is far more than just a phase?
Tracey writes rather graphically about her sex life and the changes in her sexuality over the last several years. She misses the way she felt at thirty and in her early forties. She tries to bring it back, but comes to the conclusion that we have to adapt with the times and do our best with where we are now. Do you share these feelings? How important a role do you think sex plays in our lives as we age?
Tracey talks about the fact that when we get to our fifties many of the roles we have played start to shift. Our children leave home, our parents pass away, some of our friends get sick (and a few don’t recover). Many of us lose our jobs. What surprised Tracey was that no one had properly prepared her for this. No one actually tells you, “Guess what? Your world is going to look very different in many ways starting soon. It’s not all bad, but get ready.” Do you think we should be prepared in advance? Do you think that the way society preps little girls for the second third of life (college, marriage, career and kids) but leaves out the last third is harmful? How would you prepare your daughter? What do you wish your mother or older mentor had told you?
When Tracey loses her job as a Hollywood screenwriter she is thrown for a loop. After spending several months in a funk, she pulls herself together and follows the advice of a quote she finds from Virginia Woolf: “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” How do you relate to this? If you needed to start arranging your pieces, would you know what or where they are, or would you have to dig deep to find them?
Tracey wrote the book from her personal experience of turning fifty. Not everyone goes through everything at the same time. However, when groups of women get together to start a dialogue, we find that pretty much everyone experiences several life-altering events around this age. Tracey likes to call it the “list of three.” For her the turning point came when she lost her job, her daughter left for college, and her closest friend since childhood died suddenly at the age of 51. What is your list of three? How have these events altered your life or the way you look at the world?
If you ask a woman over fifty how she feels about her looks, she will invariably reel off a list of complaints. While beauty is only skin deep, we are a culture that cares a great deal about appearance. Tracey is open about her commitment to decelerating the physical aging process. Some people may find this shallow; they think, just get on with it, be gray, fat and happy. What’s your take? Do you think society holds women to stricter standards than men on this front? What part do you think this plays in the increase in the use of fillers and plastic surgery? If you could alter anything in your appearance, what would it be?
Tracey feels that the biggest problem with looking at our lives and shaving off those twenty years is that if we do this we end up making choices that are not in sync with where we are—be they financial, emotional or professional. She says, “I think this is one of the giant lessons in adapting to age without losing your mind: we must let go of what was and begin accepting what is.” Do you agree with her? What decisions are you making now that require you to accept where you are on the wheel of life? Are you attached to the past or moving steadily into your future?
Tracey maintains that one of the reasons we don’t embrace aging is that we are afraid of it—part of the reason being that our society embraces the young, but tends to ignore the old. The truth is, we don’t have many older female role models. Tracey says we have to go out there and find some positive role models that show us how to live engaged, interesting lives well into our eighties. Tracey has three women in her life she looks up to in this way. Can you think of three women over the age of sixty-five you can look to as examples of women who have aged successfully and happily? If not, go out and find some—they are out there!
If we let our fears rule us they will hold us back. Tracey says, “The moral, of course, is that if we run toward our fears, they lose their power and ultimately disappear…‘Fate loves the fearless.’ There is no better time to be fearless than in your fifties; if you really put your mind and your energy into it, you can make amazing things happen.” Can you imagine embracing this philosophy as your own, and if so, what kind of a difference do you think it could make in how you live your life?