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Beach Reading On My Birthday: Erica Jong’s Fear Of Fifty

October 11th, 2009 · No Comments

It’s my birthday weekend, and we spent today at the beach in Bay Head, New Jersey… as our newly appointed weather girl, Maddie, discovered this morning, it was almost 70 degrees and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. I have started to re-read Erica Jong’s memoir, Fear of Fifty, whichh I read when it came out in 1994… long before I even had thoughts of children, and right around the time I met Rex at wok, but well before he was anything moe to me than one of the many managing directors at The Firm.

According to her memoir, Erica Jong celebrated her 50th birthday at a spa with her daughter, Molly, who was 13 at the time. When I turn 50, London will be 15 and Maddie will be 14. I don’t really have a fear of fifty, or of any age, though sometimes it is hard for me to picture my life too fa out into the future. I see how fragile my mother has become at 84, falling and breaking or dislocating her bones and joints, and I hope I’ll be healthier when I grow old, perhaps to a combination of both parents’ genes and more exercise, if not necessarily a better diet.

As I re-read Fear of Fifty, I found myself disagreeing with the same passages/points I disagreed with fifteen years ago. Although I can’t articulate my disagreement as well as Erica Jong makes her liberal, liberal points, I just don’t believe that the world is as stacked against women as she would lead us to believe. While she must be correct with her “facts” about the “relentless double standard,” I just don’t think women accomplish anything by whining about the unfairness of it all. Just do the best we can for ourselves and our families.

Although I am not always happy with how my career seems to be going, I don’t think I can point to a single time when I’ve believed I was discriminated against because I was a woman. I’m frequently the only woman in the Board room, but I feel so strongly that merit is all that matters. Jong’s well-articulated arguments for sticking together, uniting in sisterhood, just fall on my deaf ears. In school, I never learned to debate, so I do not feel strong enough to dispute her points. Perhaps I am a misogynist, the worst kind of successful woman, who doesn’t hold out a hand to other women to help them to reach the top.

Lately, my struggle is with my own level of success, to overcome my fear of failure in the current economy… and maybe that means I should be looking to Napoleon Hill instead of Erica Jong for inspiration. I brought Hill’s Think an Grow Rich to the beach as well, but if I remember correctly, if I keep going in Fear of Fifty, Erica will quit the self-pity and move on the the intriguing story of her life.

Tags: books we love · erica jong · fear of fifty · milestones

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