Fifty Is the New Fifty: Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood

Fifty Is the New Fifty: Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood

by Suzanne Braun Levine

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Fifty Is the New Fifty: Ten Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood by Suzanne Braun Levine

Read Suzanne Braun Levine's posts on the Penguin Blog.

An inspiring guide to maximizing creativity and happiness in the second half of life

Suzanne Braun Levine follows her groundbreaking Inventing the Rest of Our Lives with fresh insights, research, and practical advice on the challenges and unexpected rewards for women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. Rich with anecdotes, this book captures the voices of women who are confronting change, renegotiating their relationships, and discovering who they are now that they are finally grown up. Levine's own warm, wise, and humorous voice make this guide encouraging, enriching, and empowering.

50 Is the New Fifty is about survival, joy, and camaraderie, and it proves that fifty is its own wonderful stage of possibilities and promise.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101016657
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/02/2009
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 242 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Suzanne Braun Levine is a writer, editor, and nationally recognized authority on women, media matters, and family issues. Editor of Ms. magazine from its founding in 1972 until 1989 and editor in chief of the Columbia Journalism Review, she is currently a contributing editor of More magazine . The author of a book about fatherhood and numerous articles and essays, she has also produced a Peabody Award-winning documentary about American women. She has appeared on Oprah and the Today show and has lectured widely.

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Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page




Lesson One - Fifty Is the New Fifty

Lesson Two - Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

Lesson Three - No Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Lesson Four - A “Circle of Trust” Is a Must

Lesson Five - Every Crisis Creates a “New Normal”

Lesson Six - Do Unto Yourself as You Have Been Doing Unto Others

Lesson Seven - Age Is Not a Disease

Lesson Eight - Your Marriage Can Make It

Lesson Nine - You Do Know What You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Life

Lesson Ten - Both Is the New Either/Or



Web Sites and Organizations


Also by Suzanne Braun Levine


Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood
Father Courage: What Happens When Men Put Family First
Bella Abzug: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Jim Crow
and Joe McCarthy, Pissed Off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights
of Women and Workers, Rallied Against War and for the Planet,
and Shook Up Politics Along the Way, an oral history (with Mary

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First published in 2009 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Copyright © Suzanne Braun Levine, 2009

All rights reserved
Excerpt from “The New Old Woman” by Robin Morgan (from the forthcoming collection Dark
Matter: New Poems by Robin Morgan). Copyright © 2007 by Robin Morgan. .
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet
addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility
for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, publisher does not have
any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or
their content.
Levine, Suzanne.
Fifty is the new fifty : ten life lessons for women in second adulthood / Suzanne Braun Levine.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.

eISBN : 978-1-101-01665-7

1. Middle age—Psychological aspects. I. Title.
HQ1059.4.L48 2009
155.6’6—dc22 2008027445
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For Bob


With tremendous gratitude to my at-home editor and husband, Bob Levine, and my truly masterful in-house editor, Wendy Wolf, I also want to thank the editors of More magazine for helping me shape my ideas about Second Adulthood. Thanks also to my agent, Janis Donnaud. I am grateful for the invaluable tech support I got from Reed Berkowitz, Karen Grenke, Rose Heredia, and my beloved son, Josh, “Mr. Fix-it.” Then there is the other and very precious kind of support: the love and encouragement of my indispensable “circle of trust.” And with this book there is a new source of information and goodwill: the 350 women who have signed up to be online “friends of Second Adulthood” and share their own experiences with me, and now with you, the readers. My mother, Esther Bernson Braun, remains an inspiration, and my dear daughter, Joanna, already embodies the energy, independence, and effectiveness that I still aspire to. Thank you all!

Lesson One

Fifty Is the New Fifty

We could not act our age if we did not know our age. . . . We live in the biochemistry of our bodies, and not in years; we live in the interaction between that biochemistry and its greatest product—the human mind—and not in a series of decades marked by periodic lurches of change.

—Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-being



Fifty is the new fifty. Sixty, I hasten to add, is also the new sixty, and seventy the new seventy. And the women who are the new fifty, sixty, and seventy wouldn’t want to be anything else. Some people think they get the reinvention process we are going through when they extrapolate down a decade or two—“I see,” they say encouragingly, “Fifty is the new thirty!” as if the reward of what is clearly a major shift in outlook is a new lease on youth. That is not it at all. I have discovered that most women in Second Adulthood are very happy being where they are—they don’t want to go back to any of their earlier stages or decades. And while we would all like to be stronger and fresher—and more admired (or at least respected) by the world we live in—few of us would like to be literally younger. “The great thing about getting older,” magical writer Madeleine L’Engle, who lived well into her nineties, said, “is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” We are at a point where our lives are finally beginning to add up.

The assumption is that youth—or at least younger—is the ideal state and that given a choice, no woman in her right mind would relinquish it. I have found the opposite to be true. Many of us are delighting in rejecting that backward-looking mind-set and focusing on (to paraphrase the song from The King and I) “the beautiful and new things I am learning about me day by day.” The range of things to learn about ourselves is now as wide as it hasn’t been since we were adolescents. So much about our bodies, our thinking, our relationships, our approach to the world is under review—by us, for a change. And the more we revise, the more we uncover new aspects of ourselves in the process, and the more we discover that we are not who we were when we were younger.

The challenge of this stage of life is not to “get over getting older,” as some suggest, but to get to know ourselves in this new context. Who is this person who hears herself say “I don’t care what other people think anymore” and loves the sound of it? Who is giving up high heels or belts simply because they are uncomfortable? Who is questioning the nature of her relationships and the meaning of her work? Who is ready to try some new and totally out-of-character experiences on for size? Who knows that life and death is no metaphor, but forges on?

Older is almost irrelevant to these questions—except for the last one. Yet to listen to the society we live in, you would think that you have to stay young—and look young—to be happy. And we buy (literally) into that message, spending millions on age-defying cosmetics, surgery, drugs, and making a book that promises to teach us How Not to Look Old a best seller. Even Gloria Steinem, who made such a point of acknowledging her age (“This is what forty looks like!” and fifty, sixty, and now seventy), admitted that she had some trouble dealing with aging. “Though I would have decried all the actresses, athletes, and other worshipers of youth who were unable to imagine a changed future—a few of whom have even chosen death over aging”—she wrote in Revolution from Within, “I had been falling into the same trap.” An encounter with breast cancer—and her mortality—helped her confront her “denial and defiance” and begin to listen to and adapt her life to her body as it was changing. One unexpected reward for this revised worldview was that she, who had always been considered a great beauty, began to feel liberated from the “epithet of ‘the pretty one.’ ” “If that sounds odd,” she explains, “think about working as hard as you can and then discovering that whatever you accomplish is attributed to your looks.”

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v

Lesson 1 Fifty Is the New Fifty 1

Lesson 2 Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes 22

Lesson 3 No Is Not a Four-Letter Word 42

Lesson 4 A "Circle of Trust" Is a Must 63

Lesson 5 Every Crisis Creates a "New Normal" 85

Lesson 6 Do Unto Yourself as You Have Been Doing Unto Others 104

Lesson 7 Age Is Not a Disease 125

Lesson 8 Your Marriage Can Make It 145

Lesson 9 You Do Know What You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Life 160

Lesson 10 Both Is the New Either/Or 180

Bibliography 191

Web Sites and Organizations 195

Index 207

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