The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention

The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention

by Meredith Maran

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Overview

The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention by Meredith Maran

“A funny, seasoned take on dashed illusions.”O Magazine 

“I love everything Meredith Maran writes. She is insightful, funny, and human, and the things she writes about matter to me deeply. Her memoir, The New Old Me, is a book I don’t just want to read—I need to read it. So does everyone else who’s getting older and wants to live fully, with immediacy and enjoyment, which is to say, everyone.”—Anne Lamott, author of Hallelujah Anyway

For readers of Anne Lamott, Abigail Thomas, and Ayelet Waldman comes one woman's lusty, kickass, post-divorce memoir of starting over at 60 in youth-obsessed, beauty-obsessed Hollywood.

After the death of her best friend, the loss of her life’s savings, and the collapse of her once-happy marriage, Meredith Maran leaves her San Francisco freelance writer’s life for a 9-to-5 job in Los Angeles. Determined to rebuild not only her savings but also herself while relishing the joys of life in La-La land, Maran writes “a poignant story, a funny story, a moving story, and above all an American story of what it means to be a woman of a certain age in our time” (Christina Baker Kline, number-one New York Times–bestselling author of Orphan Train).

Praise for The New Old Me:

“High time we had a book that celebrates becoming an elder! Meredith Maran writes of the difficulties of loss and change and aging, but makes it clear that getting on can be more interesting, more fun, and a lot more exciting than youth.”—Abigail Thomas, author of the New York Times bestseller What Comes Next and How to Like It
 
“By turns poignant and funny, the book not only shows how one feisty woman coped with a ‘Plan B life’ she didn't want or expect with a little help from her friends. It also celebrates how she transformed uncertainty into a glorious opportunity for continued late-life personal growth. A spirited and moving memoir about how ‘it's never too late to try something new.’”—Kirkus

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399574139
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/14/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 652,927
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Like a lot of women her age, MEREDITH MARAN has a hard time believing she’s a woman of her age. And yet she’s published more than a dozen books, including The New Old MeWhy We Write About OurselvesWhy We WriteMy Lie, and A Theory of Small Earthquakes. When she’s not hiking Mount Hollywood, attending readings at indie bookstores, or scouring Los Angeles’ finest thrift shops, she's writing for venues including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Rumpus, and Salon. The grateful recipient of fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo and a member of the National Book Critics Circle, Meredith lives in a Silver Lake bungalow that’s even older than she is.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
PROLOGUE

August 30, 2012

When the knife slips, I feel nothing. Everything freezes: the knife, my breath, time. I go numb. Dumb.

I know that I’ve cut my finger, and I know that it’s bad. But it’s too soon for pain. I hold the ring finger of my right hand to my face and I see things I shouldn’t: blood, tendon. Is that bone?

I grab a dish towel with my good hand and wrap it around my bleeding hand and thrust the mess into the air.

Instinctively I call out my wife’s name. For fifteen years, that’s what I did whenever something terrible or wonderful happened. I called out my wife’s name. My wife is four hundred miles away, but old habits die hard. Nearest emergency room, I tell myself. Hurry.

I don’t know where the nearest hospital is, or how to get there. This is Los Angeles, not Manhattan, my childhood hometown of the geometric grid; not Oakland, where I lived for the past thirty years, with its numbered east-west avenues. I don’t know where anything is, nor how to get there in L.A.’s twisted gridlock of four-lane streets and scrimmaging intersections.

The nearest hospital, Siri tells me, is fifteen minutes away. “Everything in L.A. is fifteen minutes away,” the locals say, “and it takes an hour to get there.” The dish towel on my finger is soaked with blood already. I hope this time the locals are wrong. I replace the towel with a fresh one, grab my purse and my keys, maneuver my upraised arm and then the rest of me into the driver’s seat of my car. I don’t want to be in the driver’s seat of my car. I want to be in the passenger seat of my wife’s car.

I drive south on Silver Lake Boulevard, straight into the set- ting sun. At the intersection of Silver Lake and Sunset, Siri tells me to turn north. If I knew where north was, I wouldn’t be talking to Siri. It’s easier to turn left than right without the use of my right hand. I decide that “north” is “left.”

I pass the sprawling Scientology campus on Sunset and pull into the ER’s circular drive. A sign on the wall reads drop-offs only. NO  PARKING.

L.A. hiking trails have valets. Real estate open houses. Ice-cream parlors. Boutiques. But not the ER, where a valet is actually needed. Not here, where the not-rich people go.

I decide against arguing with the security guard that I’m both driver and patient, and therefore entitled to leave my car here while I drop myself off. I drive to the nearest garage, spin up and up and up the circular ramp, find a space on the fourth floor. I’m too dizzy to search for the elevator. I get dizzier, trudging down the urine-soaked stairwell, right hand held high.

The ER doors slide open. I follow the receptionist’s eyes to my right hand. Apparently the newspaper rule “If it bleeds, it leads” also applies here. She jumps up, rushes me into a treatment room, and runs out. A tall, balding doctor appears, snapping on gloves, and then a nurse, her hands already gloved. Neither of them makes eye contact with me. Neither of them says a word. The nurse lowers my hand from above my head, removes the dish towel, and deposits it in the hazardous waste bin. She lines the doctor’s lap with blue-and-white Chux and sets my right hand into his upturned palm. His hand and the Chux turn red.

The doctor squints at my wedding ring. “We’ll need to cut that off,” he says.

“You can’t do that,” I say.

The doctor raises his eyebrows at me. I’m sure he sees plenty of crazies in this ER; how would he know I’m not one of them? Maybe I should tell him about the Dr. Phil moment I had yester- day, when I actually thought, It’s time to move on with my life, and I looked at my wedding ring, wondering what it would feel like to take it off for the first time in a decade, to be me without it, without the story it used to tell, and then closed my eyes and pulled it off.

I put the ring in my underwear drawer and closed the drawer. I looked at my left hand without my ring on it and put the ring back on. I unhooked the gold chain around my neck and hung the ring on the chain and looked at my left hand without my ring on it and took the ring off the chain and put it back on my finger.

Problem identified. What I want is not to move on with my life. What I want is my old life back.

How long, I wondered, will it take me to stop wanting that? Will I be seventy, eighty, ninety, single and still wearing this wedding ring?

Baby steps, I told myself, and put the ring on my right hand instead of my left. It felt weird—scary, sad—but also accurate: not exactly married, not exactly not.

“I can’t let you cut that ring off,” I tell the doctor.

He frowns. The nurse whisks the bloody Chux off his lap and replaces them with a clean set.

“I’m sure you cut wedding rings off all the time,” I say. “But my wife and I are separated. I’m still hoping—”

The doctor stares at me. There is a certain narrowing of his eyes, a certain clenching of his jaw. I realize that although it’s 2012 and gay marriage is legal in seven states and we’re in one of the world’s gayest cities, this white-haired, white-faced man is not happy to be holding the hand of a woman who has a wife.

I watch as his conscience kicks in, or the diversity training the hospital made him take, or the nondiscrimination policies they require him to uphold. He reassembles his face. Too late. Message received.

I’ve been gay in America long enough to know Rule One: Physical Safety Above All. I don’t want this guy to get sloppy on the job because he’s sewing up a smartass, half-married, geriatric lesbian who doesn’t even know which hand a wedding ring be- longs on.

I don’t want to share any more of my innards with this doctor than the parts of me he’s already holding. I won’t tell him that until I got into my car and drove to Los Angeles three months ago, I thought I knew how the final phase of my life would go, and it didn’t involve Los Angeles, let alone a solo trip to the Sunset Boulevard ER. I thought the choices I’d made had set me up for a sweet ride the rest of the way.

Despite my boomer-appropriate countercultural predilections, I’d turned out to be a fair to middling grown-up. I’d sur- rounded myself with smart, loving people; saved money when I could and spent it frugally when I couldn’t; worked hard at a career I loved and was good at; renovated a three-story Victorian on the Oakland/Berkeley border and lived there, while its value tri- pled, for twenty-three years.

Most auspiciously, I was ecstatically married. And I was sure I always would be.

“Let me try to get it off myself,” I tell the doctor.

He holds up my bleeding hand in the narrow space between our faces. “You’ve cut yourself to the bone. If infection sets in, you could lose your finger. You could even go septic. Do you know what that means?”

“Please,” I say. “Let me try.”

“I’ll give you fifteen minutes. Nurse Santos will help you.”

The doctor beckons to the nurse and they both leave the room.

Nurse Santos returns with an armful of supplies. She sets a plastic bucket of ice, a giant tube of K-Y Jelly, and a pile of Chux on the tray in front of me. She plunges my finger into the bucket of ice, waits a few beats, pulls my finger out, slathers it with K-Y Jelly, and hands it back to me.

I close my eyes and I pull and twist and pull and twist. The ring is stuck. It’s a vise grip tightening on my finger. It hurts like hell.

The doctor reappears. “It’s time,” he says. “So. Which would you rather keep? Your finger or your wedding ring?”

As he speaks, Nurse Santos gathers up what remains of our efforts and assembles a workstation on the rolling table: a neat row of syringes, scissors, thread, and some unrecognizable scary- looking instruments sealed in blue plastic bags.

The doctor reaches for my hand. I grab it back.

“Any jeweler will be able to fix that ring,” the nurse says.

The doctor rolls his shiny metal stool closer to me and grabs my right hand and shoves something cold and hard between my ring finger and my ring. I feel a sharp click. The nurse takes my hand before I can look at it. She sets a small plastic specimen jar next to me. The doctor’s face floats near mine. He positions a syringe over my hand.

“This will numb you,” he says. “Then we’ll sew you up.”

I turn away so I can’t see what he’s about to do. Instead my eyes turn to the specimen jar. In it, the broken circle of my wedding ring.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The New Old Me"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Meredith Maran.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

The Great Man - Kate Christensen

Meredith Maran's soulful, funny, beautiful memoir is a refreshing inspiration to me. I'm ten years younger than she is, wondering what's up ahead. Meredith's voice is exuberant, lusty, kickass, full of life. She is my new role model for getting older without getting old. She blazes a trail for us all, showing humans of all ages how to create joy and community for ourselves while maintaining a sense of humor, wonder, and curiosity. This book is a godsend. Hooray!

Susan Orlean

We are thrilled to share these advance endorsements for Meredith Maran's THE NEW OLD ME:
The best memoirs keep you enthralled and leave you thinking. The New Old Me does both. Meredith Maran's wrenching but redemptive journey is a heartfelt, wise meditation on the challenges women face today as we age, and the creativity with which we're facing them. This is a stirring and captivating must-read for humans of all ages. -Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

I See You Made An Effort - Annabelle Gurwitch

How does Meredith Maran do it? How does she know my secret fears about aging, my not-so-secret flaws? Meredith's life-changing writing draws me in and makes me root for her, root for myself, root for all of us who have only two choices: get older or die. I depend on her hopeful, horrible, hilariously heartfelt dispatches from the future (she's just a wee bit older than I). If anyone finds the fountain of youth, Meredith deserves the first sip.

From the Publisher

We are thrilled to share these advance endorsements for Meredith Maran's THE NEW OLD ME:
The best memoirs keep you enthralled and leave you thinking. The New Old Me does both. Meredith Maran's wrenching but redemptive journey is a heartfelt, wise meditation on the challenges women face today as we age, and the creativity with which we're facing them. This is a stirring and captivating must-read for humans of all ages. -Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

A Replacement Life - Boris Fishman

I might have forgotten to breathe for the entirety of reading these pages, some of the very finest writing I've read in a long time. What you have here is a universal experience — love and loss, dreams and aging, the heartless indifference of the universe to the securities we so innocently weave around ourselves — distilled through the singular sensibility of an exceptional storyteller and dramatist. Meredith Maran's question is the cruelest one of them all: How do we mend ourselves after we have been broken? It is a blessing to have among us a writer of this caliber to guide us to the painful, heartbreaking answers. Books are our most intimate and acute means of communication, John Cheever said. If you want to know what he meant, read this book.

Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

The New Old Me is a poignant story, a funny story, a moving story, and above all an American story of what it means to be a woman "of a certain age" in our time. If you've ever wondered "where have all the bra-burners gone?", Meredith Maran will answer your question as she reinvents herself at age 60—in Hollywood, of all places. Any woman who's ever wondered what life might hold as a modern senior citizen will find much to challenge and reassure her in this absorbing, beautiful book.

What Comes Next and How To Like It - Abigail Thomas

High time we had a book that celebrates becoming an elder! Meredith Maran writes of the difficulties of loss and change and aging, but makes it clear that getting on can be more interesting, more fun, and a lot more exciting than youth. I love this wonderful book.

Bad Mother - Ayelet Waldman

When Meredith Maran lost her best friend, her money, and her marriage at age 60, she could have thrown in the towel, or gone to bed for a year, or become a bitter, angry woman. Instead she made a new, vibrant life for herself in a new, vibrant city, with a new job, new friends, new lovers, and an old bungalow among the lime trees, which she transformed into a writer's haven and salon. The spirit, resilience, and hilarity on display in The New Old Me offers hope for living soulfully and zestfully no matter what life gives us—now, and at every age.

Some Assembly Required - Anne Lamott

I love everything Meredith Maran writes. She is insightful, funny, and human, and the things she writes about matter to me deeply. Her memoir, The New Old Me, is a book I don't just want to read—I need to read it. So does everyone else who's getting older and wants to live fully, with immediacy and enjoyment, which is to say, everyone.

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