On Being 40(ish) edited by Lindsey Mead, review by Shelly Walston
On Being 40ish is the collection that every woman should read and then gift to all of her best friends. The fifteen contributions that make up this slim volume run the gamut: from family to fame, from introspection to injury, from success to solitude. And each voice – favorites like Sloane Crossley, author of The Clasp and I Was Told There’d Be Cake, and Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure – adds depth to the milestone each addresses. Whether it’s looking forward to forty or back at a turning point in the decade, the authors’ perspectives ring true; they’re both personal and universal.
As a queer woman, I was skeptical that these women – straight women with children and corner-office jobs – would speak to me, to my journey, yet I was pleasantly surprised in the commonalities we shared. While I don’t identify with being a mother, having no children of my own, I did identify with the way each mother spent her twenties and thirties building her family and career and now finds herself reflecting. Being on the cusp of my fourth decade, I was surprised and pleased to hear my voice in theirs, to see my struggles in theirs – even if I haven’t spent months in traction after a life-altering injury.
Yes, there were moments when I sighed at the sentimentality in some of their stories, but I also found myself laughing in solidarity and crying when moments pushed their limits. What makes these essays, poems, and drawings appropriate for women of a certain age – an age I find myself approaching inexorably – is that they’re genuine; they’re real; and they’re full of hope. And hope is definitely something I can get behind.