I wish I'd read this book sooner. I wish I'd had a friend like author Jen Mann over the past decade. In Midlife Bites (Ballantine Books, 2022), the New York Times bestselling author poses the question many of us wonder: Is anyone else falling apart, or is it just me? Her anecdotes and advice are so relatable. It's not just you.
She questions everything with brutal honesty and humor - and doesn't pretend to have all the answers. But she does have some great suggestions and takeaways, which she conveys in her "Jen's Gems" section at the end of every chapter.
One of my favorite chapters was her perspective on friendship. When her car broke down on the highway, she took time to scroll through her contacts and evaluate who, if anyone, was a close enough friend to call for help. "No, not Stephanie, we're not that close." "Frank? Oh wait, I think that's my dentist. That reminds me, I need to make an appointment for a cleaning..." She wasn't sure what she was more upset about - her car being disabled or that she didn't have a friend she felt she could call on for help.
When she felt she was having a midlife crisis and felt she was all alone, she knew writing would make her feel better, but was afraid sharing her feelings would make her appear weak. And where would she find the time? This is what she thought about as she tried to get a few hours of sleep before waking up to a day full of doctors appointments and kids' after school activities, grocery shopping and having to find multi-color straws for her son's science project.
Her realizations let us off the hook and simplify things (in a good way). I found myself pleasantly surprised when she wrote that "no one cares what you fed your kids for dinner, about your wrinkles, about what car you drive." What a relief! "Go live your life the way you want to live it," she urges.
She isn't afraid to say what some of us think. Maybe it is OK if we hate making small talk at parties! Maybe it's OK to say 'No!" to chairing the school carnival committee! Maybe it's OK to try to will yourself to be happy and read positive memes on social media for a week...only to then feel like you want to murder someone.
At some level, we know this stuff deep down, but it's reassuring to see it in print. Midlife Bites is a great and eye-opening read for any midlife woman. It will make you nod in agreement, laugh out loud, feel less alone, actually think about self-care and help you give yourself a break, with grace. It's refreshing - and empowering.
I don't know if Mann would technically call this a self-help book, but it helped me!