Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Best of Everything After Fifty by Barbara Hannah Grufferman

The Best of Everything After Fifty:  The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money, and More by Barbara Hannah Grufferman is a surprisingly thorough text that can be summarized in very few words.  Offering advice on what "women of a certain age" should do (Do it!), should avoid (Don't do it!), and how they can know when some advice may not be right (Listen!), Grufferman encourages her readers to use a little common sense while giving them permission to maybe feel overwhelmed by everything that's coming.

And frankly, there's enough content here to feel a bit overwhelmed.  Because of the scope of the text, Grufferman does not try to be the primary source for all of the content.  Instead, she serves as a researcher who seeks out the experts and then shares what she learns from each.  So when she lists the various tests that should be done and explains why these are now necessary (mammograms, naturally, as well as cholesterol levels, bone density tests, and more), the list she presents is one that has been suggested to her by a particular doctor who works in a hospital.  All experts are listed in the back of the book with brief biographies, contact information, and websites (where applicable).

These health guidelines and assessments clearly fall under the "do it" category.  When she goes on to discuss things like diet and exercise, there are some recommendations that are obviously "do it" and some that are "don't do it" but then there are the blurry areas, those not necessarily necessary things women can do or not do.  More banal are the discussions about plastic surgery, botox, etc.  Should you "do it" or "don't do it"?  This is where Grufferman has the sense to sit on the fence and say "Listen."  Listen to yourself.  If you feel you want or even need plastic surgery then why not?  Unfortunately, so much space is given to the choices available that it is hard to hear that small voice thinking it isn't necessary.  This is especially true for the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) section where she goes to great lengths to explain the options and then tosses a quick "talk to your doctor" without offering any other options (like homeopathic, herbal, etc.) for those women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.  (I personally do not like the use of the word "symptom" at all as it implies something wrong--a disease or condition--rather than suggesting that menopause is a natural transition so it is also quite possible that my resistance is a knee jerk reaction to a preconceived attitude towards something that should not be associated with disease, etc.)

Don't get me wrong.  I think this book is a good reference to start with.  I just want to really emphasize Grufferman's advice to "Listen" and when you read her recommendations for products that contain the peptide GABA because they may help "relax the muscles" in your face I want to chime in and say, "You know what else relaxes muscles?  Massages!"  Think about it.  When was the last time you gave yourself a nice facial massage?  Last night?  Last week?  Last month?  Have you ever?  And if not, why not?  As for the products that are recommended throughout (skin care, makeup, etc.), I would urge the reader to either stick with what you are using and already love or, if you don't know where to begin, start inexpensively and work your way up.  No need to buy a $50 product you might like when you already love a $10 one or can give a $15 one a try first.

Listen . . . that is the crucial piece of advice.  If you read something that simply will not work for you for whatever reason, skip it or make a note of it and research it further.  She says only wash your hair once or twice a week.  Will that work for you?  I don't know.  It didn't work well for me at all but then the author's hair is curly while mine is baby-fine and straight so not washing my hair left it looking not only dull but downright dirty.  And if you want to follow her fashion recommendations, I say go for it.  But if you prefer to find thrift store or consignment shop treasures then listen to yourself.  Do what is right for you.  Let this book be a launching pad for you to create your own invaluable resource of what you can do to make your fifties the best they can be, one that meets your unique needs during this time in your life.

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