Maran, Meredith. “The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention”, Blue Rider, 2017.
Starting Over at 60
Meredith Maran’s memoir begins with the death of her best friend, the loss of her life’s savings, and the collapse of her once-happy marriage. She leaves her San Francisco freelance writer’s life for a 9-to-5 job in Los Angeles and is determined to rebuild her savings and her life when she is already sixty-years-old. She shows us what being an older woman means in today’s world. We see her resilience and transformation and her charisma and poise as she resists spiraling down into self-help and self-pity.
She is inspiring and full of life and even though she is 60, she is never old. We see, through her, how humans of all ages can create joy and community and still be funny, curious and experience things with a sense of awe. We must remember, as we see here, that every new day offers new beginnings and new hopes.
This is an American story about what it means to be a woman ‘of a certain age’ today. Maran writes of the difficulties of loss, change and aging and shows that getting older can be more interesting, more fun, and a lot more exciting than the years of youth.
Near the end of the book when a close friend’s husband dies unexpectedly, she tells Maran that she does not think she will ever be happy again. Maran tells her that she indeed will be happy again but she will have a different kind of happiness. Yes, it will never be the same but we cannot ignore the truth of our lives and aging is one of those truths. Even though things may never be the same again that does not mean there is no more happiness to be had.
This isn’t a plucky, self-help moment. It’s the real life portrait of two 60-something women, grappling with fates they’d rather not have been handed, finding comfort in each other, and not shying away from the truth: things will never be the same. This fact doesn’t preclude happiness, but it shades it a different color. When Maran cuts her finger deeply and gets to the emergency room, the doctor tells her that she will have to cut off her wedding ring in order to treat her finger. The wedding ring is the symbol of the woman she was married to and is now separated from, the very same woman that caused her to move to Los Angeles, the same woman who will return her phone calls, the woman with whom she spent a decade and a half and the woman she thought she would be with forever. Has the time now come that she needs to stop hoping for something that is no longer there?
She is now living the life she never expected to have yet she manages to change uncertainty to opportunity. As she navigates her way through changes and shifts, she remains sweet, funny and she never loses her charm.
She easily could have become a bitter, angry woman but instead she finds a way to have a new life in a new city, a new job, new friends and new lovers and in doing so she gives the rest of us offers hope for zestful and soulful living despite the passage of time.