I write about culture, ideas, books, theater, psychology, education and assorted other topics for The New York Times. My first book, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age is being published by Scribner in January 2012. Although the middle-aged make up the biggest, richest and most influential segment of the country, its history has remained largely untold. In Our Prime is a biography of the idea of middle age from its invention in the late nineteenth century to its current place at the center of American society, where it shapes the way we view our family, our professional obligations, and our inner lives. The book ranges over the entire landscape of midlife, exploring how its biological, psychological and social definitions have shifted from one generation to the next. Middle age has swung between being an emblem of power and wealth, and a symbol of decline. Explaining why, I take readers from turn-of-the-century factories that refused to hire middle-aged men to high-tech laboratories where researchers are currently conducting cutting-edge experiments on the middle-aged brain and body. I trace how middle age has been depicted in movies, advertisements, books, and TV shows: the sportscar-buying husband, the frigid housewife, the predatory cougar, and the first-time parent. I uncover the origins of myths like the midlife crisis and empty nest syndrome, and investigates middle-age medical procedures from monkey gland transplants to human growth hormones, estrogen therapy, Viagra, Botox, and facelifts. The book also reveals the inner workings of the “Midlife Industrial Complex,” a trillion-dollar economy that serves both Boomers and Gen Xers.
Combining extensive research with original reporting, In Our Prime will compel readers to re-examine deeply held assumptions about a topic they think they already know.