I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50, by Annabelle Gurwitch ***-****

ISeeYouMadeanEffortGurwitch is entering the downhill slope of middle age, and she isn’t going to go gently. In this enjoyable collection of essays, she is sometimes hilarious, and at other moments more philosophical. But she is never dull. Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me an ARC.

Middle age means a deluge of mail order catalogs that sell products for the incontinent, the arthritic, the retired. Gurwitch doesn’t want them. What she might want is a few intimate moments with her hot yoga instructor—ah, so young!—or maybe even the young man who’s fixing her computer.

Alas, middle age also means caring for parents that are in declining health, and some of us get to raise teenagers at the same time. If you can’t laugh, you might have to cry! And sometimes, being middle aged means a precipitate end to a career, when your old employer sends you packing and those that are hiring want someone younger than you. They don’t say it, but it’s obvious.

And so middle age means you need to buy some really good concealer, because if you have been a sturdy feminist whose self-esteem used to mean that no cosmetics were necessary, guess what? Once you’re old enough, just picking those chin hairs out with tweezers isn’t going to do it. Lose the unibrow; trowel on the concealer and redraw the brows you just removed; cross your fingers that it works. “Facial hair,” she reminds us, “is an equal opportunity offender.”

Gurwitch is an actress, for those that didn’t already know that, and she has some stories to tell that will either make you howl with laughter or moan with pain, depending upon your perspective. Perspective? She has it here in spades. My personal favorite was her piece on petty theft. I hope she can still get a hotel room in her own name!

At times her tone becomes more philosophical, because there’s not much that’s funny about having people close to you die, and unfortunately, that’s one more unwanted surprise Mother Nature pushes at us when we edge our way toward 50 and beyond. And she wants you to remember that you can’t die without telling someone your password. You just can’t.

Many of us swore we wouldn’t sit around and bitch about our physical complaints when we grew old, the way our parents did…but now there’s Google. There’s WEB MD. For every symptom we have, there are at least twenty dread diagnoses possible! Get off the computer! Are you listening?

If you are under 40 and still reading this review, you ought to know by now that this book is not for you. If your mother is still alive, however, you should get this for her. Mother’s Day is coming. And for heaven’s sake get her a dozen red roses to keep it company.

Because you just never know. It could be her last. And really, that’s not so funny.

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