Why We Can’t Sleep is a book about Gen X Women and how mid-life is affecting them. Why then, am I a Millennial lady reading it? Because as someone who just turned 40 I often find that I identify more with things that are defined as Gen X as opposed to Millennial (the accepted year bracket for Gen X is 1964-1980, but there are models that have put it as late as 1984). I’m like many other millions of people existing on the boundaries of the generational lines but I am certainly by anyone’s math in my middle age, give or take.
My reasons for reading this are similar to my reasons for reading What Fresh Hell is This two years ago. I’m already dealing with it, best to get my head around what’s coming.
I mentioned in my review of Priceless that I’ve been coming up a little disappointed in narrative non-fiction lately, but Why We Can’t Sleep definitely turned the corner on that (I hope it continues). Calhoun grows this book out from an article she wrote for O Magazine. Like most of the rest of the way Gen X has experienced life, mid-life is hitting differently for its women than those who have come before us. This rings incredibly true to me at this time.
Each chapter covers a different topic, and the basis of the book is in interviews that Calhoun conducted with a wide slice of Gen X women (but she is clear in her foreword that this book is about middle class Gen X women, there are other factors which exacerbate the struggle in mid-life of women in lower socio-economic spheres). I appreciate that Calhoun set herself a reasonable boundary to explore, it helps keep Why We Can’t Sleep from growing into a behemoth and instead remain a crisp 250 pages.
When my brother asked me what I was reading when he spotted this book sitting on the table I told him, “Oh, its about mid-life for women and how its all a bit bleak.” He was dumbfounded – why was I reading a book that bummed me out. But then I reassured him, it didn’t – having an author interview 200 women and do the secondary research and turn around and say, yep this is a thing that is happening to lots of women actually lowered my anxiety. I may be worried about lots of things and the feelings that I have to defend the way I live my life, but there’s reasons why its happening and I’m not alone. Not alone, and having language to describe what’s happening, are what help keep me afloat. Is everyone going to love the tone of this book? Nope. There were certainly components that I skimmed through, but I think if you are a lady person in your late 30s or your 40s there is plenty here you might find relatable.