Tracey Jackson is not the type of person to let the elephant in the room go unnoticed. Not only will she point it out, she might even recommend a good place it could get Botox for its more stubborn wrinkles.
The screenwriter, blogger, and author of the book “Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is Not the New Thirty,” published this year by an imprint of Harper Collins, said that it was essential for her to be honest in the book about what women are really facing when 50 and beyond. The fact that speaking frankly about her life also happens to be funny is an added bonus, and something that comes naturally to her in her work and private life.
“I find that if you are brutally honest and you say things that people are actually thinking and you make them laugh about it, it makes it much easier for them to come to grips with things they may not be comfortable with,” she said on a recent spring afternoon over some rather loud atmospheric music and other background noise at Cittanuova in East Hampton. She lives in Sag Harbor part time with her husband, Glenn Horowitz, and their family.
In a chapter on what happens to the sex drive of a menopausal woman, Ms. Jackson discusses her own experience openly, as well as those often funny and awkward moments few are willing to admit to in the bedroom, such as when the family pet takes off with a movable part of a sex toy just around the time things are getting interesting.
“That chapter gets a lot of attention, partially because it’s funny and partially because people are really relieved” to hear that sometimes other people “phone it in” or may not be having as much sex as everyone thinks they should be having. “It makes them more comfortable with their own lives.”
She said the feedback, whether she is talking to groups on the coast on in the more provincial reaches of the country, has been very positive. “People are saying thank you for saying this. I get many questions about where’s the sex shop,” the one known for its discreet ambience and upscale accessories where she purchased the aforementioned toy. “I guess I don’t have the embarrassment gene,” she said.
Readers in the South have been particularly receptive. “I sold more books in Newnan, Ga., than I did in Berkeley, Calif.” The less jaded smaller town audiences are excited to have authors visiting and are happy to meet them, she said. “What’s another writer in East Hampton? There’s about 9,000 on the block right now.”
In a film she made about her relationship with her daughter called “Lucky Ducks,” she took a similar approach in discussing anorexia in teenagers and her own problems with her mother. She found it liberating, but others found it controversial. “I like to take things out of the closet.” She said some of that rebellion is against her own background, one in which her family and friends were constantly promoting the myth that everyone’s life was perfect.
“A lot of people walk around thinking of other people: ‘Their life is better than mine’ or ‘They’re not going through the same problems as I am or the same issues or feeling the same thing.’ ” For that reason, while much of the information she has to impart debunks the myth that we can be exactly the way we were at age 30, the book still has a positive message. “It’s not a downer. It’s just honest. Look down the gun barrel and figure out how to deal with it.”
For many who have read the book, which draws on her own experience with estrogen loss and other health-related concerns, she has become the go-to person for questions such as whether to get a face-lift and what to do instead of one, about dating later in life, employability after 50, and getting one’s financial house in order.
These are some of the practical issues that Ms. Jackson explores with the help of medical experts and her own dedicated investigations. One can read the book as a tell-all or as a handbook for the type of changes to expect later in life and how to navigate them from a more knowledgeable position. She’s like the best friend you didn’t know you needed and who won’t let you wallow in delusion.
“By personalizing these experiences, I’m able to humanize them.” So when she receives requests for advice at readings and in e-mails to her blog, she responds to every one. “I think when you write a book like this there is a responsibility to respond to your readers and I’m willing to take that on,” she said, even if it is just to guide them to more information.
On the bright side, she said she had the best year of her life just shy of 53. “I’m all for women becoming entrepreneurial as I have done, because then they can control their future.” When women tell her that they are in bad relationships she tells them to move on. “People tend to get lazy and complacent and stuck at this age. I think it’s a time to be very active and very proactive.” Still, it requires a lot of work and diligence “and facing certain realities you might not want to face.”
“I had a great career as a screenwriter for 20 years, but I never owned any of that. I was a work-for-hire person and always relied on my next job by pleasing someone. That’s a very uncertain way to live.”
To get to your 50s and be in charge of the future is a great way to live your life, she said. “I’m the captain of my ship.”