WOMEN

Her Stories: Women Are Sad, Anxious ― And Not Sleeping. But Why?

Plus: Why neglected friendships deserve your time this year.

Hi there, readers!

It might be my age, or my particular echo chamber (or maybe even more likely, the posts served to me by social networks’ algorithms), but this week, I haven’t stopped hearing about one particular book: Ada Calhoun’s “Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis.”

This book, about Gen X women and the distinct struggles they face, is not just a book meant to bemoan the situation these women find themselves in (an unfair categorization Gen X has dealt with all their lives). For HuffPost senior enterprise editor Samantha Storey, talking to Calhoun coalesced so much of her own experience and coping strategies.

For her, the sense of aimlessness (usually known by its more media-friendly name, the “midlife crisis”) happened more than two decades ago at the age of 24, when she found herself bored with her job and dating life. “That’s when, like a good Gen Xer, I made plans to be alone for the rest of my life, which looking back on now is so peak Gen X, a superb mix of cynicism and pragmatism. If I was going to be alone forever, I was going to have fun while doing it!”

“I went to a million author readings. Learned an instrument. Took up hiking and traveling — alone. But what that did for me, and I didn’t realize it until after I’d been through that period, was to make me an ultra confident person. I was happy in my skin, my life. That energy, in turn, I think, made me open to more experiences. Then, all of a sudden, I was not so alone and had made a lovely community.”

Ada Calhoun, author of "Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis."
Ada Calhoun, author of "Why We Can't Sleep: Women's New Midlife Crisis."

A big theme in the book is the lack of support available to women of this age, whether it’s child care, health care or even a financial system that benefits them in the same way it helped their parents (“Having the option to throw money at a problem all but removes the stress,” Samantha notes wryly). For Samantha, Calhoun’s focus on where to find those foundations was the glimmer of hope she needed.

“Calhoun talks a lot about building a support system, asking for help when you need it, and most importantly, finding pockets of joy. Gen Xers are the least parented generation in recent times, and they grew up fiercely independent. This serves them well, on the one hand, but on the other they need to learn how to ask for help when they need it. Whether it’s reaching out to a friend or a partner, Gen X women have to learn how to say what they need.”

As a xennial who’s turning 40 this year, these concerns are very much on my mind, and I appreciate more than words can quite say the path forged by the women who have come before me.

Given the massive response to both Calhoun’s book and Samantha’s story, I want to know — do these kinds of struggles ring true for you? What’s keeping you up at night? Email me at herstories@huffpost.com, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Until next time,

Follow Samantha on Twitter (@samanthastorey) to see more of the stories she’s working on, from voter fraud to parental leave.

Feminist writer poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde poses for a photograph during her 1983 residency at the Atlantic C
Feminist writer poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde poses for a photograph during her 1983 residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida.

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