A Shed of One’s Own is a brand new UK book on men and middle age. It’s an encouraging sign of this topic rising into prominence that the book has just been read on Radio 4, and was actually in stock at Waterstones.
The keynote of the book for me was this comment: you can only take yourself too seriously if you have forgotten how ridiculous you are. It takes a mostly light-hearted and humorous poke at the silliness of middle age: the habits we are stuck in, our righteous indignation about the yoof dropping litter, and lots more.
Many of you reading this will know that I am well on with writing my own book as a guide to life for midlife men, so you may mildly share my anxiety that A Shed of One’s Own might render my lovingly-written volume redundant. I am glad to say the answer is no.
A Shed of One’s Own is written by Marcus Berkmann, a journalist and media man who has only just turned 50. The book cover has a photo of him where he looks about 30, and describes him as author of the classic Rain Men: this is a book which I have never heard of, about cricket. The book cover also says This candid and hilarious dispatch from the frontline is essential reading for anyone over 35…
Here’s an example of the fine insights Marcus offers:
One of the stranger features of the heterosexual male midlife is the sense that there are more attractive women than ever, far more than there were when we were young…
Then I worked out why. When you are, say 20, you generally fancy girls of roughly your own age and slightly younger. This continues throughout life.
So at 20, you will be gawping at pretty women between the ages of 15 and 25. When you are 50, you will be gawping at pretty women between the ages of 15 and 55. That’s 4 times as many. Really it’s a disaster. The more women there appear to be, the less we can do anything about it (either we are unavailable, or we look like hell, or both.)
I think that Marcus’ book, and its broadcast on Radio 4, will have great benefits in raising awareness and active interest from a wide range of men who are in or approaching midlife. His book is a witty and perceptive highlighting of the issues, but does not pretend to be a guide to solutions. My book would be a good sequel or companion to A Shed of One’s Own, offering a deeper look at the issues, and a good range of approaches and resources for handling them.
One thing I have to admit is feeling how young Marcus is: look at the picture! He says he has turned 50, he’s put on a bit of weight, and his hearing’s not perfect… I see the years beyond 50 as a time of major shipwrecks for many men, and it’s clear that Marcus has not yet hit the rocks in any major way: his partnership, health, work all seem pretty intact. I’m glad for him, but don’t expect his book to address the major crises of the maturing years from personal experience. It is worth reading, not only for fun, but also for some good insights, like this one: To replace perfect eyesight, we get perfect hindsight, and much improved foresight. This is not such a bad deal.