As you grow old, you become hypochondriac as you hear about the passing of your acquaintances or someone who was in the same class as you when you did your sixth form. When a glass is half filled, you used to see it as half full. As you grow old, you tend to see the glass half empty as your optimism level decreases despite the quote that says an optimistic person sees an opportunity in every difficult situation. But no matter whatever things that life has thrown you along the way, one must not stop daydreaming as it keeps your sanity.
As you grow old, you become entrenched and find it hard to break free from your daily routine, duties and responsibilities. Baby boomers like me learn new lingos like TMI ( too much information) BRB ( be right back), TTYL (talk to you later) LOL ( laugh out loud) IRL (in real life) and also to execute a selfie or wefie and these days seemingly everyone can create their own hashtags and a wordsmith in their own right. In this process, some of us lose the ability to spell words while some probably never bother to learn as it appears unnecessary these days.
When my children were growing up, I came across Allison Pearson’s first novel “ I don’t know How She does it” and had thoroughly enjoyed as it was hilarious and spot on about life of a working mother who tries desperately to fit in everything. The protagonist Kate Reddy is a supermom and she had a successful career at Edwin Morgan Forster where she founded the Hedge Fund for the company. The eternal question is Can you have it all? When I came to know that there was a sequel to the novel, I was delighted to get hold of a copy of it. Thanks to online purchase, I had the sequel delivered to my office in a few days' time. For a books addict like me, nothing cheers me up more than receiving a text from a courier service stating that your order is being delivered and subsequently seeing the parcel sitting on your desk. There are days when I will keep the parcel unopened until the weekend.
Kate Reddy in How Hard Can It Be has a rude awakening when Emily, her sixteen- year old daughter sent a belfie of her bum that was meant for only the girls in their Whatsapp group and her so-called best friend in school, Lizzy tagged her bum #Flagbum and now everyone on Facebook can see it and knows it’s hers. Lizzy has told her that it was purely accidental but Emily is definitely freaking out as she has received lewd messages from lads like Tyler who texts:
‘ Ur ass is well fit make me big lol !!! (smiley icon for lol )
Kate is appalled when she comes across Tyler’s text after Emily approaches her for help. In Kate's narration,
‘ Christ , the Village Idiot is talking dirty to my baby. And ‘Ur’instead of ‘Your’? The boy is not just lewd but illiterate. My Inner Grammarian clutches her pearls and shudders. Come off it , Kate. What kind of warped avoidance strategy is this? Some drooling lout is sending your sixteen-year-old daughter pornographic texts and you’re worried about his spelling?’
Kate has to stop the belfie to spread further without telling her husband, Richard.
In How Hard Can It Be, Richard after being let go by his ethical architecture firm has turned into his inner Dalai Lama and he will not be earning for two years so he can get retrained as a counsellor. While Kate is a few months shy of fifty, she refuses to stay invisible. Kate has been a stay home mother for several years and now she has to reinvent herself, work on her CV and look for a full-time job to keep the family finances afloat. Meanwhile, Kate has to do the washing, cleaning, cooking, preparing herself for interview with a headhunter and fix the Emmy’s belfie problem. As Kate combats hormones that have her in shackles, she deals with a home life where her husband is not working and very much into the regime of cycling and yoga and finding himself and their two adolescents are going through their growing pains and turn to her for all their needs and on top of that she has to run to her husband’s aging parents and her own aging mother whenever they call for help. And as if she has not gotten enough on her plate, she has a builder working on her kitchen as she has defied Richard’s preference and insisted on purchasing an old house that needs restoration work. She was able to ‘clinch the deal with Richard by pointing out that the house in the catchment area of a superb secondary school.’ Though she has her dream house ( a money pit due to repair work), Richard pretty much hates the house from Day One.
Kate has joined the Women Returners group, a support group of wives and mothers who are fighting their way back to work. Sally who is a decade older is her new found friend from Women Returners group. After her children had flown the nest, Sally got herself a part-time job as a cashier at Lloyds Bank. She used to work for Santander, a big Spanish bank and in Kate’s narration ‘Sally’s nostalgia for those days is so acute that sometimes I can’t bear to watch the dormouse-bright eyes in that lined face.’
After a humiliating interview with a headhunter, Kate has an opportunity to apply for a temporary junior position at her old work place, Edwin Morgan Forster when her friend, Candy Stratton happens to give her name to someone at a women’s networking thing. Although it is marketing business development and a bit of admin, Kate sits down and redo her CV. She decides to lie about her age.
‘Until you start trying to conceal your age you have no idea how many ways there are to give it away. Teen idols, pop stars , fashionable restaurants, famous football matches, Olympics, moon landings, children’s TV programmes, historical knowledge, having seen any movie made before Pulp Fiction, being able to spell. Each and every one of them is a potential trap for a woman pretending to be seven years younger.’
As if Kate’s life is not complicated enough, seven years ago by some internet intervention, she had accidentally pressed sent to her client, Jack Abelhammer a note that read “ Drunk and disorderly? Not exactly. I don’t need to be drunk to be disorderly”, the note that was intended for her woman friend, Candy. Jack is the charming client and friend whom Kate has left behind along with her job at Edwin Morgan Forster.
Years later, she tells Jack,
‘But the world Is not ideal. Never was, never will be. Ideals are for people who are free, for people who can act for themselves. I can’t, I have to think of other people. I have so many people who depend on me. The thing with ideals is they don’t inspire. They screw you up, make you sad, always dangling there out of reach.”
Most working mothers will see a bit of themselves in the harried and capable Kate Reddy, the protagonist in both I don’t know how she does it and its sequel How Hard Can It Be?. Allison Pearson’s observations about the sandwich generation, parenting amidst the social media age and ageism for women are acute and poignant. Her take on coping with perimenopause is hilarious and how Kate has to cope with her roller coaster ride in her home and work life is funny indeed. The downside is it is still a feel-good read about middle-class woes.
How Hard Can It Be ? has been optioned and adapted for tv. click I don’t know How She does it” was earlier on made into a movie and Sarah Jessica Parker acted as Kate Reddy.