Photo credit: Jenny Jimenez
This book is about going a little nuts at midlife, and rediscovering the girl I used to be. At 45 years old, I was a happily married mom of two when I suddenly found myself both extravagantly sad and sexually kind of woken up — just as I’d been as an adolescent. I had worked hard to become a respectable worker and mom, but that terrible girl just came roaring back out of nowhere. The book toggles between my slutty, troublesome teenage self and my grown-up self, who’s overwhelmed with an unexpected, tidal lust and melancholy.
1. “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads
There were moments writing this book when I wondered: Am I just writing a very, very long version of “Once in a Lifetime”? The most concise rendering of midlife questioning ever. I don’t even really like it that much, but it demands to be included on this list.
2. “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells
I listened to this pretty much nonstop in my 40s, when I was writing the book. Its psychotic/silly lyrics made a weird kind of sense to me — I wanted to get reacquainted with trouble, and this song is all about trouble.
3. “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop
As a mom and a wife, I longed to be in the passenger seat — I yearned to have someone else take charge. I wanted an escape from my life, but I wanted someone else to make me escape. That’s what this song is about — giving up control, and the delicious sense of majesty that can sometimes come with it.
4. “Prelude to Tristan and Isolde” by Richard Wagner
|Note: In order to listen to the playlist, you will need to log in to Spotify. Sign up for a free account here.
When I was paddling around in the depths of sadness in my mid-40s, one of the only things that made me feel better — perversely — was watching Lars Von Trier’s ridiculously morose film Melancholia
, which takes the Prelude as its theme. Suddenly Wagnerian end-of-the-world melodrama felt just right to me.
5. “Judy and the Dream of Horses” by Belle and Sebastian
The most perfect song I know about being a young girl yearning for love and sex.
6. “Little Red Corvette” by Prince
This song fascinated me as a kid — I think because the girl in the song had condoms in her pockets; this seemed to my young self just incredibly bold. Prince in many ways was the first pro-sex, pro-girl artist I ever encountered. He made me feel less weird in my sexual curiosity.
7. “Me and the Boys” by NRBQ
At one point this was the title of the book. As a tomboy kid, and then as a sexually precocious teen, all I ever wanted was to be around boys. A whiff of testosterone was my drug of choice.
8. “Told You I’d Be With the Guys” by Cherry Glazerr
A raw and true song — from the female perspective — about girls hanging out with boys, evoking the hazards therein.
9. “1 2 X U” by Wire
Wire’s album Pink Flag
makes a brief appearance in the book. It was the soundtrack to my youth, and became the soundtrack to my midlife falling apart. The sound obliterates you and makes you feel transformed, the way I wanted to be obliterated and transformed.
10. “Bone Machine” by the Pixies
Just a banger about a person who just wants to, well, you know.
11. “Pretty Pimpin” by Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile’s existentially challenged narrator looks in the mirror and has no idea who or what he’s looking at… but he kinda likes what he sees. At the end of the book, I’ve come to realize identity is always shifting, reverting, cycling. I only wish I could meet the changes with Kurt Vile’s level of chill.
12. “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie
How I felt as a teen, and maybe how I’ll always feel: like calamity’s child.
÷ ÷ ÷
is the author of the New York Times
bestselling memoir Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses
, which has been translated into 12 languages, and which Elizabeth Gilbert called "the book we all need." A book critic, essayist, and reporter, Dederer is a longtime contributor to the New York Times
and has also written for the Atlantic
, the Nation
, and New York
magazine, among other publications. Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning
is her newest book. She lives on an island near Seattle with her family.