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In Our Prime

In Our Prime

The Invention of Middle Age

The director behind the Hollywood close-up and the inventor of the “midlife crisis,” the doctors who promised to restore men’s sexual vigor with monkey gland transplants and the neuroscientists mapping the middle-aged brain, the fashion designers and the feminists: They are all part of the fascinating parade of businessmen, entertainers, scientists, and hucksters who have shaped our understanding and experience of middle age.

Midlife has swung between serving as a symbol of power and influence and a metaphor for decline, yet the invention and history of this vital period of life have never before been fully told. Acclaimed New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen finally fills the gap with a book that provokes surprise, outrage, and delight. In Our Prime takes readers from turn-of-the-century factories that refused to hire middle-aged men to high-tech laboratories where researchers are unraveling the secrets of the middle-aged mind and body. She traces how midlife has been depicted in film, television, advertisements, and literature. Cohen exposes the myths of the midlife crisis and empty-nest syndrome and investigates antiaging treatments such as human growth hormones, estrogen, Viagra, Botox, and plastic surgery.

Exhilarating and empowering, In Our Prime will compel readers to reexamine a topic they think they already know.
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  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416579854 | 
  • January 2012
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Living in Your Prime at Middle Age

A biography of the idea of middle age from its invention in the late nineteenth century to its current place at the center of American society, where it shapes the way we view our families, our professional obligations, and our inner lives.

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The Prime Meridian

For the first time, middle-aged men and women are the largest, most influential, and richest segment in the country. Floating somewhere between 40 and 64, they constitute one-third of the population and control nearly seventy percent of its net worth. In booms and recessions, a trillion-dollar economy feeds and fuels their needs, whims, and desires. Better-educated and healthier than their predecessors, these early and late midlifers are happier, more productive, and more involved than any other age group. Women are part of the first generation to enter their 40s and 50s after the feminist... see more

About the Author

Patricia Cohen
Photograph by Fred Conrad.

Patricia Cohen

Patricia Cohen has been a New York Times reporter for thirteen years. She has also worked at The Washington Post, New York Newsday, and Rolling Stone. She has a BA from Cornell University and a graduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.




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