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Stephanie Dolgoff on My Formerly Hot Life

A few years back, when my mom and my husband saw that I was launching a website called Formerly Hot, essentially about having just aged out of being the "hot" chick I was for most of my life, they fell all over themselves to reassure me that I am, in fact, still hot, in my own not-so-young-anymore kind of way. My husband very sweetly told me I could get fat(ter), saggy(er), blotch(ier), and my pores could continue to expand like crop circles all over my face and to him, I would still be the relatively young and desirable woman he married. Bless him. My mother simply took issue with the idea that older women were no longer hot, and chided me for putting myself down.

That’s when I realized I needed to clarify my mission, and now that Formerly Hot the blog has grown into My Formerly Hot Life, the book, I’ll take this opportunity to do so again.

The book is not a marathon fishing-for-compliments trip (although I won’t be turning any down). I know I still look fine, and on a good day, great. I wholeheartedly agree with my mom’s estimation that a woman’s hotness is not necessarily inversely proportional to how many candles she has on her birthday cake.

I wrote the book to have a laughing look at the unvarnished truth about getting older--the good, the bad, and those unexpected b----slaps that still seem to come out of nowhere, even if you’re relatively well adjusted to the fact that you’re not forever 21. It’s about those moments--whether it’s when you’re the one wishing your neighbors would turn down the damn music because it’s after 10 (can "kids these days, sheesh!" be far off now?), or when you’re bracing yourself for the whistle from the construction crew that never comes--when it is suddenly ultra clear that you’re occupying an entirely new category of human being.

When I first realized I was a Formerly--the term I came up with to indicate that you’re formerly what you were, but you may not be quite sure what you are yet--my main indicator was how far away I had moved from the standard perfectly symmetrical, thin, perky-boobed female ideal (not that I had ever arrived.) It became pretty clear pretty quickly that this whole Formerly transformation had only partly to do with my looks. In fact, the shift was much more profound.

And wonderful. The longer I spent on this side of young, the more obvious it became that Formerly Territory was a much happier place to live, for me and the hundreds of women I spoke to about it. There are distinct upsides to being a Formerly, ones that no one talks about. I used to feel like a composite of other people’s opinions of me; now, I am comfortable with who I am, and other people’s opinions are, well, just their opinions. I follow my instincts, what’s comfortable for me, rather than what I think I "should" do or what everyone else seems to think is the move. Life feels less intense, less dramatic, more relaxed and peaceful. In other words, time passes. Things change. And that’s cool.

Except when it’s not. Getting older, even if you’re not old, can sometimes suck! It would be nice not to have to look up every texting abbreviation someone sends to me before replying, for instance. I used to know such things. I’m not going to tell you that I welcome every wrinkle and pucker as a symbol of the rich and wise life my trusty body and I have lived happily together. I am regularly shocked by the new iteration of me that stares back from the mirror. I promise never to intone that you must "embrace your life changes," or that 50 is the new 40 is the new 30 is the new 29. You are what you are but you don’t always have to be smiling about it.

On balance, though, even as I’m letting go of the stuff I thought was indispensable to happiness when I was younger, I’m happier than my younger self ever could have imagined. That’s what My Formerly Hot Life is about--laughing at ourselves and our obsession with youth, even as we see that life is so much richer on the other side of young. The women I’ve spoken to for the book wouldn’t trade where they are today for another chance for a teenager’s body, and that’s a message I hope the readers of this book can carry with them for all their days.

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ISBN-10:  0345521455
ISBN-13:  978-0345521453
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
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review by . October 19, 2011
Its not as if Stephanie Dolgoff has it all wrong; she doesn't, but for a forty-something she seems to think a bit superficially even for a superficial subject. Maybe that's what its all about, the material world and fitting in. Or maybe it's just about finding world material for a blog and rambling on about whatever the subject obsessively until some sort of conclusion is drawn or the verbiage count is just right to fit on a website page in a fetching manner.     Whatever the …
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