Stephanie Dolgoff is omnipresent in the body-image blogosphere these days. You might have read a review of her new book My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the other side of young (that comes out today!) from MizFit, Leslie, or Jezebel. Or perhaps you caught her front page story in the style section of the New York Times (which strangely pictured her amidst a large pile of shoes because shoes… are a measure of youth? Hotness?) ANYHOW. Even Gawker – a site dominated by gay men – had to weigh in on the debate surrounding the perceived hotness of older females in our culture. So of course I had to read it. Thankfully a few months ago I was privileged to receive an advance review copy of the book – which instructed me cryptically not to quote from it without consulting the final version first… which hadn’t been released yet which made me read the review copy very closely looking for any covert messages Dolgoff might have slipped to me such as “Help! I’m locked in a cage! Send shoes!” I didn’t find any secret messages, sadly, but I did get a sweet hand-written note from her saying she hoped I enjoyed it.
And I did! Dolgoff is hilarious and quirky and – it must be said – still hot, even in the conventional youth-loving sense of the word. Which is where my train and hers split tracks. (Don’t disabuse me of my metaphor – I have read quite enough Thomas the Tank Engine books to know that trains do all kinds of wacky things like split tracks and bump buffers and, you know, talk. All the time. Frankly, if I were Sir Topham Hatt I’d put Thomas in the coal yard too just to get some peace and quiet.)
Stephanie, as I am wont to call her as her writing engenders such a feeling of familiarity, originally came to be writing a book about being Formerly Hot (or just Formerly for short) after a man on the subway asked her for the time. And that was it. As a hottie, she was used to being hit on and this man’s narrow chronological focus surprised her. (Perhaps he was reading Gawker on his phone? Just a thought.) She realized that she had crossed the line drawn crookedly in the sand by our fun-house-mirrored society into… what, exactly? Not old age. Not even middle age really. Just, Not Young. As one would expect from any major life transition, this was jarring to her both physically and in her sense of self, causing her some deep (and witty) introspection.
Confession: I have never had a man ask me for the time with any intent other than to find out the time. I’ve never had a stranger send me a drink at a bar or a waiter leave me his number on the check or any of those other rom-com clichés. (DID YOU SEE THAT? I got the é to work! I love you guys!!) Nor have I even had a man try and use one of those awful pick-up lines every other female loves to giggle about. “Hey baby, are your legs tired? ‘Cause you been running through my mind all night!” Never!
After reading through page after page of amusing anecdotes about boyfriends and college parties and the swingin’ singles life in New York that she navigated with aplomb wearing both 6″ heels (in the snow, when fashion called for it) and the title of editor of many lady mags like Glamour, Fitness, Redbook, Seventeen and even O, I had my own realization: I can’t be Formerly Hot because I Never Was Hot.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m hideous or anything. It’s just that Dolgoff and I have had very different lives. My college years consisted of working three jobs, studying like a manic’s dreamgirl to keep my scholarship and 4.0 GPA, and occasionally going out on double dates with my Barbie-esque blond roommate to whom I was always a distant second. (Side note: I knew I had to marry my husband when I asked him on our second date what he thought of Barbie and he looked genuinely confused and said, “Who?”) By age 21 I had two degrees, a husband and a professorship (and an ulcer) – all great things but things that definitely lowered my hotness quotient. And it wasn’t high to begin with. All I’m saying is that it’s hard to miss what I never had.
Fortunately for me, Steph’s (see what I did there? We’re on such friendly terms I just wantonly truncated her first name! That’s what she does to me when she tells me one of her life’s mission statements is “Anna Wintour would not eat the fish!” You’ll have to read the book to get the story behind that one. It’s awesome.) Life Lessons Learned can be generalized to those of us who are living a very unsexy life. Advice like “wear clothing that fits your body now” and “treasure your adult girlfriends” definitely ring true to me now. Even her deliberations about plastic surgery – a subject she adroitly points out that feminists come down on both sides of – something that I, being poor, have only an academic interest in, are funny and interesting. And she totally had me at the chapter about upper lip waxing (sisters with pale skin and dark hair unite!)
Being 32, I’m not quite at the official “Formerly” age (what that is she doesn’t come out and say exactly although she hints that it’s hot on the heels of the GMFU, or “great metabolic f*** you”, that hits around 40) so perhaps I’ll relate a bit more in a few years. At any rate, it was a fun read. Want to check it out yourself? Leave me a comment below telling me about your experience with aging in our culture – did you notice crossing over into Formerly territory? Or are you a Never Was like me? – and you’ll be entered to win your own copy!
What’s your best “getting hit on” story? Please tell me so I can live vicariously through your fun!!