I haven’t had a bona fide Formerly Hot moment in a long time now, which I attribute to having finally acclimated to my new category in life, that of a not-young woman.
I am comfortably inhabiting this new category, much like I was when I was officially in the other category. I used to walk around simply expecting to meet men on the subway (I met my husband on the 1 train), to be plucked from the line behind the velvet rope and ushered into the club, and for pop songs to speak directly to me, as if the singer had crawled up my brain stem, inhabited my mind and was singing the very words that I would have sung if I could sing. Which I can’t and never could.
Nowadays, I kind of expect not to know what anyone is talking about when I go into the Apple store, to be let on the bus when I’m short of change out of pity rather than because I look so good, and for button down blouses to gap between the boobs because I think my rib cage has expanded in recent years.
Fine. I’ve adjusted to all of that, so now I merely notice that I’m Formerly Hot. I am no longer shocked.
And then…BAM, I’m shocked again.
I’m reading People magazine, and in the Scoop section, under Rumor Patrol, it debunked a rumor about whether two gorgeous people I have never even heard of, one of whom is in a band I’ve never heard of, were an item. It said, “Is Julianne Hough Dating Kings of Leon Bassist Jared Followill?” The blurb then went on to explain that now that Hough has split from someone named Chuck Wicks (whom I’ve never heard of), she was out a club in Nashville with this Followill character.
Now, he looks like a nice young man and in theory I wish them well, but I have to say I despise them both for being famous enough to wind up in Rumor Patrol and yet be unknown to me. I work in the media! I read People, Us, and intermittently various other celebrity magazines and blogs and plus I’m not dead! I know who Taylor Swift is and even the 17-year-old Taylor that she’s dating, even though I’ve never seen any of those vampire movies he’s in. I am in-the-mix enough to have an opinion about how Kanye acted toward Taylor at that awards show (Kanye, man, don’t be a dick) and about how gracious Beyonce was later in the evening. See, I’m in there, despite the fact that 900 of the 930 songs on my iPod are from at least 15 years ago.
I have an iPod, OK???
This latest bitchslap is like what I’d imagine losing one’s sense of hearing when you get really old feels like: You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine, and then all of a sudden things stop making sense because there are big holes in the sensory information you’re taking in. You panic, you cling to the sound quality you have left, and you fake it as best you can. But soon, you’re hearing less than half of what there is to hear. Whole conversations are taking place that you’re not a part of. Once in awhile, someone younger than you will raise his voice to make sure you’re included–“Stephanie, the Kings of Leon are a musical group. I said A MUSICAL GROUP! THEY PLAY MUSIC!”–and you feel grateful, yet patronized. It’s too much trouble for anyone to explain what kind of music, and maybe they assume you don’t care. After awhile, you don’t. You just sit there listening to the Best of the ’80s, and remembering when you had big hair.
For me, losing my pop cultural fluency is like losing a sense. And I feel it going, ever so slowly.
The worst part about it, I guess, is that I actually don’t care who Julianne Hough, Jared Followill, Chuck Wicks or the Kings of Leon are. And that’s as sure a sign as any that you–and by you I mean me–are Formerly Hot.