3645211083_43ed00c6e5Insane. Hilarious. I’ve never had haters before. OK, maybe in junior high because I did finally convince my mom to spring for the overpriced Sassoon jeans and those, naturally, inspired jealousy. I can’t say that I love the rage or the trolls sitting in their basements commenting that I need a nose job, but I suppose it’s the cost of doing business. I do love the many valid points people have been raising and the debate the articles about the book have been inspiring. There’s also quite a bit of love, and for that, I thank you.

Still, though, everyone might want to simmer down, at least until the book comes out (nine days from now, August 17.) All the noise is about what people think I’ve written (based on The New York Times piece, along with the excerpt in SELF), and opinions are flying fast and furious. Jezebel did a post yesterday about how there’s something “defeatist” about my alleged message, in which I am “waving the white flag” at society’s obsession with youthful beauty being the only kind of beauty there is.

Yeah, no, that’s not what I’m saying. To clear up that and other misconceptions about what this whole Formerly Hot thing is all about, I’ve complied a list of FAQs. Feel free to submit more. I will try to answer the ones that don’t comment on my nose.

1. Am I saying older women aren’t and cannot be hot.

No. I am mocking myself for caring that I don’t look as I once did now that I’m 43, and questioning the idea that hot and youth are inextricably linked. The kind of “hot” I’m goofing about is the cruel, first-glance, superficial “hot” that most of the world registers (or doesn’t) when it looks at women. That kind of hot is one kind. There are many others, and the version that women settle into or discover as they age is the one I learned about once I realized–through repeated funny and sometimes shocking reminders–that I was no longer the first kind.

2. Am I a vain, superficial, self-obsessed twit?

Vain, yes. What can I tell you? I wish I weren’t. Not talking about it and–worse–not laughing about how dumb it is that people care so much about the way people look does not make it any less true.

Superficial? I don’t think so, and neither does my mom, but then we wouldn’t. Read the book and see what you think.

Self-obsessed, that I think you could make a case for. I did write 224 pages in the first person, and then there’s this blog. Sure, OK.

As for whether I’m a twit, I like that better than JAP, which several commenters used (only read a few). C’mon, people. Anti-Semitism? Really?

3. Isn’t the term “Formerly Hot” a little depressing? Why do we have to label women?

I don’t know…it cracks me up, anyway. I’d rather label myself something that’s clearly a goof than have someone liken me to a predatory jungle cat or a M.I.L.F., as if the concept of a mother who might also be a sexual being is so unspeakably freakish as to require an acronym.

The point of the book is that while you’re “formerly” some things, you’re “finally” many others, and many of those things are so much more satisfying than much of what was left behind. The term came about as a joke, but there is some loss when things change, no matter what your Formerly is. To pretend there isn’t and to expect us all to go skipping in slow-mo through a wheat field with our arms outstretched to embrace our future as aging women and the exalted status our society affords older females is just a wee bit unrealistic.

I say, lighten up. We all get older at the same rate, no matter what, if anything, we decide to inject into our faces. If you care about it, you can laugh or fret. I do both, but mostly I try to laugh and enjoy my life now that I don’t feel I need to try as hard as when I was younger.

4. Don’t I think the over-40 Salma Hayek, Raquel Welsh, and Helen Mirren are hot? How dare I say otherwise?

Yes. They are all hot. Hot, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and I do wish that replacing body parts one by one as they age wasn’t a requirement for being considered hot. So many times, when people cite examples of hot over-40 stars, it’s because they look young for their age, not because they necessarily look good for their age.

5. Isn’t becoming a Formerly just your basic midlife crisis with a new name designed to make you money to buy yourself more shoes? And why do you have so many shoes anyway?

As for the shoes, click here. Yes, I have issues with footwear, and the ones in the photo in the Times were but a fraction of my massive collection. But no, it’s not a midlife crisis because it’s not a crisis, and no one knows for sure that they’re in midlife until they die and then divide by two.  Life is full of transitions and this one’s a biggie. I’m glad we’re finally talking about it.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker CC