Insane. 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
August 8, 2010 at 11:10 pm
Love your attitude! Whenever you put yourself out there, the jealous haters will twist things and shout from the side lines, “You’re doing this wrong!” They are the spectators, you’re in the game. But, I suspect you know this. 🙂 Best of luck with your book launch!
August 8, 2010 at 11:14 pm
So add another formerly – formerly you had no haters. Now your success is bringing them out. Let them talk about your book. Let them be negative. While you continue to be witty and create. Negativity is easy being positive takes work but it’s SO worth it.
I can’t wait to read it baby!
August 8, 2010 at 11:15 pm
Loved your article in the NYT…I’ve been contemplating writing a blog for a couple of weeks and your article gave me the inspiration to start…..I love your story, your style and your message. If you can’t find the humor in life and aging what’s the point. Keep up the good work….embracing being formerly hot and aging gracefully is HOT!!!!!!
August 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm
Congratulations, Stephanie. Taking on the haters in Formerly Hot style requires guts — and a sense of humor. The flack you are taking for making fun of the time in (women’s) midlife that dare not speak its name is just more evidence that you’re onto something. You’ve touched a nerve, for sure.
August 8, 2010 at 11:52 pm
Whaaatttt!!! I can’t believe you have haters! What The Frank!?! Say the word…I ‘ve got a guy, or two…no questions asked… The ‘hood is behind you, Sis!
Formerly…Finally…Frankly…a Rabble Rouser…. 🙂
August 9, 2010 at 5:58 am
Perhaps the haters are women who just are in denial about aging. Lighten up people, and laugh a little. I for one, love the title and your quick witted real life humor about aging. YOU are going far. Best of luck Stephanie. Keep writing!
August 9, 2010 at 6:30 am
i love that you embrace the haters… kill ’em with love!
always remember: what the haters say reflects more on who they are (and are afraid of) than on what you/your book are. in other words, their comments are more about them than they are about you –after all, they did not even read your book yet!!!
keep writing; you always make us smile because you always hit a nerve (touchE!)
formerly a NYer
August 9, 2010 at 6:55 am
nicely written. Love the photo on top, too.
August 9, 2010 at 7:53 am
Having haters means people are talking about the book, means people will read the book and then the book can speak for itself. So it’s all word-of-mouth building and all good. (Which I think you know.) That said, this would give me a knot in my stomach.
August 9, 2010 at 8:18 am
August 9, 2010 at 10:04 am
I’m going to buy your book today! I’m a little younger than you, and have definitely felt “formerly” at times, but I’d have to admit, I’m a bit off put by the label. I never considered the twenties the apex of anything good… I mean, I did some neat stuff (like got way ahead in my career) but in my thirties I feel that like Christina Aguliera, I just keep gettin’ better.
Still, I know what it’s like to have haters cause I’ve had quite a few just from doing media appearances on an unrelated topic. It’s hard, even if you laugh it off. You handled it gracefully. Hang in there, and don’t let it ruin your day. Reasonable people can disagree, so focus on the reasonable people who disagree with you, and let the rest go.
And btw, at least in your pictures, you’re beautiful! You couldn’t walk down a street in Philadelphia without getting checked out at least five times. Move here!
August 9, 2010 at 10:17 am
Being this vain is a turn-off no matter what age you are. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that women in their 40s and 50s should put to pasture clothes that a 20 year-old would wear, it’s only common sense. Hell, the clothes that 20 year-olds wear these days should be put out to pasture too. If you’re married with kids and still trying to turn heads at that age, you might need professional help, not anecdotal help. I just can’t believe the country we live in, woman are obsessed with their looks, obsessed! There is plenty of blame to go around for that, but it’s hard to overlook the vast contributions that women themselves have made to this ailment, the magazines, the books (wink, wink) are part of it – all written and put out by women. There is no such thing as a woman organically coming to terms with her self-image because she is essentially force fed a steady diet of how to deal with her self image “problem” since she is 15 years old.
I feel sorry for all women living in this country, I really do. Because so there is so much emphasis on looks in every facet of their lives. But they bring it on themselves most of the time, they create an ideal that they don’t need to create. Don’t be resentful of other women, don’t be catty when you are jealous of another person whom you seem to think, for whatever reason, is better or better looking than you. There is no reason for it. None. I will admit that I am attracted to younger women, but I am also attracted to women my age and older women. One thing I am not attracted to is a vain woman who just can’t accept herself for who she is, who obsesses ad nauseum with her age and aging and looks and whatever’s sagging and the perfect this or that, etc, etc, etc. The narcissism and obsession this creates is just so damaging. And in the author’s case, and any other parent who’s vanity is so evident, it’s not only damaging to themselves but to their own children. The kids will now have to be super-aware of their looks and others looks and everybody’s appearance. What a meaningless cycle.
Too much energy, thought, and time wasted, gone spent.
August 9, 2010 at 10:59 am
Congrats on your very measured response to the haters, Steph–you’re more diplomatic than I would have been. It’s not that others can’t have opinions about your writing and ideas and, as you say, debate them. But for crissakes, can’t people lighten up just a little bit? My favorite “hater” comments are the ones which take you to task for talking about shoes and fashion … IN THE STYLE SECTION of the NY Times.
I find it shocking that people are responding so vehemently to YOUR opinion and YOUR feelings about the way that YOU’RE aging. Also, I’d bet my entire makeup collection on the fact that every one of those women who claim to not relate to your experience have, at one time or another, felt less hot because of their age. They just refuse to face it, talk about it, own it, explore it. “Zip it! No, I’m totally hot now, and always will be. No, don’t even suggest I”m not…no, stop. I don’t want to talk about it!!! I’m hot, hotter, hottest!”
You’ve clearly touched a verve with all the back-and-forth. Congrats!! I’m super duper proud of you (and I always have been, and always will be…no formerly going on there!).
August 9, 2010 at 11:01 am
Ree-diculous! forget them…have a laugh on me.
August 9, 2010 at 4:31 pm
Love that you posted this!
August 10, 2010 at 12:09 am
I read the NYT article, and I got ya, and I was also surprised by all the haters.
Maybe there’s not so readers many in our age group? I’m a 44yo and an artist, so I can wear “whatever”(no job structure to influence my appearance) but tend toward the cliche artist look, lots of black, stylish, etc. It doesn’t rule my life, but what I wear is important to me, a form of expression through my appearance. I’m an artist, so I am very visual. And I have too many shoes too, but the older I get the harder it is to find comfortable ones that look good – especially in Seattle.
And there’s a big difference between being vain and giving a damn about your appearance, so polarized, it’s just not that black and white. We are in between, often looking a bit younger than our actual age, neither here nor there. There’s no “formerly” for me, but I got the joke too 😉
August 10, 2010 at 9:10 am
I just found your website via the Times (I guess I’m a ‘formerly on top of what’s cool’) and I love it. Too many people out there don’t know how to see irony at all, and it’s sad because for those who really are obsessed with looks and youth, they could use a little irony.
Looking forward to reading your book, and glad to hear someone push the term “middle aged” further away from 40-ish. It’s great to be this age, but not what it used to be and it deserves a little humor and respect.
August 20, 2010 at 4:28 pm
Great response! There will always be people who look at something without humor, get offended and rant about it, even though they didn’t understand the message in the first place. I, for one, applaud you for talking about these issues. I love your blog and am excited to read your book!