If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20 or so years of writing for women’s magazines is that if you’re going through something, odds are terrific that millions of other women are having that same experience, which means you’re not insane. Or it means we’re all insane, in which case it doesn’t really matter, does it? We can all just sit around having a coffee and getting mani-pedis and validate one another’s insanity so that it essentially becomes normative and we feel a bit better about being nuts. What are friends for?
Anyway, I started this blog because felt like I was losing my marbles just a little bit a couple of years ago. Everything was fine, I was happy, and yet I didn’t feel like myself and couldn’t put my finger on why. (You can read more about that here.) Once I figured out what was going on–that I was a Formerly–my self definition could catch up with what the world saw when it looked at me: a no-longer-young woman with a hugely satisfying life that she’d built for herself, but who was also noticing (and sometimes not exactly loving) the way certain things had changed.
My preferred methods of dealing with the fact that we’re all getting older? To laugh about it and to write about it, because what the hell else are you going to do? It’s so classically masochistic of us to pick the one thing that no one has ever been able to do anything about–the passage of time–and to decide that that is what we’re going to devote of our considerable female energies to fighting. It makes me tired just thinking about it. Laughing, on the other hand, makes me feel better, and writing about it helps other women be able to laugh along with me. Which means I’m not just a crazy lady laughing alone at my computer, which makes me feel better still.
ANYway, this woman’s letter about My Formerly Hot Life was so lovely and so familiar to me that I’m publishing it here (trimmed a bit) with her permission.
Your book came to my attention as my Formerly fat ass sat in the chair at the salon. Chancing upon the write-up on your book was like one of those “God speaking in a whisper” moments that Oprah talks about. I listened loud and clear and RAN home to order it. (The same gal who can’t figure out how to wash & dry her hair while caring for a toddler is the same gal that can no longer drop everything to run to the local Barnes & Noble.) It probably was the fourth or fifth time my heart rate has reached the desired, fat-burning 66 bpm since giving birth to my daughter. (Yeah…haven’t figured out the gym thing either.)
ANYWAY, since then, nap times have been my time to sit and read a few pages from your book. I just finished reading Chapter 12: Of Two Minds, One Body and, as I sat there in my “in between jeans,” with my boobs being somewhat held up by the nursing bra under my stained t-shirt (even though I stopped nursing 2 months ago), I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to jump up and down and scream “YES!!” I am SO WITH YOU. ALL OF IT. Every word. It was like you read my mind.
As an actress in NYC about to turn 40 next month, I have moments of “I look the best I ever have,” and then, later that same day I’ll think, “Who are you kidding, schlub?” I go from “I’m going to change the paradigm of REAL actresses in their 40s” to “Get real, Cynthia. Nobody will hire you looking like this.” It’s both a relief and a rude awakening, a blessing and a curse, if you will.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I was suddenly hit with the reality that my formerly hot life was truly history. Gone were the days of spontaneous brunching and double features. The luxury of dropping everything to go to the theater with my best friend (or smoke pot and splay out on his couch, watching a Rachel Zoe marathon) in one fell swoop, had come to an end. And I was faced with the fact that a) My days of youth had come to a full stop, never to return; b) How effing self-centered my days of youth actually were; and c) The dreams that I had of becoming a revered, award-winning actress in my 20s and 30s…well…didn’t come to fruition. That would never be my story. It was time to face my regrets head on, figure out a way to make peace with the true story of my youth and move on.
Now, nearly 15 months in to motherhood, I have come out the other end of some of the most challenging times of my life and am beginning to recognize myself and my life as my own. The pieces are coming back together, and mostly all of them have been replaced with new and improved parts (or repaired and restored!) The internal makings of Cynthia Silver have never been more grounded and
sure of themselves, but the external…therein lies the evidence of wear and tear.
Lately I’ve been feeling like a walking contradiction. How is it possible to genuinely love my life so much, but go from being completely at peace to ambivalent to downright depressed over my looks in the time it takes me to get in and out of the shower? I thought that perhaps I was going a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. That my struggle to either come to terms with, or drastically modify my formerly hot mug and bod was simply the remnants of my youthful, insecure, opinion-obsessed self coming back to haunt me.
I’m willing to bet it’s a little bit of both. All I know is that I do NOT want my daughter to torture herself with the body obsession that consumed so much wasted energy of my teens and young adulthood. How I prevent that, I really don’t know. But, I have a sneaking suspicion it starts with loving the way I look right now, in this very moment. And, knowing that I am not alone in this predicament of Formerly makes me feel just a wee bit more comfortable in my own skin.
Thank you, Stephanie. Really.