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My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young
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My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young [Kindle Edition]

Stephanie Dolgoff
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $11.84
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Editorial Reviews Review

Stephanie Dolgoff on My Formerly Hot Life

A few years back, when my mom and my husband saw that I was launching a website called Formerly Hot, essentially about having just aged out of being the "hot" chick I was for most of my life, they fell all over themselves to reassure me that I am, in fact, still hot, in my own not-so-young-anymore kind of way. My husband very sweetly told me I could get fat(ter), saggy(er), blotch(ier), and my pores could continue to expand like crop circles all over my face and to him, I would still be the relatively young and desirable woman he married. Bless him. My mother simply took issue with the idea that older women were no longer hot, and chided me for putting myself down.

That’s when I realized I needed to clarify my mission, and now that Formerly Hot the blog has grown into My Formerly Hot Life, the book, I’ll take this opportunity to do so again.

The book is not a marathon fishing-for-compliments trip (although I won’t be turning any down). I know I still look fine, and on a good day, great. I wholeheartedly agree with my mom’s estimation that a woman’s hotness is not necessarily inversely proportional to how many candles she has on her birthday cake.

I wrote the book to have a laughing look at the unvarnished truth about getting older--the good, the bad, and those unexpected b----slaps that still seem to come out of nowhere, even if you’re relatively well adjusted to the fact that you’re not forever 21. It’s about those moments--whether it’s when you’re the one wishing your neighbors would turn down the damn music because it’s after 10 (can "kids these days, sheesh!" be far off now?), or when you’re bracing yourself for the whistle from the construction crew that never comes--when it is suddenly ultra clear that you’re occupying an entirely new category of human being.

When I first realized I was a Formerly--the term I came up with to indicate that you’re formerly what you were, but you may not be quite sure what you are yet--my main indicator was how far away I had moved from the standard perfectly symmetrical, thin, perky-boobed female ideal (not that I had ever arrived.) It became pretty clear pretty quickly that this whole Formerly transformation had only partly to do with my looks. In fact, the shift was much more profound.

And wonderful. The longer I spent on this side of young, the more obvious it became that Formerly Territory was a much happier place to live, for me and the hundreds of women I spoke to about it. There are distinct upsides to being a Formerly, ones that no one talks about. I used to feel like a composite of other people’s opinions of me; now, I am comfortable with who I am, and other people’s opinions are, well, just their opinions. I follow my instincts, what’s comfortable for me, rather than what I think I "should" do or what everyone else seems to think is the move. Life feels less intense, less dramatic, more relaxed and peaceful. In other words, time passes. Things change. And that’s cool.

Except when it’s not. Getting older, even if you’re not old, can sometimes suck! It would be nice not to have to look up every texting abbreviation someone sends to me before replying, for instance. I used to know such things. I’m not going to tell you that I welcome every wrinkle and pucker as a symbol of the rich and wise life my trusty body and I have lived happily together. I am regularly shocked by the new iteration of me that stares back from the mirror. I promise never to intone that you must "embrace your life changes," or that 50 is the new 40 is the new 30 is the new 29. You are what you are but you don’t always have to be smiling about it.

On balance, though, even as I’m letting go of the stuff I thought was indispensable to happiness when I was younger, I’m happier than my younger self ever could have imagined. That’s what My Formerly Hot Life is about--laughing at ourselves and our obsession with youth, even as we see that life is so much richer on the other side of young. The women I’ve spoken to for the book wouldn’t trade where they are today for another chance for a teenager’s body, and that’s a message I hope the readers of this book can carry with them for all their days.


“Remember all those deep and important life transitions going on amongst a group of smart, beautiful women that the last, tepid Sex and  the City movie tried—and failed—to capture? Skip the film; Dolgoff’s got it all in her book, and in a far more genuine way....Dolgoff’s style is energetic, funny, highly engaging, and self-aware....Bottom Line: Whether you’re going through the Formerly transition yourself or looking back on it (or catching hints of it down the road), Dolgoff’s book is a wonderful take on the early 40s.” —

"If you’ve ever hiked up your boobs just to remind yourself how they used to look, secretly hoped the wino on the corner would whistle at you like he used to, or recently realized that they are now making elevator music out of your favorite ‘classic’ tunes, you will love this book. It’s pee-in-your-pants funny and it’s all too true!"– Jenny McCarthy, author of Belly Laughs and Baby Laughs

My Formerly Hot Life belongs right next to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love for the woman trying to understand and embrace her complicated contemporary life. At the same time as it is laugh-out-loud funny, it will help you discard the old notions and expectations of yourself that no longer fit. Reading it will help you access the hotness you thought was diminishing…but that might just be heating up." —Margo Maine, Ph.D., author The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to Be Perfect

"What Time has forced Stephanie Dolgoff to give up (pop culture savvy, the ability to easily pull overnighters and/or fit into skinny jeans), she has gained in wit, complexity and insight. Every woman on this side of a Cosabella thong will relate to her take on women’s friendships, plastic surgery, and how to find value in something bigger than your ever-sinking ass."—Wen...

About the Author

Stephanie Dolgoff writes for many magazines, including Self, Health and Parenting, and blogs for, as well as her own popular blog She has been a contributing editor at Real Simple and editor-at-large at Parenting, the features director at Self, and the executive editor at Glamour. Among other publications, she’s written for The New York Times, the New York Post, O: The Oprah Magazine, Fitness, Parents, Redbook, and Ladies’ Home Journal. Stephanie Dolgoff lives with her husband and twin girls in Manhattan.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Bitch-Slap Birthday

There were certainly signs that something momentous was taking place, but initially, I saw each as an isolated incident:

•Beginning a couple of years ago, salespeople in trendy boutiques, who used to swirl around me like bees over a puddle of orange soda, could no longer be bothered. Evidently they saw me as someone who wouldn’t (or plain shouldn’t) buy their skinny jeans, ?spiky heels or strappy little camis that are ideally worn without a bra.

•Friends arriving in New York City asked me—a lifetime Gotham denizen and supposedly glamorous member of the fashion and lifestyle media—which were the cool places to hang out. I couldn’t think of one that hadn’t been shuttered during the first 90210 era or that wasn’t now a Starbucks.

•I began to have to wear makeup, or at least a decent tinted moisturizer, to get that same “I’m not wearing makeup” look that I used to get by, well, not wearing makeup.

•One time, in a Pilates class, the instructor had us lying on our backs, pressing our shoulders into the mat. She then told us to raise our arms straight up, at a 90-degree angle from the floor, and then reach to the sky, lifting just our shoulders. ?We all did: The bones of my shoulders followed my arms vertically a full four inches toward the ceiling. But the flesh surrounding my shoulder bones remained splooged out on the mat. My skin and the thin layer of adipose tissue that normally traveled with my bones and muscles had clearly decided that Pilates was for losers.

•And the real piercing car alarm of a signal—why this didn’t catch my attention I have no idea—came one morning after too much coffee, as I was rocking out in the kitchen to “One Way or Another,” a Blondie song seared into my neuropathways since adolescence. I was horrified when I realized it was the sound track to a Swiffer commercial, blaring from the TV in the other room. I found it especially humiliating that there was a Swiffer, at that very moment, sitting in my broom closet. What’s more, I had recommended it to friends (!!!). I thought about that: I feel strongly enough about a cleaning implement to have recommended it to friends. It didn’t seem like that long ago I wasn’t spending enough time at my apartment to need to clean.

I began to feel vaguely uneasy, but the reason hadn’t yet gelled. Things were going quite well, and my life was more or less exactly as I’d set it up to be: I had lived my lunatic 20s, throwing myself into my career, scaled many magazines’ mastheads and then calmed the eff down and gotten married in my mid-30s. My husband and I had wonderful twin little girls, I had a great job, good friends, and we all were healthy and solvent. There was no crisis. And yet . . . something was off.

I just didn’t feel like me.

And then, finally, one day just after my 40th birthday, all became blindingly clear.

It was early in the morning and I was on the subway, on my way to work. A sexy stubbly man next to me leaned in and asked me for the time. I braced myself for the pickup attempt I felt sure was to follow. “Eight-forty,” I replied tersely, careful not to offer even a hint of encouragement in my tone.

And then . . . nothing. Nada. Bubkes. He may have said, “Thanks.” I don’t remember. I do remember that he went back to his book. Apparently, the sexy stubbly guy who asked me for the time simply needed to know the time. He wanted information, not to have sex with me. Imagine! I was shocked. Shocked! And internally embarrassed. ?Just who the hell did I think I was Well, I’ll tell you who I thought I was! I thought I was who I had always been: a hot chick, damn it! Big hair, big boobs, big personality, a young woman who (not so terribly long ago) had reason to adopt a slightly defensive posture when men asked her superficially innocent questions on public transportation. (In fact, I met the man who is now my husband on the subway.) I was hardly a supermodel, but hey, even if I wasn’t a particular person’s type, my general appeal was irrefutable. After a few decades of believing this about myself—and usually being reacted to as if it was so—being an attractive young woman simply became part of what I was and how I navigated the world.

But in that instant, an energy-saver bulb reluctantly flickered on over my head, and I got it. Boy, did I ever get it. I was no longer “all that,” perhaps no longer even a little of “that,” whatever “that” is. No wonder things didn’t feel right! I didn’t feel like me anymore because I wasn’t me, at least not the me I had always been.

I’m not talking about one guy’s opinion, of course. In retrospect, all the indications that my head-turner days were receding in the rear view were there (in addition to the aforementioned, fewer men who drink 40s on apartment stoops made vile sucking noises as I walked by; and I was ma’amed on several occasions when I was not in the Deep South). Together, along with all the other signs that had nothing to do with my looks, it made sense. Over the last few years, while I’d been busy working and having twins and not sleeping and getting peed on and eating and yelling at my husband and maybe not taking such good care of myself—and oh, yes, that pesky passage of time thing—I’d become a perfectly nice-looking 40-year-old working mom doing the best she can. Which is totally not the same as a hot chick. ?That in itself is not a problem. The problem was that my self-definition had yet to catch up with the reality of what the world saw when it looked at me.

Lucky for me, I had my then-4-year-old daughter, Vivian, at home to give my self-definition a good frog-march forward. That very same evening, ?she snuggled close to me on the chair-and-a-half in her bedroom while I brushed her hair after her bath. Abruptly, she turned to me.

“Mommy, what are those?” she asked, her face just millimeters from mine, ?so close that her eyes were crossing. She was fixated on my nose.

“What are what, honey?”

“Those. Those round things.” We’d been over this. That Japanese book, The Holes in Your Nose, about nostrils and boogers and which body orifices you might stick your fingers in and which you are firmly discouraged from sticking your fingers in, had long been a favorite in our house. I reminded her that they were my nostrils and that she had them, too.

“No, not those. Those smaller ones. Some of them have little hairs growing from them.”

Sigh. Vivian, of course, was referring to my pores, which in the last couple of years had been expanding like crop circles on my face. I’d hoped no one had noticed the little hairs. I can only see them in the 153 magnification mirror I masochistically keep in the bathroom.

I felt that familiar wave of . . . not shame, not humiliation, exactly—you can hardly be ashamed of your pores in front of your child—but of what I’d imagine a toad would feel if he were cognizant of being dissected: laid bare, with the cool, objective, curious eyes of a scientist seeking data. This same scenario had repeated itself many times in the last year with little variability, except regarding which of my previously unremarked-upon flaws was being scrutinized.

So I did what I did the time her sister, Sasha, pointed out—entirely without judgment—that my belly looked like a tushy on the front of my body, or the time she said that there were bumpy blue worms under the skin of my legs: I chuckled wisely and said something mature about how bodies are fascinating and change as they get older and went and got the 153 magnification mirror and showed Vivian her own (invisible to the naked eye) pores. I then explained the function of pores in cooling the body. Vivian was riveted. I was proud of myself for being such a good mommy, for recognizing and acting on one of those “teachable moments” you read about in the parenting magazines.

And then she asked this:

“But why would there be hairs in your pores?”

Yeah, you know, Vivian, I’d like to know the same *(^&(*$@*&^ thing!!! Maybe it’s because there is no God, Vivian. Maybe it’s because your mommy did something really, really naughty in a former life. Maybe because the body is just randomly gross for no reason and we’re all basically still monkeys and some things are simply better examined from a distance. “I just don’t know, sweetheart,” I answered. ?And then I put her to bed, and took the 153 magnification mirror with me to see what I could do with a tweezer.

That pair of entirely un-fun epiphanies indicated that there was a seismic, unacknowledged transition afoot. It felt like a smack upside the head and a relief at the same time. I didn’t know what I was turning into, exactly. I didn’t act, look or feel what I’d imagine a middle-aged person would look, act or feel like, and I certainly wasn’t old. I just knew that I wasn’t what I used to be. I had been unsubtly hot, and now, I supposed, I wasn’t. I began jokingly calling myself Formerly Hot. ?At least I had a name (albeit one I made up) for that strange, uneasy, dissonant feeling I was having, and why I was having it.

Formerly Hot. Yes, that felt right, and it made me laugh at myself, which seemed the better alternative to standing in front of the mirror scrutinizing my multiplying crow’s-feet. And although I didn’t yet grasp the extent of this new state of affairs, I had a feeling that there was much more going on than the blush falling off the rose, and that I couldn’t be the only one experiencing something like it. If years of writing and editing stories for women’s magazines has tau...
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