By Jennifer D'Angelo Friedman, SELF magazine
This month's SELF Expression essay is excerpted from the new book My Formerly Hot LIfe: Dispatches From Just the Other Side of Young by Stephanie Dolgoff. Below is the first of four of her guest blogs for Healthy SELF:
Reading certain celeb mags and beauty sites -- especially staring into the surgically altered beyond recognition faces of certain stars -- would lead anyone to fear getting older. Well, I got news for you: Getting older doesn't suck, at least not from where I sit, over here, just on the other side of young.
Sure, when I first realized in my late 30s that I was an adult "tween" -- no longer a young woman, but not old, either -- the realization was unsettling. The main indicator was that I was moving subtly away from the standard perfectly symmetrical, thin, perky-boobed female ideal (not that I had ever arrived there). I was in a new category of human, and if I said I was psyched to throw my arms open and go skipping through the wheat fields to embrace my new exalted societal status as what I used to consider an older woman, I'd be lying so badly even I wouldn't believe myself.
I began jokingly calling myself Formerly Hot, because I knew I wasn't exactly "hot" anymore, but I wasn't sure what I was. I suppose I was attractive "for my age," which didn't quite have the same ring to it. But it became pretty clear pretty quickly that this whole Formerly transformation only partly had to do with my looks. In fact, the shift was much more profound. And, it turns out, wonderful. The longer I spent on this side of young, the clearer it became that Formerly Territory was a much happier place to live, for me and the hundreds of women I spoke to about it through my blog and for my book, My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young. There are distinct upsides to being a Formerly, ones that no one talks about.
So just so you don't fear what's around the bend (if you even think about it -- I sure didn't when I was young) read this and enjoy. I wouldn't trade a minute of being me now for the person I was 10 or 15 years ago. When you're my age:
You could give half a hoot what other people think. This doesn't mean you become a callous, sidewalk-spitting, profanity-muttering nut job who gives the slowpoke in line ahead of you a verbal sandblasting for taking too long moving her groceries along the conveyor belt. And of course you care what those you love think. But -- and this is a huge but -- you are no longer as open to altering your behavior or your points of view based on the opinions of others. Why would you? By now, you've surrounded yourself with people who think you're great, so all you have to do is keep being great, and the best way to do that is to do what you think is right. I remember feeling like a composite of other people's opinions of me when I was in my 20s, and almost felt as if something didn't fully happen unless I called six friends and had them weigh in on it. Now, I trust that other people will adjust to my choices and viewpoints. If they don't, so what? So much less work, and so much more happiness.
Like you, your friends only get cooler and your friendships better. It seems like my friends and I have all arrived at a tacit understanding that we don't ask much more from one another than we can deliver. There's little disappointment -- only enormous love and gratitude and appreciation for whatever a friend has to offer, whether it's major phone and in-person support during a crisis, or a swipe of the Tide stick she has in her purse when you splash coffee on your new blouse. What's more, we're so over feeling excluded or pushing one another's buttons -- it stopped being interesting years ago, and your friends become the family you get to pick.
You don't do what you "should" do so much as what works for you. You "should" go to law school, you "should" cut carbs, you "should" be interested in that guy who looks perfect on paper, but just doesn't do it for you. When you get to a Formerly, you may notice what you should do, but you're much more likely to do what will work for you. There's no right answer -- only what makes sense for you. I found that to be a huge relief.
Sex gets better. Gosh, where do I start? For me, sex became less of a performance (as in, Am I doing it right? Do I look weird while I'm doing it? What is he thinking?) and more of something to feel your way through, which of course means you feel more. Plus you know your body better, are less self-conscious, and are less shy about speaking your mind or pitching in to lend a hand when the situation warrants. For many Formerlies, even though their bodies aren't "objectively" as good as they were when they were younger (when they probably thought they were too fat), they like them better, and are more relaxed about what they do with them.
Drama gives way to a peaceful happy. Sure, bad stuff happens, and you're not happy every minute, but by the time you're a Formerly, you've been exposed to enough actual, unsolicited, truly tragic stuff that you stop craving the kind of theatrics you have to cook up yourself. You've worked out most of your issues so you don't pull wrecking ball moves like sleeping with your best friend's ex when you kind of know she may get back together with him or getting all worked up about some nimrod at work whose butt-kissing is so blatant you cannot believe your boss falls for it. You take a deep breath, put it into perspective, and go on doing what you were doing, which, likely, was the right thing to do. Life feels less intense, less dramatic, more relaxed and peaceful. In other words, time passes. Things change. And that's cool.
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Photo Credit: Amazon