Monday, September 13, 2010

When Do You Become "Formerly Hot?"

It hit Stephanie Dolgoff at some point that she was no longer the young, desirable chick she had always been. This shocking revelation led to humorous observations on her blog about aging, body image and beauty.

The blog has now evolved into a book, Formerly Hot, Dispatches From Just the Other Side of Young that is now in book stores and on

She was recently interviewed by about her book and musings on her favorite subjects:

Q: Stephanie can you tell us about your background and how you became a writer?

A: I've been writing ever since my last month of college. I'd never written more than a term paper, but I was so frustrated by the pressure I felt to figure out what I was going to be for the rest of my life that I just sat down and ranted on paper about "shoulds," self-imposed and otherwise, and after that you couldn't stop me from writing. I worked at various magazines as an assistant and wrote and edited, and that's what I've been doing for the past 20 years. Wow. Weird to say "past 20 years" and have it not feel like that long, but there you have it. I'm one of those people who loves to write--it's not hard for me. It's hard for me not to.

Q: How would you describe your book Formerly Hot?

A: The book is all about what happened when I realized I wasn't a young woman anymore, moved without my permission into a new category of human being, and all that I've come to realize since then. It covers all aspects of a woman's life--friends, marriage, work, health, marriage, pop culture. It's humorous essays.

The inspiration came from simply feeling like I wasn't myself, that something had changed, and I couldn't put my finger on what it was. I had everything I wanted (good job, two beautiful girls, a husband, friends, health, etc.) but something felt unsettled. I was in my late 30s, and decided it was because I was aging--I wasn't perceived as "the hot chick" anymore, as I had been, for better or worse (mostly better) my whole life. So I jokingly started my blog, I didn't know what I was, but I knew what I wasn't: hot, in that first-glance, young-woman kind of way.

Quickly, though, it became clear that it wasn't about looks at all, but about slipping into this new category of woman--the not-young woman--and that my self-definition had a bit of catching up to do. What I learned through the blog and writing the book, though, is that life on this side of young is far more fulfilling and enjoyable than back when I was "hot" in the way most people use the word. Being an adult tween (not young, not old) can be awkward at times. But I wouldn't trade where I am now to be a young woman again for anything.

Q: What feedback have you gotten from people who have read the book?

A: The most common thing I hear is, "Thanks for voicing what was in my head--I thought I was the only one." I also hear a lot of "Thanks for helping me laugh at myself and getting older." That's extremely gratifying. Women are taught to fear getting older, and what I hope my book does is helps them see that they don't have to. There's some loss that comes with not being young anymore, of course. But there's so much more to be gained. That's what the book is about.

Q: You write a lot about body image--what words of encouragement can you offer to a woman who is struggling with their body size or shape?

A: There are a lot of people who stand to make a lot of money by telling you that you're not OK the way you are. I had an eating disorder when I was young and have always had issues with my weight, even when it was perfectly fine. What I've learned that works for me is to eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full, and to try to be as healthy as I can. The weight my body settles at when I do that is what it should be. It may not be what I want it to be, but it's what it should be, and accepting that has made life a lot easier.

If you're heavy and worried about your health, by all means, do what it takes to get healthy. That's worth your energy. And if you think a little bit of this or that will help you feel prettier, why not avail yourself of it. But for the most part, I'd look for evidence in the mirror and from those who love you of what is beautiful about you, rather than focus on what you don't think is. It's not easy to deprogram yourself to think that way, but it can be done. is your local resource for information and deals on beauty services in the Washington Metro area.

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