You Know You're a Formerly When...
1. You've even once pulled the skin of your face back and slightly up to see what you’d look like with a facelift
2. High school kids are now wearing what you wore in high school.
3. You count calories in mixed drinks.
4. Your ass is starting to need a bra.
5. You suddenly prefer interior design magazines to fashion magazines.
6. A supermodel could give you one of her kidneys and you would still kind of hate her.
7. Whereas you used to be grossed out by obscene catcalls, you are now relieved first, grossed out second.
8. You have a doctor devoted to a single part or function of your body (your patella, your endocrine system) other than your vagina.
9. There’s a decent chance that the doctor is younger than you.
10. You need to pre-caffeinate before meeting someone for a morning coffee.
11. Your adolescent nieces and nephews are starting to regard you as a potential narc.
12. You let your mother friend you on Facebook because you have that little to hide.
13. Besides, moms is cooler than you ever gave her credit for
14. Conversations about mortgages and 401Ks, while not exactly interesting, are no longer stultifying.
15. You have heard of Death Cab for Cutie, but couldn’t ID their songs on threat of waterboarding.
16. You freeze bread. Like there won't be another loaf at the store when you need one
17. You still think “hook up” means “let's meet up for a drink”
18. You have been ma’amed outside the Deep South
19. You can't fathom why they would remake such classics as Fame and Melrose Place
20. Cosmetic surgery that you once considered deeply anti-woman is now “a woman's personal decision.”

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About Formerly HotBlogWhat's Your Formerly Hot Thing?Formerly Hot News!

you know you're a formerly when...WELCOME! I started Formerly Hot after my sudden realization that I was no longer who I'd always been-a pretty girl who navigated the world partially aided by the advantage of her looks. After 30 some odd years, Spanx had found their way into my lingerie drawer, and men who asked me if I "had the time” really just wanted to know the time. Imagine!

I had crossed a line into strange, uncharted life territory, one in which I no longer felt like me. I joked to friends that I was "formerly hot," and clearly I struck a nerve. There are many women like me, bitchslapped into a new category of person: adult "tweens," not quite middle-aged, but no longer our reckless, restless, gravity-defying selves.

Thankfully, I learned life is so much more satisfying on this side of young--and I wrote a book about it, which is a NY Times national bestseller! Click here for more

Payment in kindness

June 4th, 2014

unnamedI suppose it’s a little unseemly to consider what you’ll get in return for performing an act of kindness. If I were a better person I would excrete selfless good deeds from my pores while whistling all the livelong day, bettering the lives of others with nary a thought how it made me feel. Right. Selfless. Redundant.

But guess what? Not that person.

So here’s what happened: A woman got on the bus (oh, the drama on NYC public transportation!) and didn’t pay her son’s fare. Her son was maybe 8, but there’s a height cut-off and he was too tall to ride for free. Most drivers wave all kids on unless they are loudly, obnoxiously and undeniably middle schoolers, or Amazons, like my gals. Many a parent, including myself, has hoped to save $2.50 a kid, but are prepared to pay if asked. This mom didn’t have it.

The driver was in the right, but was barky about it (“You can’t just march on here…”). The mom failed to take the high road, instead making a left at “jerk-off” and a u-turn at “asshole.”

So I paid the kid’s fare.  The woman thanked me. But then she kept arguing with the driver, even as she steered her son to a seat, muttering and sputtering in anger. I sat putting on my mascara.

I suppose I had hoped that my paying it forward would sprinkle the fairy dust of kindness all over the M21, briefly making our little four-person universe a better place. It kinda didn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hot children in the city

February 9th, 2014

150665_582297921786895_416859301_nPeople ask me what it was like growing up in New York City, which is where I was raised and am raising my daughters. I’m still growing up here, at age 46, every damn day. And like most people who have lived in the same place most of their lives, I don’t have the perspective to answer that question very well.

I usually say something about being able to flee my home early and often when it became too dysfunctional is what saved me from being an even more miserable adolescent than I had been. Had I been trapped in a box in a quiet cul de sac, I imagine, dependent on my parents to drive me somewhere else, I think I would have done nothing but eat and throw up and be depressed.

Instead, I ate and threw up and was depressed some of the time, but also ran around this outrageous town with it’s cross-dressing club kids and street artists and the music blaring from every ground floor apartment with my amazing friends who were from all over the universe and stayed at their homes and had them at mine. This allowed us all to see that our family’s way (thank GOD) wasn’t the only way.

Because of that–really, thanks to public transportation and a particular brand of loving but loose ’80s parenting and everything that this city arrays before you like an all you can eat buffet of crazy–my friends and I were able to create a support system and a school outside of school that gave us tremendous room to be ourselves. All things considered, NYC was a great place to grow up, given that growing up is really hard wherever you are.

But who knows? There are pros and cons to any place. I’m here, raising my daughters here, because it’s home, where my imperfect family is, where I feel best equipped to teach my kids how to take care of themselves. None of my native New Yorker friends came here from somewhere else as adults to prove anything or to get away from what they feel was a too-conformist upbringing or to be the best in their industry, as so many do, so we tend not to be prone to excess. Native New Yorker parents–and please, friends, chime in if I’m not speaking for you here–are just moms and dads like everywhere else who want our children to be safe and smart and kind and happy.

Still, it’s trippy to see your young ones living the 2.0 version of your New York childhood on these same streets, especially since the city is much safer than it was in the Koch administration, and because us parents are much more up our kids butts than mine, at least, were back then. I walked three blocks home from the school bus alone in the third grade, crossing over to avoid the crack house on the corner of 97th and Columbus which is now bespoke condos facing a Whole Foods. My mom tells me I insisted, accusing her of being overprotective. I don’t let my kids cross the street without me and they’re in the 5th grade. They’re too giddy, spaced out, and, well, childlike, in my view.

Thing is, while a safer city in which they don’t have to be quite as street smart allowed them to be that way, that’s only a good thing if they don’t get hit by a car.

Which is why I am not one of those people who long for the city’s seedy past, when Times Square was truly the festering, filthy, stinking armpit of the universe (as opposed to the shaved, deodorized and hyper-corporate armpit it is now). New York was often an unpleasant, scary place that smelled like pee. But a lot was easier, both for us as children and for our parents. Things were cheaper, schooling was less complicated, and according to my mom, anyway, parenting was less of an achievement-oriented occupation, here and in the ‘burbs.

Not for nothing, for all the “wildness” of life in the big city as a small person, the only place I remember smoking pot was as a kid was in Livingston, NJ, when I visited my camp friends. I envied their rec rooms, but they complained they were bored out of their gourds. And yet, most of them, too, turned out fine. Go figure.

Photo downloaded from Christine Macaluso-Russo–many thanks.

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Tween cakewalk

January 31st, 2014

Any of yphoto(75)ou who have tween daughters are familiar with the fact that–all of a sudden–if you inhale air within 15 feet of them in front of their friends you are “So not cool, Mom.”

(Yeah, cuz I was totally trying to be extra cool in the way I didn’t let my cells die by depriving them of oxygen. Whatever. Dealing with tweens makes it really hard not to start talking like one, which of course is the MOST embarrassing thing you could do. See: “Mom, no one SAYS that.”)

And if you so much as EXhale (let alone say hello to a friend of theirs at drop off or point out that they have eye schmutz and might want to do something about it) you get the dreaded, “No, Mom. Just, No.”

I was all set to be on my best behavior when I took my girls, who are 10, and my boyfriend’s 12-year-old daughter on a walking tour of great cupcakes around town. My kids are awkward around Ruby, who is beautiful and reserved and more teen than kid these days, which makes my mile-a-minute still-silly girls extra self-conscious.

So on the way to picking up Ruby, I proactively told Sasha and Viv that I was going to make an extra special effort not to be embarrassing, but that they needed to cut me some slack, since I need to be allowed to minimally converse in order to affect the day’s plans, which involved the basics of checking in at the tour, etc.

“Yeah, that would be good,” Sasha said. “Like, don’t go up strange women and say, “O.M.G. I LOVE YOUR HAT!”

I harrumphed. “Oh, come on, I have never in all my livelong days, said ‘O.M.G. I love your’ anything! That’s not fair.” (“Mom, no one says ‘livelong days.'”)

This was our tour guide, on the right. That is indeed a cupcake hat.

photo(74)photo(74)

“O.M.G., I love your hat!” I whispered to her as we checked in. “Thanks!” She whispered back. She was a pro. Or a mom of tweens.

As we froze our fingers licking frosting off of them at 6 different cupcake venues, I mostly kept my mouth shut, speaking only to facilitate cupcake procurement and to suggest ways of staying warm. But the stress was getting to me.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” Viv asked, as I pursed my lips together.

“Nothing. I just want you to know how many potentially embarrassing things I could have said today that I didn’t say. I really deserve a lot of credit. Oh, wait, I’m not saying one right now. Oooh, it’s hard.”

Three girls looked at me, stony faced, though I thought I saw a hint of a smile in Ruby’s eyes. Probably my imagination.

Then Viv said, “No, Mom. Just, No.”

 

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IKEA existentialism

November 21st, 2013

hemnesI spent all yesterday morning in a certain kind of Hemnes hell that anyone who has ever assembled a piece of IKEA furniture–especially one with casters and drawers and 17 similar but not interchangeable screws–is familiar with.

But my gals needed a  dresser for their ’80s neon wardrobe, and so I took a deep breath and committed the time and the patience that I normally don’t have to the task.

While I was screwing and tapping and sliding and matching bits and pieces, I queued up what I thought was a clever (if a little obvious) blog post in my head about resisting the urge to try and cram a round peg into a square hole (or, in IKEA parlance, peg number 4001128365 into the hole meant for peg number 4828811165433).

I learned this lesson the painful and expensive way after trying for perhaps too many years to force myself into a marriage that didn’t fit. The wordless instructions, in the supposedly universal language of love, made logical sense but didn’t construct something solid and sustainable. (One could argue that the end result of an IKEA assembly is furniture that isn’t solid and sustainable either, but go with me on this–presumably if you put it together properly your Expedit supports your books and your Tromsö loft bed doesn’t send your kid crashing to the floor in the middle of the night. )

In my triple-clever blog post, everything one does in a marriage was directly analogous to the options one weighs as you assemble an IKEA piece: You can analyze, try a different perspective, bang, cry, cut corners, skip steps, ad-lib with outside nails, call in the experts and force things into where you think they should go, which will result in an unusable pile of particle board. I was then going to sum it up with something pithy about allowing yourself the time and wisdom to figure it out, which you eventually will, even if you abort the mission and call one of the expensive assemblers to come do the job for you.

But now I’m thinking that the IKEA-assembly-as-life-philosophy analogy only goes so far. With Hemnes, there’s a picture of the completed dresser for you to look at so at least you know that you’re screwing up, if not how to fix it.

With a relationship, not so much. There’s no agreed-upon end result, except perhaps the vague shared desire for “harmony” and “peace” and “support,” which obviously can mean very different things to the two halves of a couple. (Add sister wives and things get exponentially more complicated.)

In any case, as arduous as the process of assembling the above was, it was therapeutic and unlike life, perhaps a task better undertaken alone. This cracked me up (thanks Marina!).

 

 

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I knew him when

November 10th, 2013

yearbookSo I’m at the gym, faux cross country skiing to nowhere and watching MSNBC to keep it from being even more tedious than it is. The talk show host introduces one of her panelists, who turns out to be a guy I went to high school with.

Super-impressive, clearly a thoughtful and knowledgeable person who has no doubt earned his nosebleed ascent through the ranks of business reporting, including stints at the two most important newspapers in the country (yes, newspapers are still important.)

But as I listen to his commentary on the economic recovery, such as it is, all I’m thinking is, That guy told his buddies that we did things together that we didn’t when I was a freshman and he was a sophomore.

Not “the” thing but the next obvious thing, one of several that you don’t want to be famous around your school for doing with a lot of guys.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Have my people call your people

November 7th, 2013

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From the Things For Which I Wish Someone Would Invent a Solution department: We need something—anything!–to make multi-person conference calls less excruciating.

I had one yesterday with Lions Gate, the studio that (yay!) has optioned My Formerly Hot Life and plans to make it a fabulous TV show that will launch a thousand catchphrases and fashion trends and eventually, after many years, have people arguing about whether or not it has jumped the shark. At which time it will be syndicated and have sent the children of all involved to college.

(If my therapist Carol is reading this, I want you to take note of my terrifically positive attitude!)

There were, like, 8 or 9 or so people scheduled to be on the call, only a few of whom I’d ever met in person. I dialed in.

[Click, blip, echo noise]. “Um, hello, this is Stephanie,” I spoke into the void.

A woman said she was Person X for Persons Y and Z at the studio.

Meaning, while I am sure her mother loves her, Person X was relatively unimportant as compared to Persons Y and Z, and so she could afford to sit and listen to me breathe.

“Hi there,” I said perkily. [Weird speakerphone pause.] “Hey,” she answered. [Awkward silence. ] To my credit, I resisted the urge to talk about the weather. There’s nothing worse than weather talk with people from L.A.

After a minute or two, a male voice, Kevin, said he was “for Rebecca and Christy,” my agents here in New York.

“Hi, Kevin, it’s Stephanie!” I said. [Weird speakerphone pause with no sound so you’re not quite sure if he said anything.] “What?” I asked.

“Hey. I said Hey!” he said.

“Oh, ok. Hey.” [Awkward silence.]

I was fast learning that only only losers make their own calls, or for that matter, speak directly into the handset, as I was doing. I should have had one of my daughters call in and announce that she was “for Stephanie” and hold the line while I sat there and read Us magazine, instead of doing it myself.

I said as much and neither of the important people surrogates laughed, or if they did it fell into the weird speakerphone pause void.

I vowed not to say another word. I sat for a few more minutes, flipping pages and hearing clicks and people going on hold and coming back. Occasionally someone called roll like in first grade, determined that all the actual important people were still not there, and then went off the line again.

Eventually Rebecca dials in,  and [click, echo, noise] announces herself. “Are we all here?” Read the rest of this entry »

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Sugar is sweet

November 4th, 2013

6292660727_9eb30762fe_nHow do you know if you just gave your kid an eating disorder? I think I may have.

So here’s what happened: A few months ago I collected an empty water cup from the shelf above one of my daughter’s loft beds.

I rarely make the climb, because I usually smack the back of my skull against the ceiling and what’s more, it’s their little tween universe up there and I feel like I’m invading their space. Rainbow Loom bracelets strangle plush toys, socks that have been kicked off collect at the foot of the bed, and gushing One Direction quizzes in fanzines cause me to briefly fear for the future of the human race, which, considering I was a Shaun Cassidy freak back in the day, makes me feel old old old.

But we were running out of cups so up I went, and I saw a bunch of candy wrappers stuffed between the wall and the bed.

Here’s where my mind went: Secret eating! Hoarding food! Turning for solace to Fun Size Snickers because she feels unloved by her mother, who despite best efforts is a stressed out single mom who sometimes uses compound curses and maybe is thinking about the dry cleaning she forgot to pick up while her daughter is confiding her innermost truths! Read the rest of this entry »

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Back from the brain dead

November 3rd, 2013

photo(65)Lemme get this out of the way:

It’s been–gasp!–over a year since I last posted, despite supportive reader/friends and editors and agents making careful and polite inquiries as to why the radio silence.

Things like, “Are you OK?” and “Um, how’s the book promotion going?” “Did the TV show ever happen?” And oh, and “WTF, Stephanie? You are squandering an audience that many authors would kill for by not keeping your brand alive!”

Yes, well. Short answer: divorce, divorce, divorce, and all the tentacles of stress and uncertainty that wrap themselves around you when your life, your children’s lives, your finances and your sense of self are radically upended in a short period of time.

Never mind that it was the right thing. Never mind that it’s what had to happen. Remember tether ball, from summer camp? I felt like the ball, smacked and kicked this way and that, all day every day, and unable to bounce away to deflate in safety.

Obviously, when you the human being are also “your brand,” it’s hard to write funny.

BUT!

Three years after my split (which happened right when the book came out), and one year after the JOD arrived in the mail, my girls and I are good, and their dad and I are doing what we always did best–loving them, denying them cell phones, and making sure they’re appropriately insane 5th graders who sometimes eat green vegetables and empty their pockets of lip gloss before they put their jeans in the laundry.

In other news, My Formerly Hot Life has once again been optioned, this time by Lions Gate, who brought you Mad Men and Nashville and Orange is the New Black and lots of other freakin’ amazing shows. These people know what they’re doing. Very very beginning stages, so nothing to report other than that, but please cross everything that can be crossed.

And I’m percolating another book.

So bear with me, and if you’re still with me, send up a flare!

With love, Steph

 

 

 

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Clog-a-log

September 28th, 2012

5383_bb_penguin_01_1One of the reasons I haven’t been posting much lately is that I haven’t had that many Formerly Hot moments. I’ve kind of moved through the whole shock and horror at finding myself no longer young and have settled into this new, rather happy, peaceful state of being. No drama, no trauma…just an OK-with-45 mindset that is, well, not that funny.

But once in a while, as happened today, I have a good old fashioned Formerly moment I feel compelled to share.

So as my friends know, I have a bit of a clog problem. I have maybe eight or nine pairs, including two pairs of clog boots. It’s a problem mostly because there aren’t enough days of the week to wear them and I love them so much this causes me mild to moderate distress.

I think I’m attracted to them because they manage to be both cute and orthopedic at the same time. People like me, who can no longer wear heals without cursing our big, gnarled, 45-year-old feet, can be comfy in clogs. Meanwhile, cute young 20somethings doing the retro ’70s thing have made them cool again. I’m riding this wave as long as it lasts. It’s like a solar eclipse–a rare overlap between two apparent opposites that’s briefly beautiful.

I stopped by No. 6, one of my favorite clog sources, and I saw them (pictured here, except I lusted for the dark, rich, chocolately brown). It was love at first sight–like in the movies, the background fell away and it was like me and the clogs were alone in the room. I moved tentatively toward them. We were destined to be together. I was sure of it.

The groovy blonde saleswoman, 26 or 27 tops, explained that they didn’t have them in my enormous size (41 or 42) and brought me a few similar pairs to try. I tried them all on, but determined that I wasn’t ready to have her non-refundably order them for me without actually trying the precise ones I wanted, because I’ve been burned before by ill-fitting shoes I couldn’t resist. It’s heartbreaking to sell your perfect-but-for-the-fact-that-they-deforming-your-feet clogs on eBay.

“I’m confident that a 41 will be fine,” she said. I thanked her and said would just wait until she had them in to try. “I do this all day,” she said. “You’ll be fine in the 41.” I choose to believe she wasn’t pushing, but that she truly wanted me to be united with my true loves. But still, I held off, and asked her to call me when they came in again.

She shrugged, and there was something in her resignation–this middle-aged lady doesn’t know what’s good for her, fashion-wise and she chooses not to heed my excellent advice so I’m going to move on to someone in whose life I can make a real difference–that prompted what came next: I felt an uprising of older person’s Tourettes, words coming up out of my mouth seemingly without my control.

“I mean, my feet used to be a regular ten, until I had my children and now it’s like, a real problem to find shoes in my size….” I blathered on about how one foot is bigger than the other, how pregnancy screws with your feet and, like, the bones spread out, and yoga doesn’t help either, and on and on in this, honey, let me tell you kind of tone. I think a part of me wanted her to know that once, a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was just like her–someone who didn’t mind if my feet hurt, as long as they looked good. Someone who would put fashion before function. Someone who, well, wasn’t old. Or old-er. Or as old as I am. Which is to say, not that old!

When I finally stopped talking, I saw that my diatribe had the opposite effect. I went from potential clog buyer to weird lady who thinks fabulous, young, skinny fashionable people care about her podiatric problems!

“Wow,” she said. “That sucks.”

“Um, yeah, kinda,” I said, before showing myself out.

I told my friend Andie about this exchange and she likened it to talking to pregnant women about what it’s like to be a parent–they cannot fathom that anything will ever change. They will be exactly as they are forever, except with the adorable accessory of an infant, who will also never get older and pimply and difficult. This woman has no idea that she will ever be my age, no longer able to wear a trash bag with an obi and look fabulous, with feet issues that one earns after pounding the pavement for decades and all of that.

Well, I do hope for her sake she gets to be my age someday, because–footwear limitations notwithstanding–it beats the alternative.

Photo from No. 6, which really is an amazing store.

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Why kids need to be mortified

September 27th, 2012

Hi, all,

It has been an outrageously long time since I’ve posted. I have been crazy busy and digging out and just trying to enjoy my kiddies but if there’s anyone out there still checking in, I will be back at it at some point. Trying not to make myself nuts.

In any case, enjoy, this from LHJ’s October issue. Click HERE for the full monty.

Embarrass Your Kids, It’s Good for Them

Of course my daughters think I’m weird. But isn’t it my job to show them that being yourself is actually okay?
« Previous |  1 of 1 | Next »

Recently I was walking one of my fourth-grade daughters to school. We were holding hands, swinging them as we strode, and I was quietly singing the Bangles’ “Manic Monday.” We’d sung it together loudly many times in the car. But apparently this was neither the time nor the place for a 1980s flashback. “Mom, stop it!” she hissed as we saw a cluster of her friends up ahead. In fairness to her, I have a terrible voice, and I was fully prepared to cease and desist, but I felt like it was my job as a mother to give her a hard time first.

“But why? I’m happy. I like to sing when I’m happy.” She rolled her long-lashed blue eyes and looked at me imploringly. I saw a touch of desperation behind her cool-kid facade, so I smiled and said okay. I stopped singing and we kept walking, hand in hand.

I remember my own mother singing in the street when I was young, and me begging her to please oh please just…don’t! When she wouldn’t stop, I’d fall back and walk way behind her, trying to disappear into my Flashdance-style cropped sweatshirt. We joke about it today. But my mom, who was single and struggling to raise me and my autistic brother, was under a lot of stress. I now know that I should have encouraged any expression of joy on her part.

Rest of the article is HERE and lotsa other good stuff.

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