Reporter Pamela Paul kicked off a story in today’s New York Times Style section with the declaration that “most young people would prefer to be older and most old people yearn to be young.” Actually, that’s not the case. Aspects of youth do indeed appeal, but these are pangs, not ongoing yearnings. Few older people would swap the rich experiences that have made them who they are for a chance to hit the re-run button.
“Hang on a sec,” said my partner Bob, “I’d hit the re-run button.” When we talked about it, it turned out that what he really wants is another 50 years to see “how it all turns out.” That’s different, I pointed out, from a hypothetical “re-run” that would erase the decades of books and places and people (like, ahem, me) that have stoked his voracious curiosity. With a wry smile, he admitted, “I don’t want to be born today. I’d only want to be young again if I could have my current consciousness along with it.” Ah, time travel . . . but that’s a very different thought experiment.
To the subject of the piece, Stephanie Dolgoff, author of the forthcoming, My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches From Just the Other Side of Young, I say, “Speak for yourself, bee-otch!” Most of the article addresses Ms. Dolgoff’s wardrobe travails in “the uncharted netherworld between Forever 21 and Eileen Fisher.” (To be fair, it’s the Style section). Fortunately there are fewer demands on that wardrobe, because “Formerlies, typically mothers of young children, haven’t the time or energy to go [out].” Ain’t that the truth. When my kids were little, my closet was the last thing on my mind. There was the one-size-fits-all phase, and, yes, the Eileen Fisher phase, but guess what? There’s a post-Eileen-Fisher phase, and it’s way more stylish than either of its predecessors. I’m way more comfortable now with who I am and what my style should be. Judging from the comment stream, many readers considerably farther than Dolgoff from “Just the Other Side of Young” feel the same way.
“So what happens when you’re no longer a Formerly? Are you just plain old?” asks reporter Pamela Paul. Here’s the answer, Ms. Paul. After that, you’re formerly a Formerly.