The XX Factor

Julia Roberts: “Formerly Hot”?

Jess, I love that women over 40 are dominating on magazines covers and, even better, in the movie theater. I noticed it too-and I also noticed Laura Linney (46) on the cover of last week’s New York Times Magazine , that More magazine’s circulation is increasing (cover girls have to be over 40; this month’s Kyra Sedgwick is 44), and that the inside of  Elle magazine, not just the cover, offers articles clearly aimed at women past the ingenue stage: recovering from the death of your mother, wrinkle-fighting secrets. It looks to me like grown-ups are creeping slowly back into vogue (and, literally, back into Vogue ), and I agree: It’s not just the recession (although the fact that more of us still have jobs and some disposable income, as opposed to struggling recent grads, can’t hurt). Maybe it’s another benefit of Mad Men , or maybe we’re just tired of watching Lindsey Lohan crash and burn again and again. Or maybe we’re getting inspired by watching women like Elena Kagan or Nikki Haley or even Sarah Palin seizing their moments. It’s a good time to be an established, confident woman capable of taking on strong roles.

So I couldn’t help but wonder, what’s up with Stephanie Dolgoff, author of My Formerly Hot Life and subject of an NYT Styles profile on Sunday? Does she really think that “women in their late 30s and early 40s fall into a ‘new category of person: adult ’tweens, not quite middle-aged, but no longer our reckless, restless, gravity-defying selves’ “? Or that such women want a “new moniker: Formerlies, as in formerly hot”? Dolgoff says it’s “obviously self-mocking,” but it’s a kind of condescending self-mockery I think most women can do without. If I’m looking for a model for growing up with grace and humor, I think I’ll stick with Julia Roberts and Tina Fey, neither of whom is “formerly” anything. Or I can look to this fall’s political races, filled with women over 40. Adult women, with adult achievements, are everywhere, and “formerly” is too backwards-looking for women who are clearly just getting started.

Photograph of Julia Roberts by Gabriel Bouys/AFP.