Thursday, July 10, 2014



Coming ;) SoonWhen I woke up this morning to see that a friend of mine had sent me Tom Junod’s essay, "In Praise of 42 Year Old Women," I felt a lot of things. First of all, I felt happy. I mean, I had been following Junod’s career for many years, and so I've watched him begin so many articles with the word “You.” And this piece began with “Let’s face it,” which was obviously progress. So yeah, I felt good, the kind of good you feel when you see a kid who always walks in Little League get a hit, or when your dog is choking on a piece of rawhide and then just suddenly stops. Except with a dog you were thinking you might have to reach down its throat at some point, and I have never gotten to the point where I thought about reaching down Junod’s throat to extract something other than the pronoun "you." And now, I don’t have to!

The next thing I felt was relief: Tom Junod still wanted to have sex with me, and more importantly, laugh over hamburgers afterward, as he admired me in a stunning shift. Because according to Junod, I’m still hot—not like 42-year-old women used to be, back when they were super gross, like Anne Bancroft in The Graduate. And according to Junod what makes me hot isn’t just being hot, it’s that, unlike other women who just haven’t had all this time, I also finally figured out how to be sort of interesting.

Because—to borrow a phrase—let’s face it. Young women may still be perfect physical specimens. They can put on a bustier and high heels and arrange their legs, as 42-year-old Sofia Vergara has here, in a pose that’s not quite open and not quite closed, but they just don’t have, according to Junod, my “toughness, humor, and smarts.” He doesn’t come out and say that they don’t, but he definitely doesn’t say here, “Oh, the reason 42-year-old women are hot is because of what they look like.” No, it’s because we have a certain gravitas combined with what remains of our beauty. Young women don’t have that gravitas. So we sort of have the best of femininity. 

I guess this is supposed to make me feel good. I guess it’s supposed to make me feel good that at a party in a summer dress, I am “the most unclothed woman in the room.”

Or, well, I want that to make me feel good, but first I have to figure out what “most unclothed” means. According to Junod, I’m "the most unclothed" because “you know exactly what she looks like, without knowing exactly who she is.” (We couldn’t escape that second person singular for long!) I’m trying to figure out this idea of not knowing who I am? As opposed to the younger women at the party? Is it easy to know who they are, because at this point, they’re just body parts? Is 42 years how long it takes for the female brain to develop, and then, there’s, like, this sweet spot where a woman has brains and a body? And you (the universal male you, of course, otherwise known as Tom Junod’s BFF) want to just crawl up in that “lust with laughs” sweet spot and have a blast?

OK, Tom. To borrow another phrase, “Are you trying to seduce me?” I am actually 44, so I hope my collagen-intelligence ratio is still in your ballpark. Oh, I just looked you up on Wikipedia and I see that you’re 55. Oh, yeah! That is such a hot age. It’s like, you’re still alive, but only for about 30 more years.


Art by Jia Tolentino.

Sarah Miller is the author Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl. She lives in Nevada City, CA. Follow her on Twitter @sarahlovescali.

25 Comments / Post A Comment

or Elsa!

Tom Junod's "Opinions Of A Boner," ladies and gentlemen.




Any article about the number 42 that doesn't reference Douglas Adams isn't worth reading.


Cool, twelve more years until I'm sort of interesting!


As I read the essay, my eyebrows rose higher and higher towards my hairline, which is nearly 40.

"It's OK, eyebrows", I thought. "You are also nearly 40 and so fast approaching your prime."

I soothed them by stroking them with my two index fingers (also well on the way to desirability.) "I don't know who this Tom Junot fellow is, eyebrows, but we can rest assured that he desires us solely on the virtue of a bunch of projections and a crass generalisation of femme d'un certain age."

And then just like that, magically, both my middle fingers (so close to that magic age!) spontaneously rose up in tribute. They were really feeling that gravitas, you know? So much gravitas. And let's face it, as nearly 40-year-old middle fingers do, they just had to show it.


Well this is the best ever.


Sarah's words come together with Jia's artwork to form the absolute best retort I've seen in decades. It's a thing of beauty. 5 stars - would read again.


@FlufferNutter GUYS, IT'S OUR FEMINISM THAT MAKES US SO ATTRACTIVE. Thank god they are finally catching on!

Aileen Jeffries

I'm sure Joe Manganiello will be relieved to know his girlfriend is no longer considered tragic and desperate by society. And here I was admiring his ability to look past her decaying beauty!


I read that "most unclothed" paragraph five times and still wondered what the fuck he was talking about. So the younger ones are more clothed because they're not as "interesting"? And the older ones because they're less hot? So confused. And I'm only 37, so maybe I'll just have to wait five years before I can figure it out.


"[A] woman turning forty-two was expected to voluntarily accept the shackles of biology and convention..."

Um...yeah, "voluntarily" doesn't really describe the state of them thar affairs.



This is great. I love the Jia art too!

But okay, my mind has been BLOWN by the fact that Sarah Miller is 44. I swore I thought you were like...23. 27/28 tops. I'm not even sure why! I mean, I read Gideon Rayburn when I was in high school but I just figured you were a writing prodigy who was given a book deal. Even your picture makes me think you're young. Are you lying for the piece?? Am I missing something.

Jia Tolentino

@mystique Sarah Miller is actually 17, she's lying for this piece because she wants us to think she's hot


Man, Sarah Miller, your takedowns of deeply and annoyingly misogynistic claptrap are becoming a highlight for me.

Traci JoLeigh Drummond@facebook

Tom Junod is 55 and will need medicine to keep his peen up before too long (of not already). At that point, he can go and fuck himself (if not now). I may have barely escaped tragedy at 42 years of age (thank god I have people like Tom to let me know such things), but at least I'm not a barrel of assholery spilling over the top. Assholery knows no age.

le petit hiboux

:Of course, they have to work for their advantage; they have armored themselves with yoga and Pilates even as they joke about the spectacle."

It's okay you guys, he's giving us a way out. If you DON'T work for this advantage, you are just a husk of body parts on the floor, not a real woman at all. You no longer exist which is a bummer but least you don't get noticed by the roving eye of sauron that is Tom Junod so it's a mixed blessing.

Better to Eat You With

@le petit hiboux Right! Those of us who are not properly Pilatesed are just as subject to the whims of nature as those other women who came before us. Or something.

miss of arc

I love this. It reminded me of the open letter to Ned Hepburn from JLaw and I had to go read it again. Please keep eviscerating these guys forever.

Jia Tolentino

@miss of arc I frequently reread her David Brooks piece and just cry laughing at my computer


"Oh, I just looked you up on Wikipedia and I see that you’re 55. Oh, yeah! That is such a hot age. It’s like, you’re still alive, but only for about 30 more years."

Fucking genius.


HAHAH. God that intro was good.


Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article come depurare il fegato. Thanks! keep rocking!

Hassan Jamal

Hello, this is really very interesting article. thank you for sharing, keep up the good work :) best cell phone plans


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