A few months ago I stayed up late having to get up at 2 o’clock in the morning to drive my son to school for a competition in another state. To pass the time, I scrolled through my Twitter feed, clicking on random newsworthy and not-so-newsworthy articles. It was then I saw the tweets from J.Lo about the release of her new video for her new song, “Booty”. (Yes, I follow her.) I decided to watch it.
I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Lopez’s from the beginning. As a young girl, I wanted to be a Fly Girl and would practice the moves in my bedroom. I didn’t know who she was then of course, but later, likely in a VH1 Behind the Music episode, I learned about all of the videos and small roles she had before she broke it big in “Selena”. I liked her immediately.
Especially after “Selena”, I loved her. I am a Spanish teacher, and although I have never kept an official count, I swear I must have seen that movie well over 30 times. I think she’s phenomenal in it. Even more important, I loved what she did for Latina girls everywhere. She gave them a voice, a face, and a new standard of beauty for our generation, which I thought was a good thing.
I am a few years younger than J.Lo. I have always been in awe of the fact that as time goes on, she has gotten better looking. If you compare her in 1994 to 2014, it’s remarkable how much better she looks now. It’s almost unnatural.
To be sure, I feel fine about the way I look. I think I look great for my age, and people tell me all the time that I look younger than I am. But of course, I wonder what I would look like if I had millions of dollars, a team of stylists, nutritionists, trainers, and make up artists to keep me at my best. I don’t think there’s a woman out there who doesn’t wonder the same. In fact, that’s often the line many of us will use to excuse why we don’t look that way.
“Well, if I had a million dollars and all of those people…”
“You know that’s not how those people really look, right? It’s all make up.”
Except that, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how J.Lo looks. She’s phenomenally beautiful, head to toe. And so I too wanted to see her newest video, wondering what could possibly be in store for us given the name of the song.
I have to tell you, I had no idea what was coming. And more surprising, I had no idea how I would react.
If you haven’t seen it (is there anyone who hasn’t?), it’s a very sexy, rump-shaking, wet, glossy video. The camera goes from her face to her butt, to her face to her butt, again and again and again. Her butt jiggles in all the right ways, not a trace of cellulite anywhere, and she even leans over in a few exotic dancer type moves. Sprinkled in between is the same of Iggy Azalea. Several times they rub their butts up against one another.
It is undeniable that the video is memorable, I think, and likewise, undeniable that J.Lo and Iggy Azalea are beautiful women. Also undeniable was that it made me uncomfortable. And I couldn’t figure out why.
Yes, I thought it was over-the-top and really inappropriate for my children. It was another thing to add to the list of what I hope my kids don’t see or hear. (Good luck with that, right?)
And yes, I thought the song was mediocre at best and was annoyed that it was getting attention for all the wrong reasons: gorgeous women showing and singing about their butts (a very common theme theses days for some reason). It played right into the commercialization of really bad music for the sole purpose of making money.
But it was more than that.
I wondered, as I sat and pondered the sensory explosive borderline-pornographic video I had just watched…at what age can we stop trying to be so damn hot? J.Lo just showed me that’s it’s not 45, and given how good she looks, probably not even 50. I’m only 41.
“Damn it,” I thought half-serious, half not. “I’mtired.”
Which made me think about being hot anyway. When did it stop being enough to be beautiful? Pretty? Attractive? Even sexy? Now we have to be hot too? In fact, hot is currently the standard measure for the description of a woman.
“Is she hot?”
“How hot is she?”
“Man, she’s smokin' hot!”
It’s so pervasive that even elementary school kids are using the word to describe themselves. I've actually heard it. It’s pretty shocking and upsetting when they do, and understandably so. That’s because we know hot is not a synonym for pretty, beautiful, or attractive. It’s implies much, much more, as in highly sexually desirable.
It gave me pause. Has our generation crossed the line? Worse, are we hypocrites? Have we actually bought into the very idea we claim to reject; that we are only valuable if we look good…the you-know-you-want-me-right-now kind of good…forever?
That our time in our middle years is best spent on trainers and hair extensions and cosmetic surgery and the like trying as hard as we can to defy nature?
What is the message we are sending to our daughters and ourselves? Is it the good interpretation, that yes, you too can be desirable, sexy, and hot into your forties and beyond…or the bad interpretation, that you have to be desirable, sexy and hot into your forties and beyond to be worth something?
I think we may be slipping towards the latter, intentional or not.
Moreover, what is the message we are sending to men? That this is what they should expect? A hot wife forever? Is that what they want? Or is that what we think they want?
Or are we actually just afraid that’s what they want and our efforts to stay hot are not stemming from our own desire to feel good about ourselves, but rather our unconscious fear that they won’t want us anymore if we’re not?
And if so, where did this insecurity come from? Is this the result of a youth obsessed society or is society reflecting how we feel about ourselves? Who started this? When? The first person I ever remember using the word "hot" was Paris Hilton. Is this her fault? (Kidding.)
But in all seriousness, when did we become a) so impressed by women maintaining their "hotness" for as long as possible, and b) so obsessed by the quest to be that woman that we are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to hold onto to it at any cost, literally and figuratively? I couldn't count the amount of beautiful women my age and older that are ruining their faces with injections and surgery. It's so disheartening. What is going on?
Like most girls, I have pored over the photos of my mother’s youth. She was an incredibly beautiful woman, and still is. So were both of my grandmothers. But I can just as easily pore over their middle years and tell you, none of them were striving to be hot. They looked good, yes, even young for their ages…but hot? This was not on their agenda.
Lately, I find myself feeling a little jealous over it. It seems like they had come to a more comfortable place with their age, their bodies, and their looks than we have. We may look younger, yes, but I wonder if we feel better.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to be strong, healthy, and in-shape for as long as possible. I also want to be attractive to my husband. I want to look good. But I’m kind of getting tired of trying to be or feeling like I need to be hot. It’s exhausting. Cause I don’t have a team of stylists and make up artists, or a ton of money to get my hair done everyday, or a personal trainer or chef, nor do I want cosmetic surgery or treatments.
I’m actually coming to a place for the first time in my life where I am completely confident in who I am. I love my body more now than I ever did. But I feel less and less inclined to spend too much of my time, money, or energy trying to maintain a standard of my appearance that time will at some point take from me whether I like it or not.
Is it healthy to keep pushing it off? At what point does it just become, well, kind of icky and inappropriate to keep trying so hard? And, at what point are we women going to stop accepting the word “hot” as a standard for describing our appearance? Is it time to be more conscious of what we’re actually saying when we use it?
So what do you think? Am I just jealous? Getting old? Or do I have a point? Is J.Lo (and society) unintentionally setting a standard at age 45 that is harmless or harmful?
And regardless, at what point do we stop trying to be…or should we stop feeling the need to be…so damn hot?