My friend Amy (see her oh-so telling Formerly moment, under the pot leaves no one would ever suspect her of smoking, right) reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write about: How part of being a Formerly is how safe suddenly everyone seems to feel around me.
Sometimes that’s cool, like, sure, I want to be the “nice lady” kids go up to in the playground if there’s broken glass, discarded hypodermics or Coney Island whitefish that an adult needs to dispose of properly. I’ve instructed my own children that if they can’t see me, and a police officer isn’t around, that finding such a nice lady with children is the next best thing.
But sometimes it can be a bit of a wakeup call, albeit from a nap I don’t expect to wake up from. A fellow Formerly friend of mine works with veterans returning from Iraq, many of whom are (hunky, crew-cutted) guys in their 20s. She has a warm, easy personality and they often confide in her about their girlfriends and other personal issues.
“But it’s not the way guys used to confide in me,” she says. “I’m not quite old enough to be their mother, although I suppose technically I could be, so I’m like this cool woman who won’t judge them. But I’m totally safe—they think there’s no way I would take anything they say the ‘wrong way.’”
In other words, they know she wouldn’t think they were coming on to her. When did imagining someone might, perhaps, in some unexplored, bizarro universe, find you attractive, become “the wrong way?” My friend happens to be married, but why is it so unthinkable, at least to these guys, that they might, in fact, want to come on to her? Because she’s a Formerly, and the transformation happened when she wasn’t paying attention, imperceptibly, but most concretely.
And she wouldn’t take anything they say “the wrong way,” because she knows how they view her. And she doesn’t want them, either. But nor does she feel “safe,” or entirely maternal toward them, either. It’s all very disconcerting.
I don’t come into contact with many young men, but I get it. There we were, in our 20s and 30s, walking on the wild side, swinging our hips and dodging speeding Vespas. Then the thoroughfare became a gigantic pedestrian mall like in Times Square or Disney, and now we’re walking slowly and ogling billboards with our figurative fanny packs on and are about as safe as they come.
Need me to hold something for safekeeping? I’m your gal. Have a secret that truly can’t get out? I’ll take it to the grave. Want to know a low-risk investment strategy? I have no idea but I can refer you to someone who does.
Woo-hoo. Party on.