2847262440_fe6a003ddb I had an excellent conversation yesterday with a woman who so got the whole Formerly phenom that she was finishing my sentences before I’d fully formed them.

By now, of course, I realize that I’m not a freak for feeling as if there is a radical, seismic, yet entirely unacknowledged shift taking place in my life and that of many of my friends and peers. Formerly Hot has been up some eight or nine months now, and we’re acknowledging it up the wazoo–that’s what we’re here for–but it’s not like you get to have a bat mitzvah or a line crossing ceremony when you’re all of a sudden no longer young (although I suppose those vertical lines between your eyes could be construed as a form of ritual scarification.) It typically just happens when you’re not paying attention, and your first sign is often when someone calls you ma’am or you find yourself inordinately excited that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser does actually remove pen marks from walls.

In any event, I still get so excited when the Formerly idea resonnates, and this woman reminded me of something I’d written about how these, the Formerly years, are in fact, a magnificent time of our lives, even as your self-definition races to catch up with your current reality. By and large, it’s freakin’ awesome to be a Formerly.

A few reasons, off the top of my head: You’re more confident in your opinions, more willing to take risks, and your friendships are more satisfying, easier and devoid of hair-tossing, door-slamming, boyfriend-bogueing bullshit.

Plus, as my friend Andie points out, any pretense seems to have gone wherever your totally flat tummy and ability to drink Tequila without consequence went: A Formerly will  happily walk down the street wearing a large yellow construction paper duck beak on her head if her kid made it for her in art class, because there is not a soul on the sidewalk whose opinion matters to her more than her child’s. Formerlies are not so deluded or self-conscious to think anyone cares!

The best part for me personally (someone who, by the way, never had a problem wearing a construction paper duck beak on my head) has been figuring out that even the those who apparently had it made–the ones who seemed to have ordered their lives lock, stock and beach house out of a of J. Crew catalog–have always had their stuff to work out. I knew this rationally when I was younger, but I was really into torturing myself and idealizing others. Now I know truly understand that there is no such thing as getting it “right,” which means that there’s really no way, as a Formerly, to get it wrong. As a Formerly I have far more compassion for other people, and, obviously, for myself.

Yeah, so, OK, sometimes being a Formerly can be a little humbling, but is also pretty cool to get to explore this freedom now that all the chaos and striving of being young and hot and insecure is over. If someone had tried to tell me that life on the other side of young felt like this when I was a pre-Formerly, I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have had no reason to believe it, and no context in which to understand it. But I get it now, and I hope you all do, too. If you meet a young person who is wiser than I was, please let her know that she’s got a lot to look forward to.

PS. Please let me know what you think some of the upsides of being a Formerly are! (Comments below, or if you’re shy, you can just email me at stephanie@formerlyhot.com.)

Photo by Goldberg CC