This is splitting hairs, and I know it, but it’s all about the shades of difference, this Formerly thing. Many of you probably read that excellent blog post Judith Warner did for the New York Times last year, about attending the wedding of 20somethings. She was not, as she had been a zillion times in years past, a guest of the happy couple, but a guest of (gasp!) their parents. In fact, she did not even know the bride and groom. She was, you know…

“One of those staid, faded people you remember from your own wedding, the vaguely known or (in our case this weekend) almost never-before-seen interlopers toward whom you tried not to show your utter lack of interest before slinking off to enjoy yourself with your friends.”

Warner goes on to describe with hideous accuracy–right down to her urge and ultimate decision not to show the younger guests dancing ironically to Billie Jean and Like a Prayer “how it’s done”– that “I am all that I once found ridiculous.”

I don’t know exactly how old Warner was when she wrote this blog post, but she was in my husband’s class in college, so I’m guessing 44ish. I am 41. That’s only a three-year difference. Whether or not you think of yourself as a young and fabulous, as a Formerly or as someone wading into middle age has more to do with what still rings or fails to ring your bells than than the actual year you were born. In Formerlyland, we use more subtle indicators than the box they make you check at the DMV.

In this case, the difference between being a Formerly (as I am) and being officially middle aged (as Warner classifies herself) is that I have a five-year-old (two, in fact) who begs me to dance with her as if I were Tony Manero and only as a team do we have a lock on the dance contest at 2001 Odyssey. Our crew attended a Bat Mitzvah this weekend, and the gaggle of skinny, frenetic, sparkly-shoed girls who flanked the lovely Lily (who did a bang-up job on the bima, btw) simply ignored me and Sasha as we flopped around ridiculously to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper version, natch) and I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I know it won’t last, and my daughters will be deeply, horribly embarrassed of me and my rockin’ retro moves soon enough, but right now, I am just so, so supercool and fun.

Soon, if I want to dance, I’ll either have to go places where only my agemates go (I’m not even sure such places exist) or rent a five-year-old—kind of like a beard, but for dancing at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. If the economy remains shitty, that might be a way parents could start earning money for their kids’ college funds. A juvenile escort service for older ladies who don’t want to sit there gnawing rubber chicken at catered affairs. Ca-ching.

ANYway, I’m thinking as long as there is at least one person under the age of 18 who is  not absolutely mortified to see you shaking what your mama gave you on the fold-up dance floor at a party, then you may be a Formerly, but you are not necessarily middle aged. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. I’m just defining our terms. Or splitting hairs.

Photo by Stewart cc