296758550_30c3a040851The fam and I went to a blowout all-day barbecue eatfest at my friend Kely’s this past Sunday, and I got to hang out with some of her neighborhood friends, very cool women with whom I felt instantly comfortable. The air was thick with Formerly vibes, in part because we all roughly the same age, but also because, to a one, these women were outrageously at ease with themselves, as we Formerlies tend to be, thank God for that. It took us about 90 seconds (and not a little sangria) to splay it all out there.

Veronica–one of a pair of identical twins who look exactly like Snow White would if the prince had knocked her up a couple of times and moved her to Queens and she found a really good facialist–told a story that totally hit home with me: Her girlfriend called her from a vacation and reported that, coincidentally, she’d just met a bunch of guys from the neighborhood in which Veronica grew up. Passing on a compliment, she told Veronica that they guys had said, “The C. twins? They were HOT.”

Her friend then went on to tell her a long a long crazy travel saga about her trip that involved hitchhiking, a woman who took anti-anxiety meds, mistakenly mixed them with booze, went a little off the rails and pulled a Hansel and Gretel move, shedding bits of clothing and expensive jewelry in the woods because she was convinced that the guys who picked them up were going to chop them up in little pieces (naturally she wanted to leave a trail for the cops.) It was a horrible night, even if it turned out OK.

But Veronica heard very little of it, because ringing in her ears, drowning out her friend’s voice, were those words: “The C. Twins? They were HOT.” After they were uttered, all Veronica heard was  reverb. Hot, Hot, HOT! “I don’t think I even remember the guys,” Veronica said. “But I was like, Really? They said we were hot?” Veronica, who has three kids and can’t be far from 40, floated a few inches off the ground that day.

What is it about hearing that someone thought you were hot or cute or pretty or that they had a crush on you 20-plus years ago–someone you may have barely known, and who you are not sure would recognize you if they saw you now? Another woman at the barbecue told a similar story of hearing years after the fact that a boy who used to torture her in high school confessed that he carried a huge, honking torch for her back then. She, too, was chuffed. I call my friend Julie in LA whenever I run into someone from our high school who asks after her and says wistfully, “Julie W? She was HOT.” Which happens all the time, because she was hot, and for that matter, remains thus. I know it’ll make her giggle like a 10th grader, and so I’m happy to repeat every word the guy said several times in four part harmony, because hearing that is like Diet Coke to the parched and caffeine-craving Formerly. It’s downright nourishing.

What’s weird is that, even though in many cases we don’t look quite as objectively hot (i.e., close to the young, perky ideal) as we may have when we were younger, hearing a compliment to the girl you were doesn’t feel sad or mournful. It’s not like, “I was hot, but now I’m somebody’s sweat-pants wearing, concealer-applying, lunch-packing mother.” It feels  (to me, anyway) as if I’ve somehow incorporated whoever that girl was into my current persona, so she’s still within earshot to receive the compliment.

I’m really curious about this: When you hear something positive about the you you used to be how do you react? And if you feel weirdly psyched, why do you think that is? Can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Photo by thenestor CC