Crabby Old Lady and Elder Tech
What Was Your Most Difficult Birthday?

A TGB Reader Story: The Grapes Aren't Sour; They're Just Not on the Menu Often Enough

By officerripley

I managed to strand myself in my old age in a conservative area and am feeling left out because I'm left of center compared to nearly all the gals in my age group who only seem to be concerned with grandkids, God, gardening and gun "rights."

The few gals in my age group with whom I do share political, social, and world views seem to find me "dull" because I have way less education than they do. (Although they'd never in a million years admit that they're even just the teeniest bit prejudiced against my "sort.")

After trying everything - book clubs, meetup.com, even the few supposedly liberal churches in the area - I keep running into the same old, "Oh, you ONLY have a high school diploma? I see. Well, we only take women with degrees in our feminist group." Or "You CHOSE not to have kids?! I see." Or "You know, you'd probably be happier in or near a large city. What's that? You can't AFFORD to move? Oh, I see."

(And the look on their faces when they say that stuff? Don't get me started.)

Then I did finally find a group that was on the same political/social page as I, a group that I really enjoyed; finally, people that think and feel the same way I do!

I can let my hair down around these gals, yay! Then I began to feel weird about how much I looked forward to this one hour a month, about how I'd daydream about what I'll talk about at the next meeting, stuff that I have no one else I can talk to about.

I wondered why I was feeling worried about how much I relied on this group and realized that that's why I was right to worry: I was relying too much on this group. Even after some attempts on my part, no friendships developed even after two years, which is understandable since the gals in the group are at least 25 years younger than I.

The group was composed of young, still-working, busy gals who also had elderly parents to take care of; they didn't have time for anything else in their lives.

I finally began to see that me looking forward to that one hour a month was not enough. I realize that a lot of people - namely young people - would see this as akin to "sour grapes" syndrome: oh, you're mad at the world because you don't get to have this fun all month long, so you're throwing a tantrum like a bratty kid and saying "well, then, I don't want any fun!"

And I really soul-searched to see if that was what I was feeling, but I really don't think it is. The way I feel is that this is a way of protecting myself; that one hour a month is such a small "helping" of fun and good feelings that it makes the rest of the month that much harder to bear.

It feels like being hungry all the time and once a month, you get one bite of something delicious. After a while you being to realize that the one delicious bite makes the watery soup you have to eat the rest of the month that much harder to put up with.

Therefore, my goal is now to get myself used to the loneliness of spending my old age in an area where I don't fit in. It's cold comfort, but I keep hearing that it makes me a member of a very large club.

Also, maybe this will help anyone younger who happens to read this, or any of you high-energy, busy-all-time elderly – how the heck do you do it?! Espresso or what?! - understand why it seems as if some of us elderly have "given up." Self-protection; that's all it is.

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Comments

Boy, did that hit home. I find myself in the same situation, surrounded by people in my same age group, mostly widows. Liberals, mostly, but no intellectual interest - gossip, drinking, minor forms of exercise that don’t really count . . . I could go on, but anyone in this situation can understand. I find myself doing the same thing the writer of this piece does, not liking it, but self survival is necessary! I love visiting my family 3000 miles away and spending time with their friends - reminding me that it’s the attitudes and outlooks that I miss. Sorry to ramble, but had to respond!

You want to be heard, and TGB followers have listened with empathy. Realizing there are others who have a similar story helps you know you are not alone, hopefully. Finding those persons may require more resources. Your library? Senior Community classes? A sure way in is to ask to volunteer. Please let us know that you have not settled into ”giving up.”

I am very lucky to have some very liberal friends in one of the most conservative states in the country. We don't see each other on a regular basis because we're all busy, but we text and email almost daily, and it helps keep us somewhat sane.

I don't understand why your level of education should mean anything at our age. I, too, only graduated high school. There were several good reasons I did not get a further "book" education, which I don't feel the need to explain after 50+ years, but I educated myself by traveling. I started when I was quite young, and if college gives you the chance to learn about yourself and the world, imagine doing that in a foreign country.

I doubt if any of your PhD friends could write a column like you do, and have so many people who love you.

I read with interest, your story. What I heard was that this particular group filled a need in you one time/month. That's great! However, Life is short. How about finding other similar groups to join? As Sheilaru has stated in her comments, Senior classes at your local center? Library groups? Do you live near a college or universary? Salve Regina Universary in Newport RI has a Circle of Scholars, holding classes in the Fall and Spring, on politics, music, nature, technology (learn to use your cell phone!), fake news spottings, etc. and your town may, also. Volunteer for a favorite cause. Take a walk in your neighborhood and meet people. Exercise at your local Y has Senior classes that are both fun and purposeful. Best wishes to live your best life yet!

I can relate. The local people here are friendly and polite, but will not "make" friends. After living in this community for 20 years, I've made a few special "transplanted" friends who have all since died or moved away. It was family that brought us to this area, and that has been a blessing. Still, the trade-off of being an outsider is tough. I, too, have an hour a month that is truly a joy. Better than nothing. (Perhaps I should be grateful for having to learn heavy-duty inner resourcing?)

I also live in a very conservative area and am a progressive. I am 75 years old. I am active in taking art classes and in the political resist movement. At this point I'm lucky in that my husband is till alive. But both of us have found that you don't quite make friends as easily as you did when you were younger. We have been here 12 years and have no close friends that we see on a regular basis or even to go out to dinner with occasionally. We have kept up friends and family contacts but they are also far away. At this point it is not financially reasonable for us to move so we are staying for awhile more. However, I'm not even sure being in place that might match us politically would be that much different. Again, I think it is people are age just don't have the energy or want to make an effort to have more friends than they have.

That is one of my fears - ending up in a place where people are "small-minded!" I'm a lefty-liberal, and have ZERO interest in 3 of those 4 "G's" (love my gardening.)

I'm on Trulia so I can get daily real estate listings of a few home per day in my target retirement areas - and that's been fun - but I don't how to narrow down the field to keep me out of a place with one church for every 13.2 people, and a community that centers itself solely around it's Christianity. California's not an option :)

I relate to your problem too. I live in a conservative town and in an “over 55” Park. I am extremely liberal and just stopped participating in the events here. Bingo was never my game anyway!

Travel saves my life. Even short trips for a long weekend to meet with old friends restores my vitality. I belong to a book club at a local bookstore with a real mix of political viewpoints and find the “discussions” invigorating to say the least. Walking my dog often leads to new friendships if the dogs like each other. Make use of local colleges and universities for their “senior” free education programs.
Do volunteer. I work with a women’s drop in center where homeless women mix with lonely older women living alone in small apartments downtown. Teach a craft or learn a new one. Every couple of years I take a longer (more expensive) trip to places like Mongolia or Africa. Not old people tours though. You have to think yourself out of those groups where they are really cliques and won’t readily accept newcomers - death to lonely folks. Establish your own group if you can. Have small picnics or breakfast meet ups or book readings.

You can do it. Just don’t give up. Don’t stay home with the TV on. Don’t let the bullies get to you. And don’t bemoan not having a college degree. Many women our age (I’m 78 years old) weren’t college educated. You are valuable and when you find something that gives you pleasure, you will shine!

I’m almost 79 yrs. young and moved to a smaller one-story home two yrs. ago. My husband is 83 - has memory problems, macular degeneration, and is on Warfarin. I have painful peripheral neuropathy in my feet post breast cancer chemo. I met three female neighbors. The youngest (50’s) had psychological problems and has moved. (Whew!) Another (60’s) has a serious heart problem limiting activity. The third, an 80-yr. old, moved here a year ago & is delightful company but busy settling in. Two of my dearest friends died unexpectedly over one year ago and I feel that loss tremendously. My energy level is not what it was. Everything takes longer. I have less patience and no desire to join groups. My husband and I enjoy exploring the countryside and taking our dog for walks. I would be lost without my computer connecting me daily with the world. I don’t have the time I’d like to sit and read a book in the afternoon because I still have a few small projects to take care of at the new place. I am quite content at this stage. I am happy to be done w/ a demanding career. Spending time w/ my pets, gardening, reading, doing research on the p.c. and all the necessary evils such as medical appointments, grocery shopping, etc. keep me busy. I actually wish I had more free time for myself.

Dear Officerripley: Got an idea. But it'll take Roni to bring it about. Roni: Your readers seem uniformly liberal/progressive. Which is good. Personally, I'd be very happy to know any of them. Would it be possible, RONI, for you to act as the 'hub of the wheel'? If a reader emails you and asks for the email address of any specific person in your 'responders' group, - - could you verify with that person that it would be OK to release his/her email address to just that one person?? That capability could start friendships. Email isn't perfect. It can be supplemented, eventually, with phone conversations. But you have to start somewhere.

One word on the college degree: LIE!
To those who it is a big deal pick a large school and say that you attended that school. And then drop it and ask them a question to diffuse. Answer a question with a question also works. Get the people talking about themselves and they will think that you are wonderful.
Learn to play bridge. One can play at any level and all you need is 4 players and two decks of cards. As much or as little talking as the group wants.

I would love to talk with you if Ronnie agrees?


Officeripley you are an excellent writer.

I loved your post.

Plenty of educated numb nuts have nothing substantial to say.

Posters like Tim Hay, Sharon in Spokane, WA mentioned volunteering as a way to make friends and have fun.

I volunteer in an independent living residence. The residents are very senior, one is 100 years old. Once I set foot into the dining room, nothing else matters, not those hairs on my chin, my arthritic big toe, those beeping construction trucks on my street...except greeting and helping the people (who have become my extended family) enjoy a meal.

My husband and I volunteer on the same day, but for different places.

We have some great chats at the end of our vol day.

We signed up for fitness classes at the local community center.

So far in retirement, I do not fit the mold. I don't have children or grandchildren.

I chose a career and no regrets.

Some random thoughts:

Over time, I have noticed that some people give up their homes and downsized too quickly into IRL's where suddenly their world shrinks. I know there are reasons for the move- health, death of spouse, economics, etc.

This is what I see:

They lose their privacy
Their autonomy
Their ability to drive
Their freedom
Their health from siting around with nothing to do.

My advice to you is to get involved as a volunteer, in something you feel passionate about.

Also, not all volunteer jobs are posted. See a need, walk in and offer help. Surprise visits work.

You have life experience- that counts. That matters.

Local libraries have programs, such as reading to children, help desk, etc.

Food banks

Meals on wheels

Focus on your strengths and you will find your tribe.

Make finding a place for your skills your job.

Please let us know how you are doing.

High five from Montreal

Wow, snobbery! So they've got, what, a B.A.? B.S.? Baloney, don't let'em grind you down. One of my best friends, without a college degree, has a lovely mind, and is kind and generous. Could some of it be your self consciousness/insecurity? I know that I worry if I'm up to snuff sometimes when invited to a certain kind of party, etc. I wish you could just pick up and move, but know that can be difficult at our age. I wish and hope a good relationship or two for you, just someone to have a cuppa tea with, and express your true self

You are a Unitarian Universalist, whether you know it yet or not! Please look up your nearest Unitarian church or fellowship and I am sure you will find likeminded people there (many in our 60+ age range). See uua.org to find a list of groups!

Things are even worse than some of you know! I am now part of the group that is called "Old Old," and it's hard. I am 87, soon to turn 88 years old. It's hard to do much (if any) walking, and driving at night is out of the question. A great many of my former friends have either died or moved far away to be close to family. (In other words, they're not around any more.)

I realize I am lucky to have few chronic health problems, but I did have a bad fall not too long ago from which I'm still trying to recover. Lack of balance and falls are the two biggest enemies of the "Old Old" like me, I find.

I'm lucky, I think, to really enjoy reading and (sometimes) writing. I wish I could find others my age who enjoy the same two things! I do attend so-called writers' groups from time to time, but it's almost always a disappointment. (People have a way of chit-chatting instead of talking about books or anyone's writing.)

Funny: I find that even going to the movies is no longer something I usually enjoy. Most movies aren't grown-up enough for those of us in the "Old Old" category, I find--A couple of days ago I saw "The Wife," and yes, Glen Close does some very good acting in it, but over-all, the movie touched me not at all.

I would love to read some comments here from others in the "Old Old" category
and learn what gives you pleasure. I'm assuming most of you don't live with husbands these days--is that right?

Barbara

Don't give up. I agree with the others, volunteering helps.
Try getting involved with your local political party too.
Or try the on-line courses that are free from many
universities.

Thanks so much for the kind, kind thoughts, everyone! I actually do volunteer at our county library & have for at least 5 yrs.; I enjoy it but have discovered when I started making moves toward friendships that the other volunteers seem to be composed of either the highly-educated who find me dull or introverts who just like being around the books & that's it (or perhaps they've given up as I have). I was briefly in a bk club run by the library with a lot of other gals my age who are very conservative; they were extremely upset with the 1 book ("Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson, deals with depression, highly recommended) I chose since it had a mildly liberal slant to it; several said it upset them so much they had to quit reading it.

And as I said in the orig. story, 1 of the many, many things I've looked into would be a feminist grp. Welp. The only feminist grp here--the next nearest 1 is 2 hrs. away--only takes those with college degrees or who are getting one. So there was another instance of that elitist, educated vs. the "non"-educated thing and being near a university not being any help. (Not the one here anyway, even tho I worked there for *30 fricking years* & learned never to venture an opinion, even to help 1 of the teaching staff with the copy machine for instance, since if I did, I was told "Excuse me? You know due to the fact that I have 2 [or 3] degrees and you don't have even 1, I think I know better than you." I swear to you, I had that said to me in those exact words or close to it several times 'till I learned to keep my mouth shut. Listen to this I also had said to me while working there: "You know, if you wanted to be treated decently, you should've gotten an education." Seriously, for real.)

So since even if we could afford to move closer to an area where there might be more of a chance for me to fit in (or at least have more things to do), my husband would never in a million years move. He loves it here because for some reason--sometimes I blame all the golf he plays; could golf be an alt-right plot? Hmmmm--he has become more & more conservative while I've become more & more liberal. So since we voted *very* differently in the last election, most of the conversations we have these days are arguments. That's we I do keep my eyes open for the unlikely chance of a kindred-spirit kind of friend, someone I could actually, you know, talk to; but I've learned not to hold my breath.

Thanks again for the kind words; it does help.

Forget the college degree you’ve had life experience. These days that counts for
a lot. Having lost several of my close friends I have adopted Google as my best friend. I’m not to good at making new friends and going over all the old baggage that comes along with them. Technology really helps develop interests and is always available.
Emily

OMG! You ARE in a challenging situation. I would be beyond dismayed if my 88 Y/O spouse became a "Trumpuppet". (That will never happen, thank goodness.) Since I'm really not sure that we could occupy the same living space peaceably, I might have to consider divorce even after 40+ good years together.

I am absolutely convinced that tRump and his RWA (right wing authoritarian) fellow travelers are a disaster for our nation and the planet but would have no desire to spend my last months/years in a prison cell. I hope you can find at least one reasonable person in your area. I can't believe that some folks still discriminate on the basis of degrees in their 70s and 80s!

Oh my...I could have written this whole thing myself!
I’m in a red area..smallish town in Florida. I’m 71 and no children. I’m liberal Democrat and long for people like me and I’m also not religious.

I too, don’t fit that demographic of your first try at a group. I was from a medium size city, only a high school degree and just an average not great paying job and my parents were Republicans.

So in thinking, sadly, I feel most in our age group except for the very educated and perhaps from large cities and a work past of being in good white collar jobs etc. tend to be conservative and are often trump supporters. It drives me crazy how they so vote against their own interests.

I got lucky though as I made a friend where I volunteer, who is just like me in background and politics and religion. Also my ex SIL lives here and is also like me. So I have two close friends, my age, and I’m so grateful.

Otherwise, I’d feel very alone too and would probably consider moving. I do know a great medium size city that is very liberal and not too expensive, especially on the outskirts...Asheville NC. I lived there but left after my husband died. I don’t miss the weather, but I miss the progressiveness.

There are many on line blogs of like minded women in or near our age group. You could also try joining your local Democratic Party with meetings, volunteering etc. These people tend to be older, as many younger people don’t get involved at all.

I would also think environmental groups, adult learning classes like Olli (if you are near one) and maybe local theatre if one is near.

I know it’s hard, but don’t feel alone. There are many of us like minded...more than you think. And keep going to this one group you have found. It may prove productive eventually. Also Road .scholar is a good travel group, as they focus on learning and not shopping. Don’t give up!

Thanks again, all for the kind words. You know, I think part of the reason that too many of the teaching staff at our local univ. (& other 1 percenters in this area) may have such an elitist attitude is that the univ. is just about the only thing of any size in our area so that makes that old "town & gown" conflict even sharper and makes both sides more defensive & disapproving of the other. In a bigger city where there may be even be more than 1 univ. (gasp) and there are more people from all walks of life rubbing shoulders with each other more often, people get used to being around people who aren't exactly like them and are more relaxed about it. Which leads to another thing I like about bigger cities.

I also like he email idea...would love that

It's heartwarming to see such support from other readers for you. You have been making such an effort already and it must be so frustrating to make progress. A few more thoughts to toss into the pot: First, people you spend time with at a club or group may not be people with time or inclination to hang out with you elsewhere, but they are still precious friends of a certain sort. Second, it's tough making all the effort, I know. If only you had a single person who would join you in this quest... does anyone spring to mind? Third, are Meet Ups a thing in your area? You might even start your own.: all it takes is a message to their mailing list naming a time and place, which is often a cafe. Lonely liberals meet up, anyone? Best of luck: you're doing so many things right, it's just got to happen soon.

Three years ago I retired and moved away from the state where I had lived for 27 years. I miss my friends, my children, my grandchildren, immensely, and have not made a single woman friend here yet. So, I do understand. Not having a few women friends makes me sad and lonely, but I'm not giving up either.
I find it interesting that the writer and those she approaches for possible friendship are so hung up on a college degree. In my encounters in my new life, no one has ever yet asked me where I went to college, what degrees I hold, etc.! Nor have I asked them. You don't have to avoid the topic, but I would suggest looking for other interests to base conversation on. If you enjoy discussing politics, forget education background and stick to the topic of politics. If you join, say, a knitting group, guide the conversation away from grandchildren and talk about the latest movie people might have seen or recipe you tried.
I want to encourage the writer not to give up. I'm not. Finding a friend at an older age is a lot like dating when we were young. Just think of all the frogs kissed (and boring (or worse) dates) before we found the prince! My mom is my inspiration. She is 91 years old and surrounded by the kindest of friends.

I want to add one more thing. There are dear friends to be made on line, and right now those are my inspiration and my "tribe". There are lots of blogs out there written by and for women (and men) our age. I write one and I read several more. Over the last five years, I have met up with several of these bloggers in person. One lives in London and I have visited her there and traveled with her twice! I have met up with others who live closer and consider four of them close and caring friends. Read some blogs, leave comments, respond to comments of commenters. Be generous with comfort, interest, praise, and I believe you will find some kindred souls.

Do people actually ask where you went to school? What degree do you have? That's so rude. I like what someone above said, make it up - I went to (blank) and have a B.A. - and add, in my time I was lucky to go to college, women weren't encouraged to do so. Really, at least that shuts people up.
Volunteering is good. I'm just learning there are so many things one can volunteer for, perhaps you'd find something that fits who you are.
I admit to being someone who loves their own company, so that makes things easier for me (I'm 78). I stay in touch with friends in general by email and phone. Friends I worked with via Facebook or email or texts or phone Have you thought about that - it will ease the sense of lonliness for you, I think, I hope, just to reach out a bit and find people you know who are online. True it doesn't match face-to-face contact, but it does help and adds another layer to life.
Forgot to ask - do you have a computer?
The computer is a lifeline to the entire world - and I've met so many interesting people through blogs, etc. - not in person, which doesn't help you much, I guess.
You've gotten some wonderful advice -
I hear what you're saying, you're in a difficult situation, and I certainly understand it's not possible for everyone to travel because of money. If you don't have a computer you can use one at a local library. You might google "local groups for people age XX) and I'll bet a fair amount come up.
You can make yourself a mission of kindness - smile at every older person you see, male or female, and give out some warmth. Doesn't matter if they smile back. Do you smile at babies when you see them? I do, and it's an enormous lift. Don't know if any of this suits you, but I'm putting it out there so you might come up with some ideas of your own. There's so much joy to grab in what's left of our lives, and it doesn't always need to come from other people - you can add layers to your own life by cherishing what you do on your own. It's a different point of view -

Thanks again, all, for the wonderful, kind comments. As I said, though, I have tried meetup.com but it's mostly outdoorsy, parenting, grandparenting stuff around here, none of which appeals to me. And I have tried re-directing the conversations (the few I still have, lol) toward something I'm more interested in (certain movies, politics, science) but always get, "Oh, let's not talk politics; let's talk about something more pleasant" or "Ewww, you *like* science?! Ewww" or "You like science fiction movies, ewwww." (Those are word-for-word comments I've gotten.)
You either fit in or you don't, I've found out after many years. And I do appreciate being told not to give up, but I'm old and tired and tired of trying for so long; so I feel like I deserve a rest. You know one of the things I'm the most tired of? Pretending to be interested in grand-(or great-grand)kid stories. I do still pretend to be interested if the other person brings it up but have learned not to ask about the kids anymore. (Kind of frustrating: all the years I've pretended to be interested in that stuff, but as soon as I open my mouth about something I'm interested in, I get 1 of the quotes above. Oh well, life isn't fair.)

You wrote a very thought provoking post.
I live in a city surrounded by people of all ages. We don’t have the same political beliefs but we do look out for each other. I’m in my 70s and my friends are young and old.
When I moved here I started going to the local hairdressers once a month. It’s turned out to be a relaxing place for coffee and chat and has resulted in two supportive friendships.

I have to agree with the person who posted about being a Unitarian Universalist! I am 72 and moved to a new town in a conservative area 3 years ago. I asked myself: "where will I meet all the best progressive people in this town?" and headed for the Unitarians. I expected to see about 20 people there but there were over 100! And they welcomed me with open arms, even though I hadn't been a Unitarian before. Now I have more friends than I've ever had in my life, and plenty to do. If you don't want to go to a church, pick a club (photography, hiking, whetever), go, and find a way to be of service there. (I'm the Treasurer of my church now). Good luck to you!

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