Shirley MacLaine and Me
The Thought Crime Bill - A Senator's Boilerplate Response

Old Women, Young Men

category_bug_journal2.gif Many years ago, while I was visiting my great Aunt Edith in Portland, Oregon, we went to a big, vertical, indoor mall so I could do some necessary shopping. Aunt Edith preferred to stay in a main floor area, a pleasant space with benches and tables, lots of light and living trees.

I was gone about an hour and when I returned, there were three young men deep in conversation with Aunt Edith. It turned out they were starting college and Aunt Edith was giving them household tips complete with easy-to-cook recipes and how to live on a tight budget. They seemed to be having such a good time, I hesitated to interrupt. It’s not often in my experience that the very young and very old spend much time together and conventional wisdom dictates that the generations have little in common.

When I was in Seattle last summer, I met a young man with whom I had dinner two nights. It was an instance we all experience now and then of feeling like you’ve always known someone. We kept in touch and while he was visiting the east coast this month, he came up here from Boston to spend four days with me.

Stan is a successful tech entrepreneur taking some time off while looking for his next business (ad)venture. We spent our days mostly deep in conversation about life and love and philosophy and technology and the nature of happiness – you name it. We continued our discussions each evening until midnight and beyond. It was delightful.

Stan, who is in his early 30s, isn’t the only young man with whom I’m friends. Lately, I seem to be collecting them and they are among the best relationships I’ve ever had with men. It is a completely unexpected development in my old age and I’ve been wondering if it is common and what accounts for it.

Whether it is common, I don’t know. What accounts for it, I think, is that with the large gap between our ages, there is an absence of sexual tension. For my part there is no wondering, as when I was younger, if this will develop into a romance, no nervousness over what to wear or if I’m attractive enough, no posturing or trying to be something I’m not to impress him. We’re just friends, two people who enjoy one another’s company without the complications of sexual attraction.

Discounting grandchildren, people seem to segregate themselves mostly by age and there is much to be said for having friends who share a similar life experience. But hanging out young people is a good thing too, and I wish I had included this phenomenon in the When I Was Young Meme last week. I would never have predicted, when I was 25, that I would have such a terrific group of young friends when I got old and that we would have so much fun together.

Maybe that was just youthful chauvinism on my part and young people today have less of it.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Herchel Newman wonders about the surprise some people have at hearing Please and Thank You.]


Comments

One of my newer friends is a lovely 20 year old girl from Brittany named Elisa. She has been to visit us in the summer for the last three years. Even though I am about the same age as her mother, I never feel that she sees me as old, we are just friends.
Friendship is a precious thing and friendship across generations is especially so.

Nice post. I can relate easily. Among my dearly beloved friends are people in their twenties and younger (and older than I by two or three decades). And they come in a range of skin tone, sexual orientation, religion, income, occupation, educational level, political affiliation — the works. I agree that a gift of having a great pal is "feeling like you’ve always known someone." Many of my contemporaries are old in their heads. Boring, risk-averse, conventional in thought, and of limited or dull aspirations. I go for the spark of light and life, of kindness, and of intelligence (of any kind) . This stance, which led a former friend (she became too high maintenance or I became less tolerant) to call me a boundary crosser, helps explain why my friends would not necessarily have a great time if they gathered at a party (assuming they lived in the same country or state or spoke the same language!). I am rich.

As a young person, I had "older" friends, mostly family members or parents' friends who were fun, creative (painting refrigerator doors and bedsheets), idiosyncratic (a row of red nail polish... Revlon, with those long pointy "fins" attached to the lids), and who loved me! If you float my boat (and you feel the same), you're in. My motto.

There are different kinds of young people. Some do not like to be with older people for reasons, I presume, going back to their childhood. Such as never learning to value or understand their elders. Or having had bad experiences with them. Then there are those delightful young people who, for whatever reason, cherish older people and very much enjoy their company. I've had one such male friend and scads of young women, especially when I was in the working world, who sought my company. I feel some of them never had quite enough "mothering"; others needed an older head's presumed good advice; still others, out in the world all by themselves away from home, had some need answered by the kindness/interest of an older person.

I didn't want this to be anonymous but it left off my name.

Nora

I've been on both ends of this and one of my grandmothers was a confidant when I was in my late teens. My husband's aunt became one of my best friends. Both women were much older but the relationships lasted until they died. Because I like men I have good male friendships that are just that and never will be more. I have had a couple of younger male friends but two of them did want more and the friendships eventually ended. One of them, however, didn't and he and I still are friends. I guess that's the secret of the male/female friendships-- younger, same or older-- when there is no sexual tension and you can each just be you. I like men a lot; so always value my male buddies for their opinions. Maybe for me this came from having a lot of male cousins growing up. I think it's of real value to find strong friendships with those of different ages as we can learn so much from each other.

At the moment a young woman is staying at my son's home. He lives across the street from me. He is out of the country and there was no room at the University for her to stay for 2 1/2 months. She is from the Netherlands and is visiting the United States for the first time. She is 23 years old. I am old enough to be her grandmother. She is delightful. Amazing to me that she bikes everywhere, especially in a strange city.
Every evening she visits and shares about her life and her country. We have covered many subjects. I share of my experiences in the past and she shares about her friends back home and what she wants for her future. I share some of my evening meals with her and we have gone to lunch several times.
A new and unexpected friendship has developed.
She is surely a spark of happiness for me these short winter days.

Ronni: you & the others who've posted about your special friendships will/should treasure them. From my perspective it seems that these friendships are infrequent & are no doubt cherished. How wonderful for all of you.......I have one or two like this but I intend to look for more. Perhaps those of us who are limited in this area should try harder......I know I will. Thanks for the message. Dee

Being forced back into the work force in late middle age, I found most of my co-employees to be young men. At least younger than me. Their stories are facinating, and I've been enjoying their company for the last five years.

I am spending most of my time with people younger than me. Most of my blog readers are young parents. My four daughters (34 to 25), their guys, and their friends are close. Taking care of my grandson in New York City, I mostly hang out with young parents and nannies. I have 11 nieces and nephews.

Perhaps because I am the oldest in my large extended family (45 younger first cousins), I am most comfortable with people younger than I am.

I'm always hesitant to make direct friendships with my daughters' friends although I do consider some of them friends. I wouldn't want them to think I was horning in... I suppose this might change as we all get older. My daughter's are in their 20's. I have no hesitation to make friends with younger people who I first met other ways than through my daughters.

My daughter's best friend when she was six was a woman who was 70 years old. The friendship never wore off. I've always been close friends with my neices and nephews and that has extended to their children who are now into their early twenties. It is very stimulating to keep up with the younger generations.

Not meaning to be the fly in the ointment, but if you swap the genders, it seems to read differently. Actually, I've recently had a conversation with a 50-year-old man who was explaining to me that he enjoyed the enthusiasm and energy of 20-year-old girls which is why he sought them out -- so maybe I'm reading it in a jaded manner. But there is something, I think, to be said for women not being categorised as "dirty old men" for having younger friends.

Sylvia...

I think you're right. I had that thought while I was writing today's piece - that ulterior motives are usually attributed to old men if they have, or try to be, friends with young women.

It's too bad. I think mixing up genders and ages can be only to the good. Although, now that I think about it, when I was in my 20s, I knew quite a few old men I considered friends. Maybe the times were different then...

Your post and the following comments make interesting reading. Most of the friends I've made since retiring to France have been my age or up to ten or so years either way.
I've met several teenagers and helped them with their English homework but a real friendship has not developed with any of them.

Quite an interesting post. I too have been experiencing this, friendship with really young men. I find it refreshing and enlightening.

does mrs. hughs have any cd or dvd for sale sure would buy one her's in a heart beat she is the best.

one of the things I bet all these great intergenerational friendships have in common is that both parties are living in the now. Not, "when I was your age" or "when I get to be your age". We all love being appreciated for who we are today. That's the basis of any good friendship, especially one between folks with "societal" differences. The terms "kids" and "old people" can certainly segregate. Not that we should not appreciate whatever age we are, but it need not define us and keep us apart.

One of my best "new" friends I met last year via my niece. He is only 21 years old and an extremely intelligent, a talented musician and interesting young man. He stayed with me for quite awhile and we had many great indepth conversations. He now refers to me as his "Surrogate Aunt" and although we've moved far apart, we still keep in contact via phone.

I think it is wonderful to have friends in the younger generations. It keeps us connected to the "now" and also they somehow find our stories of the "old days" interesting and informative. We can learn alot from each other.

Hello,
I'm writing on this because I am a young person in my 20s. I have an older Aunt who is in her 50s. Lately she has told me she has been spending a lot of time with her co-workers who are in their mid twenties. She said one took her out to dinner for a holiday, he was 26 and happened to be gay. To be honest I think it is inappropriate and freaks me out, even if their relationship isn't sexual. It is weird. I just wanted to bring the point of view of the younger person to this discussion. I am embarrassed that she is looking for friends my age.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)