Excuse Me While I Remove My Dentures and Pop In My Hearing Aid

On Wednesday night—after I was released from my office basement where I was held for a tornado watch—I met a potential new friend for dinner. That’s right, I will drive through hell or high water…or twisters!…for a girl-date. Dedication people. That’s what I’m talking about. Now if I had that same commitment to, say, the treadmill.

Anyway, my new friend seems great. She likes to cook. She likes to eat. I like to cook. I like to eat. And, not surprisingly, we hit it off when we first met because we were sitting next to each other. Common interests and proximity? It’s a match made in heaven.

Except one thing. She makes me feel like a 90-year-old denture-wearing grandma. It’s nothing she’s done or said, but she’s 23, just out of college, and every time I say the words “my husband” it’s as if we’re in a Pixar movie and I can actually see her eyes pop further and further out of her head.

I remember being fresh out of college and generally adhering to the belief that “marriage is weird.” And then, maybe two years later, my first friends started getting engaged, and I was happy for them, but would later call Callie and Sara and say, “why is everyone getting married? That’s so weeeirrd.” And they agreed. And then I got engaged and called them from my cell phone in Mexico to share the news, and wasted probably 30 seconds of my $2-per-minute phone calls saying “I know we think it’s so weird to get married [I was 26—not really a baby—but it still felt on the early side] but I hope you’ll be a part of the wedding anyway.” The point of this rant is not that marriage is strange, but that I remember when words like wedding and fiancé and registry seemed as far away as, well, forever, and like a vocabulary only grown-ups had, not my own friends.

Back when that was me, it seemed the few people I knew who were married or engaged—mostly coworkers—were genuine adults. Now I know better. But my new friend? She’s in the place I was. She thinks the fact that I don’t party a lot (she still uses party as a verb) is bizarre. That I’ve got friends with babies is inconceivable. I have no problems with where I am, but, like I said, spending time with her just makes me feel, well, old.

We could be good friends one day. Perhaps when our life stages are a bit more in sync. But right now? I can’t see us having a relationship that isn’t of the big-and-little-sister mentor-mentee variety. And that’s not what I’m in the market for. I don’t want to dance on the bar or revisit college parties. I’d rather watch Top Chef and have a glass of wine on my couch. But even though I’m happy with that, there’s something about seeing myself through the her eyes that’s a bit, almost, depressing.

Am I making any sense? Is it crazy to write off a potential friendship just cause it makes me feel like a lame old woman? I know age shouldn’t dictate friendship—and a five year difference is really nothing, I have great friends who are five years older—but when I feel more like an advisor than a friend, isn’t it fair for me to use BFF veto power?

23 Comments

Filed under The Search

23 responses to “Excuse Me While I Remove My Dentures and Pop In My Hearing Aid

  1. 5 years isn’t big difference – IF you are at the same stage in your life. I can understand why she makes you feel old, though… I am more of Top Chef/glass of wine kind of gal, as well.

    In general, all of my friends are my age or a little older than me. I am blogging bffs with a girl that is 21, though, and she is my training partner for the marathon. We will meet up this fall and run it together. The thing is – I kind of forget that she is 21! She is starting a career, she has a serious bf, she isn’t partying very often. So it feels like we are the same age. So it can work to be friends w/ someone younger but we seem to be in the same stage of life.

  2. Beth

    I am 30 and I work with darling 22-25 year olds but we not close friends; our lives are just too different. There is a particular maturation process that needs to happen (woman do it first) in your 20s. You grow up so much in those years, getting the ‘party’ out of your system, discover your likes and dislikes, etc. I feel like there is not much difference between a 29 and 34 year old but 23 and 28? Huge difference.

    Rachel, you’re still the youngest in book club so bring extra hearing aids next time, you’re in good company!

  3. I have several friends who are 5 to 10 years older than I am – but it doesn’t weird me out any more that they have kids. That’s just who they are. And yes, it can be difficult to always feel like you’re in SUCH a different place from your friends.

    That being said, maybe there are ways for you to still enjoy hanging out together…surely having coffee once in a while, or doing an activity you both like, wouldn’t emphasize the age difference too much.

  4. Oh good lord, I feel exactly the same. Except I’ve got 28-YEAR-OLD friends who still use “party” as a verb, get black-out drunk, rarely stay home on a weekend night and always seem to have something going on. Me? I’m more of a get-buzzed-at-happy-hour-so-I-can-still-be-in-bed-by-10 kind of girl.

    If you’re not in the same “place,” I think a BFF-quality friendship is tough to get. Friendship, yes. BFF, probably not.

  5. Ris

    I think it’s totally rational to realize you’re not going to be besties because you’re in different places in your life. It’s realistic, and you’re not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole just so you had another person to add to the friend list. Being honest with yourself is important too, because if you weren’t then you couldn’t be a good friend to others.

  6. I think it depends on the two people involved. When I was in my mid-20s (and very single), I had plenty of friends who were in their mid-30s, married, starting families. We got along not because I expected them to stay out at the bars with me until 3AM, but because I loved hanging out with them. Going out for a nice dinner to get them out of the house. Having them cook a nice dinner for me. Getting to spend time with their kids. But, if this 23 year old in your life isn’t that kind of person, you’re right, the timing might be a bit off.

  7. I hear you! Throughout pretty much my whole adult life, I’ve been the oldest one in my group of friends — it was that proximity thing; the activities I was involved in at the time just happened to skew younger. So I’ve spent most of my adult life feeling old!

    I don’t think that the age difference or being married will necessarily torpedo your potential friendship with her, but what might is the fact that she finds your lack of partying “bizarre.” That’s been a real sticking point for me in meeting new friends — unfortunately, this is not an age specific trait and I know plenty of women well into their 30s that still want to spend their weekends getting wasted. They just do not understand why I’m not into that and it’s hard to explain it without, well, sounding old! So I’ve pretty much given up on trying to bond with anyone who’s still got that mentality. No judgment; it’s just not my thing.

  8. Donna

    I think the key word here is maturity. Your potential BFF is not mature enough to handle a BFF relationship with someone who isn’t in the exact same life stage as she is. BFFs can span all kinds of age and stage differences if there is mutual respect and cultivation of common interests.

    Years ago in my former life (first marriage) my one of my closest BFFs was my mother-in-law. I know what your thinking – that’s crazy! But its true. She was 30 years older than me and completely different in a million ways, but she was spunky and remembered her youth and appreciated mine, and I just never thought of her as old. We had common interests (cooking, sewing) and we shared ideas on those things, worked on projects together and tore through cookbooks trying new things. We saved our non-compatible interests (clothes, music, etc.) for friends with similar interests. Certainly there was an element of mentorship in our relationship because I could always ask her for advice if I needed to, but mostly we were just great friends who enjoyed each other’s company. She was fun and inspiring and it brings me to tears thinking about how much I miss her. (It’s been over 10 years since I divorced her son and moved away.)

  9. Agree with Donna. The age difference isn’t the issue so much as the fact that she parties and can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t. Very narrow worldview. Makes it difficult to have relationships with people in alternate universes.

  10. I don’t think it’s about age, it’s about mentality. If she can’t mentally wrap her head around another kind of lifestyle, then you’re not going to mesh in the long run. Even if she was exactly your age. Heck, I work with a woman who is 42 and still doesn’t understand why I don’t go out and party every weekend, so it’s not necessarily about being too young vs. not as young :-)

  11. For a long time, I was always the youngest in my group of friends and it never occurred to me that that was weird. Later, after I switched jobs, I found myself friends with a bunch of young whipper-snappers and I’ll admit that it occasionally made me feel old when I realized that some of their pop culture references were different than mine. And I know what you mean about the married/non-married line (not to mention the kids/no kids one). Sometimes it’s hard to see across that gulf.

  12. Shannon

    I think this can be a HUGE challenge in trying to meet & make new friends. I am 28 and single and I actually don’t find myself fitting in with either age groups. I find myself to be on the “young” side when I’m with some of my married friends and others that are “older,” because, you’re right…sometimes I just can’t relate to where they are in their lives. On the other hand, I am also past the days of drinking and partying all the time, therefore I feel pretty old around the younger crowds. What about those of us in the middle?

    I’m working on a more accepting attitude for both groups and even myself…to be okay with where I am in my life and not letting that get in the way of potential new friendships. I have passed the same, unintentional judgment on others and wonder if I’ve stopped myself from clicking with some great people because of this perceived feeling of being too old/young? Age doesn’t make any one better or worse…just different :)

    • Shannon

      So, mere hours after posting this comment did I find myself at happy hour with a 24 year old, and a 23 year old…again, I’m 28. They are co-workers and when I suggested that we approach HR with the idea of forming some kind of 20′s group, did one of them turn to me and say, “Yeah, and you would be the upper limit.” Yup, he really said that. I laughed (b/c he was kidding and it was funny) however I immediately thought of this blog and how I suddenly felt like singing a different tune! Sucks to feel old…I agree with the others – sounds like a great girl, but probably not the BFF you’re looking for. Let the search carry on…cheers!

      • Oh Shannon — I know what you mean about having a more accepting attitude, and letting unintentional judgment perhaps detract from potential friendship… And then something like your coworker’s joke happens! Of course he was just teasing, but its always like “oh yeah, I feel old now.”

        After writing this blog, I had the best Friday night ever–which consisted of Trader Joe’s, cooking dinner, and watching Friday Night Lights. Makes me feel old, maybe, but so happy!

        Thanks so much for commenting!

  13. I completely understand this feeling. The reason I often feel a lack of BFF lately is because primarily I am in a social group that consists mostly of mid-20 year olds and I am pretty much the only one who is 30. While I can party like the best of them, there is definitely a gap between us due to our ages. It is a mild gap and not always glaringly obvious. But every now and then, I suddenly become very aware that I am the old one. (Especially when I mention something like “I loved that show ‘Perfect Strangers,’” and they just look at me blankly. Ugh)
    Anyway it ends up depending on where people are at in their life cycle for the most part, but there is an element of people’s ages that does factor in too. The good news is there is a place for having some younger friends, because they will be down to party all night if you are so inclined on occasion. However as a BFF? Not sure that “click” will ever happen enough to go there. But maybe she will surprise you. Good luck!

    • Leanne! I literally JUST finished watching a Perfect Strangers rerun on my computer. Bizarre! And amazing. Balki might be the funniest character on TV. It is blasphemy that anyone would stare blankly at that.

  14. Lee

    I agree in part with Lisa and Donna. Friendships come in a lot of different flavors, and it can be difficult to cultivate a BFF friendship if you’re in different life stages. But if you find someone that you really get along with and life stage is the only major issue, I think you should hang onto the friendship because it could blossom into a BFF friendship in time. For now the person will just reside in another category.

  15. I can very much relate to your post. However, I have to say that recently I have made some new friends who are much younger than me and we seem to have a lot in common. These are the three criteria that I use when choosing friends. Can they carry on intelligent conversation with me? Do they make me laugh? And when I am not with them do I think about them and want to see them again? It’s really almost the same criteria I use for dating minus the physical chemistry.

  16. Oh and sometimes they make me feel ancient but I let that slide because of the previous reasons. I am 43-year-old mom and my 25-year-old male friend started complaining about how he could never have something that a baby came out of and I definitely had to school him!

  17. san

    I really think it depends on the person. Just because you’re married and she’s not, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. I have a lot of friends that aren’t married yet.
    It really all comes down to maturity in my opinion. Is the able to handle that you’re a step ahead of her? Are you able to handle that she’s a step behind?

    Nothing else should stand in a way from having a great girl-friendship! :)

  18. Hey Rachel, just wanted to say hello! I just now got turned on to your blog and must sit down at home and catch up on your posts, I’m intrigued. But wanted to share that I’ve been thinking about the whole BFF thing lately, too. Here’s what I recently wrote, after hanging out with a girlfriend (away from home for two whole nights!): http://www.runawaysentence.com/2010/06/girlfriend-time.html
    Warmly, Marian

  19. Pingback: The Hard Facts: Getting Better With Age « MWF Seeking BFF

  20. laurenlucas2011

    You should focus on the similarities and ignore the differences, go on a wine tasting tour, do a cooking class, do stuff both of you would enjoy, let her go out and party and wake up with a hangover and then when she recovers, do something you both would enjoy.

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