Is She Too Young For You?

Last night I had one of those conversations where a guy was telling me about his dating woes and my response was, “That’s what happened to me with my girl-dating, too!”

The issue in question was that of age. Specifically, for him, why it’s hard to date girls that are too much younger than him. “They have no sense of responsibility or schedule,” my friend said. “They’re like ‘oh never mind, I’m going to get my hair done, instead,’ and they don’t realize that I have places I have to be at certain times.”

The women he was talking about were the just-out-of-college set, and of course he was generalizing. But I too have had relationship troubles with women who are a lot younger than me. In the early 20s, there is definitely more of a go-with-the-flow vibe to life, which is awesome and something I miss terribly, but is not exactly my speed anymore.

At 30 (or almost), schedules are more like “let’s sit for 20 minutes trying to find a date when we’re both free.” You should have been at my book club the other night. Trying to find a day to meet next reminded me of when Andrew Shephard asked out Sidney Ellen Wade, and then kept having to cancel for things like massive airline strikes.

In my year of friending, I was open to meeting anyone and everyone. I went to dinner with a senior in college and a woman in her mid-to-late 40s with two teenage kids. I was supposed to have lunch with a woman in her 50s, but got stood up. In the year since, the friends that have stuck have all been in the 26-36 range. More or less a plus-or-minus five years from me.

When it comes to friendship, connecting on a personal level has a lot to do with life stage. Women in this +/-5 range seem to have similar day-to-day issues as I. Also, and importantly for me, they understand my cultural references. (See above mention of Andrew Shephard and Sidney Ellen Wade.) A friend who’s dating a 23-year-old recently told me that the only time he noticed the age difference was when he quoted Coming to America and she’d never even heard of it.

If you’ve never heard of The American President, I’m not sure our friendship has legs. Let’s face it.

So I’m wondering, has age ever been a hindrance to your friendships?  Is there any merit to an age formula for potential BFFs (ie +/- 5)?

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19 responses to “Is She Too Young For You?

  1. Most of my friends in my age group are busy with kids. Since I don’t have children, I don’t have a social circle that revolves around kid activities and I’ve had to find other ways to make friends. Many of these new friends are fifteen to twenty years older or younger than I am. If we have things in common and we enjoy each other’s company, the differences in age just make conversations more interesting.

  2. I work with high school students and am constantly referencing things they’ve never heard of. My friendships definitely have to include a mutual childhood love of Saved By the Bell and the ability to quote any Friends episode, anytime, anywhere.

  3. Anonymous

    A group of my friends were at a dinner recently, and one of them said “I saw Doogie Howser downtown today.” The 23 year old sitting there said “Who’s Doogie Howser?”

  4. I don’t have many friends who are younger than me – most are my age and some are older than me by at least 10 years. I think a big part of being friends is having shared experiences, and I don’t always get that with people who are younger than me.

  5. Marie

    For me the age formula is more like +/-8 years difference. It doesn’t bother me to not be able to share cultural references. But maturity level and stage of life seem to be the more important items that make a friendship work.

  6. Throughout my 20’s until about my mid-30’s, I found that most of my friends were about my age, maybe +/- about 3 years. Since getting older, though, I’m finding myself with more and more friends that are significantly younger than me (as in, 3 really good friends all 8+ years younger).

    At least some of this is because of the stuff I’m interested in — simply put, there are more young(ish) people involved in running/triathlon/active sports than people my age. And I’m attracted to people who have more energy and want to be active and doing stuff.

    For example, one of my best friends is about 11 years younger than me and we met because she was my personal trainer at the gym. Our friendship arose out of life circumstance’s as much as anything: we’re both single and childless, which is harder to come by one you hit 30 (which is how old she is) and we both have an interest in fitness. Jackpot!

    Most of the time, it makes me feel young to be around her. Of course, when I mention something and get that “I wasn’t born yet, what the hell are you talking about” blank stare … well, that puts me back in my place. Heh.

    To summarize (which I probably should have done 3 paragraphs ago): I think that age makes less of a difference the older you get. At that point, it becomes more about what you have in common OTHER than age.

  7. Callie

    SIDNEY ELLEN WADE! Best pop culture reference ever! God I love that movie.

  8. Kristen

    I grew up watching so much Nick at Nite and (when it came into being) TV Land that my cultural references are considerably older than I am. I’ve only met one person within five years of my age who knew The 2000 Year Old Man before I educated them.

    It’s difficult that most of the people I meet at activities that I enjoy tend to be closer to my parents’ age than my own. We can talk about shared interests, but when the conversation turns to our personal lives there’s no common ground.

  9. alison

    Also, in terms of the book club meeting issue, my book club has a rule: the first Thursday of the month. That’s it. Either clear your schedule for those nights or miss the meeting. Full stop.

  10. I have found that I have an age bias – as in I don’t think that I should be friends with someone too old/too young for me (but part of that is that if I get too young I can get into some hairy situations as a substitute and being able to control kids when I am in for the teacher). But I often get proven wrong about this…so I feel like I shouldn’t have it.

    • Jennifer

      Now that I think about it, I think I have an age bias too. I’m okay with my friends being older than me but not younger. Since high school I’ve always been one of the youngest of all my friends if not the youngest. And that has continued all through my life. I don’t think I’d know what to do with a younger friend.

  11. Totally applies to mommy-friending too! I’m 28 and have friends of all ages but +-5 years seems about right.

  12. anonymous

    I’m in your+/- 5 years range but I’ve never heard of “Coming to America,” either. Of course, when I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch Sesame Street…so, I think rather than the age theory, it’s more about what you’re looking for in a friend.
    (I have heard of – even seen! – This American President, though!)

  13. Laurie Lee

    My experience is that it’s age and stage of life in combination that matter. Example, I reconnected via Facebook with a friend from HS that was single, never married. I’m married with teenagers. We are the same age but our interests are completely different. It fizzled and I let that happen intentionally. She is a very nice person but I was just bored to death with her and she likely felt the same way. I have 2 solid, long time friends that are 10 years older than me but they are also moms, one has kids the same ages as mind the other has adult chidren. Both of these friendships stuck despite the 10 year age difference. So, I find that age does play a role but it’s far from the only factor. I may even rate lifestyle higher?

  14. katieleigh

    I LOVE The American President. This is why you and I should be friends, Rachel.

    I’m 28 and most of my friends are about my age or up to 10 years older – though I do have some very sweet friendships with women in their 40s and even 50s. (That was easier back in TX, for some reason, than it has been so far in Boston.)

    Great post! So thought-provoking.

  15. So interesting!

    I will admit to having an age bias but honestly, it’s more a value bias as in FLAKY people!!! I do come across more flaky people in the very young crowd……….

    I met tons of people in an infertility support group and while we waited very long to start thinking about having kids, most people didn’t… so now my friends are mostly 5 + years younger. Two are the same age as I am (37), one is 32, one is 28, etc.

    And the same thing happened once we had the babies – i have very good friends (blog friends, but good friends) who are 10 years younger than I am!!!! Things I would never have considered in a pre-baby life but they share my values 🙂

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