• culture

    Intergenerational Friendship

    a friendship at any age

    Words: Amanda Medress

    I am 30 and my best friend Ines is 69. When out in the world together we attract attention; sometimes it’s curiosity, other times jealousy or disapproval. The disapproval confuses us most.  Since meeting via swing dancing four years ago, our friendship has blossomed into the closest kind. We’ve salsa danced on the sidewalk in Las Vegas and lounged where the forest meets the sea in Croatia. We’ve shared everything from closely-guarded secrets to eyebrow gel.

    Perhaps most meaningfully, we’ve learned from each other. Sometimes it’s deliberate. “What’s it like to be a widow?” I ask Ines. “What’s it like to use a dating app?” she asks me. Other times it’s informal, trading stories over Campari and chocolate at the kitchen table. Such was the occasion when I told Ines what it means to ghost someone. “You mean someone stops texting you and suddenly they are a ghost?” she asked, howling with delight. When a romantic interest disappeared on her a few months later, she was thrilled. “I finally get to say I’ve been ghosted!” she texted, with the accompanying ghost emoji.

    In the vein of showing the joy and learning intergenerational friendships can bring, here are six lessons we’ve taught each other so far, three from each of us.

    Dating doesn’t get less complicated

    Ines: Upon dating a man my age, I complained to Amanda that certain issues should already be figured out, given our phase of life.  After listening carefully, she said, “Ines, it doesn’t matter how old you are, dating is complicated!” I laughed at the sheer truth of it all. Through hearing about Amanda’s dating experiences, I realize we’ve experienced many of the same bumps along the way, despite our age difference.

    You don’t need a reason to celebrate

    Amanda: Before meeting Ines, I thought champagne was reserved for special occasions. But now, Ines and I often have a glass of champagne with dinner or after a long night of dancing. Ines is an expert at creating joy out of the small moments in life. She’ll take herself to her favorite restaurant, or to the movies, or stop for a croissant along a leisurely walk. I often say that Ines has taught me to be better at enjoying life.

    Understand opposite natures

    Ines: By nature Amanda is a patient person, quiet and introverted. I am a major extrovert and sometimes quite impatient. One time at a swing dance, someone approached me for a dance. I turned to Amanda and said, “Oh no, there he comes again, I don’t want to dance with him.” When she asked why, I explained he’s a good dancer but didn’t talk. “He’s probably just shy,” Amanda said. “And it probably takes him a lot of courage to ask you to dance––you should give him a chance.” I did, and now we are dancing partners who enjoy each other’s company.

    If things don’t go to plan, you’ll still be okay

    Amanda: I remember the first time Ines told me what it was like when her husband passed. “For weeks, I woke up and reached for him,” she said. “Every morning felt like a bad dream. But days went by, and then weeks, and then years. I started learning how to swing dance and also changed my life to learn to live alone. I was happy with my husband, but I am a different type of happy now.” Ines has shown me an alternative to the prevailing belief that to be alone is to be unhappy. Watching Ines create a vibrant and full life for herself, I now know that if I find myself alone, I will be okay.

    Wear what you want, not what you think you should wear

    Ines: I have always liked to dress up. It makes me happy. Recently I bought a form-fitting red jumpsuit, and while I have a reasonable body for a 69-year-old, I felt self-conscious. I tried it on for Amanda and asked if I was trying too hard. She said, “No, I love it! You’re allowed to be sexy at 69.” She was right! Now when I want to look sexy I tell her I’m wearing my red jumpsuit. Her answer is always the same: “Ooh la la!”

    Follow the spirit

    Amanda: Before deciding whether to dance, or how to spend a day with no plans, Ines consults the spirit. Sometimes when I share a moral quandary with Ines, she’ll ask, “what does the spirit tell you to do?” I’ve started asking this of myself, for everything from what to eat to whether to take a job. It’s a simple way to differentiate between what I want to do versus what I think I should do. Ines has helped me find permission to trust myself.


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