My Friend but Not My Girl -- Intergenerational Friendships

BlogHer Original Post

I’ve been thinking about intergenerational friendships in recent weeks, specifically about the nature of such friendships. Over the past three months, I have learned that despite what I thought was a seamless closeness with friends several years my junior, there were in fact boundaries to the depth of our friendships on their part.

I am their friend -- yes -- but I am not now, nor will I ever be “their girl.” Perhaps this is as it should be, but it is a bit dismaying nonetheless.

  • They will talk to me about relationships for advice but don’t want to double-date.
  • They will meet me for dinner but opt out of a party, because “they might not like the music” or “there’ll be too many old people there,” etcetera.
  • Though I can out-dance most of them, they’re not tryin’ to have me go to a club with them.
  • They ask for advice on sex, money, work but they don’t want to really hear questions on the same topics from me.  (Although they do occasionally provide advice on things like technology and what my daughter is thinking when she said or did xyz.)

I am viewed as a wiser adviser because they assume my seniority has given me wisdom.

When I see them, it’s usually one-on-one. I’m not invited to their girls-day-out.

Can an intergenerational friendship be as close as one between peers?

Intergenerational Friends

In find myself treating the senior women I interact with in one of my part-time gigs similarly. In deference to their age, I say, “Yes Ma’am" and "No Ma’am” when I speak with them. I approach them with respect and address them respectfully with a title and last name (as Mrs. or Ms. for example). I only use their first names at their insistence. I find it difficult to let my guard down even when our conversations are about more intimate things. I keep a wall of respect up. Unfortunately, this can also create a feeling of distance.

Ah ha! (Light bulb moment.) It is hard to have a friendship when there is a hierarchy of age or status or experience. I get it now. Although there are parameters to our friendships, they are no less meaningful.

Related:

Writing about another BlogHer.com correspondent, Mata, Virginia deBolt writes about Befriending a Younger Woman:  

I'm not quite 10 years older than Mata. Maybe when you're 30 and your intergenerational pal is 20, those 10 years can make a big difference. In your 60s, as I am and as Mata will be in a few days, we decided that our age difference wasn't meaningful. We've both been there, done that.

Friendship at Midlife: Are the days of BFF over? by Cindy LaFerles on MidLife Bloggers:

From my middle-aged perspective, I know that transitions in friendship tend to happen naturally, over time — especially in a highly mobile culture like ours. We move to new cities; we get busy with our families; we change and grow.

Intergenerational friendships: Stories of six women who radically altered one another's views of the world, relationships, and themselves by Barbara Righton at the Canadian Living blog:

Cheri enjoys and embraces the welcome robustness and vitality of younger friends. They are an injection of energy and in touch with the pulse of the world. An added treat, young women give their older friends currency in culture, says Cheri. In music, movies, clothes and vocabulary, they are right on top of the latest styles. "I am fascinated by that," adds Cheri. "How do they know?"

Do you have intergenerational friendships? How do they work?

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Good and plenty!

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