#21 Intergenerational friends

I met Gloria in September, 2008.

I was camping out at an Arizona hotel for work and she was the hotel bartender. A sassy fiftysomething with frizzy white hair, classy black clothes, and bright red lipstick, Gloria was the soul of the place who had been there for years. Twice married, twice divorced, two cancers, and three jobs — she’d seen it all and been it all, with a smile and a story to prove it.

On my second night there I noticed Gloria chatting with everyone like old friends. She knew everyone by name and served up wisecracks and wisdom with every glass of wine. I listened as she talked stocks with bankers, sports with sales guys, and listened with little bits of life advice for folks like me. “I book all our meetings here because of Gloria,” folks on barstools would tell me. “Most of us stay here because of her.”

Since my trip was a few months long and I was brewing with a broken heart, Gloria became a trusted listener, confidant, and friend. Before I got shipped home a group of us took her for a big Mexican meal and had a fun night laughing and telling stories over spicy shrimp tacos.

When I got home I told my friend Joey about Gloria and he smiled and told me about a lady in his apartment building he’d become friends with, too. “Basically, I kept leaving my clothes in the communal dryer in the basement for days, and I’d come back to find everything folded in a basket,” he said, laughing. “There would even be a Zip-loc baggie with my underwear in them and a handwritten note pinned to the front saying ‘Hope you don’t mind I moved your clothes! – Hazel’ Anyway, we grab a coffee every so often now.”

Hazel and Gloria are great examples why intergenerational friendships are such rare and wonderful things. I mean, from The Age of Babies, most of us hang out with people our own age. So when we bust through to connect with someone older or younger… well, it’s like a super-sticky bond that shows us completely different views of the world. Suddenly our perspectives gets twisted, our worries seem small, and our intergenerational friendships send us flying far away from it all.


The Book of (Even More) Awesome comes out in paperback in two weeks!

Photos from: here, here, and here

26 thoughts on “#21 Intergenerational friends

  1. Amen! My closest friend at university is twice my age — she has children older than me! — but we have so much in common. Our conversations are always so enlightening and entertaining.

    Intergenerational friends are, indeed, AWESOME!

  2. I worked at Shoprite for 2 years and I was friends with everyone. I was 16 at the time and my best friend there was the 60 year old cashier. I miss her.

  3. I’ve always found it easier to make friends with people that were older than me. My first job at a convienence store, my best friend there was a woman in her late 40’s named Mary. My daughter grew up calling her Maw Maw. She passed away 2 years ago and I miss her so much. She was 53.
    Here at my current job, I’m not friends with any of them my age. My best friend here is my boss and she’s 55. She talks about her granddaughter while I talk about my daughter. Her daughter even called me last year for ideas on what to give her for her birthday.
    It just hard for me to hang out with people my age.

  4. I love this! Gloria sounds like an awesome person. I agree — these types of relationships are very special.

    Like the others have said, work is a great place to make intergenerational friends.

    When I was a GA, the professor for whom I worked was the absolute BEST. In addition to teaching, she is always researching and article-writing and helping people and raising alpacas and naming them after Beatles songs! She’s so sweet, nurturing, and generous and was always there to listen to any of my yammering, from roommate issues to thesis snags to complaints of being the education department photocopier unjammer. She, too, would talk about things on our drives to observe the students teach, and I was happy to return the favor of listening! We had the best time during those two years, and I think about her at least once a day! While she was technically my boss and I her lackey, she never treated me as anything other than a friend and colleague. I think I will email her today … AWESOME! :D

    1. What a lovely story, Laura. I had a prof in undergrad to whom I looked up as well. She was so amazingly bright, witty, beautiful, hip, expressive, avant garde! Through the time I spent in her class and cleaning her house for extra money, she made a profound impact on my life. Each time I cleaned, when I finished she’d sit me down and make me iced tea and talk to me, listening to my successes and complaints, giving me advise. I still remember the big closet cleanings each season and how she always offered me her cast off designer clothes. In fact, long after I’d graduated, she still called me at the change of season to help her clean her closets. It was no longer for money, but instead it was a chance for us to reconnect and catch up. She continued to offer me her cast offs and her advise. She’s since passed away, but I continue to remember her fondly and the impact she had on my life.

  5. Love love love this post! While in high school and college I worked at my mom and stepfather’s convenience store. My favorite customers were usually men over 60. I loved their stories, and they were always so nice to me.
    One of my current closest co-workers is in her 60’s. Her children are around my age, but we get along so well. I agree with some of the previous respondants: I typically get along better with people older than me. I don’t know why that is…

  6. I play cards occasionally with some 90+ yrs old ladies- makes me feel really young and at 64 that can be hard to do. Their advice is live life boldly and make younger friends.

    1. That is excellent advice! Thanks for sharing it with us. I love my younger friends, and I also really enjoy my daughter’s friends. Youth are awesome; they’re so fresh and enthusiastic, not jaded like us “more experienced” people. I also love the advice to live life boldly – it’s amazing what you can accomplish with even small simple things if only you have the courage to do it! (for example, this very blog). So let us boldly go where we haven’t before, and take some younger friends with us!

  7. It’s so cool to have older and younger friends! Having just gone to grad school with students half my age, it was great fun to spend so much time with kids just on the cusp of life’s adventure. Their youthful fearlessness inspired me. As well, it’s wonderful to spend time with older friends who have so much experience and wisdom to impart. I’ve gained great perspective on the whole of life’s journey from my older friends. Some of my most meaningful relationships have been with those of a different generation and that is awesome!

    I don’t think this countdown could possibly be more splendid!

  8. Don’t forget, older women started out as fun chicks hanging out with their girlfriends just as well, and many of them haven’t really changed. The only new things are the wrinkles, the hair and doing the dougie in private, instead of where everyone can see you.

  9. This post made me realise I’m missing intergenerational friends. Back home I know plenty, but when you move country it all gets a bit one dimensional. I’ve been in my latest flat since November and I haven’t had a single child or old person visit yet. Boooo!

  10. Age is a state of mind, right?
    We need to imbed that truth into young people everywhere. The way we treat our older population is reprehensible.

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  12. In my opinion this is the best kind of friendship because it is less common conflicts like discussions and fights by the large ages difference. Without saying that one can give good advices and explain changes that have occurred and will occur in the life of another (the youngest). This kind of friendship mostly is not one of the selfish ones. Surely it deserves being under the 50th post.

  13. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this issue here on your site.

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