There's nothing like finding out that your first girlfriend from college is about to celebrate her 19-year anniversary with her current girlfriend to make you feel like, well, you might be getting on in years. It's not like I'm at the orthopedic shoes stage yet, or like I'm ready for the Jazzy cart —although, after recently seeing one of those motorized carts with a plastic roof, I did decide that when I do get one, I'm going to deck it out to look like a surrey with the fringe on top and equip it with a horn that goes "ah-oooo-ga" and a Mr. Microphone so that as I'm motoring around I can give a shout out to all the young ladies: "Hey, good looking! What are you doing tonight?" Might as well make the most of those golden years, I figure.
But as I say, I'm not quite ready yet to be checking out the www.jazzycartmax.com webpage, or whatever the used granny-cart site is. Still, it does give one pause—especially when the bulk of your conversation between yourself and the aforementioned ex-girlfriend and her current girlfriend centers around this one's thyroid condition and that one's back problems and the other one's GI woes ( and I don't mean sad soldier stories ) .
And then there's the 50th-birthday party invitation I received for another friend the other day. The "baby" left us boomers a long time ago.
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Such realizations turn my thoughts inevitably to a quote from Jane Rule's partner Helen Sontoff that I read in the book Out Our Way: "We followed the example of Hoppie, a woman who used to live here. She was very good at making friends, and as she got older she would make friends deliberately with younger people. Otherwise she would have outlived all her friends and been very lonely. We've done the same thing. We're very grateful for our young friends."
As luck would have it, that very evening two ex-students and a current student of my girlfriend's ( who is a college adviser ) came over to our house with one of their girlfriends and another friend. The first thing I noticed—besides the fact that none of them have a single gray hair—is that the conversation was very different from the one I had earlier in the day with my ex and her gal. True, there was some medical talk—one of them was worried about whether she'd have to have college-softball-career-ending ACL surgery—but mostly the talk centered on celebrity crushes and sports and Hawaiian punch. One of the most salient conversations for me, though, was with the student who, like myself, is an expatriated cheesehead; the two of us reminisced about foods you could only get in "the old country," like hard rolls and crullers and the state fair's cream puff and about how no one knows what you're talking about when you say "bubbler." ( Translation for the Milwaukee impaired: "drinking fountain." )
Perhaps what set these friends of ours most apart from those of our friends more in our own age bracket, though, was the highly choreographed interpretive dance to a Wynnona Judd song that two of them treated us to. Apparently, the pairt—he current student and one of the former students—had spent many an evening of their college careers working out the intricately corny dance steps. I speculated that perhaps the curriculum at the University of Chicago wasn't rigorous enough. ... Our dogs were so moved by the performance that they had to leave the room. All in all, we laughed a lot, and I was grateful that, although I am the age of most of their parents, not one of them seemed tempted to call me "Miss Zipter" or to help me in or out of my chair.
Unlike Jane Rule and Helen Sontoff's friend Hoppie, Kathy and I have not deliberately set out to make younger friends, but we're really glad to have them. While I need people I can kvetch with about the annoyances of middle age and home owning, it's fun to have friends, too, who are, so far, completely untouched by these things and are fresh and innocent and energetic—and who don't treat me with the respect reserved for their elders. Next time they invite us to go to Girlbar with them, we just might surprise them and go: that interpretive dance was very inspirational.