Does friendship change in the second half of our life? Friends from childhood? Work colleagues? New friendships formed from shared interests? Jaki Scarcello explores the changing nature of friendship over 50, seeing all friendships as gifts.
Friendship is in a woman’s DNA. We cannot rid ourselves of the imprint of a shared fire and a bit of companionable gab over the fresh hunt. In fact, according to Anna Holmes who writes for the New Yorker online “It is other women, not men…who most impact the evolution of girls into women. Other women, not men, who provide the opportunities for self-expression and self-discovery. Other women, not men, who bear witness to the triumphs and tragedies of young womanhood. Other women, not men, in whom we both find and lose ourselves”
Friendship is a hot topic for women of that certain age and it came up a lot when I was interviewing women for Fifty & Fabulous! I discovered that changes in friendships were common at this stage of life and that post 50 we have three options for friendship.
1. The Gift of an Old Friend
Take Mickey and Lil …they met when Lil was five and Mickey was two. A few weeks ago they celebrated Lil’s 95th birthday at Disneyland. And yes…they did take on some of the rides! There they were, two old buddies side by side, holding hands while they whizzed around the park in their wheel chairs.
Imagine what these women share, a lifetime, not a short one at that, of circumstances. They have been there for each other on the real roller coaster of life. They have seen each other through childbirth, grand childbirth and great grand childbirth. They have heard each other’s secrets and dreams from playground giggles to the present. Together, still, now they stand before the final stage of their lives.It is only the very best of friendships which survive this long and as with all things that grow,the reward justifies the work.
Note: Sadly after this piece was written Lil passed away, just a few weeks after her 95th birthday. We send our love and support to Mickey and our gratitude for the inspiration of such an amazing friendship.This is such a sad note but my guess is Mickey would not trade away the years with Lil to be without her sadness now.
2. The Gift of a New Friend.
The women I interviewed spoke about letting go of older friends with whom they no longer had a deep connection. They were searching for new friends with whom they could discuss the more thoughtful aspects of life. They told me they had lost interest in relationships which were being maintained as social niceties. At this point in their lives they longed for the same meaningful conversation with friends that they were having with themselves. I wonder do we hear a voice that tells us “life is not infinite; you have no time for chat that does not engage your heart and mind”?
If we want to meet new friends we need to put on our lipstick and go out the front door. We are bound to meet people. Friendship like any other relationship is the result of circumstance and the mystery of chemistry. New interests can bring new friendships which, at first, are based only on the shared common ground and then the chemistry comes into play. We spend more time together and see what grows. It is worth the effort.
3. The Gift of a Retro Friend
Sometimes paths which diverted years ago come back together in a wonderful reconnection. There is a great attraction to these retro friendships as we age. In the post menopausal years women experience a space opening up inside them which promises a new freedom, increased confidence and a healthy search for self. It seems perfect that we would gravitate to older friends who knew us before we “gave ourselves away” to the roles-wife, mother, lawyer-we played in our 30s and 40s.
Retro friends may be women we were joined to the hip with in elementary school or high school or college buddies we cried with when our heart was broken. They may be women with whom we began a career or shared new motherhood. We may have found a deep connection with these women then but at that hectic time of our life we were unable to maintain the relationship.
Retro friends remind us of the optimism of our youth .They remind us of our days of endless possibility. As we age these are vital reminders because the media message would convince us we are entering a stage of decline and nothing could be further from the truth. Life after fifty is a stage of human development with its own unique energy and what could be more fun than exploring that with a girl friend.
I think Ms. Holmes’ gem about the role of girlfriends in the evolution of women should be drilled into the head of every prepubescent girl. This is a recipe for a rich and deep life, abundant in human connection, male and female. I see how different my life could have been if I had appreciated this many years ago.
Well, we are never too old to learn. Last year I reconnected with a former work associate I had not seen in fifteen years. We found each other again at a precise and perfect moment in time, a time when we are ready to find and lose ourselves in each other’s exploration of life. This is a gift which has come to me past 60 but I feel some regret for the lost time of the years before. There were other friendships but I was unable or unwilling to take the risks required for those opportunities. Alas, regret is such a waste; it changes nothing so instead I will embark on this new friendship with intention. It is my best intention to stay strong in my vulnerability, to share without fear, to risk losing what would have no value had it not been honest in the first place. It is my best intention to receive without judgment, to listen with no sense that I have an answer. It is my best intention when moved to speak to share only my experience not my opinion. It is my best intention to weather a storm if and when one comes. With any luck and maybe some divine intervention my intentions will be my actions.
I have immense gratitude for a dear friend who has magically reappeared at a time in my life when I am most ready and capable of appreciating her.
We could do the Disney thing, it won’t be a 90 year old friendship, we don’t have that many years left but we can still fly together on the Mickey Mouse roller coaster. Whee!!!