• Keeping Friends

Another argument for May-December friendships

Published: July 18, 2007 | Last Updated: May 9, 2020 By | Reply Continue Reading

I was interviewing a woman today about my favorite topic: friendship. After we spoke about a miserably fractured friendship that was causing her great pain, she told me that her most successful relationships were with friends, both male and female, who were almost a decade older than herself.

“Their wisdom and maturity is something I value,” said Connie. She went on to say that when she expressed her opinions or sought advice from these older friends, she felt that they were more genuine, responsive and sensible than most of her peers. After speaking with her at some length, I realized that her older friends must be thrilled with the energy and openness that Connie brings to their lives.

In a similar vein, there was recently a quirky article in The Charlotte Observer by Joe DePriest that told a story about an intergenerational friendship with an unusual beginning. Five years ago, a then-17-year-old high school student named Millie Starnes received a rambling email from someone she didn’t know. It stated that Harriet
and Esther and Tubby were “doing great in a nursing home.”

Perplexed by the message, Millie returned the email to its sender. She soon learned that the email had been sent to her, mistakenly, by a retired farmer named Bonnie Bertsch who lives near Brookings, South Dakota. Yes, it was one of those emails that got lost in cyberspace and wound up in the wrong mailbox—maybe it was providential—but it started a dialogue between two unlikely friends that you might see as an Odd Couple.

This awkward beginning resulted in a close friendship that has lasted more than five years, as young Millie finished four years of college and became an art teacher, and Bonnie’s husband passed away. The two women are 55 years apart in age; Bonnie is childless and old enough to be Millie’s grandmother. But as sometimes happens with friendships, the two clicked and found that there was much to share between them. Now they are even making plans to meet in person.

If you haven’t tried on a May-December female friendship, with
someone older or younger than yourself, give it a chance. No matter which side
of the equation you are on, you’re bound to reap the unique benefits of
intergenerational friendships..

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