Tell Me Who Your Friends Are

Nominatissima wrote a fascinating post on how age gaps in friendships one maintains can be conditioned by one’s autism. There is also an age gap in my friendships, although I don’t think it has anything to do with autism. I have realized that while I’m friendly with men from a variety of age groups, I’m most comfortable with women in their sixties.

The reason for this preference is that most people I meet are from the world of academia. The women who are now in their sixties had to make their careers as scholars in very inhospitable circumstances. As a result, they have become very strong, powerful, skeptical, opinionated, and I’d say quite domineering. These are all qualities that I admire and that draw me to these women.

Online, I meet really cool women of my age group that are fascinating and fun to talk to. In real life, though, I can’t find anything in common with the women in their thirties I encounter.  Ideally, I’d meet a female friend of about my age who could, on occasion, talk about something other than the color of the baby’s poop and the struggles with the husband who refuses to do his laundry. I’m not denying that these are valid topic for conversation, but I find talking about the husband and the babies all the time to be excruciatingly boring. If I ask a person what they are reading and they respond, indignantly, “Who has time to read?”, then I lose all motivation to listen to their baby poop stories.

Mind you, I’m not trying to draw any conclusions about women of my age group in general. I’m just narrating my experiences.

22 thoughts on “Tell Me Who Your Friends Are”

  1. Granted, I’m only in my twenties, but it’s so surprising to me when I hear about people like that, because the people I know tend to be all about discussing books and politics and ideas.

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  2. Late 20s here, and while I do think there’s something about being autistic that makes us not really fit neatly into our chronological age group — I have noticed that I usually feel, and also give others the impression of being, both older and younger than my age — I haven’t had Leah’s experience of having mostly much older friends.

    My friends have mostly been about my own age, or a few years older or younger; there are a few who are lots older (a friend I met in chemistry classes in his 40s, for instance) and I do find I get on well with children, but for the most part my closest friends are my chronological peers.

    (One of them is even a parent, and I have yet to be regaled with descriptions of baby poop!)

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  3. “There is also an age gap in my friendships, although I don’t think it has anything to do with autism” — well, you wouldn’t, would you? You haven’t experienced reality any other way, so you won’t understand why non-autistic people think this behaviour is autistic.

    Anthropologists are all about relativism =)

    My best friend was fifty-one when she passed away. My last boyfriend was more than twice my age. I just get along really well with people my parents’ generation, and these include people starry-eyed new grandparents. My best friend had a son a year young than me. I personally think this happened because I grew up in my grandparent’s house, surrounded by wonderfully interesting people above fifty. Also, I dislike the loud social scene that is the staple of people my age. Lots of personal space and long chatty meals with friends is my idea of a good time with friends.

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  4. My first filter is social class. I relate well to undereducated but very intelligent farmers like my father, or highly educated people who travel & work in a variety of countries. I have little interest in those in between. After that distinction, I generally relate better to women than men. I enjoy intelligent inquisative people from high school students through those in their 80s and 90s. About 10 years ago, my wife was in grad school 300 miles away and living near campus with four 20 to 23 years old undergrads. I found them very easy to talk to and develop relationships with despite the more than 30 year age gap. But they weren’t talking about baby poop.

    I forgot to mention that my daughter-in-law called to ask me to pick up some pull-up diapers on my way home from work tonight. She says the granddaughter is doing very well with her toilet training, but her twin brother is a little slower. 😉

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  5. In currently can’t relate to *most* people in their 30s and 40s, they have to be 50+ or 30-, with a few exceptions. People in 30s and 40s are a lot more conservative and conventional than either the older or the younger crowd, it seems.

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    1. That’s totally weird, Professor Zero! The 30+ers I know are usually the most radical people I know. (I don’t give an upper limit because I don’t know a huge number of people over 50)

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      1. Where, where are the radical people hiding? I’d like to meet some!

        All of the folks I know who were passionately interested in politics just five years ago, today aren’t even following the presidential elections!

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        1. My other comment was supposed to be a reply to Lindsay, not to you Clarissa. I am sure you know the etymology of the word radical and can distinguish between ordinary and radical politics. Nothing wrong with being in his 20s, but people that age in this country have no experience with the left as it exists elsewhere in the world.

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      2. When the general public buys even 1/10 of the line about Obama being a socialist, I would doubt that anyone in their 20s knows what a radical is. “Radical” comes from Latin “radix” meaning “root”. On the right, the Tea Party is radical. It wants change at the root of the system. Of course, what they want is radical anarchism… except when it comes to money from the Feds into their pockets. Rick Perry is radical when he suggests secession for Texas. There haven’t been any significant left wing radicals in the US in the past 30 years and most faded away 35 to 40 years ago. Where is the CPUSA, the SWP, the PLP, or the IWW? “Gone the way of old rat Platt”, to quote Vachel Lindsay. Do you even know what those letters stand for and can you give a one or two sentence summary of their political positions? If not, you don’t know about the radical left. Obama and Clinton are not even liberals; on the world stage they are pretty conservative. But the political spectrum has become so skewed to the right in this country during the past 30 years that young people actually believe they represent the left.

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        1. I, for one, don’t know what the letters stand for.

          It is very shocking to me that people keep harping on how Obama is a socialist and even a communist. And Bill Clinton? What was so progressive about the guy?

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          1. CPUSA – Communist Party USA was a typical Marxist-Leninist party that took it’s doctrine from whatever was being disseminated by Moscow at any particular time. They were big fans of “Uncle Joe”.

            SWP – Socialist Workers Party was a Troskyist party that split from the CPUSA as Stalin & Trotsky split. One really cool thing is that there is a Fortune 500 company called Sherwin-Williams Paint, or SWP. Their logo is a can of red paint being poured over a globe with the slogan, “Cover the Earth”. The SWP people I knew loved that logo and used to wear tee shirts with that logo on them at demonstrations.

            PLP – Progressive Labor Party was a Maoist group that was very confrontational toward “the system” and infiltrated the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) in the 1960s leading to the eventual disintegration of SDS. They organized a lot among blacks in Harlem.

            IWW – Industrial Workers of the World, nicknamed “the Wobblies” was an early 20th Century labor union that advocated all workers of all types should be organized into “One Big Union”. Companies, farms, mines and anywhere someone worked would be run by “workplace democracy”, or management by the workers. They believed in constant struggle between workers and the employing class until the workers took possession of the means of production, abolished the wage system and lived in harmony with the Earth. They believed that it is the historic mission of the working class to abolish capitalism.

            These were the true native-born leftists in the US and could put together demonstrations in the hundreds of thousands during the 1920s. The union organizers included Eugene V. Debs, Big Bill Hayward and Mother (Mary Harris) Jones among others. Probably the most famous Wobbly was Joe Hill, a migrant farm worker, labor organizer, sloganeer and songwriter who was shot by a firing squad in Utah after being convicted of murder in a kangaroo trial. One of Hill’s most famous songs was “Long Haired Preachers”. Here are a couple verses with the chorus to give you a flavor of the IWW.

            Long-haired preachers come out in the night,
            To tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
            But when you ask them for something to eat,
            They answer in voices so sweet

            You will eat, bye and bye,
            In that glorious land above the sky;
            Work and pray, live on hay,
            You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

            If you fight hard for children and wife,
            Try to get something good in this life;
            You’re a sinner and bad man, they tell,
            When you die you will sure go to hell.

            You will eat, bye and bye,
            In that glorious land above the sky;
            Work and pray, live on hay,
            You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

            The last Wobbly I knew of was U. Utah Phillips an itinerant labor organizer, poet, storyteller and folk singer who died about 3 years ago. He was an avid “railroad bum” and worked with homeless shelters also. He kept lots of old labor songs from the early 20th Century alive and wrote primarily about the southwest.

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        2. I wish you had a blog of your own, Diego. I’ve come to look forward to your comments a great deal. Especially comments in which you say things like “Obama and Clinton are not even liberals; on the world stage they are pretty conservative”, which seems so blatantly obvious to me, yet is somehow lost on their own constituents, including those that genuinely believe they rep. the Left.

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          1. Thank you for your complements, Rimi. I enjoy your posts also. I wouldn’t know how to start a blog, or what to write. I depend on stimuli from others to get my juices flowing, and Clarissa’s blog is certainly very stimulating. I use an automotive engine metaphor to describe my relationship with my wife: “she is the spark plug and I am the governor”. She initiates and I regulate. It is a feedback loop.

            Things that are blatantly obvious to you or Clarissa or Spanish Prof are hidden from most Americans by our “buy in” to the pervasive corporatist propaganda in this country. It is easier for me to see, because I lived in Brasil for a while, travel a good deal and read newspapers from Latin America, Europe and the Near East. But I am afraid that I am still blind to so much.

            In his book “Culture Against Man”, the anthropologist Jules Henry, described US culture as being dominated by the advertising industry and coined the term “pecuniary truth” to describe the test of validity of statements in US popular culture: if a statement sells a product, it must be true; if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t true.

            Rick Perry is successfully selling his brand right now, so for most in the US that means what he is saying must be the truth. But, I seldom buy a product based on the advertising and I am always looking for the “hidden motivation” behind anybody’s sales attempt, whether the product is a microwave oven, or a politician. I strongly believe that “the Emperor has no clothes”.

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            1. Clarissa’s blog is an excellent starter, even if one disagrees with her vehemently on occasion. Unfortunately, even when I discover I have plenty to say on a subject I end up not saying it, either here or on my blog, because I have an obsessive need to fact-check everything I say/write, and check for biases within me. This makes the writing process painfully slow, especially on a prolific blog like this. Oh well 🙂

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      3. Maybe it’s just my experience but I think there’s something to the hippies / John Lennon “don’t trust anyone over 30.” A lot of my friends my age turned traditional at that point, and I still notice it now, people feeling they have to be “serious” in their 30s and 40s and not lightening up (or getting more civic
        minded again) until 50.

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        1. That comment on social life was for Lindsay.

          Don’t freshman level courses in US history cover the old left any more? Spell Haymarket which is right there in Chicago,
          1 May 1886? Lucy Parsons? Tantos más fighting and dying for things like the minimum wage and the 8 hour day?

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  6. I am in my early 30s and I also have the same problems as you in making friends with women in their 30s. The fact that I am usually very shy, and I work in a very male-dominated field surrounded by a lot of men doesn’t really help. For me, it is not just the baby-poop talk; even with a lot of women who are not parents, I very often find after some conversation that we don’t have much in common — or at least enough in common for a connection or a friendship to develop. I have never really understood why this is the case; perhaps it’s my field of work. 🙂

    Again like you I am friends with men from all age groups, and almost all of my good friends are men.

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  7. The fact that so many people are posting about gender makes me realize I neglected to talk about that aspect of friendship gaps in my posts. When I do have friends who are in my age group, they are overwhelmingly either men or masculine-identified lesbians, and friends who are older than me are almost entirely femme women.
    I believe that most of these “differences” between men and women touted by experts are dubious at worst and socialized at best, but it is interesting that this is the case.

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