My closest friends in Missoula were all in their sixties. On the internet, the fellow blogger I relate closest to and have the best personal rapport with is 35. So far in Victoria, the only friend I have made has been my advisor, who is in his late 40s. Noticing a pattern here? It’s followed me since I was a child, being more likely to make friends with people who have noticeable age gaps between myself and them.
I wish that there were absolutes in this, and that I just needed to make friends with older people in order to ensure happiness. But for every one person older than me whom I adore, respect, and enjoy the company of, there are bound to be at least five who think it’s okay to dismiss my opinion because of my age, call me “sweetie”, think that youth equals ignorance, or tell me little gems like “You’ve never been my age, but I’ve been your age, so you better listen to me”. So while I generally find myself attracted to friendships with people who are older than me, it’s not a surefire guarantee.
I also find it easier to make friendships with younger people last and be meaningful. Since I’m relatively young myself, “Young” for me refers to anyone under the age of 16. I have friends who are five year olds and teenagers alike, and even though I do not believe children are little innocents who can do no wrong and can’t be manipulative and cruel, I appreciate their utter lack of pretension when they talk to me and interact with me. It’s very easy to explain autism to them, and they don’t bludgeon my brain with endless questions or make me the ambassador of autism. It’s just me doing my thing with little kids.
With older people, I can’t always participate on equal footing in the participations, because I admit, I have not had as much real world experience, and there are some things I’m still too young to understand, but the relationship tends to be less stressful for me than with people in my own age group, because they tend to be more mellow, and more interested in discussing ideas and things which interest me. Younger people can discuss these things, and of course, discussing ideas is the core of what a college student does (or should do, ahem) but I find a lot of the conversations which are geared towards who said what at said place and the keepup on various social aspects to be dull as dirt. The deep levels of in-joking and the charged atmosphere of a gathering of more than 3 people in my age group tends to wear me out very quickly for some reason as well, but people past 30 tend to have much more relaxed gatherings. There’s also less in-fighting and problems with sexual politics, because, one friend put it this way, “When you’re our age, you realize how precious your friends are, and no longer have such a possessive attitude towards the good stuff [sex]” Not true for all, but it sure explains the 60somethings I hung out with!
A lot of people like to chalk up my comfort with older people to being a matter of intelligence, but I think that particular facet is greatly overestimated. I think it has a lot more to do with my comfort level and how little I have to perform for older people. When you are an autistic woman, being in a social scene with twentysomethings is stressful, for the reasons I stated above. I greatly value my friends in all age groups, but I know that I am probably going to continue this pattern in Victoria and will most likely bond more rapidly with my professors than with my peers. It may seem peculiar, or even unhealthy, to some, but as long as I am not actively excluding anyone based on age stereotypes, I think I will be alright.