The other gold

Mr. Frump and I recently got together with two old friends.   They started out as Mr. Frump’s coworkers, but they soon became friends in earnest.  But things changed, as they often do: first the job, then our residence.  Even though we all still live within an hour’s drive, Mr. Frump and I are now firmly over the state line in what feels like a different world.

We’ve known these women since we were in our twenties, just establishing ourselves as independent adults. So my memories of our friendship are inextricably linked with my memories of being young and newly launched.  These women were both models, in a way, of the kinds of women that I might grow up to be.  They were full-fledged, real-life grownups, with jobs and kids and houses. I think they were just barely 40, but to me they fell into that blurred category of adult that started at age 34 and ended just shy of 50.  At the time, I probably perceived little difference between those two extremes.

Back then, we shared various social events — movies, dinners out, parties — with one or both of these friends.  One of the two even attended our wedding, with her 10-year old daughter (who, I’m shocked to realize, is now older than we were).  We were also frequent guests in her home, enjoying the happy chaos of her family’s life.

The years passed, and though we didn’t quite lose touch, we all became busy with our own lives.  Both women lost their husbands — one to divorce, the other to illness.  Their kids grew up and moved away.  We saw each other a few times, but not many.  Until last week, that is, when we sat together for a holiday lunch.

My first thought was: how wonderful they both look!  Older, maybe, but exactly like themselves.  Now I’m the woman in her 40’s, so it follows that they must be women in their 60’s.  But these are not the 60+ women of my grandma’s era!  Or perhaps my perspective has just shifted.

The community in which we all met looked like a quintessential small town — Bedford Falls, if you will, or perhaps Grover’s Corners (or Peyton Place, at times!).  It was surrounded by mountains and seemed in the middle of nowhere, but the area boasted a famous artist’s colony, several music festivals, and a theater company or two.  You could find many artistic, creative people — people from other places.

Seeing our two friends brought it all back.  They are both so cultured, yet so down to earth.  They talk of theater and opera, yet they both spend much of “mud season” mucking around in rubber boots.  Both have dealt with loss and pain and money struggles — being suddenly single is never easy — but they find ways to work for a living and still pursue life.  They’re both smart and funny as hell, quick to laugh at the absurdity of life, rolling their eyes at the latest idiocy from the mouths of their supervisors, co-workers, and elected politicians.  Neither woman is living through her children.  Both are active and engaged, loving life and art and beauty, wherever they find it.

And did I mention that they both look fabulous?  They don’t talk themselves down, or bemoan aging.  One did tell a funny story, though, about a family member who had given all the relatives a curious gag gift — photos of themselves, altered to look older.  “They photoshopped in jowls, and wrinkles, and everything,” our friend laughed.  Apparently, one of the recipients didn’t recognize herself in the picture.  “Who is that?” she said.

It’s probably a good thing that we don’t have to see our own aging in such a sudden, jarring fashion.  When it happens gradually, we don’t even notice it in quite the same way.  It seems like nothing more than a slight, day-to-day alteration.  Something not at all scary, and perfectly natural.  Which of course it is.

Sure, looking at old photos can be a shock, when we see several years of changes all at once.  But I’m so relieved to know that it’s possible to see friends after several years and be struck not by the aging, but rather, by their essential sameness.   “Yes!  They are still themselves! ”

So we laughed, and lunched, and visited.  At the end, we vowed to get together more often.  I hope this isn’t just one of those empty promises that people make.  I don’t think it is.  We’ve identified several promising meeting places — a music club, an old movie theater — that are convenient to all of us.

I’m looking forward to watching our friends move through this new stage in their lives, and on into the next one, whatever that is.

Happy Holidays.  Enjoy your families but also your friends, both new and old.


About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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18 Responses to The other gold

  1. What a great story! I love seeing old friends and thinking about earlier times with them. Merry Christmas! I hope you have a white one.

  2. Katrina says:

    This is a wonderful story, thanks for sharing. It gave me a lot to think about: the separation of friends, the shock of “old” photos, and the changes in perspective as we age.
    I so clearly remember being 17 and unable to imagine ever being 30, and again at 30, not believing that I could ever be 50 or even relate to people “that old”. Now I admire people in their 70s and 80s who are active and enjoying life and fervently hope that I WILL one day be one of them. Good to know I’ve gained at least one small bit of wisdom over the years.
    Have a wonderful holiday!

  3. What a lovely story. I can also remember being in my teens thinking thirty was old. And I love the idea of photoshopping pictures to make people look older – do you think it could take off?! Happy Christmas!

  4. ariane says:

    Hi Ann! Merry Christmas to you and family –
    What a wonderful story indeed! Lots of high school friends or other people who crossed my life that would like to see and would love to share past stories with – I remember when i was a teen thinking about me older or others getting older and funny thing, i was not afraid or think it was old- I never thought that any age was old –

    Take care Ann and looking forward to read you again

    Ariane xxxx

  5. What a great story and reminder, Anne….I have also been moved to re-connect with some old friends this season. I am not as good as I should be, but I really desire to improve. Your encouragement has given me new resolve! Have a wonderful Christmas weekend!

  6. Merry Christmas Anne! Your story is wonderful, and as always it resonates within. It is good that our aging is gradual and (we hope) graceful. And how delightful to reconnect with old friends. You have inspired me too!

  7. notquiteold says:

    You’re right – it is comforting to see how we HAVEN’T changed.
    (And I, for one, am as young at sixty as I was at forty… unless I catch a glimpse of myself that I wasn’t expecting. Like when you turn a corner in a store and there is an unexpected mirror. Then it takes me a few seconds to recognize that old lady….)

  8. Serene says:

    Anne, what a great story! It’s amazing how our perspective on aging changes over the years. I remember when 45 sounded so old and I couldn’t even IMAGINE myself at that age….and now….here I am. I hope you and your friends DO actually keep in touch. It’s just one of those things we have to do on purpose….I’m trying to get better at this myself. Happy Christmas my sweet friend! hugs! ~Serene

  9. yearstricken says:

    Lovely post. Growing old beautifully and gracefully is the goal, isn’t it. You mention being struck not by their aging, but by their essential sameness. That is where we cultivate beauty, I think. Merry Christmas!

  10. Beryl says:

    I don’t think your perspective has changed – I really think that women are not aging as quickly as they did in my grandmother’s time. For one thing, woman under 65 in America have had the opportunity to have children when and if they were wanted. They have more access to education and higher paying jobs. But I don’t think the money is the rejuvenator – I think it’s the empowerment. Just my opinion.
    I’ll bet that dinner and drinks with you and Mr. Frump would be a facinating way to spend a holiday evening no matter what your age.

  11. denise:) says:

    This is what the holidays are for! Good times with old friends. Happy New Year!

  12. winsomebella says:

    Nice you reconnected and that you are able to appreciate what stays the same as well as what doesn’t. I have finally embraced that aging happens, but with attitude, there is far more to appreciate than not.

  13. Debbi@WSheAccessorizesWell says:

    I hope 60 is the new 50! I know that I don’t feel that old compared to what my parents and grandparents seemed to be at that age.
    I want you to know that I awarded you the Liebster blog award. Check out my blog for details.

  14. Such thoughtful comments, from all of you! Thank you. And Happy New Year!

  15. Terri says:

    it’s possible to see friends after several years and be struck not by the aging, but rather, by their essential sameness. This wonderfully captures the magic of friendship. On the rare occasion that I am struck by aging in a friend, it is often because of REAL health concerns.

  16. Jane Saunte says:

    Inspiring descriptions of your friends. I certainly hope, in just a very few years when I am in my 60’s, that I will be as full of life and affirmation as your friends. Indeed, the journey of life is taking different paths than it did for our mothers’ generation. Physically, so I’m told, our bodies are at least 10 years younger than theirs at the same chronological age. Mentally, we are in fields they never dreamed of.

  17. Angie says:

    One of your best posts ever. Thoughts like yours enter my mind often. Ageing is also an experience not nessecarily a bad one. We have a close friend now 82 and he is still adventurous and full of life. For me he is an inspiration and ….a mythbuster so he showed what ageing really means.

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