My Best Friend Is 40 Years Older Than I Am
11.13.17

Ines always brings a hand fan to swing dances, and she only dances when the spirit moves her. Sometimes the spirit moves her to stay home and drink wine with Orange, the name she’s given her armchair. Other times the spirit moves her to take herself to the symphony, resplendent in a zebra-print coat.

Ines is one of my closest friends. She is the one I drink champagne with for no reason and the person I text before I go to bed. Given that we’re separated by nearly four decades in age (I am 30 and Ines is 69), our friendship surprises people.

“But what do you have to talk about?” they ask.

What don’t we have to talk about? Some conversations — such as whether or not to buy a dress, or relationship advice — resemble those I have with friends my age. Others — such as Ines’ experience as a widow, or her plans for where to move when she can no longer live alone — do not. These are the conversations that help me understand what’s to come, not just for Ines, but for me.

I first saw Ines at a swing dance. I liked how she slapped her knee in the middle of a song and laughed as she bounced across the floor. We didn’t meet until a few weeks later when I was at a friend’s house for a party. Ines, the best friend of my friend’s mom, walked in holding a Brazilian custard.

From then on, we were the DBs, short for “dancing buddies.” We rode the bus together to dances and met up for Sunday matinees. One evening, Ines invited me over for dinner, where we ate poached salmon and flipped through photos of her grandkids, her grown son, her late husband. “People assume I’m less happy now that he’s died,” she said. “I was happy then, but I’m a different kind of happy now.”

Ines has an ebullience I want to experience, so I’ve started to emulate her. I named my couch Red. I put on black satin and take myself to the symphony. I consult the spirit before deciding to do things.

It didn’t take long for us to learn our respective ages don’t dictate our behavior. Ines often acts “young,” snatching a hunk of cheese off the ornamental parmesan wheel and staying until the end of the dance. I often act “old,” resisting new technology and canceling Friday night plans so I can be in bed by nine. Despite my view of our role reversal, Ines still signs her emails “old DB.”

“Stop saying you’re old,” I say. “You stay out later than I do.”

“That’s because old people don’t sleep well,” Ines writes back, sending an emoji with its tongue sticking out.

Our first trip together was to a swing dance festival in New Orleans. For fuel, we ate happy hour oysters and salted chocolate souffle. At night, we danced until our legs shook and then went home to ice our knees.

One evening, Ines and I sat outside at an Italian restaurant, watching the people go by. The waitress came to refill our glasses. “Did you have brown hair like your daughter when you were younger?” she asked Ines.

People often assume Ines is my mother. It’s not that we look alike; it’s that family is the dominant framework for people who socialize with our age difference. Some people express disbelief at our friendship, like the acquaintance who told Ines she couldn’t believe she would travel with someone she hardly knew. “But I know her very well,” Ines said. “She’s one of my best friends.”

It’s true. Ines and I are friends of the closest kind. We share clothes and cook each other breakfast. We counsel each other through heartbreak and revel in each other’s success. Through Ines, I see a broader swath of human experience: childbirth and grandchildren, widowhood and retirement. And through Ines, I have learned the art of creating joy for one’s self.

Perhaps it is not our friendship that people find transgressive, but the freedom it entails: the freedom to enjoy ourselves, the freedom to act outside the expectations of our age. It doesn’t matter if people find our bond strange. We have many years of friendship to come, with many evenings like the one we recently enjoyed: over mussels and focaccia we laughed and we cried. We ate chocolate cake. And then we danced, just as our spirits moved us.

Amanda Medress is a kombucha-chugging writer based in Oakland, CA.

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  • Mithi

    Whoah, first to comment!

  • That’s wonderful … 🙂

  • Millie Lammoreaux

    LOVE THIS !!!!!

  • Selena Delgado

    So much yes to all of this. As I enter into my late 30’s, I am finally realizing that it’s ok to be the one who doesn’t need to prescribe to an idealized way of living and choosing the people who I find safety in. This relationship is mutually benefitting you both in ways that adds richness and love to your lives. Beautiful.

  • Charlie

    Beautiful. I love everything about this. And can I say, I am a little jealous too. Such deep friendships is something we all look for in life. I love how she said she became a different kind of happy. I think it’s so important for us to realise that there are different ways in which someone can be happy.

    PS. Make sure you also borrow Ines’ polka dot dress!

  • Ericka Parr

    This was so beautifully written – what a great friendship.

  • Caroline Tribe

    I was recently talking to someone about my weekends plans to see a friend who played the main charterer in a play. When the person asked how old my friends was I told her she was 50 (double my age) and the person said back to me “you can’t be friends with someone that old.” I was butt hurt by their comment and realized that friends come in any age, shape, or race. Why would something like age stop me from being someones friend?

  • Beatriz Medeiros

    When I was 6 years old, I had an older friend – she was 80. I asked my grandma to visit her every week, we chatted on the balcony, I ate sugarcane from her yard and ran across her house.

    This article is so delicious I wanna have Ines and Amanda for myself.

  • One of my close friend is also much older than I am, and this post made me appreciate her even more.

  • Maggie

    Yes! Thank you.

    I cherish the friendship I have with my piano teacher. We met only a few years ago, he’s 53 and I’m 23. Most lessons I don’t even play the piano because we spend the hour talking, laughing, or recommending new books to each other. It’s really something special to have a person like that in your life!

  • Inez sounds like a blast and a true friend. Thank you for this story, just as our society becomes less tolerant of bias based on race, sex and sexual orientation, I think it’s important to add age to that. When people get old they are often perceived differently and assumed to be less capable by many. This is a terrible presumption to make. Hanging out with people of different ages makes life infinitely more interesting. I’m old enough to be the mother of some of my friends and it’s not an issue. I just interviewed the writer and artist Beatrix Ost, at 77 she has more creative energy and optimism than most people of any age. You can see the interview here. http://www.primadarling.com/fashion/beatrice-ost-woman-style/

    • AlisonGrooveQ

      Really great article Jolain! Beatrix Ost is one amazing woman. TY

    • spicyearlgrey

      Interesting, I had always thought our society is getting more tolerant? What makes you say less and why? Curious 🙂

      • Yes our society is getting more tolerant, but as I said we are becoming less tolerant of bias.

  • Lipglop007

    Funny because i was just thinking yesterday that i’m the old gal in my group and I used to be the youngling of the group, What happen? How it took place I luv it either way. I’ve recently taken up surfing again at 50 and I now have the greatest group of young surfbuds (23-30) to hang out with. We share or they share the lessons of life and dating with me. More so them with me than the other way around. And once and a while I’m asked dating advise but woe is me because that’s never been a good place for me. Luckily they accept what i give them and move on with it.

  • AlisonGrooveQ

    I LOVE this! Friendship is such a ridiculously amazing thing! Beautiful 🙂

  • Lori Therrien

    You are both so lucky to have one another. Age is of no significance is it.

  • Adrien Gardner Lesser

    Has anyone at MR. thought about making this into a weekly/monthly/whatever column? There are so many wonderful intergenerational friendships that deserve to be preserved and shared with the internet world. I am 20 and one of my closest friends is a gorgeous, glamorous, and smart as a whip 70 year old. A good friend of mine has a close friend who is an elegant 70 year old fashion model. These are stories that need to be shared!!!

    • What a fun idea…that’d be an amazing column! I’d totally read it. 🙂

    • Mollie Ward

      I want friends like that!

  • Oh, this makes me SO happy! 😀 Thanks for writing this, Amanda. Reading about your friendship with Ines is lovely <3 I completely relate: I'm 29 and, after my mom, my next best friend and dearest confident is a wonderful lady who's 70. She's the most effervescent person I know who truly cares about all people. We used to live in the same apartment building and bonded over our mutual love of Vogue. She'd been a buyer at a department store years before and her love for fashion never fizzled. We started watching Project Runway together every week and have been the best of buddies ever since…eventually swapping PR episodes out for dinners and deep conversations about life. She's one of the few people who I can, literally, talk to for hours. 🙂

  • I love this so much! I have several friends 30+ years older than me, so nice to read your story. I think this dynamic in friendship allows us to learn things we might miss if we just surround ourselves with people from our own generation.

  • Mary DeLave

    Lovely Article Amanda! I sure do miss dancing with you & Inez since we moved up the coast! Al & I were in town for Fog City Stomp this past weekend and I did get a chance to dance with Inez even though she was in such demand! One of the things I love about the Lindy Hop Dance Community is just how open people are to dancing, communicating with and becoming friends with a broad cross section of folks including people many years younger and many years older. Thank you for sharing this story though it makes me miss you two even more!- Great pictures by the way.

  • Cee

    This is a really beautiful piece.

    One of my very closest friends was 25 years my senior. We met at work and bonded over a shared love of dogs and then of bad food and reality tv.

    We had so much to talk about and so many shared experiences that I hardly ever remembered that we weren’t the same age. Except for the occasional cultural reference that went over one of our heads.

    I learnt a lot from her about life, love, family, health, adventure and making the most of what you’ve got.

    She passed away at Christmas last year.

    Life really is too short to not make the most of friendship wherever you find it.

  • Mun

    This is beautiful 🙂

  • Amy Putman

    Stunning, I wish I had an Ines!!! xxx

  • curly215

    This sounds like such a beautiful friendship that is so full of life. I’m 23 and I want in! Thank you for sharing. Intergenerational friendship is something I rarely think about. This was an eyeopening read.

  • Erin Khandjian

    Mine is too!

  • Lee Ten Hoeve

    Beautiful.

  • Molly

    This made my heart smile

  • Ciccollina

    Your friendship with Ines sounds divine, I am intensely jealous. I can’t count the times in my life that could have been improved by an older influence, and I am thinking now that maybe I should look out for someone like Ines of my own 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

  • Love this. MR, so great, as always.We love breaking of age silos, in work, friendship and love. Why limit oneself? It’s the whole idea around AGEIST.
    FYI, MR , you are our north star, you set the bar high for how great a media/community can be. Thanks for being you.