21 September 2009

"Hey nineteen, No, we can't dance together, No, we can't talk at all" --Steely Dan

Hello, my cheeky monkeys! Yes, in a stunning upset, "your cheeky monkey" ran, screeching, past "Hoss", did a backflip and flung poo at "your blogmuffin" and won the poll in its final hours. Like the most ruthless Ebay bidder swooping in in the final minutes to prise that Star Wars plate away from prleia33, you made it happen! Thanks for voting to let me know your real desires. I will honor your wishes, although I was sort of hoping to call you my blogmuffin. Guess we'll save that for our more private moments.

So, on with today's post.. a bit of a heavy one today...



When you get to know people in the blogosphere, you often don't know who or what they are before you know their ideas, their opinions, their hopes, their fears, their values, their sense of humor, etc. This is what you build connections on. This appeals to me, which is why my profile photo is not entirely helpful to those seeking to figure out what/who I am. In contrast, in the real world, we often judge based on our first visual impression. We make decisions based on what we see or what we think we see.

At the party last week, a friend who was in his late 40s walked into a room that had a bunch of 20-somethings in it and I began to introduce him. He cut me off, saying "Nevermind. Too young!"

At the time I thought, "What an ass." I did. I knew these people. I liked these people. To write them off based on their age was a lousy thing to do. (And, weirdly enough, after the party, we realized we had people in attendance who were in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Which I think is non-standard. We didn't plan it that way. It just was.)

This friend was rude to dismiss people to their face, but I've heard this sentiment, privately, a lot, in both directions. Younger people saying they didn't want to hang out with an older crowd and older people saying they had no interest in hanging out with younger people.

Fast forward a week and we are at a party where 90% of the crowd is 20 years younger than us. We don't even know the hosts all that well, much less anyone else at the party, but we make our way in and chat with a variety of people and have a reasonably good time.

It is an 80s party complete with costumes (think Madonna in the early years, hair band members, Alf.) And I'm struck thinking that most of them probably don't remember much of the 80s as they were little kids. It is just a fun theme. Meanwhile, I went to college in the 80s. I got married and divorced in the 80s. I started my career in the 80s. I wore those clothes and listened to that music... And it is hard for me not to feel a bit distant from these people, even as I think I shouldn't be judging them based on their age.

Yet, the age we are, in many ways, defines what phase we are in and what our priorities are. It means we remember where we were at, personally, when the country was going through various phases. It gives us context, similar experience, shapes our attitudes. Yet, we're all human beings. We all have commonalities if we seek them out.

Thus, to today's question: You enter a party and people are way off in age from you (>15 years younger or older, your choice.) Honestly, what's your first reaction? Do you try to mix or do you politely keep your distance?

33 comments:

Bilbo said...

Try to mix, of course. Parties with a mix of ages and experiences are more fun because everyone has a story and everyone (well, almost everyone) can prove to be interesting.

PQ said...

I've always...always hung out with people older than me. It's actually been more of a challenge for me to mix in with people my age...but I've been better at it this past year.

I mingle...age shouldn't define personality...not at first glance anyway.

Rose said...

I like hanging out with people who are older than me. Two of my best friends each have 11 years on me. I've always felt older than I've ever been.

Though, I don't necessarily like working with only people that are 10+ years older. No matter what skills I bring, I always feel inferior based on time. This could be my office though - and too much of a blanket statement to throw across the board.

Great post!

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

I am pretty comfortable in a crowd of much older men. Not because I'm some scheisty gold digger, but because all of my coworkers are 50+ year old men. I work in a steel mill. I know how to interact and converse with older men.

Older women, not so much.

Hannah said...

I would and do hang out with older people, but I would not stay at a party where people were 15 years younger than me. That would make them 14-years-old and partying with people that age would be VERY weird and uncomfortable for me.

justjp said...

I make sure to re-new my cougar hunting license every year for this very reason! Who cares as long as you have fun.

A said...

I knew I should have worked harder to get out the Hoss vote.

Older yes, no problem. Fifteen years younger is a bit of a stretch, but as a thirty-five year old, I have no issues hanging with twentysomethings. It's always good to mix it up a little bit.

The Bug said...

I enjoy talking to people, no matter their age (well, 2 year olds are a challenge), but when I'm with younger folks I feel like their wacky den mother. It's ok for a while, but then I need people my own age or older to make me feel less matronly.

liferehab said...

Lets see, if they were 15 years younger, they'd be 6, in which case, I'd be all about starting a game of duck duck goose or hitting a pinata. I hate little kids, but I love their games. If they were 15 years older, they'd be 36, and I'd be all about talking work/drinking wine/ whatever else they wanted to do. I like older people, they're better than people my own age. So I'd mix. Now, if I was at a party with people my own age... I'd get drunk so I didn't remember whatever stupid conversations we had.

Lemmonex said...

This is interesting, actually. I have a group of friends that are younger than me and a group that is ten years older than me. I think I can fit in to both groups well since I still have a bit of a wild and rebellious streak but under it all I know what I want and I have worked hard for it.

Also, growing up with a father as a bartender--and hanging out at bars after school--makes me totally comfortable chatting with someone who is older than me. It really isn't a big deal.

Mike said...

That guy sitting in the corner? That's me, taking pictures, wondering how much money I can get for them.

Titania said...

I guess it will depend on the situation and in which way I am related to these people, what things we have in common. I do feel a bit uneasy when I am the oldest in the crowd and not as much when I am on the younger side though...

Titania said...

On the other side, I really, really like get-togethers where the age spectrum is very wide, I take that as a signal (a good one) about the hosts and their guests and makes me want to meet them all

J said...

I was at a party this weekend like this. It was a 30th Anniversary party for some family friends. Mostly I mingled with the few people my age, but mostly because a) I didn't really have any great introductions and wasn't feeling super social that night, and b) I don't think most of them I had a ton in common with. I don't think it had much to do with their ages... at least not consciously. I know several people in that age group and circle of friends that I like, but this was more about not being super into meeting new people.

You and your better half (sshhh) are great, so I do hope you guys can come out for trivia sometime. Of course, that requires *me* being able to go out for trivia sometime... I remember the first time we all met, and I remember thinking how nice you guys are, and what good stories you have :) Actually, I think that was the first time and every one after!

LiLu said...

I remember that, actually. I was all, "What? We're here for a reason, buddy... because we WANT to be." Which should perhaps have clued him in on the fact that we weren't some toddlers looking to do Jagerbombs or kegstands, but interesting and intelligent people who were interested in having a good time with good people.

Every time I plan a get together, I tend to judge its success in my head by how many connections were made, especially across "lines" like age. When everybody's different AND everybody's mingling, I call that a helluva good time.

Liebchen said...

I'm definitely pro-mingling, especially considering that I've always tended to hang out with people older than myself.

And you make a really good point in this post that the blogging connections are made really based on everything but looks. Which is refreshing.

Little Ms Blogger said...

I'm like Lemmonex. I have friends various ages and don't believe age defines a person.

I admit I can't rebound as quickly as a 21 year old, but I also know I don't have to keep up.

As long as person is intelligent, interesting and funny, who cares.

HKW said...

What comes to mind is family gatherings. Sure, it's easy to share stories with my sisters or cousins closer to me in age. But, really, you need to get along with everyone in the family and the stories from Aunts, Uncles, nieces, nephews, parents and Grandparents are just as rich as those from your generation. So, I'd mingle at the party.

Jamie said...

I don't think age matters, it's what kind of party it is, and what kind of party you're in the mood for (or are into).

My group of friends has a 30+ year age span. I've had gatherings with people ranging from 21 to 50 in the same room.

I've been to parties with people mostly in their early 20's and been bored because it was keg-stand idiocy. I've been to parties with people my age or even younger, and been bored because it was too uptight.

It's just who you are and where you are, not how old you are.

Kate said...

I can do both, usually. But if it's significantly younger - I wouldn't stay long. There's have to be at least a handful of us oldies around - otherwise, I feel like a pedophile or something.

Tina said...

I really don't care about age much. Some of my friends are a good bit older and I married 10 years younger so obviously I have been known to a-hem "mingle" with the younger crowd. I'm more comfortable at a gathering where there is a good mix of people I know and like already and new people to meet than one where everyone is new to me. In that case I have to be really really motivated to meet new folks or I just retreat and people watch.

J... said...

I never see age in a person, so I wouldn't have a problem just jumping in feet first and mingling with everyone, no matter their age.

Although, I never see age in others, it seems they always see it in me. I am 29 but look like I am closer to 18. I get carded for everything possible and in the working world people don't seem to take me too seriously. It gets on my nerves so I am sure to not treat people based on the age I think they are but on the age they act.

Dmbosstone said...

I agree with you- that guy was an ass. To write off anyone based on something like age is just stupid.

Whether it's at parties or in the casts of the productions I stage manage- I'm going to run into people that aren't my age and I'm more than ok with that.

Anonymous said...

Was he my brother?

f.B said...

If I walk in the room and people look up and smile warmly, I meet and greet and laugh...

But if I walk in and people seem to be finding every reason not to make eye contact, I just find the first smile and talk to that person.

(By the way: we felt very welcome.)

Cyndy said...

I've always socialized with a wide range of ages relative to my own and I appreciate the different types of experiences and attitudes that different age groups often have. So it's never been an issue for me, although I have definitely felt an ageism attitude aimed towards me from both older people and younger.

What was really weird was when younger people would act like I was even younger than they were because they couldn't tell by looking that I was actually older. Sadly that happens less and less often these days.

Barbara said...

It's a good question. But some of my best friends are 20 years younger than I am; and some of them are at least 15 years older. So I'd probably be rather bored if everyone was my age. I actually don't think about age differences much except when I am talking to my adult children. They somehow remind me that I'm old!

(BTW, I'm sure it wasn't my husband who pronounced the girls in the kitchen too young. :))

lacochran said...

27 comments in less than 24 hours? Huh. Glad I picked something to write about you all could relate to. Thanks for weighing in.

Hannah: Hard to get a turn at the Wii.

justjp: An equal opportunity bagger.

The Bug: 2-year-olds think it's all about them. When, clearly, it's all about us.

liferehab: Just prudent.

J: Right back atcha! Trivia night is calling our names!

Kate: You say pedophile, I saw cougar.

Tina: You raise a good point. It's hard to get "up" for meeting a lot of new people.

J: Covey would call that choosing to be a transition figure rather than a transmission figure. I call that cool.

Anonymous: We're all brothers in the larger sense, doncha think?

f.B: You raise a good point. It is about reception, yes.

mylittlebecky said...

it's weird, usually my friends end up being older than me but i also always assume everyone's my age unless it's painfully apparent they're not. i'd certainly feel more intimidated with an all older crowd if i knew... perceptions are tricky.

Kate said...

I have a little social anxiety at most parties, but once I got past that I don't think I'd care how old anyone is. I've always tended to gravitate toward people older than myself so that's not an issue. And it's fun to talk to people younger than I am, provided they're fun and interesting to begin with (that goes for any age group, really). I don't know -- I just think you should be open to anything. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn. Not to mention, people often think I'm much younger than I am and make judgments accordingly, so you shouldn't assume one look at someone tells you everything you need/want to know.

Hammer said...

Interesting question...

I'll go ahead and bypass the beauty pageant/running-for-class-president answer and give my honest-to-God one.

Assuming I know virtually no one in either scenario, this is who I initially seek out/engage in conversation:

If I'm 15 year younger, I find the folks at the party who are laughing the most and hardest. If you've spent half a century on this planet without losing your sense of humor, then chances are we'll get along just fine.

If I'm 15 years older, I avoid the loud ones and look for the smirkers and quiet conversationalists. The 2 or 3 who seem to be in on some inside joke that the yellers and screechers are oblivious to. And if that doesn't work, I just find a random group of dudes and talk about guns, football or cars. Seriously.

spleeness said...

For some reason, I feel more comfortable around peers or older folks than younger ones, but I think maybe I worry the younger ones don't care much to reach out to older folks much. Or maybe it was just that the most recent attempt had gone bad.

I try to mingle, regardless though, and just obsess later in private about how old I am. ;)

J said...

I would definitely try to mix if they were 15 years older. I always have acted more mature than my age and enjoy people who I can relate to. 15 years younger and I definitely would not mingle but then again, the room would be full of 10 year olds!

Age is just a number in reality and I try really hard not to judge just based on age.