Learning to love relationships that cross a plethora of divides can only be good for you – it certainly has been for me
March 4, 2023 7:00 am(Updated 7:01 am)
I think I’ve always been attracted to friendships with older women. Right from my teens into adulthood, there’s always been a handful of older women more knowledgeable about life than me who I’ve liked to hang with. And my friendship with Sue Cleaver (who I was in the Aussie jungle with on I’m a Celebrity) is a wonderful continuation of that trend. She, her husband Brian and her son Elliot came and stayed at mine last weekend – and we all went out for dinner and drinks.
It was a silly-o-clock in the morning, and it was so much fun. Our friendship is exactly the same as it was back in Oz: lots of laughs, the occasional bout of naughty banter, and Sue breezily throwing in some absolute gem of advice about life leaving me a lightbulb moment of, “ah okay, that makes sense now”. The only difference really, is we both don’t stink to high heaven of offal and campfire smoke.
But I do also think that’s the beauty of friendship… especially female friendships. Learning to love friendships that cross a plethora of divides can only be good for you. And age comes into that. Our lives can change in so many different ways over the decades, having friends who’ve already been through those same changes can be life-changing and life-affirming. And imparting knowledge to those who are on the cusp of changes you’ve already been through can give a desperately needed helping hand.
One of my closest friends is 10 years older than me. We met at work when I was in my early 20s. I was new to this journalism game, whereas she was way more confident and knowledgeable than me. I learnt so much from her about navigating the industry, that delicate balancing act of working hard and playing hard. Twenty years later, we still do try and play hard and party hard when we can. Tomorrow, we’re heading to an all-day rave. Perfect for the old clubbers we are now, we’ll be in the club at 2pm, and no doubt in bed by 10pm. Perfect.
It’s interesting because the older we’ve become, the smaller our age gap has seemed to me. When we met I was still living at home with my family, whereas she lived by herself. I was in awe of this talented, confident woman who lived alone and yearned to have that level of freedom. Now that I’m in my 40s and more settled, our lives are a bit more aligned, meaning it feels like there is no gap.
I feel the same about my friends who are a decade younger than me. There was a sweet spot in my early-mid 30s when I was the older, wiser friend out and about with my 20-something mates. Passing on nuggets of advice (I mean, I was in my early 30s… goodness knows how useful it actually was), and helping them navigate the industry, love, and life – whilst of course having our fair share of debauched Friday nights. But fast forward 10 years and that age gap seems even smaller as we juggle work and family.
My love for age-gap friendships goes back even further. When I was at school, although I had a bunch of mates in my year, once I reached 14-15 years old, I also began hanging out regularly with girls in the years above me. They were older, wiser, more confident. They were just effortlessly cool. At one point, me and my friend Emma-Louise were inseparable. She was older and gorgeous with the bounciest curls. She lit up any room she entered, and was always on hand to help guide me through the often-difficult, often-exhilarating corridors of teenage-dom. In fact, it was at Emma’s house that I had my first proper taste of wine. It was her dad’s homemade stuff that she’d squirrelled into her bedroom (her dad was also effortlessly cool). I remember lying on my back on her bed staring up at her ceiling – clearly experiencing being tipsy for the first time – with Emma right beside me. She then sat me up, gave me a load of water and crisps, then we threw our coats on and wandered to the Friday disco night at her local pub. I learnt a lot from her, and I’m eternally grateful.
A psychologist would, no doubt, put my love for age-gap friendships down to losing my mum in my 20s. And to be honest, they would probably be right. But I love them. And I was reminded of that last weekend. As Sue was finishing off her cuppa in my kitchen at 1am, while I finished off my wine – I remember her laughing at something ridiculous I’d done by accident (I’d love to tell you what, but I’m still mortified) – I just thought yep, this one’s a keeper.