It’s the eve of our trip to Boylestone for the annual show where we will stay with two of our dearest friends, B. and R., who happen to be of a mature age. For the past few years I’ve been giving myself a hard time for enjoying hanging out with older folks. I’m not talking geriatrics here, but I am talking retirement age people with grown up kids. The trend has continued in the Cotswolds where all my favourite people are over fifty.
Husband came up with a theory today that is more flattering than my previous conclusion of I must be old before my time. The theory is rather that we’re more discerning, and is based on the observation of a certain joie de vivre in the retired set. Our mature friends have a palpable sense of “you’ve only got one life,” a.k.a. mortality, that manifests in travel and tireless charity work and one more glass of wine (why not?). In no particular order they’ve made and lost fortunes, married and divorced and married again, raised kids, survived cancer, fought wars, seen the world, cavorted with criminals and royalty, are too old to care about being political correct, and know you don’t want to see any pictures of their grandkids. All of which makes for much more interesting conversation than, say, the exorbitant cost of traveling during the school holidays or little Timmy’s acting out in the classroom.
Which brings me to another major factor in our socializing preferences, the fact that we don’t have kids and most people our age do. This means both that we have fewer opportunities—no school runs or parks or parent nights—to meet people our own age, and that the social opportunities we do have can be taxing. We try with our friends with kids, especially the old friends with whom we faithfully do the obligatory semi-annual meal together. But the truth is that no, I don’t really want to dismantle my couch again to play fort with your son while everyone else stands around and watches because, well, there’s no place to sit. I don’t think it’s cute when he upends his plate at the table, nor do I enjoy pushing my now cold food around the plate while you go upstairs to punish him once “cute” turns into a full-fledged tantrum.
I realize I am at risk of sounding unsympathetic towards parents or, worse, anti-kid. The truth is I like kids. I just like them better with seventy or so years of living behind them.