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May 2nd, 2003

The Chasm Between Us

Climbing Out of the Generation Gap

 
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Nearly 14 of us descended on a swanky inn and spa a couple weekends ago for a healthy getaway for women. The participants were divided pretty evenly between twentysomethings and fiftysomethings, all strangers to one another. At first, the age difference was obvious through more than just the design of our clothing or the style of our hair.

“We’d have more in common with Martians.”
This sentiment occurred to me during dinner on Friday night after we’d all settled in at the hotel. Two tables were set up adjacent to each other, and, in a seemingly natural flow of things, we sat in peer groups. At my table, we tiptoed around polite conversation. In the meantime, peals of uncontained laughter could be heard from the other table. It was as if we were inhabiting two separate universes.

That is, until one of the older women came over to our table and introduced herself and the others. In what felt like a coup d’�tat, they began rapidly shooting questions at us, often speaking over one other: “How old are you?”, “Where do you work?”, “Are any of you interested in dating my 32-year-old son?” We looked at each other as if to say, “Pass the Merlot.”

“Is there an elevator to get us down the mountain?”
The next morning we all dragged ourselves out of bed to undertake a two-mile hike. The uphill climb was extremely challenging, with rock scrambles and muddy terrain. While we younger chicks found ourselves out of breath and struggling to get to the top, our counterparts, mostly 25 to 30 years our senior, were persevering at a slower but equally determined pace.

When we all finally did reach the top, our collective awe was palpable. There no longer seemed to be such a chasm between us as we took in the brilliant blue sky, the quiet that accompanies that lofty altitude, and the jagged mountain peaks. It felt like we all took a deep breath at the exact same moment.

And then of course, because this is real life and not a film, the moment was fleeting. As we began our descent, the “women” cracked jokes about needing an elevator and the “girls” seemed to continue on in a reflective mood. I began thinking about the nature of our differences and how comfortable these ladies were in their own skin.

“We thought you had sticks up your asses.”
That evening at dinner something happened. It was as if achieving the climb up that mountain put us all on equal footing. Instead of sitting at two tables, we sat at one large table together. The wine was flowing, as was the honesty.

The older women admitted that they thought, early on, we were a little stuck up, while we confessed that they didn’t seem to censor themselves at all, which had made us uncomfortable.

I went to bed that night with questions of my own swirling in my mind�questions about who I’d evolve into 25 or 30 years from now, and how ageism cuts both ways.

But mostly, I thought about that mountain. At the end of our journey to the top we had found common ground. It’s as if our spirits acknowledged each other and said, “We’re not so different after all.”

 
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The Author : Lori Yacovone
Lori Yacovone writes from New York City.
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