Our friendship began when I first knocked on her door asking if I could walk her dog.
A few summers ago, some new neighbors moved in down the street, owners of a gorgeous Bernese Mountain dog. After a few weeks of friendly nods and waves as the woman of the home walked her dog, I decided that I wanted to take her dog for a walk and that this lady at the end of the leash should let me, a stranger, walk him. (Bold, I know.)
With that said, I’d always advise you to do a reverse address lookup before approaching neighbours who are strangers – it’s what I did and it’s why I felt comfortable offering to walk their dog.
After rapping on her door after dinner one evening and asking politely, feeling about 12 though I was 22 at the time, she answered “yes” only after a few suspicious head turns. After she gained my trust with some small talk, she armed me with treats, a paper plate and some advice. “When you see him start to go, just slide the plate under his bum and then you can just toss the plate out without having to touch it.” Her system was flawless and her warnings, stern. “He’s strong. You better hold on tight or he’ll rip your arm off, the f**ker!”
We did this exchange a handful of times before she asked me to lunch. (Did I mention our age difference is over 40 years?) So it was my turn to say yes, and it was anything but what I expected. It was hilariously fun.
Since then, much has changed. I bought a house, moved (albeit a few blocks away from my parents) and got a dog of my own. But we still meet once a month or so for lunch or dinner and catch up. And every time, I always go in skeptical that this time we’ll have something to talk about, and leave feeling silly that I ever doubted we would.
It’s been over a year now that we’ve started hanging out, so I thought it was perfect timing to share some of the things she’s taught me:
There’s no age limit to being sassy and care-free
In a nutshell, my neighbour is a sass-master with a heart wilder and funner than most people half her age. She may run a house and have to take care of a 100lb baby-dog, but it doesn’t stop her from going out, having a good time and chatting or flirting with people who pass by. I have a suspicion that she’d be the life of any party. And she also has no problem calling me out if I cancel or can’t make lunch a few times in a row. She has no fear of what she looks like or what people might think of her. And there’s something to be said about how that ages on you. I am still shocked sometimes when I fathom her age; she doesn’t look or seem a day older than 45.
Ask for what you want with confidence
She doesn’t have patience for anything she doesn’t like–or anyone she doesn’t like. There are times I want to apologize for her or I become embarrassed, but in hind-sight I’m always impressed with her unapologetic confidence. She knows what she wants and demands it.
Which bring me to: If you enjoy something even if it’s unconventional, like lunching with a 24-year-old because you have more in common with her than someone your age, that’s totally awesome and you should send that text. Or knocking on the door of a stranger asking to walk their dog. Look what doing something you want leads to? An odd and lovely friendship, on the light side. It’s never too late to ask for and chase what you want.
Be yourself and take pride in it
My neighbour is a striking woman, never without a bright manicure, freshly-coloured red bob, or a zany iPhone case. Even when she walks her dog at 8am, she’s done up to the nines. Though she’s far from materialistic or vain, she values looking her best in order to feel her best, and this is something I’m slowly learning to do myself. I’m not a super-sloppy Sally all the time, but there are days when I’ll run out in sweats and unwashed hair and in turn I feel like what sweats and unwashed hair feels like. A little self-pampering goes a long way.
Cut out what’s slowing you down
Of all the things my 65-year-old friend has taught me, the most important has been this: quit spending energy and time on things and people who don’t give it back. Relationships are a two-way street. If you aren’t receiving what you need from something or someone, say goodbye and stop wasting your precious energy. Of course, her stories on this topic are more like “Screw you, I’m outta here!” with a big production and laugh, but I digress. In essence, there are many like-minded people who will want to give as much as you do, and then there are some that just aren’t worth your energy.
Whether you take her lessons to heart or not, my friendship with my nearly 70-year-old neighbour is a thing of beauty. As I write this, I’m coming off of a lunch date with my friend, still laughing to myself, so if nothing else, I hope this serves as a reminder that age means nothing if you don’t wait it to. You’re never too old to do what you want, be who you want and make a change in your life.