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Can Old and Young Really Build Lasting Friendships?

Maybe both, but I’m going to bet that most of us tell our much younger and older friends about our trip to Sicily while we reveal the messier details of our lives mainly to our contemporaries. That may be because people our age tend to be going through the same things as we are and so seem most likely to empathize, while those a few decades older feel kind of ickily like Mom or Dad, while those significantly younger could be our kids—not exactly an invitation to true intimacy.

“It’s been really important to me to have friends who are different ages than me in both directions, partly because of the work I do,” says Peggy Orenstein, who wrote the groundbreaking nonfiction book Schoolgirls and is now at work on a book called Girls and Sex. “I’m constantly interviewing younger women—first 10 or 15 years younger and now 30 years younger—and it’s always been important to me to have older female friends who had lives more similar to mine than my mom’s was.”

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