I'm older than Scotch tape. And it was invented in 1930.
I've lived through the Great Depression and served in the Army Air Corps in World War II.
At 90 and ¾, I only date women who like antiques.
I believe in peace on earth and kindness to everybody.
But don't get the wrong idea.
This blog post is no bowl of Cream of Wheat.
In fact, it may change your life.
So here's my warning: All complacent thinkers should exit now, taking with them all dull people who view themselves as unchangingly chiseled from a hunk of marble. Those leaving will find a handy "X" in the right hand corner of the screen.
Are they gone? Good.
Now, here's the plain truth:
We don't talk about the things we care about most. As a result, we crimp our own lives.
Here's a story.
The other day, I had a business lunch with a couple half my age. He was 6'4", attractive, articulate and very knowledgeable in his field.
She was bright and extraordinarily pretty. They have four kids and seemed to be living the American dream.
I asked the woman to tell me five things that were important about her husband. She said some nice things. Then I took a risk by saying, "What is the quality you'd like your husband to change?" She said she'd like him to be a little more thoughtful in a particular situation. Then I asked her husband if he would give me five key characteristics of his wife. He was very loving in what he said.
In the space of 30 minutes, the lunch had moved from introductions to revelations -- from formality to friendly understanding. We ended up discussing a hundred details about their relationship. Few things are more interesting. Who doesn't like to hear a love story? By the time we ordered dessert, we were no longer acquaintances, but budding friends.
In a world where loneliness is epidemic, where a keyboard and the Internet pass for human connection, the simple act of asking about another's passions or loved ones can bring light and joy into our lives.
Talking about things that matter in our personal lives can open the door to deeper relationships with people we love as well as those we've only just met.
And if you still have doubts, try this exercise. Ask any couple you know to tell the story of how they fell in love. Ask them individually, but in the presence of their partner. Let them correct each other's versions. And watch their interaction. Afterwards, you be the judge of whether you've gained any insights and whether they feel any differently towards you.
Fascinating stories walk by us every day or sit across from us at a business meeting or the dining table or in the classroom. Do we dare ask a question that invites connection? Do we dare say "What would you change about your life, if you could?" Do we ask: "What do you really care about?"
Try it. All you have to lose is your sense of isolation.
What you want is someone to hang with near where you live. Approach this scientifically. Having a friend who lives an hour's drive away will mean you won't see them as much as the person who lives closer. So think global, but stay local. That means your local coffee shop, the local branch of the public library, they local chapter of the Sierra Club, or the local college that offers evening courses.
If you play tennis, join a club or take a few lessons at the community center. If you like to throw parties, volunteer to run the annual fund-raiser at your synagogue or church; when the board thanks you publicly at the dinner, everyone will learn your name. If you hike, join the Sierra Club. If you bicycle, join a biking group or enter a race in your age category. Here's the one caveat about following your interests: Nobody ever met anyone while watching "American Idol" from the couch.
Be open to the idea that it's OK to have friends who are older or younger. The fact that they are in different stages in life just means they bring a different perspective to the table. While a 14-year-old won't be interested in socializing with a toddler, that 10-year age gap dissipates when they get older. Why not say yes to the 30-somethings who invite you to join them for drinks after work? Invite them over for dinner with their families and get to know their kids. Their views on the world may not match yours precisely, but variety is the spice of life.
If you are post 50 and uncoupled, you might find that traveling isn't as much fun. Call it the Noah's Ark theory, but in general, we like to go places paired up. There are services that will help you find a travel room-mate. Not only does this give you someone to talk to over dinner, it cuts down those single supplements that some tours and cruises charge. Friendly Planet runs one such pairing-up service. Road Scholar offers many active adult adventure vacations here -- offers to find you a roommate if you want. Their programs and generally educationally based and draw a well-heeled and educated crowd. Cruise ships do a pretty good job of making sure solo travelers find people to hang out with; group dining arrangements go a long way toward conversational icebreaking.
Even if you've never been a joiner, now may be the time to get yourself out there. Got a new puppy or an old dog who needs some new tricks? Find a community dog-training class. If you like to cook, take a cooking class. Participate in the 5K run for charity, even if you walk the final three.
Keep your smart phone with you and ask for numbers. Sure it may feel a little awkward to say to someone you just met "Hey, I really enjoyed talking to you on this Sierra Club hike but the next one isn't for two months. Would you like to get together for a hike before that?" Worst they can say is no.
With Skype and apps like FaceTime, it's easier than ever to have face-to-face visits. Don't assume your old friends are too busy to talk to you on the phone. Most cellphone plans include free long-distance calls and for those that don't, there's Skype. Invite friends who live a great distance to come and stay with you. Show them your city. Friendships are like gardens; it's often easier to tend to an existing one than grow a new one from seeds.