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Lewis Krell

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San Francisco: Where Age Is Just a Number

Posted: 07/22/2013 12:00 pm

San Francisco

San Francisco is a unique city in many well-documented ways. It is freezing cold all summer long, naked bike races are a minor traffic inconvenience instead of an out of the ordinary spectacle, and sex tapes are filmed on our trains. You have undoubtedly read a thousand articles and seen a thousand pictures of phenomena that are known to occur only in San Francisco but there is one under-reported quirk that has always fascinated me since I moved here: It doesn't matter how old you are in San Francisco, it only matters how long you have lived here.

Age truly is just a number here. It's not uncommon for a 24-year old and a 33-year old to be really good friends, but it is uncommon for a 24-year-old who just moved here and a 33-year-old who has lived here for 10 years to be good friends. People seem to have maturity levels in this city that match how long they have been here rather than how old they are. A first year resident of San Francisco is in such awe of the diversity of choices that it reminds me a great deal of incoming freshman to a university environment. In fact, San Francisco can often feel like a big college campus; moving here felt like I was beginning a Masters degree in the Real World. The similarities to a college campus are plentiful. There are no children anywhere, there are no spacious houses to live in, there is an abundance of unhygienic people with unlimited free time and (except for the 500,000 per square inch in Chinatown) there are no elderly people. And just like how incoming freshman will inevitably bond with other freshman, newcomers to SF will bond with each other over shared experiences as they learn the social scene of this strange and wonderful place.

The main reason age doesn't matter is because everyone who moves to SF seems to have similar experiences right off the bat. No matter if you are 22 or 35 you feel compelled to join every team and partake in every activity. Kickball team? Sign me up! Sunday Recess? I'm a kid again!! Your cousin is part of an experimental jazz band? Sounds awful but I'll see you there! The movie theater serves booze??! I'll piss four times and miss the climax but I'm in! A hike that ends with German beer? Ja bitte! I can get drunk at a museum? So cultured! Those seemingly female waitresses who keep catching you looking at their cleavage are actually all dudes? Now I'm sexually confused but at least the food is good!

As you partake in all these activities with your new friends you will start bonding and you will realize that the question, 'how old are you?' is never uttered in this city. Birthdays are celebrated more as an abstract concept to boost the local economy then they are celebrated as any type of time demarcating device. People who move to San Francisco seem to have both a Peter Pan complex and a very adventurous spirit. These brave young adventurers, regardless of age, will meet up and participate in activities that often revolve around some form of shared misery (hikes, marathons, riding the 38) or shared drunkenness. And as we all know, there are no two ways to bond faster than sharing misery or sharing booze.

As people spend more time in the city their experiences change but their original friend group often stays the same. The guy who got hired on the same day as you may be six years older but you both had time to bond as SF rookies because you probably didn't have spouses at home, housework to do or children to look after. A 28-year-old professional in Middle America may very well have all of those things. Another byproduct of this is that this entire city is classified as a young professional. In most cities, if a 47-year-old shows up to a young professional networking event you are legally entitled to arrest them. In San Francisco they will be in the meaty part of the age distribution curve. Due to the fuzzy definition of 'young' in this city, once again, age simply does not matter.

Despite what Buzzfeed lists may tell you, not all people in their 20s or 30s are identical. I meet an inordinate amount of 26-year-old's who are already talking about how 'over' the San Francisco social scene they are. I also meet an unbelievable amount of people in their late 30s that are absolutely loving life in SF and have a packed social calendar. It wasn't until recently that I realized that it isn't just a personality byproduct, but that there was a direct correlation between how long people have lived here and their attitude to experiencing everything in this city. It perfectly explains why friend groups are rarely homogenous in actual age, but are often very similar in terms of when people arrived to San Francisco. Those childless, unmarried folks in their mid-30's that just moved to San Francisco need friends too and luckily, they shouldn't have too much trouble finding some. Provided of course that they are ok with playing kickball and that they are proficient at flip cup.

The longer you live in San Francisco the more likely it is that you have become moderately successful, and by that I mean you can still afford to pay rent. If this is the case then you just may be slightly too important at work to be showing up hung-over after a night of kickball. Your tastes and activities will change but the friends of all ages you have made in your first few years will remain. You probably still love leisure but you have graduated from late night kickball to early evening softball. You probably still love the arts but a three-day Outside Lands pass is enough culture for the year. You still love this city but there is no way in hell you will accompany a new SF resident on a trip to Alcatraz or Fisherman's Wharf. Many things will change during your time here but the one thing that will remain constant is that at no point will anyone ask you 'how old are you?' but rather 'how long have you lived here?'

 

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