At a street festival in San Francisco, my BFF Ines and I ducked into a spot to listen to a blues band, snagging seats at the bar and ordering Camparis. A man who was just Ines’s type—tall and dapper in a hat and vest—strolled in and took a seat nearby. I gave Ines a wink and excused myself to the restroom, where I checked my phone for 20 minutes. When I emerged, Ines and the man were leaning toward each other, talking and laughing, just as I had predicted.
This wing-woman tale could easily have happened with someone my age, but it didn’t: At the time, Ines was 68 and I was 29. (Jazzfest guy was in his early 60s, leading Ines to exclaim, with delight, that she was a cradle robber.) When Ines and I met, I was new to San Francisco, single, and on OkCupid. She was also single, having been widowed several years before, and was open to meeting people but wasn’t proactively looking for anyone. “I have a great life on my own,” she said. “If someone can add to it, sure, but I don’t need anyone else to be happy.”
As Ines began dating Jazzfest guy, she ran into challenges, including trying to reconcile her planning with his spontaneity—by Saturday morning when he called to make a plan for that evening, she already had tickets to the opera. One time he forgot they had made plans for brunch and instead went golfing with his buddies. “By his age, he should know better!” Ines said.
I paused to reflect on my dating experiences; all the times I had wanted a different type of relationship than my new match did, and the times I had left a date flushed with excitement only to later delete his number after unreturned texts. “Sadly, I don’t think dating gets less complicated,” I told her.
Jazzfest guy decided he wanted to go steady and asked Ines to be his girlfriend, but Ines wanted companionship without ties. She liked having her place back to herself when he left in the morning. “It sounds like you need to DTR,” I told Ines. “DT what?” she asked. I explained what it meant to have the “define the relationship” talk.
As Ines and I compared our experiences in dating—Ines with Jazzfest guy and other suitors, and me with various OkCupid and Bumble dates—we realized how remarkably similar they were, despite our 40-year age difference. We had both been ghosted, encountered offers of polyamory, and had suitors “slide into our DMs” on social media. At both of our ages, we needed to be able to explain what we were looking for, define boundaries, gauge the other person’s interest, and determine compatibility. At both of our ages, we wanted help from each other to decrypt text messages and pick out date outfits.
Like many good friends, we have seen each other through the enthusiasm of new flames and the sorrow of heartbreak. After one bad breakup, I went over to Ines’ place and cried in her kitchen. She broke out the chocolate, poured me a glass of champagne, and let me cry. She encouraged me to take time to enjoy being by myself, and I did, having her as my model.
When I started dating again, she wrote me an email about her relationship philosophy. “I believe there are two types of relationships: one is easygoing and one is tumultuous,” she wrote. “The easygoing kind is more steady, one that requires work towards a common goal: a good life for US, not just you, not just me, US! The tumultuous type has the thrill of fights and make-ups, more competition, and plotting not for the good of us but for the good of you.” Ines explained that her late husband had been in the easygoing category.
When I met my next boyfriend, Derek, it was smoother than other dating experiences, less full of uncertainty. After our first date, he sent me an emoji with heart eyes. After our second date, he deleted Bumble off his phone. A month later, I brought him home for Thanksgiving. “Remember my email?” Ines said. “I think you’ve found an easygoing relationship.”
One evening, several months into what was becoming a serious relationship, I texted Ines to tell her I missed her and felt bad we were not spending as much time together as we used to. “Darling, I always knew this would happen, and I’ve wanted it to happen for you,” she wrote. “You are young and looking for a life partner. I’ve been waiting for this. I am so happy for you.” Ines knew what was coming because she lived it herself before.
Ines and I want the best for each other in all things in life, including love. I keep an Excel spreadsheet of her suitors in my mind: “Has Jim texted?” I’ve asked. “Who’s Jim?” Ines replies. I remind her about the guy who asked for her number at Whole Foods. She cracks up. “I love being old,” Ines says. “You don’t remember the people who ghost you!”
Derek planned his proposal for my birthday party, at a salsa dancing spot on a lake. A week before, he texted a photo of the ring to Ines, who cried with joy. The photo of the proposal shows this: Derek down on one knee, me gasping with delight, and Ines directly in the background, cheering us on.
Amanda is a writer based in Oakland, CA. To see more of Amanda and Ines’ friendship, follow them at @acrossages.
Graphics by Coco Lashar