When my mother was a little younger than me, she had friends, I realize now, about my age, or a little older. I never thought about it at the time, that these “adults” were so young. In fact, I had a student teacher my senior year of high school with whom I also worked. At work, she was “Dori.” At school, “Miss Starr.”
Now I seem to have collected a whole set of friends the ages of my children. And yet, in Chinese generational fashion, I associate my children’s 20something friends with their generation, and my own 20something friends with my generation, or at least, I identify them with the “adults” and not with the “kids.”
Context is so crucial to identity. Meeting a 23-year-old at work as a colleague or even subordinate, you still put them into the “adult” category. Meeting them as your son’s friend from college puts them into the “kid” category. With the “kids”, I indulge and maybe condescend (I hope not, but who knows how I come across?). With the “adults” I relate and talk about “adult” things. (How are they different? I don’t know.) I have to keep reminding myself that they are ALL adults, if still young and unformed. Some of my own young friends would get on like a house afire with my kids, but introducing them is awkward, like trying to get your daughter to date your best friend’s cousin’s son.