Earlier this week I, like many other excited people, went to the first live music event I’ve been to in well over a year: Radio X presents the Vaccines at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. At 48, there are bound to be many who will think that I’m too old to be going to gigs, jumping around and getting sweaty and hoarse. There will be just as many who think that I’m too old to have gone with one of my dearest friends, Georgie, who is 25.
Yes, I’m old enough to be her mother (although in fairness, she is 10 years older than my eldest child) and there have, during the course of our relationship, undoubtedly been times where I’ve played a maternal, advisory or concerned role – but mostly, the pair of us feel like equals.
As far as appearances go, we’re an unlikely duo – not just because of the age difference, but because she is a beauty and fashion fiend, always immaculately put together; I am, by nature, scruffy and rarely made up. Yet we share the same irreverent sense of humour and make each other laugh until we cry – and believe me when I say that she has the best, most infectious laugh of anyone I’ve ever heard. We share the same values around friendship, feminism and family. We leave each other rambling voice notes and nonsensical text messages. We recommend books, films and TV series that we know the other will love. We take the mickey out of daft situations and out of our daft selves. We support one another when we’re having an inevitable dark day. Put simply, we adore each other.
Georgie and I met through work, in an office where she was full time and I was freelancing a couple of days a week. Although we weren’t immediately “friends” as such, there was, I think, some kind of instant bond: I felt fiercely protective of her and she frequently confided in me. Over time, our support of one another moved beyond chat of tricky clients and looming deadlines; she read a piece I’d written, in which I touched upon some mental health issues, and told me how much it had resonated. One might think that the 23-year age gap would mean that I’d counsel her, but it’s far more reciprocal than that: what it actually means is that we each have someone we can talk to with complete candour when the black dog descends.
I’ve mulled over whether I speak with her in a way that’s different from how I speak with friends my own age, but I don’t think I do. Inevitably, there is less focus on my three children than there might be with one of my “parent” friends, but she never fails to ask after them and to delight in hearing about what they’ve been up to. I adore hearing Georgie’s tales of work, life, friends and dating and she, for her part, loves hearing about my misspent youth; lived in an almost unthinkable time before apps and social media.
It’s not all old lady ramblings of “I remember when…”; I also confide in her about how my life is right now. About the highs and lows of marriage and parenting; the instability of freelancing; the anxiety around living on the other side of the world from ageing parents during a pandemic. You might expect that these would be completely foreign and unfathomable to her, yet her insights are always spot on, her advice always sound and her support always unwavering.
I asked Georgie for her take on all of this and her words have just about reduced me to tears (“I got a bit teary myself, LOL” she replied when I told her so). Here’s what she said:
“My relationship with Sarah is unlike any of my other friendships. Most people find our age gap unusual, but it never crosses my mind until they point it out, because when I am with Sarah I feel like we are mirrors of one another. She feels like a sister, a mother, and a best friend all wrapped up in one. She makes me feel safe and comfortable and provides me with a perspective and outlook on life that I lack from lived experience; she shows up for me when life gets messy. But she also makes me feel optimistic and hopeful about life and love whilst giggling away with me over wine, and screaming lyrics in a mosh pit at a Vaccines concert. She is the first person I send a voice note to, whether on the boring or dramatic parts of my day. I value her opinion and loyalty, and cherish her sass, humour and humility. We may be apart in age, but we are closer in our bond of friendship than many people get to experience in a lifetime.”
When Georgie gets to my age, I’ll be 71 – and I genuinely believe we’ll be laughing together as much ever. As she often says, “Here’s to forever, babes.”