Make New Friends, But Keep The Old: Silver and Gold

Silver and Gold


“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.”

That bit of childhood wisdom has stuck with me. I’m such a literalist that I spent years wondering – which was which? are the new friends the “silver” and the old ones the “gold?” or is it vice-versa?  Who knows? The older I get, the more I value both kinds of friends.

Let’s call new friends the “silver” ones –  like my writer’s group.

I met these five women in 2014 at a class we took together. Different ages, varying backgrounds, but connective tissue among us in our similar approaches to life. Laugh at the funny parts, laugh harder at the tragic parts. Growing older with our imperfect husbands and trying to stay connected to our teen and adult children who make us wonder or worry, sometimes simultaneously.

Through the essays and stories we’ve written and shared with each other every month when we get together, we’ve learned about each others’ pasts – to a point. These women, wonderful as they are, didn’t know me when I was an uncoordinated eight year old with a fondness for meteorology and the nickname of  “nimbus” (SEE: clouds). Nor had they met me as a young married women going through rocky times when my mom died, or as a working mom who once forgot to pick up a child after a late day school activity.  As I did not know them through their passages of life.

Friendships are different when you bond together as fully grown adults.

I recently shared with my writer friends a short story I wrote about an episode in my working mom/lawyer life of which I am not particularly proud. I called it “fiction” but it was – pretty obviously –  based on a personal experience. It was painful to write – and even more painful to hear their responses.

One of them said: “I admire your story because it shows you have layers to your personality that I didn’t know you had.”

She didn’t know that? Do I come across as a superficial person? That was my first thought.  Sure I tell jokes and laugh a lot and try not to take myself seriously. That’s the glossy part you see on top when you first meet me. I’m not like that all the way through. Underneath is the part this new “silver” friend doesn’t know (yet?) about me. That I have inner layers. Layers that get peeled off in years of friendship that we haven’t yet had.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend in the “gold” category.

Caroline is a person I met in a birth education class while pregnant with our first children, born three days apart. Turned out we had graduated from the same all-women’s college, then gone to the same international relations graduate school, where we had met our respective husbands – who also bonded during our shared birth education class by paying as little attention as possible to the instructor’s exhortations to have us take cleansing breaths in unison.

Caroline knows my “layers” and I know hers. Not all of them. But enough so that she understands why I had such a hard time yesterday at lunch talking about getting our house ready to put up for sale. How unsettling it is. How I don’t do transitions well. Living in one house for 33 years is a pretty good indicator of being someone who does not handle change well.

With “gold” friends, you don’t need to explain yourself. They know all your foibles, all your less than desirable attributes and they’ve decided they can deal with them. Maybe not admire your flaws, but accept them.

With my newer “silver” friends, we are still getting to know each other. It’s more challenging when we are in our 50’s and ’60’s to open ourselves up to someone new. What if they don’t like what they see, as we peel the layers back on our personalities? We don’t have a shared history of friendship to fall back on. They could decide I’m not as fun as I seemed to be when they first met me – that I have quirks they can’t accept. What then?

It’s worth the risk. Treasuring the “gold” ones while hoping that my “silver” friends become “gold”.





Filed under Aging, Female Friends, friendship, Midlife, Moms, Women, Working Moms, Writing

8 responses to “Make New Friends, But Keep The Old: Silver and Gold

  1. Hinda M. Wolf

    Nancy—I love your essays. You are truly talented. I admire the extent of your writing. In my writing group, I struggle to find what to write about, but I’ll keep trying. Hinda


  2. Ruth Ann Castillo

    I enjoyed the post And am honored to be a silver friend of yours! The friendships from the writing group have been like a lifesaver right now in this strangely chaotic time. Thanks for the friendship nancy!

    Sent from my iPhone



  3. I love this Nancy! My girlfriends are very important to me and yes those Gold ones are treasures. It is important to make new friends and cultivate Silver ones. I lost a Gold friend this year and the void in my life and heart is still raw. I remember my Dad talking about going out to play golf with his ‘B’ friends because all his ‘A’ friends had died. His Silver Friends got upgraded by choice or default.


  4. Funny about friendships…One of my friends told me that friends are either forever, or, they’re here for a season, or a reason. For the latter, a case in point is the nanny I befriended when I first moved her in 2002. Her “charges” were about the same age as my daughter so we bonded that way, going to tons of playground dates, lunches, etc. Even though she came to my wedding and we shared SO much together, we lost contact once she was no longer needed for the job and the respective kiddos just got older. My best friend lives thousands of miles away… we are the same age, with our birthdays just a few days apart. We first met in the mid-1990s: I’ve seen her two sons grow, she was with me all of the way in my journey to motherhood as an adoptive mom, and she was matron of honor at my wedding. Whenever we talk, which can sometimes not happen for months, we just pick up where we left off. 🙂


  5. I love your analysis of the differences between silver and gold.


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