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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

Humour: Confirm or deny? Making friends in your 30s and 40s is harder than you think!

Post 20s, you start losing old friends to time, circumstance and ideology.

brunch Updated: Oct 21, 2018 18:50 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
The latter-day friendship can be light and inventive, and it doesn’t have to go anywhere
The latter-day friendship can be light and inventive, and it doesn’t have to go anywhere(Photo Imaging: Parth Garg )

“When you’re in your 30s, it’s very hard to make a new friend. Whatever the group is that you’ve got now, that’s who you’re going with. You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any new people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications. They don’t know the places. They don’t know the food. They don’t know the activities.” So said Jerry Seinfeld in a 1992 episode of his iconic TV show. Now that I’m bewilderingly, lamentably part of this demographic myself, I wonder how far the comic’s words ring true. My first response is, “No! I’ve made plenty of new friends this decade.” But a wider look yields fascinating results.

The party ethic

(Note to self: Look up ‘fascinating’ in the dictionary.) Parties are great places to meet new people. To wear that long-neglected red scarf, test a joke, allow yourself a chip binge. But when you’re a 30 or 40-something, Wendy Cope’s astute words from Being Boring come to mind.

“I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for,

If you don’t need to find a new lover?

You drink and you listen and drink a bit more

And you take the next day to recover.”

In my 20s, a punch bowl was a portal to heaven. These days I go into raptures over a nimbu pani spiked with rock salt. Hangovers have long lost their status as badges of honour. And I’m one of the sociable ones. I have friends who stand in corners, communing with their whisky glasses rather than any sentient being. Small talk between new acquaintances has petered down to microscopic exchanges. “Nice dip.” “Thanks.” “Chives?” “Yes.” “Oh.” The only real conversations take place between “primary” friends who’ve met way before hitting that age which is a seeming lakshman rekha for new friendships.

Phoney friends

It can get a bit sad, actually. You get WhatsApp messages from people you’ve met fleetingly, or not at all. You never thought the numbers you’d exchanged would ever come into use. And yet there’s that expectant “Hello!” one Wednesday afternoon trying to firm up a plan for Saturday. There’s nothing wrong with making the first move, but it’s getting harder to respond to these friendly missives. Is the effort worth it? is the question that troubles. You have your inner circle of “real” friends. And a nebulous outer circle of “occasional”, or “accessible” friends. To admit a new entrant is no small matter. “You’re not interviewing, you’re not looking at any new people, you’re not interested in seeing any applications,” Seinfeld repeats in your ear. You leave the message unanswered.

Unlike your all-knowing older friends, the newer ones don’t make tiresome claims rooted in the past

And it’s not just one-way traffic. While being courted by the friendly newcomer, you’re being ignored or sussed out by that would-be friend you’re chasing yourself. Facebook makes it even harder. You’re happy to issue the social-media permit, but it’s the conversion from virtual to real-world friend that’s the challenge. Worst of all? Meeting in life the person whose Facebook friend request you’ve studiously ignored for years.

Virtual upgrade

The odds are stacked against it, but it still happens, of course. That rare upgrade from Facebook to WhatsApp to keema pav and chai. Unlike your all-knowing older friends, these newer ones don’t make tiresome claims rooted in the past. You can’t be ragged about that college haircut. Or held up to unrepeatable standards. It can be light and inventive, the latter-day friendship. And it doesn’t have to go anywhere. The friendly contract is less binding. Big words like “loyalty”, “support” and “understanding” are not what maintain this relationship. “I’m outside your building, care to step out for a bhutta?” is more the mood of the moment.

One unfortunate fallout of the post-20s decades is you start losing old friends, to time, to circumstance or ideology. Some you dropped because it became too laboured. Some dropped you because they didn’t want to discuss funeral rites, or Schopenhauer, as much as you thought they did. (You know who you are.) Thankfully, there’s the prospect of new acquaintances, fresh possibilities. It can be strangely liberating that “they don’t know the activities.”

From HT Brunch, October 21, 2018

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First Published: Oct 20, 2018 23:44 IST