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Friendless at 40
Seven years ago, Lopa Das, 30, found herself on what seemed like an emotional island. She had just had a baby, quit her job as a content executive in a dotcom and was playing a 24X7 stay-athome mum. Her colleagues envied the fact that she could be home to tend to the family, bake apple muffins and ginger pies and cuddle her newborn.
The reality, however, was different. Lopa, a career woman all her adult life, was struggling to cope with domesticity. To make matters worse, she was in a new town with no friends for support and a banker husband often worked late hours. Of course, the wailing of the newborn and the incessant demands of motherhood were not easy to deal with either. Apart from phone calls and Facebook chats, her social life had come to standstill.
Lopa was beginning to realise a hard fact of life - as you get older, it is tough to make friends. "When I was younger, I could make friends with just about anyone and have a good time. Now, I find that all the mums I meet talk only about their children and homes. I certainly can't stand discussing these subjects for hours. I just can't connect with new faces any more. With age, I've also become fastidious about my likes and dislikes so I don't get along with just anyone, " she says.
Lopa is not alone. There are many like her today - professionals and homebirds, past their 30s, living far from family and old friends - who find it difficult to start afresh on friendships.
Cari Shane Parven, a 42-year-old former television reporter, based in Potomac, Maryland, has detailed this angst in her essay Finding Friends at Forty in the book Knowing Pains. It talks about her quest for companionship and how when she turned 40 recently, she found she had no good friends to celebrate with. She says that her 20s were about finding love, 30s were about staying home to raise kids, but then came the 40s and she found herself alone and friendless.
Social networking is a great way to combat loneliness but it clearly cannot fill in for another human being. Neel Mohan, 41, lawyer, whose divorce from his wife of five years recently came through, moved recently to Noida from Chittaranjan Park. "I wanted to forget my old life. But now my social life is nearly extinct. People I hung out with earlier were friends with my wife too, so dealing with them has become rather awkward. I've been trying to connect with people I meet on my early morning jogs or at the gym, but it's getting tougher, " he says.
According to psychologists, as we grow older, we become more judgmental and highly picky about who we befriend. The kind of easy spontaneity with which we made friends in our childhood is hard to summon in adult life. "Our childhood friendships are decided by proximity, age, gender, play and so on. We are more willing to explore and experiment at that age. But, as adults, all of us have gone through multiple good and bad experiences which affect our perceptions about life and people. We are less flexible and tend to easily reject people. With married people, making friends depends upon the spouse's choice and participation. In therapy sessions itself, so many people tell us that they had to discontinue their old friendships or can't make new friends because of their spouses. A person's own insecurities are also responsible for blocking new friendships after a certain age. The fear of being judged is very high. Friendships also become more gender specific as we grow older, " says Rakhi Anand, Clinical Psychologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.
Experts point out that friendships need to be nurtured with time and effort and this is not easy past a certain stage in life. Explains Delhi-based Dr Megha Hazuria Gore, clinical psychologist, "Most people find their comfort zone in work, family, self and social relationships by around 35-40 years of age and don't see the need to venture out of this comfort zone to explore or subject themselves to different experiences. "
Kahani Jain, 39, an interior decorator, says she misses the simple friendships of her childhood. "At this age, it could be about socialising with people simply because they are your neighbours, parents of your children's friends or even business associates. There's a lot of money/status talk thrown in. Genuine friendships where you can laugh, connect, bond, talk about your common likes and dislikes are harder to find, " she says.
Anima Sen, 40, a freelance designer and a mother of two, is tired of the FWB (Friends With Benefits) syndrome. "Your kids' friends' parents, your spouse's boss who you need to impress, your kid's teacher... there's always an agenda. " She should know. She and her new-found friends who had discovered each other two years back and were seemingly thick with coffee and lunch and kids dates, have drifted apart because the kids don't want to play with each other anymore. FWBs definitely!
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