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My world of virtual friends: Yours, mine and ours
There was a time when you dated that boy in college, went on to do your Master's program or MBA together, got nostalgic about Kishore Kumar songs with the same boy, had common friends, and hung out and went on treks and picnics with the same circle of friends. A few years later, you married the same boy, your friends stayed the same, some of them ended up marrying within the group, and the incestuous circle of friendship was set in stone. Your friends and his friends became 'our friends'. Forever.
But there is another world. A world equally inhabited, where you and 'your friends' can't stand 'his friends', leave alone coalescing to become 'our friends'. Where marriage changes the friendship dynamics, some for better, some for worse, and some, well, for no fixed reason or purpose.
Marrying someone quite often means marrying their friends. Sabina, 29, mother of two, married to Cherian MJ, 29, someone she knew from school, is very pragmatic about friendships after marriage. "I remember watching an episode of Desperate Housewives on the theme of obligations. We all have our obligations, and be it to our children, spouses or to the world in general we sometimes have to suck it all in and brave on. "
In their four-year marriage, his friends have been many, hers few, 'theirs' even fewer. "Luckily his friends are not obnoxious, mine are hardly around (physically) and ours are also dealt with in tiny numbers each time, so it's not too bad. The obligatory meetings are there but really very bearable, considering work and kids have overtaken the better part of life right now. "
According to Sabina, "The frequency of making friends may be related to age, and whether we are done making new (true) friends. " After marriage, she believes, there are just too many criteria that we filter a new person through before they pass the 'now a friend of ours' test. New couple friends have to pass four tests - one each from each spouse, making it quite a complex entrance exam.
Ashwin Mushran (39) and Rebecca Vaz (27), married three years, have a pretty harmonious friends-post-marriage story. Of course, their relationship had to pass the 'salsa test' for her to be included in his inner circle (his salsa group). An actor, model and salsa performer, he had a huge circle of salsa friends who he wanted her to get along with. The fact that she took to the dance form like a fish to water made the transition from 'his' to 'ours' easier. Interestingly, Mushran didn't have to pass any test among Vaz's friends.
"Having moved around all my life - living in Bombay, moving to boarding school at Doon, college in Delhi, acting school in London - I have always had to make new friends, " says Mushran. "When I came back to Bombay, I knew no one, just my sister and brother-in-law who lived here. I had to start all over again. Most of my new friends were people I met at salsa practice, " he adds. For Rebecca, who has always been a Bandra girl, friends fell into different groups - there's school friends, Bandra friends, college group, Air India group (where she worked) and now the salsa group too. She meets all of them separately, and the only time the various groups converged was at her wedding.
There is the obligatory showing up for the spouse's friend's thing, but they still do enough time with their own friends. On Wednesday nights, when he is at salsa, she meets her friends, either the girlie bunch or the airline bunch that he is not a part of. "I also end up hanging out with my male buddies when he is travelling and I am often asked if I have taken my husband's permission, " she laughs.
Ritika (43) and Anup (46), married 17 years, have done friendships in phases. They married right out of college;friends then were still good old school and college buddies. Post marriage they left the cities they were comfortable with (she Bombay, and he Delhi) and went to Bangalore, where neither knew anyone.
"It was also the phase where you couldn't keep your hands off each other so friends really didn't matter, " says Ritika. "After two years we were back - probably the best phase for friendship. He has always been more of an introvert, so it was easier for me to make friends with his friends than the other way around. So his best friend/wife and we were a foursome;we did all the fun things people do in groups: impromptu bizarre holidays, the whole pub, movies, eating out, plays, shows circuit, " she adds. She did lose out on her single friends in that time, who were in a different place, looking for a partner and sometimes irritated with her group, who they had nothing in common with.
Post having a child, things changed even more. "Our new friends now are people who have kids who are my daughter's friends. We are older parents, so this lot of friends are younger, newer, more of our building gang, those she plays with in the evenings, and school parents. I've now re-connected with my single school and college friends who did their rounds and are now more secure in being single. "
And what happens to a man's female friends post marriage? Or a woman's male friends? Like Sabina says, "For a woman, after marriage new guy friends will be fewer by default but new girl friends will not be too easy either, unless you have a hot single brother/male friend. "
Alok and Vishakha have been married 15 years and he still feels that she hates all his female friends. "She thinks they lust after me. If they are ugly, then it's cool. Otherwise she hates them with a vengeance. I usually end up deleting all texts and BBMs from my female friends, " he says. He does have some male friends, but he usually has to drag her to dinners, else she couldn't be bothered. "Though once she goes there, she is absolutely social. " She feels no desire for him to hang with her friends, says Alok. Otherwise, they have a perfect marriage, are very compatible and aligned on family, food, investments and material possessions. But as far as friends go, it's mostly to each, his/her own. No pressure.
With people marrying later and much outside their comfort zones, adopting the other's friends becomes a challenging, sometimes daunting, and sometimes plain irritating prospect. You also realise that while the 20s are about making friends, the 30s and the 40s are about keeping them and weeding out what you cannot handle. In Ritika's words, "I think this is a stage where we're too old and too exhausted to make new friends and it's about going back to the ones we had and holding onto them. "
Yes, friendship takes work, more so when you are married, and even more so when you get older. Like Mushran says, "It's now easier to be in touch with Facebook, BBM and all that, but you still have to make a genuine effort to stay connected with friends. "
But then, actually liking his/her friend is not as easy as clicking 'like' on Facebook.
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