Do we stop making friends after a certain age?
It’s said that as we grow older we find it tougher to make new friends. Some even believe that our best (and last) friendships are formed in high school and if we’re lucky then during the university days. Once we get a job, it’s downhill when it comes to friendships. Do you feel so too? Is there a certain age or stage in life, when we consciously or otherwise stop making new friends? Often, I keep going back to the words of a friend from college — 'When people settle down there are not many real-life situations that crop up, especially of the sorts you can share and bond over.' Is that why friendships get tricky beyond a certain age? No wonder, friendships during adulthood intrigue me. Do they do that to you, as well? Just like any other expat, upon landing in Dubai I lived in a friendless zone for a while. I’d tell my ‘friends’ over Skype how making new friends seemed like a chore. It required of me to start from scratch – familiarising the ‘new’ people with my kind of weekend activities, hobbies, favourite foods, et al. Plus, adults are both quick to judge and cynical – so I was careful about how much to disclose in the first few meetings. And keeping the guard up and forming friendships don’t go hand in hand. Four years later, do I have friends in this foreign land? Yes, I do. It required me to go beyond small talk, initiate plans, and stay patient. I’ve befriended a neighbour — we smile at each other in the elevator, we know each other’s work timings, and she makes lovely Pad Thai. I am also a member of various poetry and writing Meet Ups – I meet these friends, once a month. They fit well in my creative friend zone. Add to it – I have friends, with whom I do theatre. We spend weeks together, both rehearsing and having a good time. We bid each other goodbye until we schedule our next production. Then there are gatherings with colleagues, husband's colleagues, and occasional parties where everyone is invited. Fortunately, in the list, they're a few friends, who can be labelled as we 'clicked instantly' too. We enjoy each other’s company. My friends keep me socially occupied and happy. With some, I’ve crossed the judgement barrier too. I’d say I’ve done a good job and building my circle. Yet, our conversations do lack a certain sparkle. I miss starting to narrate a tale from the hostel days and then sit back and let someone else complete it for me. Perhaps, with time, my new friends and I’d be able to fill in the blanks, and we’d no longer be transient friends. Of course, I’d have to work harder. For, whilst during my growing up years there were designated time slots for nurturing friendships (think: playdates, birthdays, college trips, canteen time), things are quite different now. All of us have jobs, children, vacations, and need me-time. Yes, the situation is tricky, but then I refuse to accept that my time for making 'forever' friends is up. Plus, research backs up my faith — we replace half our close friends every seven years, even into our 60s! I have time in hand and am willing to work towards forming a few friendships that I will not replace.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.