I had a conversation with my wife about friendships. We are in our mid-40s. In our lifetimes we’ve accumulated lots of friends, acquaintances and business associates. While time has marched on and all those friends are now family units with steady jobs, two cars and children to run to soccer practice, dance lessons or birthday parties, we have less in common with most of them than when we were all single and available to meet after work for dinner or have a late night drink at a bar or club.
We’re proud of our friends who have families and enjoy hearing about their children. The life events. The celebrations. And, at times, the mishaps. We know if we had children same age as theirs, we would travel in similar circles and we’d probably see them more often. I’d be at basketball and practice or music lessons. Missy would be at an international event or traveling with a group of parents and teens to a foreign land for cultural immersion.
My wife and I found each other later in life. We met on Match.com. She lived 60 miles from NYC. I was in Brooklyn. She was looking for someone far more creative and passionate than an accountant or stock broker . I was looking for someone with a stable life, career and an interest in arts and culture. We were in our late 30’s when we met. We worked on having children, but things didn’t pan out for us like they have for many of our friends. That has forced upon us the decision to look for another way to start a family. We chose adoption. The adoption process can take some time and the Open Adoption process can take even longer as we wait for a birthmother and birthfather to choose us, instead of being the next number in line.
As our friends families grew, our close friendships seem to have shrunk. Our friends have busy lives. Everyone is working one or two jobs to pay the rent or mortgage and absorb the high costs of living we have all found ourselves facing.
In a New York Times column, Friends of a Certain Age: Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?, Alex Williams writes:
Our story is not unusual. In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.
As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.
No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.
Each time we are invited to a party or event we’re invited to, the alcohol is in abundance. We want to meet new friends, but we meet a lot of couples who enjoy a bottle (or two…or three) of wine and more beer in one sitting than I might drink in a year. That’s the conundrum.
We want to be invited to these events, but we can’t eat processed foods (since we’re generally gluten-free and organic) and we don’t drink a lot. I have Type 2 Diabetes, so gluten so the sugar in wine and wheat in bear is probably something I should stay away from. Since we’ve been here in Cuenca for 1 month and 3 weeks, I may have had a total of four bottles of the local Pilsener brand of beer, a few glasses of wine and a half a glass of champagne. On New Years Eve (12/31/2013), we went out to a party and found people our parents age smoking weed and drinking a good deal of wine, champagne and beer. Of course, that’s fine. I’m not in a position to tell other people how to enjoy their lives, it’s just more difficult for us to enjoy the company of others when they are imbibing to the point that their words are not as cautious and their actions are a bit over the top.
But not drinking has changed my relationships. In the same way that people hate dieters — especially those who lose weight — they hate people who no longer get drunk. Try as I might to point out that it’s a personal decision, there are those who seem utterly affronted. Incapable of accepting that Diet Coke is my limit, they have stopped inviting me anywhere.
While I don’t want to judge others, my wife is not comfortable with people who drink to be social. She’d rather be discussing global initiatives over tea at a café. Of course, in a world where alcohol is in abundance and people use it to break down their social inhibitions, those conversations are fewer and further between, so we have to tolerate certain behavior and the social ills that come with them and see people for who they are when they don’t have a beer or glass of wine in their hands.
Our goal is to make lasting, lifelong friendships with interesting people who do amazing things that inspire us. We understand people enjoy their wine and beer, we’re just looking for friends in our lives who do drink, but drink to enjoy the taste of liquor or beer and not because they need it to be friendly. It’s hard enough to make friends as one gets older. It’s made more difficult when too much alcohol is involved.
What do you think about drinking and friendships? How do you look at drinking over 30? Over 40? Or, over 50? Do you feel pressure to drink, because everyone else is or because it’s hard to make friends if you don’t?