The Dissolution of the Fellowship of Friends

19 Comments

There’s something I have observed in most of my guy friends. As soon as they get married, they sever all links with old college buddies with a vengeance that borders on the obscene. The train of events is almost always the same — a gradual process of successively decreasing phone calls, unreplied voice messages, “inability” to attend reunions until ultimately the increasingly-getting-small group of friends get the message— our old friend is out for good.

A word about our group. It is an exclusively male clan of about 20-30 core members of the 55 odd who went to college together and who have kept in regular touch through email and reunions organized in US and in India.

Lest this be interpreted as a bachelor’s inability to understand the nuances of married life, let me say that I am married myself. I am aware of the constraints of married men— I took my wife to a reunion over a long weekend, ostensibly to “integrate” her with my buddies and my past.

Being the only wife there (the other married friends had begged off) and not having been part of the collective JU ethos, she stood out disparate from the crowd. Now what was I to do? Keep my wife company and in the process detach myself from the rambunctious core? That would defeat the whole purpose of coming to the reunion.

Plus my friends would think I am henpecked—-now that’s an unmitigated disaster.

Adding to the discomfort level, I could see that there was a visible effort on the part of my friends to keep control over their tongues and appear “agreeable” because of my wife’s presence there.

Of course, my friends telling me, in front of my wife: ” Wow Arnab, you are acting so nice and decent now that your wife is here” did not help matters any. Which incidentally was true—I was being forced to act “responsible”—-a role that does not suit me well.

However, I never felt on the basis of this experience that I would have to detach myself from my friends in the future—the only thing I might do would be maybe not bring my wife till there is a considerable number of other wives there also. And my wife is fine with me going alone to successive reunions—if they ever happen again (which I doubt)

Which brings me to the original question—-what happened to my other married friends? The ones who had some excuse or the other to not attend the reunion, the ones who after marriage have fallen behind an Iron Curtain.

An immediate temptation is to blame the wives for detaching the man from his tribe. I shall not succumb to it. Mainly because my wife is standing over my shoulder as I write.

It’s all the guys fault. Like most things. For starters, for some strange reasons I find my friends overtly eager to bury their pasts in front of their wives. It’s not that they led a Hugh Hefner swinging life in their youth —-the indiscretions they want to cover up are things like they watched porn, ogled girls at the Arts gate, got drunk and talked nonsense. And that’s why they want to firewall their friends from their wives.

There is another reason. In order to appear as heroes to their better halves, they embellish parts of their past and gloss over the others. And as friends we feel obligated to speak the truth—or at least our version of it. The conflict is inevitable.

Which brings us to another reason we lose friends. We are a most politically incorrect bunch of people and are loathe to consider sissy things like “feelings”. Even now in reunions, we try to revive old times by reverting to our juvenile selves–practical jokes galore, old secrets revealed left and right. This many married people find more than a bit uncomfortable.While in college, it would have been okay to be dubbed as Mr Gay, Mr Frustrated, Mr. Desperate, Mr. Palm Pilot, Mr. Porno, Mr Sneaky, as mature married men, in front of their wives it is cruel and unusual punishment to be called these names and be reminded of the incidents that led to these monikers.

Wives also react poorly to this. They tell their husbands—“These are whom you call friends? They are a uncouth bunch of people who make fun of you–you are just the class clown. On the other hand, my friends……”

Not far from the truth there. And husbands see their friends in a new light.

The ultimate truth may however be a very bitter realization—that we were never really “friends” in the first place or perhaps not as much as we liked to believe—-our camaraderie was merely based on the loneliness of our post-college life away from home and for most of us in a different country. Our friend circle from college was thus an anchor to our past—something that we clutched to in order to alleviate our isolation. But once wives come in, the lacuna is filled up, the friends from college are no longer “needed”, and people just move on.

Aaah well. That’s life.

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19 thoughts on “The Dissolution of the Fellowship of Friends

  1. i can c where this comes frm, for guys are uncivilized whatvers, who guzzle and gorge, have fun, hang outside many places just to catch a glimpse of girls, and smoke their grass (some do). and they do like to have their laughs and masti, may not b parliamentary or in concurrence with a girl’s view but for them, its a way of life, being rowdy that is

    i once went with a girl to meet some guys at a booze party, and she told me how gawaar they were, and urs truly promptly told her to mind her own business. for buddies are meant to be rowdy and not a case study for some psycho nutjob.

    but since u r married, the variables are different

  2. Dude…I am touched by your post. No it hasnt had the intended effect on me I guess :).I can see you are missing your buddies, and buddiehood, and the carelessly ‘beered’ evenings/nights,the late mornings, the picture that you guard with your life in which you are sitting right next to the completely oblivious pretty girl (Mita dont look at me funny!),and ofcourse the cherry on top -the late night ‘bonding’ sessions with the elite members of K1154.(I will leave it you to educate your other readers about ‘K1154’).
    I am listening to U2 right now..and couldnt agree more..”All that you cant leave Behind”.
    By the way, you forgot me!!Or do I count in the exclusive guy group now?

  3. The interesting is, Sri (the husband) didn’t realize how rowdy women could get till he saw me with my friends, (As opposed to meeting his set of female friends). I on the other hand thought of men as only rowdy, as opposed to some of his friends who are gentle creatures and now come to me for relationship advice! (That’s a laugh!!)

    Even now, his friends from under-grad don’t think twice before dropping in and pitching tent in our home over weekends. And with some of them, I am their first friend, with Sri having taken the second place.

    But there is a lot of truth in what you say. I find it uncomfortable to be with say more than 10 of his friends at the same time. Usually it is fun, but after a while the talk gets so rowdy, that I can’t help but be rowdy myself. And most men are judgemental. A woman (esp someone who is . ahem.. a wife) must never cross that delicate boundary. The lashback otherwise is too severe.

    And now, when I push that man out of the house to go for a reunion.. he refuses and says he’d rather go out for a walk. I think you just opened a window into his mind!
    🙂

  4. Its probably just that they feel that now that they are married their lives have changed? i see this with most of my friends … some ive had from nursery … stayed together thru changes in school / paara / career … but it cant bridge the marraige divide.

    Also, probably these guys are apprehensive abt exposing a new, diff side of themselves to their (relatively new) spouse – cz they are nor sure how it will be greeted?

    they are worried that the spouse will be bored and they will have to spend so much energy taking care of them that they’d rather not go 🙂

    JU? Which batch?

  5. @almost_useless: Yes marriage is different because it is expected that the social unit becomes “we” rather than me.

    @Bubbled: I am glad to have gotten you senti and all. I am missing my friends esp the ones who got married and dont even bother returning calls….and oh when did I know or get pictures taken with any pretty girl? No no never…;-)

    No Bubbled it would be very diff to consider you as a part of the guy group considering the jhakaas pic you have put in your profile….

    @Neha: Yes 2 very important points you raised:

    1) The number of people is very important—once it becomes a mob the comfort factor goes down….

    2) Most guys are worse than a group of knitting old aunties in the sense that they judge other people’s wives and lay down certain strict (yet ambigous) moral guidelines to which it is very difficult for wives to live upto:

    Be reticent and she is “stand-offish, a snob and introvert”

    Be talkative and she is an ” attention-hogging irritant” and possibly “flirty” (that is the worst).

    It’s tough for both the guy and the girl…true.

    However it is still possible, I believe, to maintain friendships after marriage and I, as a married man with the support of my wife, fully intend to keep it.

    @Prerona: As you said, guys are very much afraid of their wives discovering “new sides” of them—and I wonder why that is the case….cause its not that my friends have any major secrets to hide.

    I am JU Comp. Sc and Engg…1999 batch. And you?

  6. Shundor post. I mailed it to my non-blogger hubby (a JU Arts alumnus, amra prochuur buro, so cutting the year out!!)and he had this to say: Nice article. I think the last point is the most correct of the lot, though the others are applicable too – in differing degrees for different people.

  7. I’m 99 batch comp sc too but not JU – Pune University (Cummins College)

    Had some friends in JU but not our batch. About a year senior!

    Its not about having secrets. Its just that its a nice and diff side of you, usually, and you’re not really sure how she will take it.

    Amaar toh aar bou nei – toh amaake guess korte hochhe 🙂

  8. your last point, i think, is the most valid. you aren’t really friends to begin with. just long term acquaintances thrown together. besides, huge groups don’t work anyway, ’cause in a big diverse group, the only thing everyone has in common is a rowdy sense of fun. or so i’ve observed.

    and do you really need to keep the booze/grass/girls/porn under wraps? isn’t it an automatic assumption that everybody does some or all of that in college? kinda dumb, to sush the obvious.

    but i totally think that old friends should be met separately. this “couples invited” thing doesn’t work. not really.

  9. I think your last point is the most valid one. That is a host of students with different backgrounds, different standards of morals thrown in together for the purpose of studies. Pursuing that goal is the common thread which disappears after the study is over. In the university/college the students have different levels of excellence which is generally according to the competence of the students and that is accepted within the student community as fact (although some level of jealousy exists). But in life the standard of success which is usually measured in money earned is not always according to the competency of the person – it depends very much on the luck factor. That creates the divide/jealousy. Another yardstick of success in life is how well off/well groomed/beautiful is your spouse – the standards for husbands and wives obviously being different. With different backgrounds, different standards of morals the standards of success for spouses set by different ‘friend’ are also varied. So the conflict amongst ‘friends’. There is another point of jealousy which crops up when the ‘friend’ becomes more friendly(not in any bad sense) with the spouse than the old friend. Also this notion of being goody goody prior to ones married life definitely comes from conservative background with traditionalist morality.

    The time tested (although I personally don’t like it) method of keeping friendship alive and thriving is to have reunions/get togethers minus the spouses. I suppose you just have to learn through your own experiences.

  10. GEORGE: Ah you have no idea of the magnitude of this thing. If she is
    allowed to infiltrate this world, then George Costanza as you know him, Ceases to Exist! You see, right now, I have Relationship George, but
    there is also Independent George. That’s the George you know, the
    George you grew up with — Movie George, Coffee shop George, Liar
    George, Bawdy George.

    JERRY: I, I love that George.

    GEORGE: Me Too! And he’s Dying Jerry! If Relationship George walks
    through this door, he will Kill Independent George! A George, divided against itself, Cannot Stand!

  11. @Priya: Yes the last point, by common consent, seems to be the real reason. Which is quite disquieting because we “really” thought of us as friends for life.

    @Prerona: Well even if I dont know how she will take it, am I not obligated, for the sake of full disclosure, to show her that too?

    @Rimi: Evidently it is not an automatic assumption for most. And what pisses me off is that in order to appear goody goody to their wives, friends of mine will tell them—it was not my fault, so-and-so friend “made me do it”….booh hoo….

    @Yourfan: Right on the ball there ! Its something I did not mention in the post but I totaly agree. There is some amount of implied competition as to whose wife is the “best” though I would not like to accept that I have ever engaged in it myself.

    @Gawker: :-)….trust Larry David to be brilliant…

  12. theres no obligation in ‘love’ 🙂
    yeah – i know what you mean – not arguing with that just trying to say this is why it might spook u and u might put it off

  13. It doesnt even need getting married..most ppl start behaving this way right after college and blame the lack of time, on the job, as if everybody else earns their money just sitting at home. It truly is the reason you penned in your last para. People just move on. They meet new people who they call best friends now, new social circles and new activities along with new activity groups. ‘Old’ friends are left far behind as if they never *were* friends.

  14. @Prerona, no obligation in love…aha if that wasnt merely an ideal !

    @Twilight Fairy, Yes there were friends who immediately stopped communicating after we graduated and those I understood. There were others who stood by for over 5 years—showing genuine affection, rushing to a friend’s place at short notice, extremely pro-active in reunions and then they got married and whooosh in a flash, they dont recognize us any more.

  15. I guess with your wife standing behind your back your post is understandable;)
    You’re talking of your gang alone..
    When compared to gals I don’t think the attrition rate from guy gangs is so bad…
    If guys have a problem with being called names in front of their wives. How would gals feel being called names in front of their husbands?
    Really yours is a biased view… But then it’s your BLOG your view

    Nice Post anyway!

  16. @Prahalathan,

    None of us call our friends “names”…..and though your experience may be different (I do not know if you are married yet) what I have detailed is not something that is unique in any way to our batch or our educational context——because I have heard the same crib from people from diverse educational backgrounds.

  17. Good article. But I must add its only one side of the story. Guys being embarrassed, hesitant to let their ‘precious-halves’ meet their friends , for fear of being exposed as not-so-smart-n-shareef-after-all.All this is because of a myth that girls are the ‘dignified’ species. Here’s some news [ for those who didn’t know !].One should see the dirt that girls indulge in.I leave it to your imaginaion-and its all true too !

    Rather than feeling embarrassed , guys would then feel hesitant and suspicious taking their ‘better’-halves out !

    -X

  18. Well, this article brings me to post some facts. I’m also a married good old friend of your’s, or were I really a friend? Marriage do definitely pull apart friends of long time, but I think the main reason is official responsibilities. Otherwise how will you explain that there are 3 guys in Delhi, who are there for close to 2 yrs, who once used to be friends, all of them bachelors, but none has met the others. But I do agree that there are some, who probably want to avoid old buddies.

  19. i wish more and more wives read this…
    Regarding this topic, I think that after marriage, the male psychology works in either of the 2 ways: 1)the males become a little confused as to how to keep on impressing their wives all their life (compounded by the wife’s will for the same) and thus ending up sheilding their wives from the past or 2) they become so indifferent to the already-made-mundane-marriage-life (also partly contributed by the wife) that they forget the pleasure of reviving the camaredrie, spontaneity and the celebration of a time friends grew up together and after so many years, have a good laugh; being a wife, let me tell you that all wives would like to see that too and it would be refreshing. But if you are lucky to marry a friend (husband or wife), then all these possible thoughts for not attending the reunion shouldnt have been there at the first place.

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