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.