I went to a party last night and got talking to a woman who was about my age, divorced with grown up children. Outgoing, attractive and fun, she made an admission that was as frank as it was poignant: Finding friends at fifty is tough. This was not a weepy confessional over a bottle of wine with a few paracetamol on the side, rather a matter of fact statement made in between trying to dance Gangnam style and a heated discussion about Leveson. She was up front and personal – having moved to a different area, she is the new kid on the block, stared at, talked about and kept at a safe distance.
It got me thinking, how do you make friends as you get older? Friends come and go, but as the years advance they also divorce, which immediately results in 50% less friends than you had before. Honestly, how many of us still see both the woman and the man after a split? It’s easier and expected to come down on one side or the other, showing support by listening to tales of wrongdoing, infidelity and general meanness, nodding in all the right places and if you’re very brave (or stupid), giving your opinion on what made Superspouse decide it was time to call it a day. In my experience, loyalties are rarely divided.
There’s another de-friender that factors in when you hit fifty. Friends die. I’ve lost one mate aged 54 and several people in my social circle have also lost life long buddies. When friends start to depart you know you’re in different territory. A new league of life has descended and there’s no-where to write and complain about this one. It hits hard. Life with that friend flashes before your eyes and twenty years seems all of five minutes. Inevitably there are regrets, about seeing them more or telling they matter. And then there’s a pause. It’s not pregnant but just as scary. If friends can die, so can you.
It was clear the woman at the party was doing all the right friend-making things. She’d joined an art class and was helping out with a local charity. And turning up wherever she was invited. But it’s not easy, as trust and confidence are fragile creatures when the decades rush past.
Anyway, we promised to meet for coffee. Maybe we’ll become friends…