Youthful friendships are about philosophizing, comic relief, commonalities and soul searching in tandem. Then life changes and so do the relationships, depending on paths traveled both literally in terms of distance, and figuratively in terms of career and family. Individuals become couples and socialize as couples. Over time, the individuals who were once integral in your life become coupled dinner friends, and the palate is often not satisfied.
As couples, socializing becomes scheduled and typically revolves around food. “We should meet for dinner” or “Come over for dinner.” We catch up, relive old times and sometimes tell stories we’ve already told. By the end of the night, I’m depressed and worn out, and wonder why. This isn’t right. I care about these people. I think it may be the overindulgence in wine, rich food and sweets. Maybe it was the energy expended making trite conversation to avoid awkward silence, or straining to hear each other over restaurant noise. While I appreciate the serendipity of maintaining friendships over decades, sometimes it feels like just that; maintenance, a watered-down version of friendship sans meaningful conversation.
With age, we become set in our ways and jaded by life experience, less open to others’ opinions, somewhat guarded about our failures and fearful of being judged. As a result, the dialogue follows a superficial course. It feels like fake fun, going through the motions. Gaps are filled with common courtesies and stilted compliments, avoiding delicate topics so as not to offend. If one is put off by the other, it’s too easy to disconnect at this stage of life. “Sorry, we’re busy over the next few weeks. We’ll call you.”
When I was young and hanging out with friends, I never wanted the night to end. Now, I find myself longing for solitude. I attributed it to my introverted personality until I shared these thoughts with my husband who is not enlisted in the quiet revolution. I was surprised to discover he felt the same way about these dinner dates. We don’t want to sever these relationships entirely but are somewhat baffled how our friendships became rewired and are now connected by dinner for four.