Women and Friendship – Building a Support System

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

The last post brings home a striking point. Lack of a support system allows abuse to thrive. And even in non-abusive situations, lack of supports direly impacts women’s happiness quotient.

Recently I was talking to my mother on the phone. She mentioned that Kalyani, her long time friend had visited after many years. I was excited and happy for my mother and asked her if they had a good time together. I was reminded of the times when my mother would visit her when we were very young.

When we were kids, a mother having a friend was a rarity. The fact that they were college buddies was even more amazing. Whenever my mother would visit her friend, we were so awed by this simple fact – that my mother is going out, and it is not to work and it is not to buy groceries, nor is it a visit to relatives’ houses for pujas and other obligations. She was going out to see her friend! How cool is that!

Even though she worked outside the home (which was rare for her generation), my mother’s role at home was pretty traditional. There were meals to be cooked, maids to be managed, unannounced guests, unreasonable in-laws and relatives to be attended to. There were many frustrating and stressful interactions with in-laws and the extended family. So, whom did she talk to, to find some relief? Who did she go to for support and answers?

Most of the time, support, once again, came in the form of relatives. HER side of the family – her sister, her cousins, her aunts provided some support. Because the visits to her only friend were a rare and special treat.

And when she did get together with her side of the family, I noticed a strange vibe. My grandmother, who had little patience for relatives, usually left the room. The women shared their problems and concerns. There were hugs and wiping of tears. But no solutions were ever offered. There was relief in knowing one was not alone. There was certainly a sense of belonging. But it came more from a sense of “we are all women, therefore we are meant to suffer”. My mother usually went home feeling as confused and hurt as she did before the visit.

Another thing I noticed is the one aunt who tended to be more assertive and less obedient was considered a “shrew” and “lucky to have a meek husband who would put up with her”. So much for support and inspiration. This is why relatives (in the Indian setting) cannot really be one’s support system. They are subject to the same conditioning that the rest of us are. They have nothing new to offer.

My grandmother, a free thinker, was the only one who gave my mother sensible advice, still, she was older, of another generation. My mother did not really have anyone her own age to see her point of view. An occasional visit to her only friend’s house doesn’t really count. In many ways, my mother was friendless.

This is probably the story of many women of that generation.

The Current Generation

So, what about us, those in our 30s, 40s, and 50s? I’ve noticed that in our generation, a lot of us tend to have had great friends and friendships in college. But once we got married or moved away, those friendships seldom lasted. Or even if they did, they did not offer daily and genuine support and involvement. To some extent, this is understandable. Many of us outgrow our college friends. We grow up, acquire different ideas, we change to some extent. We crave friends on the same intellectual level, rather than settling for people who happen to be in the same place at the same time.

But how many of us, after we got married, made a serious attempt to develop strong friendships? How many of us are truly committed to friendship – because friendship takes time and effort and interest. Here I’m not referring to “family friends”. Family friends are just that – they are usually friends because our kids are friends at school. Or because some of us work at the same company.   These are simply another version of our college friends – people in the same place at the same time. They are fine for sharing a meal or having tea together or discussing school/college options or the job/commute/elections situation.

But these are not the kind of friends I’m referring to, although they do have their place in our lives.

I’m talking about the kind of friends who share a passion with you. Who remind you of who you are as an individual. Who challenge you to explore your fears, open you to novel experiences, who help you grow. Friends who truly KNOW who you are. So they can remind you of what you are capable of, when you doubt yourself.

(I’m referring to married women here because that is the norm in India and they are the ones who tend to neglect their friendships. Single women are perhaps more likely to take their friendships seriously. They are better at building a support network of friends because the negative attitudes of their families and society have made such a system imperative, even urgent. Perhaps, they even feel frustrated with married women for not being committed to their friendship.)

Factors that Deter Support Systems for Women

So, why do several married Indian women go without real, strong, long lasting friendships? A few factors come to mind (there could be more) –

Parenting – in conservative cultures, friendships for young girls are limited in terms of where they go and how long they stay out and what activities they engage in. They may not be allowed to travel, hike, swim, partake in sports, go for a bike ride – simple things that friends do. These friendship-inducing activities are allowed for sons but not daughters. Early on, they are trained to put family first, and their own needs must be worked around the family’s rules, schedules, and convenience, if at all. Thus, daughters never learn the meaning of strong friendships. They never learn the methods. They haven’t experienced the highs of going camping with friends and gazing at the stars in the night sky. They haven’t experienced being lost in an unfamiliar town and helping each other navigate. They haven’t gone for a long drive with no destination in mind. They do not know what they’re missing, thus they do not seek it in later life either.

The unwritten rules of friendship after marriage – Friendships for married women are discouraged, seen as frivolous and selfish. Indian married men, on the other hand, continue to keep in touch with their buddies, even invite them over and have their wives cook for them. Many Indian women need permission to visit their friends, or need to ensure that they’ve cooked, cleaned, bathed their children, and anticipated every possible need in the next 48 hours before stepping out for an hour. Thus having a family strengthens men’s friendships while the very same weakens women’s friendships.

Complacence and the Illusion of Support – We are surrounded by family in India. We have our parents and extended family constantly in our faces. When we get married, we have even more relatives. Surrounded by all these people gives us the illusion that we are not alone. However, the truth is you can be lonely with a hundred people around you if none of them empathize with you, make you stronger, or help you find yourself.

Too late, we find out that when we really need help and support, we don’t have it. Women spend a good part of their lives helping strengthen their husband’s families. While their own supports are continually discouraged, ridiculed, and eroded.

Our Stories – Mythology, legends, and literature are replete with admirable friendships between men. While Lakshmana walked by Rama’s side until the very end, Sita stood alone. The Mahabharata brims with male bonding. There is the interesting friendship between Karna and Duryodhana. Even the friendship between Lord Krishna and Arjuna the warrior is telling. God bestows his friendship on certain worthy men, but not women.

In English literature, we are all familiar with Horatio and Hamlet, Tom and Huck, Frodo and Samwise, Gandalph and Bilbo. While we admire the friendships between these beloved characters, they do make us wish the world instead revolved around female bonding. This is why books like Pride and Prejudice and Little Women are so precious.

Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, says, “Princesses may confide in a sympathetic mouse or teacup, but they do not have girlfriends. God forbid Snow White should give Sleeping Beauty a little support. Princesses avoid female bonding. Their goals are to be saved by a prince, get married, and be taken care of the rest of their lives.”

Let’s not be that lonely princess. We can make each other strong. Let’s not give up on each other.

Finding Real Friendship

Friendship and bonding among women offers so many positives that no woman should have to go without it. A good friend –

  • respects you for your strengths and talents
  • supports you during challenges
  • doesn’t ennoble silent suffering and sacrifice
  • inspires you to be strong, to grow, to become who you want to be
  • listens to you when she can’t do anything other than offer her heart
  • gives you a hug
  • loves you for who you are
  • is happy to see you engage in other positive relationships
  • wants you to succeed
  • is proud of your accomplishments
  • reminds you of who you are, when you are in doubt
  • opens you up to new ideas and different perspectives
  • doesn’t judge you for your career and relationship choices
  • is overall happy for you because she is happy with who she is
  • is committed to you, spends time with you, and is there for you
  • doesn’t take your friendship for granted, understands that friendship is a like a plant, it needs watering, otherwise it can’t sustain itself
  • communicates through differences with honesty
  • recognizes her own need for friends and friendship time
  • keeps her interests and passions alive and doesn’t lose her identity after marriage
  • makes it clear to her family that she will need and engage in her friendships
  • can be a lifeline in cases of emotional or physical abuse

I did not realize this until a few years ago, when I hit my late 30s. My kids’ friends’ mothers were my friends. My husband’s co-workers’ families were my friends. I realized something was missing in these friendships. I forgot who I was. Conversations with our friends were always about our families, about our children’s or husbands’ needs, interests, and phases. And what did I do when I did meet interesting, intelligent, warm, humorous,  and independent women now and then? I did not treasure them.

I realized I had missed some valuable opportunities.  And if I wanted something, I needed to work toward it. I began to look for and find women who shared my passions – walking/hiking/running/nature, reading/writing. Women who took their hobbies seriously, who believed in preserving their identities and not be defined by their relationships alone. Although these common interests acted as a catalyst to start and sustain the friendship, we did not limit our friendships to these interests. One of my friends crafts jewelry and it’s fascinating to watch her work. Another friend, an engineer by training, loves to bake. After years of debating, she finally turned her passion into her living. I like spending time in her kitchen while she makes breads, pastries, and pies. I realized I needed to laugh like a girl, get silly, do different things, surprise myself.

I realized I needed friendship time without my husband and kids. I learnt to ask for it, advocate for it, and maintain it as an essential part of my life. I gave it a name – ‘health goals’ (as in emotional health) to make it tangible. I put my friend time on the calendar and committed to it rigorously. My family slowly, reluctantly, began to accept and work around it. If my older son needed help with a project or my younger one wanted to go to the park, it would need to be scheduled AFTER my Sunday morning walk with my friends. Same thing with my husband. In the past, I had worked around everyone’s schedules. Now, my activities were up there on the family calendar, for everyone to see, and my needs were prioritized, like everyone else’s.

I hope every one of us has or works on finding strong friendships and can make the effort to be a rock solid friend to other women. It is not as difficult as we think. It doesn’t require some esoteric skills. It is simply about knowing what real friendship looks like. It’s knowing what to look for. And understanding that friendship is a basic human need, necessary for us to thrive. This blog is a small example of the power of women supporting one another. Imagine what is possible with people we can meet and talk to and confide in and bond with in our daily lives.

And friendship with other women and having a good support system is the best defense against patriarchy. For feminism to thrive, friendships between women must thrive.

Please do share some of your great friendships. Or please share your challenges in finding and sustaining meaningful friendships.

100 thoughts on “Women and Friendship – Building a Support System

  1. I could relate to this post in many ways. Being a divorcee and a single mother, the urge to have friends has been on a constant rise ever since my divorce left me feeling broken and helpless. Initially, I had a number of friends who either sympathized with me and assured me they were there beside me.

    But as time has passed, all of them have slowly grown distant on the pretext of being busy with their married life or choosing to go quiet without any obvious reason. In the past one year, I have met had friends who told me they didn’t have free time for friendships unlike me.

    In my quest to make new friends with the parents of my child’s friends, I have often found people limit their interaction on discovering that I do not hold any important position (as a professional) to be of any good to them. It might come across as purely materialistic approach, but on many occasions I have been looked at as a (possible) liability by many.

    While I am well aware that people with a shallow outlook do not qualify to be considered for friendship, such events have considerably shaken my faith of ever making good friends again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My era, I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Why should it matter what you do for a living or your marital status? If those are the superficial things they’re looking for, then that is all they will find. They will never find enriching relationships. It’s their loss. Are there support groups for divorcees that you can join? Also other single women groups? I hope you find a like minded person(s) who values you for who you are.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly it’s their loss ME, if they are looking to make friends only with people of important positions. So sorry to know that your old friendships have grown distant.

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      • Dear Priya,
        I hail from a small city where such support groups don’t exist or perhaps aren’t openly talked about that’s why I haven’t found any. But your words gave me an important line of thought, that perhaps I now need to find,meet & be-friend people in my shoes, in my circumstances to have a common point of sensitivity about each other’s position in life.
        Thank you for writing this (and many other) thought provoking post🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I agree.. There are people who are keen in your company for only as long as you can spread the cheer. Maybe it is a natural human tendency. But it also (like you said) quite demotivating for someone who is going through difficult times and seeking some support.

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    • My Era, to add my 2 cents here…I was in a similar position…looking for friends who would understand and empathize with me. However I realized
      1) Not everyone has the insights to understand divorce/ divorcee/ single parents
      2) Just about everyone is dealing with loads of their own problems and taking on or hearing endlessly about others problems can get overwhelming
      3) we all like to be around happy, cheerful people.

      My family was toxic and has finally been flushed out of my life. I found blogs like these to be lot more ‘supportive’ than the people around me. The best help however was going to a professional counselor. I’d say that was the turning point of my life…and helped me immensely in gaining confidence and sanity. Though I am not in regular therapy now, I still get in touch with my counselor when going gets very tough emotionally. To others, I think I come across as happy and in-control of my life. I dont have too many friends; I am particular about the company I keep. I feel I have finally reached a stage where I am happy and comfortable in my own company. It took a lot of hard inner work though I always had a loving but very busy boyfriend and an adorable daughter around me.

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      • Dear Smita,
        Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I couldn’t agree more with all you’ve written. I have slowly learnt to realize that being my own strength, loving myself as passionately and being at peace with one’s ownself can actually make for a complete picture.

        This realization is pretty new to me (hardly a couple of months old) and i am slowly learning to make it a part of my life. all this while I had been busy battling the demons in my life (yes, my family included besides my ex). All done on that front, as you rightly suggested, I think I too have reached a point where I need to be content with being on my own and who knows I might meet some like minded people just round the corner🙂

        Thank you giving me plenty of food for thought just like this wonderful post🙂

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    • My Era, I can completely relate to your position. I craved close friendships when I was divorced and single.

      I had a few friends when I was married, but they quickly disappeared when I got divorced.

      Many Indian women think a divorce is an infectious disease — any proximity to a divorced woman will infect them with the deadly virus.

      In many ways, being divorced helps you see people’s true colours. The masks come off. As a divorced woman, you are at the bottom of the pecking order and there is no need for people to be nice to you.

      I know IHM disagrees with this; but I truly feel that women are each other’s worst enemies. All of us suffer in isoation — battle the same confining cultural expectations, but god forbid that an Indian woman actually offers real suppport to another woman.

      God forbit that women actually offer support to a friend and place her at the same level of importance as the hated in-laws and husband.

      This really bugs me. My married friends reach out to me for support after every spat with their much-loathed in-laws, extended family or their husband.

      I am their primary source of support and nourishment — yet they are quick to place the friendship right at the bottom of their relationships.

      No matter how nasty the in-laws, they always take precedence over loyal, old friends.

      The belief that marriage and in-laws, even nasty ones who make you weep, are the most important thing in a woman’s life is very, very deep-rooted.

      I don’t understand it at all. Women give up their time, well-being and mental peace to build relationships which don’t make them happy, for instance the husband’s extended family.

      Yet they completely ignore relationships that are a source of comfort, well-being and postive affirmation.

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  2. I stand today where you stood in your late 30’s. “My kids’ friends’ mothers were my friends. My husband’s co-workers’ families were my friends. I realized something was missing in these friendships. I forgot who I was. Conversations with our friends were always about our families, about our children’s or husbands’ needs, interests, and phases.”
    I cried all through this post. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gosh Priya, this post absolutely resonates with me. I miss having close girlfriends! I grew up surrounded with friends – girls and boys and a few of them have been in my life for about 2 decades. Yet, they are school and college friends; they moved on and out of my geographical area and I can’t really go out and have a drink with them when I fancy.
    I do like people and have always enjoyed having strong relationships with friends, so when I finally settled in – home, husband, kid – I wanted very much to have good friends. Not only as support systems, but also as sounding boards – I miss having an alternative perspective from someone who can view my life more objectively. Someone with whom I can giggle incessantly. But it has been very difficult.
    The first issue I have is time. It’s not easy for me to take the 2-3 hours to go out into the city and be part of a group. I love running, and that use to be a good way to meet people in the morning, but that’s out too because either I am well rested and have patience for my daughter or I am cranky and tired.
    The second is personality. We are expected to have certain priorities as married women or mothers. For e.g., I like watching plays. If I was single, people would invite me to go out with them. Now, I have to announce that I would be happy to come sans spouse and kid. I find that women find this attitude bizarre; that I am willing to have a life outside of my family.
    The third is cultural. When I invite people over for dinner, I get responses like “Oh, I’ll see”? Huh? see? They don’t want to commit till the last minute and I can’t deal with the uncertainty. Then there is the spouse match up. Do we really need for the spouses to get along? I don’t think so. But since other married women don’t do things on their own, this husband matching is an issue.

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    • Megha, I faced the same challenges. Making time – we will do this when we feel the people we spend time with are worth it and will be around on a regular basis. It is not easy to find such people. Yes, I totally get those attitudes. A married woman going out to see a play without her husband and kids is seen as bizarre. There was a point when I started going to concerts on my own, because my married friends would not go with me without their family in tow. I went to see this Shenyun performance (classical Chinese dance) and met one person there who later became my friend. I joined a hiking club and met another friend there. I took the train to downtown SFO and went to fisherman’s Wharf and walked down the Golden Gate Bridge with throngs of other tourists, taking pictures of the sunset. I think I just started doing things on my own (for the first time in many many years of being married with kids – for it had become such a habit to do things with the whole family) and began finding people like myself. Some are married, some are not. It didn’t matter. The common interests mattered. And the choice to get out there and explore on one’s own.

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      • Thanks for your thoughtful and emphatic response Priya. I am envious of your opportunities!

        Yes, I need to make time, but I think I will have to wait till the kiddo is a bit more independent. With her being one, and me struggling to put work in order, doing anything beyond the norm is a major undertaking.

        And to Krith, B and FS – glad my comments didn’t sound jaundiced.

        Another thought I had on this issue, was about the quality of life I had before the spouse and kid bit. I did many things alone. And I miss that tremendously! So my self-discovery journey happened a while back and I now I feel like I am on sabbatical from that. Is that harder? Are there other women like me out there – who were independent for the longest, then decided to partner up and now wondering what happened to that life?

        Liked by 1 person

    • This “Oh I’ll see” is a desi disease and one that I detest so much! For heaven’s sake, if I’m having you over, I’ll need to plan for it. I’ll need to shop, cook, clean up, adjust baby’s schedule all around your whims? If people don’t have the decency to sincerely commit to a plan, I cut them out. I have no patience for randomness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Really? I always thought it was a modern day thing with younger people!With phones, people say “maybe” to potential hangouts so they can cancel if they see something better on the same day: very rude in my opinion.

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        • No B. I have invited and had many non Indians over casually and formally. Almost all of them will immediately respond with a yes or no and they usually arrive on time. I’ve deliberately started going an hour or so late to desi parties because I don’t want to be there before the host has showered!

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        • Krith, that hasn’t been my experience. Desis and non desis alike say yeah, I’m probably coming and then feel free to cancel if they find something else. Drives me nuts. The time thing is true though. Common to all Asian cultures.

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    • Megha

      So true…….I have become close friends with two girls, and we sort of have bonded alot……whenever two of us try to make plans of catching up, third friend always comes up with a question : “Where would I leave my husband? If your husbands are free, I’ll drop my husband with your husbands and then we’go shopping” . This irks me everytime. As if her husband is 5 yr old and cant manage 5-6 hours alone at home. I mean really…..she doesn’t have to play his mommy all the time. Such attitude of women puts me off and I kind of start losing respect and interest in friendship.

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  4. I have begun to feel the need of strong and lasting female friendships more and more these days. I hardly have any women friends or men even for that matter whom I can call my friends, without having a tagline, “for now”, “or until it’s convenient to meet.”

    I have grown out of the few friendships that I had during my college days. I am fortunate to belong to the privileged circle where our friendhsips wouldn’t really change after marriage, but the reason I drifted apart was mainly because we didn’t evolve as people in the same way. I can no longer connect with some old friends the same way because I changed, and some of them still have the same naive personality that we all adored at that point.

    I can’t make new friends because most women I meet now are married, and I have a very different married life, and marriage priorities, which doesn’t let us connect. I have all the time and freedom in the world to meet people, find time to be together, but like you said that may not be the case with other married girls, especially the newly married girls.

    But I do really miss having a close friend and a confidante who isn’t my family member. I have a very close-knit family, and most members in my family are very progressive. This is also what comes in the way of making new friends. Most new people I meet aren’t as progressive as my mum, my sis or my aunts are. I just lose the motivation to even share my true opinions and feelings then, because it invariably ends in me being tagged as a misfit.

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  5. Priya, first of all I want to say that I love your posts here.
    I love how clearly you articulate the things.
    Today I am sharing my friendship challenges as follows –
    I had some great great friends in college..
    But I consciously chose to drift apart from some of them because later I figured that we are poles apart in our values
    and thinking and I considered it was best to move on for my sanity.
    Of the many, I am still in touch with two of my friends and I also consider them close to me.
    We are in our mid twenties and have really supported each other through some difficult times.
    However, there has been some challenges that I am facing.
    Now, besides me both of them have taken decisions to switch their careers and are busy building them from scratch..
    So in spite of staying in the same city we hardly meet,
    may be once in four months and that too in some cafe or something to chat about.
    Our homes are three corner of the city so for meeting at homes we have to plan for about few months in advance.
    We have known each other for eight years now and have been to each others’ homes for once or twice.
    We three do not have any common hobby interest.
    But even then we somehow share a cordial rapport and can bare our souls to each other.
    I have received some great advice from them.
    Daily communicating depends on convenience – I have not yet joined whatsapp due to some technical constraints in my phone(I use a primitive phone btw :P),
    while they both are in whatsapp. So they communicate with each other but I am left out..
    Once in every two weeks I call them up and we update each other.
    We have never been on trips together because we all stay with our respective families and
    one of my friend have clearly told that she will not get permission.
    This breaks my heart that we still haven’t been able to cross these family barriers and still need permission to live our life.
    But then, not much I can do about it.
    Even though I get bitter about it every now and then.
    So this is how things are going for me.
    I would have definitely wanted us to live closer and meet often and talk often.
    But then it is not happening now and I feel alone at times and hanker for a kind of friendship that you have mentioned here.
    I hope someday I will be able to experience it.
    I am really eager to meet few of the people who comment here and whose comments I love..

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    • Thank you simple girl and I love your comments:) It sounds you like have a great friendship with these girls. Common interests are not needed if there are common values and lots of support. Please find ways to keep in touch with them. Some ideas –
      – chuck the amoeba phone and get a smart phone:) so you too can whatsapp with them.
      – skype with them regularly (set aside an hour every week, same day, same time, say Sunday afternoon, so no coordination is necessary)
      – create a Facebook group (private group) where you update each other on what’s been happening
      – talk to them and see if you can get them to commit to meeting once a month to do something fun like going out for lunch. What do they like to do? Do they have some fav restaurants? Do they like to go bargain shopping and eat street food? Find something that would be motivating for them to do.

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  6. Excellent post! I have so many thoughts about this from my experiences in hostel life.

    – In the current generation, I think stereotypes are a big big problem. I have been told by endless people that two girls can never be true friends since there will always be jealousy and cat fights. (Guys also often fight for the same reasons but somehow that is seen as more serious and not frivolous). Hence guys were considered more trustworthy and caring when it came to friendships. When I first went to college, this was a major barrier. Everyone was wary and suspicious of everyone else. Secrets were powerful. Gradually though people matured and forgot the stereotypes, became very good friends. However, girls who have never lived in hostels and experienced that type of culture still believe the stereotypes since they don’t see otherwise.

    – In India, gossip can be a serious weapon against other girls as compared to other cultures (ruining maariage prospects, slut shaming, revealing existence of boyfriends to parents etc). So much of hostel politics revolved around girls being very secretive about dating. Openly talking about having boyfriends was still feared for fear of losing reputation.

    – Girls tend to be brought up with stricter rules about friendship, encouraging them to be more selfish when it comes to friendship. Boys are taught the same but not as strictly. Girls from conservative families were more so, whereas people brought up liberal families had better and more long lasting friendships.

    – Possessive boyfriends forbidding girls from having friends even among other girls (let alone guys) was depressingly common.

    – Girls were definitely better when it came to lending a shoulder to cry on, in case of problems. Boys struggled with that for fear of being thought as weak.

    Personally in my case, I’ve had a lot of very good friends both among boys and girls. My mother has a lot of friends too, she works as a teacher. The majority of my aunts (housewives), however have few or no friends. Strangely enough, both my grandmothers have a lot of friends in their age groups.

    P.S. I would highly recommend watching the movie ‘Mean Girls’, very witty and entertaining. A lot of people don’t like it for the potrayals of female friendship but that’s only because they don’t realise it is a satire.

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    • Thanks for sharing what’s happening with Gen Y girls. This is what I was wondering about. I have 2 boys so I don’t have first hand info. My friend’s daughters do complain that girls are more b****y, mean, dramatic, and back stabbing and it’s easier to hang out with the guys. I thought this is a teenage/Gen Y thing. Glad to know this is a stereotype. And glad to know you have great friends:)

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      • Thank you🙂
        Sorry to hear about your friends’ daughters.
        It is a self perpetuating stereotype. Since girls believe that everyone else is bitchy and dramatic, they try to behave that way themselves to preserve their social standing and popularity, and the cycle continues. I assure you, guys can be equally catty and gossip (even grown ups), but somehow their fights are are considered more ‘worthy’.

        I’m ashamed to say I was like that way as a 10 year old kid too. I didn’t like the drama, so I hung out with boys and looked down on other girls for a short while. I am now able to see how greatly I was influenced by cartoons and other media, where girls were always into makeup and clothes and bitching, while guys were doing far more varied things (adventure, science, sports etc. Dexter’s Lab anyone?).

        If I had a daughter today, I would advice her to do whatever she wants, to hell with stereotypes, but most importantly be a nice person. They will automatically attract similar friends, both girls and boys.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful narration that captures the essence of friendship in transition thru all phases of growing up, expecially for women in the Indian society.
    Unfortunately, the social patterns of modern world are not too conducive to true and long lasting friendship either.
    Even men do not have the close friendships of yesteryear…

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  8. Women definitely do not seem to prioritise friendships especially when they are in relationships or married. Seems like we are all conditioned to prioritise marriages above everything else. The biggest challenge I face is trying to find women who are willing to invest time and effort in friendships just like in relationships. Another thing I realise is that as we grow older, it becomes harder and harder to form deep meaningful friendships because everybody seems to be caught up with their own lives.

    Traditional societies definitely do not encourage female friendships.

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    • “Another thing I realise is that as we grow older, it becomes harder and harder to form deep meaningful friendships because everybody seems to be caught up with their own lives.”
      As you get older, you also start looking for something more ….. I don’t know how to put it …. people’s obsession with personal accomplishments and the trappings of status begin to make you yawn. I feel like shaking up people and saying “Look at all this beauty in the world!! You’re totally missing the point. Of living, I mean.”

      Liked by 2 people

  9. This is so true. Humans thrive on a support system, and by denying women a support system we deny them the ability to assert themselves against abuse. I’ve discovered an amazing support system after the loss of my child. Its been friends. They have rallied along, humoured me, taken me on trips to ‘read the past on palm leaves’ (when I was looking for answers to his untimely death). Friends have given unconditional support, and I’ve discovered who my true friends are. None of them belong to the ‘relative’ category.

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  10. Hello IHM, it is so interesting to read your blog. I am French, married to an Indian, and we live in Belgium. Reading your posts, I learn a lot about his culture and society.
    You are so right when you say that friendship needs work. It doesn’t just happen. I guess in India women need this support structure even more, with all the pressure form family and society. But this is actually true for every body. Having a family and trying to be a perfect mom/wife/employee, your life can revolve only around others’ needs and one tends to forget themselves.
    I love your idea of putting your activities on the calendar. I’ll do the same.
    Thanks for opening my eyes on the reality faced by indian women. I know you also provide emotional support to your readers. Keep going🙂

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  11. You make an excellent point. Most of us suffer from what I call ‘married vision’. It’s a version of tunnel vision where we think the world begins and ends with our husband and kids. It’s so important to continue and nurture the relationships that made us who we are before ‘married vision’ set in.

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  12. I am in my 20s and single with no married friends, so can’t really say anything on the post marriage friendship front, but just wanted to share about my mom, whose attitude to friendships has always been inspirational to me.

    She has had, since I was very young a large group of female friends from when she was in school. These ladies have now been friends for 30+ years. There’s a reverse situation where the husbands and kids are friends because of the women…they meet often for dinners and lunches and since everyone’s kids have grown up, even go for trips together as they please. They support each other personally and professionally and are in all a very good example to have in front of you growing up. My dad is a broading school kid and moved around a lot and he didn’t have as many friends in the city, so my mom has always been the one with many female friends.

    I have been friends with my best friend for 20 years now. That’s why it always saddens me to see not many good representations of female friendship in fiction. Even the examples you give are sisters, not friends. The perception of female friendship as bitchy and backstabbing has to die. Female friends are the best support one can have. Parks and recreation, the tv show has excellent representation of positive female friendships in many incarnations.

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    • Although Thelma and Louise isn’t really about female friendships as such, it’s an insightful exploration of what happens when women support each other, and value each other, rather than the men in their lives.

      Of course, despite all it’s many flaws, Sex and the City is the definitive celebration of female friendships and how they enrich women’s lives.

      I have often thought that if I had a group of close, loyal and comitted female friends, I really wouldn’t need a man at all for my emotional needs!🙂

      I think most scriptwriters are male, and therefore see women through the prism of their own biases — in a sexualised and non-threatening way.

      What really stumps me is why female novelists don’t explore female friendships at all. Most women writers write about relationships, but it’s almost always about men, romance and marriage.

      Don’t women have a life outside of romance and marriage?

      I can’t remember the last time Hollywood, let’s entirely leave Bollywood out, explored female characters in a real, meaningful, non-sexual way. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants was one movie, as was Practical Magic.

      I remember a scene in Practical Magic, where the other witches decide to rescue Nicole Kidman’s character from an abusive relationship and then come home and dance around the kitchen table, wine bottles in hand.

      That scene really spoke to me — the complete absence of pretensions, the complete acceptance of each other’s flaws, the implict loyalty and steadfastness to the friendships, despite a man being on the scene — the solidarity and bonding shown in the film really resonated with me.

      Hollywood’s female characters are overly sexual, one-dimensional and largely, not very likeable.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wao, that is a one long post. Will read at leisure.
    Desi Women’s Friendships: Explore the Dynamics
    https://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/633/

    It is great to have friends
    when one is young, but indeed
    it is still more so when you are
    getting old. When we are young,
    friends are like everything else,
    a matter of course. In the old days
    we know what it means to have them.
    Edward Grieg

    Strange thing is in my Life’ Little Treasure Book on Friendship there are not many quotes by women. Even here I post one by a man.

    Peace,
    DG

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  14. Growing up, my mother had a couple of good friends -sadly one passed away and the other moved apart. We as family, didn’t really get along with those friends’ families (age, lifestyles etc) so it was all her friendship only. My mother was very close to her sisters and mother and mostly used to vent to them, and they did offer solutions to dealing with relatives…

    In my generation (mid-forties), here in the US (so kinda far away from the relative network) – I see a clear divide – women who’ve maintained (or created) their friend networks and those that think women socializing alone is scandalous🙂

    I have my school network, my college hostel network and my girl-gang here, which, while some of them started as friends of spouse/parents of children’s friend etc. are really my friends now. We hang out, schedule stuff we want to do etc. Technology has been a huge boon – we are all on Whatsapp and Facebook, and call each other when needed. Lots of giggling. Those that need to gripe, do. We share solutions if we have them or allow venting. And yes, it takes work, and effort to maintain these networks, to plan meetings (especially if you live across the country) and so on.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You are sharing such relevant topics here, Priya! I find I am sharing more of myself than I normally do online.

    For me, there are several factors that come in the way of friendships. I do have many friends, but it’s still a huge problem to make good friends.

    – The first is, of course, that women just up and move after marriage. So a couple of really good friends I made over the last years have simply moved out away from the city. This is so endemic to our culture that sometimes I think it’s pointless to make friends with single people, since they are just going to relocate to wherever their superior half is.

    – Second is that while I do have good relationships with most of the people I have called ‘friend’ over the years, I have changed so much and so irrevocably over the last years that I simply don’t belong any longer. We don’t share the same interests, we don’t have the same values, and I feel rather disconnected from most of them.

    – Third, I feel disrespected by many of my friends, after they got married. I got dumped and they have made shiny new friends who just happen to be their husband’s friends’ wives. I suppose it makes life easier for them, but I did not make friends only for socialising. I especially feel this in case of my best friend. She is very nice and keeps in touch but whenever she visits my city, her own family visits and housework takes precedence to even meeting me for lunch. Not done!

    – And I have to be fair: my respect for many of them have diminished too. I feel as if they have become mere puppets in the play of life. They give up their lives, please their parents and in-laws, work till they drop and don’t get to enjoy any benefits. I know they are victims, but it’s hard for me to respect people who don’t even respect themselves.

    – Work is also a factor. The rat race is so terrible that people simply don’t have time to socialise afterwards. Besides, since I have moved from one city to another so often in my life, that my friends are spread all over the place, so I can’t just meet someone for a jog!

    But the good news is that I do have many good friends spread all over the world, who do respect me, and I get to meet one or other of them once in a while, so I am not all that bad off. I also have a couple of close friends nearby on whom I can depend any time, and that’s nice. And then there are all those lovely people I met on the internet with whom I can share all my crazy hobbies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I totally get your point on feeling disrespected by your best friend. One of my very close friend (my only girl friend from engineering days) , after getting married and having a kid totally forgot me. And we were so close back in the days. We did meet up and still remain in touch, but I always get the feeling that there is less effort from her side to make time for me. Recently she was in my city to visit relatives for a week, and could not make time for a simple meetup. I was crestfallen, but finally realised that some people just move away (or move on).

      Like

    • Fem, you remind me in so many ways of my childhood friend (and we’re still friends). She is the same age as me, single, fiercely independent, and outspoken. We’ve managed to remain friends because one, she also ended up in the US, and we became closer recently after she moved to my area. She has an East European boyfriend and they have no intention of getting married. I’m married with 2 kids. You could say our lives are as different as they could be. But none of that really matters. Who we are as individuals matters. Are we fun, interesting, compassionate? Do we connect on something? That is what makes a friendship meaningful, not having kids in the same grade. In fact, it’s good to have friends doing different things with their lives because it broadens our perspective.

      Yes, marriage does strange things to women. If you have both kids and a career, time gets dissipated so fast, you start going with the flow, let your identity slide because frankly, there is not even a minute (literally) to sit down and think about what’s happening to you:) Hopefully after the initial years of a deluge of needs (especially with kids), women mature and re-discover themselves. Or in some cases, discover themselves for the first time.

      There is one thing to be said for friendship between married and single women. The latter have more time. This simple fact sometimes gets in the way. But if the friendship is worth it, we WILL make time. And sometimes the converse is true – giving a friendship time and love strengthens it, takes it from the ordinary to the remarkable.

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    • But Fem, the day women begin to see themselves first as individuals and then as wives and daughters-in-law, the entire edific of our unwritten cultural rules will crumble.

      Most women do not even realise that they are putting far more into marriage and it’s attendant responsibilites than their husbands. Imagine how out of touch they have to be with themselves to do this and not even realise that it’s unfair and ultimately pointless.

      As human beings we look for connection, affiliation and meaning. So many women are so out of touch with the core of their being that they lose the capacity for building truly enriching relationships.

      One of my close friends would go incommunicado for months on end when she visited her in-laws, whom she hated, because she felt it was inappropriate to talk to close friends when living with in-laws.

      All her emotional energy was spent being nice to people she didn’t even like very much. I lost respect for her, and for what she had become — a woman who would do anything, to keep her marriage going, even at the cost of the things that actually mattered to her.

      I realised that she didn’t see herself as a person anymore — she was just a hamster on a wheel that was set in motion by the dictates of her in-laws and her husband.

      I realised that for women to actually respect and value their female friends, they would have to first learn to respect and value themselves.

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      • I also think time is a major issue. Being married, with 2 kids, 2 jobs, and house work is a tremendous amount of work even when both parents share tasks equally. Being married didn’t affect my friendships at all, but having kids did. Kids do bring in tremendous amounts of work. In some ways, I realized even my husband did not have the time to do the things he enjoyed. Now we both make a conscious attempt to give each other time to pursue our respective interests.

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  16. “For feminism to thrive, friendships between women must thrive”
    The above statement could not be any better…

    As a newlywed, I recently noticed at have social gatherings most of the time I find myself surrounded by people who I am not very close with. They are either my husband’s coworkers, family or friends. My life currently consists of full time work, maintaining a house/cooking and my husband. I stopped making plans with my own friends after I got married because truthfully (and stupidly) I fell bad for leaving my husband alone.

    Although, he usually goes out to happy hour with his co-workers a couple of times during the month… To his defense he does invite me to come along, but
    I often decline because well it can get awkward. We have had house parties and the house fills up with people, but I’m not close to none of them. I also consider a close friend to be someone who I can share intimate details of my life with and they won’t judge but offer advice and listen.

    Compared to my immediate family of four he has a huge family, who we have to keep up with (we don’t live close to them but we still have to maintain good relations)… it is overwhelming? Of course it is. On our weekends we have to call most of his family members and ask how they are.

    Through social media my husband maintains a close contact with most of his school friends. We’ll travel to other states and cities to see his cousins or friends. He even keeps in touch with a “girl-friend” when we are in the city we meet with her and her husband. They used to be best friends before I came in the picture and l am sure that she was madly in love with him. Before any of you jump to her rescue, I know that she was in love with him because the night of our engagement party I found her crying in the washroom. She got married a couple of months after our engagement.

    After reading & writing all of this, I realize that I have to start catching up with my own friends.
    – To keep my sanity
    – To have my own personal time/space
    – To get other’s point’s of views & opinions

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    • And once you’ve made that decision, it will happen. You will find ways to make it happen. We just have to wake up and say ‘no’ to the deluge of social activities that families tend to get into that have no genuine benefit or meaning or connection to us. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure many people can relate to getting sucked into all these social obligations, and all the best!

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      • No, I don’t think they genuinely care about me and how much work I have to do. It’s actually pointless to me because all we are doing is making small talk, and we are not sharing any intimate details about our lives.
        For example, lets say that I know there is a big issue (problem) going on in the family and I’ll ask how they are I always get the same monotone response “we are okay, and everybody is fine.” Hmmm… How could I ever share anything personal with them if they are not sincere.

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  17. I have found that my friend circle has definitely changed over time, but not necessarily because of marriage. When young, I used to be a part of a huge guy-gang, with most of my friends being guys. I rarely had any girl friends back in college. One reason was there were very few girls in my engineering department compared to guys, and even fewer girls I could relate to. When I came to the US for my masters, that was the first time I actually had close friendship with girls. Mainly because of being roomies and spending so much time with each other. I met my now-husband in grad school and hence, even today we have many common friends from grad school days with whom we hang out on most weekends. Because of this, I did not really see any change in friendships after marriage. Also, I did not have to make any special efforts to maintain friendships with my pre-marriage friends because I saw it as a given that we remained in touch (and spent time together) inspite of being married. Plus, it helped that hubby also got along with them very well, so it was easier to remain friends.
    However, for me, having a kid was much more of a transformation (friend-wise) than it was being married. And I think even for my husband. During pregnancy and in those difficult days of having a newborn, I realized the importance of having girl friends. Dont get me wrong, my husband was super supportive throughout, but the kind of support women can give you and the kind of support men give is totally different. I still remember the first girls night out I had when our baby was 4 months, it was like going for therapy. I was suffering from post natal depression for many months, and that one girls night out was one of the few things that helped. After that, I made sure I spent time with my girl friends on a regular basis. Sure, I was still in touch with my guy-friends from college days, but I came to realize that at different points in your life, you need different kind of support circle.
    I do not necessarily share any hobbies with my girl friend gang here, but we still end up having such great fun when together. I have a different set of friends (which includes the hubby) with whom I get to do all the outdoorsy activities that I love. And another separate set at work that supports me in yet another way. Bottomline being, there can never be enough friends. Different friends give you support in different ways, at different points in life. Hence, hold on to them, be there for them, support them🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • mypunchingbag, your story sounds so similar to mine … up to a point:) I met my husband in grad school too in the US. And we had a great group of friends we hung out with. The most amazing thing about this group – we were all from different countries/ethnic backgrounds and we all had different dreams. There was a German couple who went bungee jumping on their honeymoon. There was a Canadian woman and her dream was to see all of the world’s greatest cities, one every year. There was an Irish guy with a great sense of humor, very smart (would analyze books so well), with no plans for the future:) He busied himself pulling pranks on everyone. These people made me feel so alive! Then we moved and although we kept in touch with them, we did have to make new friends. And we fell into the routine of socializing with other married with kids people and many times I found the conversations were so mundane, their dreams so limited (I really want to buy a BMW, I hope my daughter gets into this Ivy league school, kind of dreams). I would start drifting (on the inside) with a polite smile on the outside. They seemed to be absorbed in their routines, their jobs, schools, movies, fashion … no questions about life, no curiosity about other cultures, no fascinating discussions … And they were/are not bad people, just couldn’t connect with them in an amazing way.
      Great to know you kept up with your friendships through all the stages!

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    • “Different friends give you support in different ways, at different points in life. Hence, hold on to them, be there for them, support them.”

      Amen to that! These are wise words indeed.

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      • Yep. really sane and sound advice. And it takes a while for us to learn this. I for one had been fascinated with the idea of having a ‘best friend’ without ever having had a real one. I did call a couple of gals my best friends but that was clearly not true. My idea was that my best friend would be the be all and end all of my friend ‘circle’–someone with whom I could share every thought that ever crossed my mind without being judged. Turns out it’s not going to happen… a relationship like that puts a lot of strain on a person. We ought to have different people around us whom we can be vulnerable with and for whom we should be able to offer the same–it’s simply more practical and adds value to more than a couple people’s lives.

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        • I think it varies … if you can do this, great. I tried, but I couldn’t. I give so much to a relationship and expect the same. I also have very little patience for small talk. I share myself completely and find it unresponsive when people hold on to their secrets. I like having all-out, honest, deep, sincere, absolutely supportive relationships. Reading this thread makes me realize this may not be for everyone. And I may have been seen by some as expecting too much.

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  18. our monthly sat night girls night out ritual is non-negotiable..🙂 6pm to 1am ( or more) of fun food desserts laughter and joy are not to be messed with.
    Likewise my wed night painting with artist friends. 7 to 10 pm is sacrosanct.
    and my monthly chai with my buddy – non negotiab

    I think all this makes me a happier person and hence more happy towards my family.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I don’t make friends for gossiping, going for shopping or catch a movie the husband doesn’t want to see !
    Indian women don’t know much about friendship !The ones I made through college and school are out of touch ! Once married the women friends become selfish and as I am unmarried I feel they look down on me so I avoid married women as friends !
    So,I don’t have any good lasting friends in last 15 yes or so ! I have more male friends than female friends throughout my growing years – some girls were conservative, petty,and just bitchy impossible to talk to openly and heartily ! Girls also take everything personally !
    So , I don’t even try anymore ,..,..its frustrating but as I grow older I don’t have much patience with drama, don’t really want to listen much about their husbands and children and other cribbing !
    So I don’t know if things are going to change much !

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you on the gossiping and shopping front – find that really tiring.
      Now, there are more and more single women in India too, especially the metros. (Even women who want to get married are getting married later in life.) Even if the % of single women is very low, the numbers must be not insignificant. I wonder if they are forming their own communities, support networks, social circles, and how this is shaping the overall social fabric.

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      • I wish there was a proper formal group where single women of every kind ,any economic status and religion could come together – like a club or something ! From then on ,people could form informal mini groups based on activity,interest and personality ! Haven’t found any as yet ! Maybe I’ll create one !
        Such a group could double up as a way to make friends and support group !

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        • Great idea! Most groups are started by people who themselves felt the need, see a gap in services/avenues and try to address it, and then it becomes a great way to meet people with similar interests/situation.

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        • I think it works both ways Cosettez, I dont belong to this ( your ) gen but i thnk life hasnt changed that much . We as humans tend to gravitate to people who share similar stuff, or thoughts. I have been single, in a relationship, unknown state, married, mother and now mom of 2 boys who have left home for study. through it all i have had friends, somce can empathise with you some can sympathise some thnk you are a total idiot. i have had all kinds of advie given to me when i left home and choose to go with the man i loved. through it all even friends who disapproved were a source of support. a good friendship means you may hate what your friend is doing and have nothing in common and would never do the crazsy shit she does but they had my back, had things gone horribly wrong i could have depended on them to provide a days shelter !!! sure they would have told me what an ass i was but the fact that i left with him didnt sound so scary when i looked back at the 10 girls all different but standing in the airport with me🙂
          we havent been in touch every week, but we visit, make atleast time for a trip together witha few of us every year, and call up on birthdays etc., one of them never got married. she wanted to but simply didnt find anyone. we are still friends with her.
          Its also her attitute to this whole freindship thing.
          Im not criticising you just saying, you make an attempt to keep in touch and form friendships based on commonalities, it doesnt have to be the same set of friends, diff friends do fill diff spaces in our heart. just keep your heart adn mind open and see how much joy you will find in life.

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    • I hear you. I have given up on female friends too. I have one very, very close female friend.

      The rest just did not reciprocate. I became their shrink and was just a shoulder to cry on. They called me when their husbands were being mean, or the in-laws a pain in the wrong place or when they needed career advice, but at other times, they just disappreared.

      I have realised that women depend on other women emotionally, but place more value and importance on the men in their lives. What a messed up way to live!!

      I don’t want such drama in my life any more.

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      • “The rest just did not reciprocate. I became their shrink and was just a shoulder to cry on. They called me when their husbands were being mean, or the in-laws a pain in the wrong place or when they needed career advice, but at other times, they just disappeared.”

        This! I have been trying to convey this in a non-judgemental way. They meet up or call up to grumble or discuss husbands, kids, in-laws or parents, but when it comes to doing fun stuff together, they disappear. Either they don’t get ‘permission’, or they are too busy with work, or they have to lug their kids around everywhere. This goes for single women who live with parents too. So now I have ended up cutting off people who don’t want to involve me in their lives but keep me as a safety net in case they face problems. They also don’t seem to have any other conversation besides this crap, day in and day out. I never face this problem with guys or women who live apart from parents or in-law (even if they have kids)!

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  20. The last time in history when women bonded together they were burnt as witches…because when we are together, strengthenning each other , we are all powerful. A very good message.

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  21. Hi Priya, thank you for another lovely post. So relevant and yet hardly discussed. It reminded me of a marathi movie, Bindhast, where the two female protagonists decide to always cherish and maintain their friendship.

    Your mother’s story here is just like my mother’s. Only in recent years she reconnected with her school friends and I saw my mother in a different light. I realized how loved she was in her friends’ circle and how she had missed her friends for over 30 years. The efforts of tracking down phone numbers, all those false leads and disappointments were instantly forgotten.🙂

    My friendships from engineering and b school drifted for a while where everybody was busy getting married, starting their careers, etc. Thankfully with what’s app, FB we are back in constant touch. Though I miss seeing my friends, going out with them as we are spread across the globe, I really feel grateful for their being there for me. We have supported one another during childbirths, illnesses and difficult decisions we all have to make. Ah, forgot to mention that I was the only girl in my b school gang. Even today one of my friends tells me I was the one who kept the gang strong despite our differences. This group is the one who keep encouraging me to get back to work after my long maternity break. Yeah all guys.🙂

    My husband however has lost touch with all his friends and tells me sometimes how he’d love to go back to the old Bangalore of his days just to spend that time again with his buddies. I feel sorry for him.

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    • I like your mother’s story! How nice that she found her old friendships again:) You have a great group of supportive friends! Illnesses and difficult decisions – yes! It’s only when you go through major transitions/challenges you find out who your real friends are. Or you get to make real friends.

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  22. This is such an amazing post and an eye-opener. I always thought I am without a close gang of girlfriends while people around me have no dearth of friend. How I longed for friends I could connect with…passionate women with similar set of values, women in control of their lives…not hapless victims.. I thought such bonds are established during school and college days. Since I grew up in a different, small, conservation city, I thought that’s why I missed out on forming such bonds. I see my boyfriend with his school pals and can’t help feeling envious.

    This post was an eye opener; now I know I am not alone in this predicament. Please can you help with something I am not clear on Priya? The women I do get chatting with (usually from the condo where I live/ my colleagues/ my daughter’s friends mothers- some of them are single parents too) start sharing buckets full of problems and miseries they are facing in their lives within no time. Most of them come across as victims with not much control over their lives (or having the best of both worlds) or not having the courage to take a stand and invite inconvenience. I feel I have done all this and more on my own (with professional help) and so can they- once they have gained enough clarity and courage and are open to trade-offs. I’m afraid I don’t have patience to sit and nod in sympathy and participate in this ‘suffer together’ fest. I end up distancing myself from them. What I am looking for is the kind of fun guys seem to have- meet over coffee or drinks to share a good laugh… Else, I’d rather spend time on my own, reading books or pursuing my hobbies.

    Do you feel I am being self centered in my outlook or haughty about my personal victories? Should I spend more time listening to other women’s woes (I don’t see how it helps them though)? Shouldn’t we take care of our share of problems..if they are too much to handle then perhaps reach out for expert help..esp when we are privileged to be living in a metro with the best possible facilities available in India?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Smita, I can really relate to you on this. When my son got diagnosed with autism, I gravitated toward people in the same situation. I thought we could be friends because we are going through the same challenges. But, it’s no so simple. How I was dealing with it was very different from how some of them were dealing with it. I faced up to my challenges. Although I was there for my son 100% and gave up many things in the process, I did not stop living. I continued to find ways to enjoy and laugh, after the initial years. I went back to my interests. I went looking for friends. I never felt sorry for myself.

      Hard to believe but among my closest friends, only one of them is a mom with an autistic kid. The others have had very little exposure to autism. In fact they learnt more after we became friends, because they cared enough to learn more. Not all of them are married, and not all of them have kids. They are decent, empathetic human beings who won’t run miles away when they find out someone has autism or someone’s a divorcee. So, being “in the same situation” is sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Having the same values is a much better parameter for friendship.

      I don’t think you are being haughty. You are a much stronger, worthier person than them. Good friends are there to listen, understand, and support. But this does not mean we use them to constantly pour out all our burdens on them. I think this is the distinction many people do not make.

      People are either completely put off my any kind of problem that they themselves are not facing – then they don’t make very good friends, because everyone goes through something they need help with, and what are friends for, if they can’t even listen, or help?

      But there are people who don’t really face their problems and just want to dump them (verbally) on others. It is very draining to listen to such people because you know they have no intention of doing anything to help themselves. You end up feeling used.

      So, I don’t see anything wrong with you avoiding them.
      For someone like you, you can be friends with someone who can take charge of their life. This doesn’t mean you need people who are invincible. Sure, we are all vulnerable and we need help and empathy. But you need friends who have pride and dignity, despite their challenges and vulnerabilities.

      And when you don’t find someone like that, it’s understandable and even admirable to rely on yourself, look to yourself and your internal resources to find fulfillment.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Priya for your note. Its means a lot to me. Its amazing how someone I have never met understands my thoughts better than most people I have met in real life. This is exactly how I felt…drained and used. And I did often wonder how can people live without a shred of pride and dignity…enjoying the benefits and whining endlessly without any real intention of helping themselves out of the situation. Thanks you for giving words to my thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

  23. I was discussing this topic with my best friend just a few days back – I was telling her how it seemed to be the norm that men of my parents’ generation retained their friendships, while women often fell out of touch after marriage (I think this is also in part due to geographic and financial reasons as well as the delay – gaps between letters), and ended up making new ‘friends’ with neighbours or other parents they meet through their children. My mother and her sisters are very close to each other (as well as their parents). My mother tells us stories about her school days and college friends – one of her close friends moved to Australia after marriage, and they now meet when she comes to India.

    I am single, but my best friend is divorced and has a daughter. We became friends in school, and we have evolved in roughly the same way – we’re opposites personality-wise, but we share the same values and beliefs, and we can openly tell each other when we disagree/disapprove of something the other is doing. Another of my closest friends is also single. We met at a language class, and have remained friends, have traveled together and hope to be roomies someday in the future. I am still friends with a few guys from school and college, and people I met online over shared interests. Some of them have gotten married and some have kids. Some of my friends and I have grown out of each other – we still exchange pleasantries once in a while, but are no longer close the way we used to be.

    My closest friends and I, we have always been in mixed groups of friends. Some of my male friends have stopped talking to me after getting married, and some of my girl-friends stop talking to other guys after marriage. The spouses/partners of some of my friends have made an effort to know me, and I have become good friends with them.

    I think some friendships end due to a spouse’s jealousy or, as you mention, the fact that women aren’t usually encouraged to be close to have their own sets of friends. I am still single, but I can’t even imagine giving up my closest friends unless we drift apart (which I doubt). For one, we have grown together and know how to pick each other up when we’re down, and when to talk and when to give each other space. And also because I think it is necessary to have friends who support me and hear me out if I complain about my (future) partner, and then, after I have vented, tell me if I’m wrong, and whether I should be the one apologizing. (I am impatient by nature, and sometimes, my friends point things out to me – things I miss at first, especially when I’m angry/irritated), and later find to be true.)

    Thanks, Priya, for writing this very relevant post. I hope we all find the friends we need and when we need them🙂

    (P.S. Apologies for the long and at times rambling comment)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t apologize. I loved reading about your friends and friendships:) I think it’s great that we’re letting out all our feelings, what specific things we look for in bonding with others, how we go about finding them, it’s all so interesting!

      Like

  24. The lack of female friends who valued the friendship as much their marriage has been a perennial source of sorrow in my life.

    I lost many college friends when I got divorced. A divorced woman in India is rapidly excluded in even the most educated and “liberal” circles. At a time when you need female support the most, you discover that most women will not touch you with a bargepole.

    A divorced woman in India is ostracised because she has broken the cardinal rule of a woman’s life — that husbands and marriage are the ONLY purpose of a woman’s existence, even if they leave her desperately unhappy and discontented.

    I find it very interesting that marriage is not such a life-altering, identity-altering life even for men as it is for women.

    As Priya said, a married woman is expected to understand that the husband’s parents, family and friends are MUCH more important than she will ever be, the woman he has children with.

    The reverse never happens. While a woman is expected to make marriage and husband the centre of her universe, the husband is expected to make his parents, family and friends the centre of his universe.

    The wife is just a convenience, not somebody of any consequence in his life. She’s supposed to provide comfort and service and vanish unobtrusively into the background.

    I noticed this when my first husband’s friends would come over unannounced — they never thought of checking with him because they assumed that they were far more important than a wife.

    Once, my ex-husband put off some movie plans and told them that he would check with me first. He was mercilessly ribbed about being a Joru Ka Ghulam — what kind of loser actually shows any consideration to his wife. It’s his place to command and hers to obey.

    The reverse would happen if my friends planned to visit. They would check with my husband if he’d mind them dropping by. They never asked me, they asked him, because an Indian wife is life her husband’s property.

    She is only allowed friends if her husband has no objections.

    In India, cultural norms dictate that a woman seamlessly merges into the husband’s life, changing her personality, her identity, her desires and her belief system.

    There is a proverb in my mother tongue: “A wife should dissovle into her husband just like sugar dissolves with milk”.

    Note that husbands are not required to do any unpleasant dissolving of this kind.

    Little wonder then, that women don’t see the need to develop close female friendships. I have always craved close female friendships but have always come away disappointed — it hurts when you invest time and emotions in a friendship and get blown off because your friend’s in-laws don’t approve of her friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry for the pain that you went through and still continue to bear. But at least you were strong enough to get a divorce, many woman would not even consider that a choice because of the simple line “what will people say.” We cannot expect all woman to be as strong and definite about what they want, that is why I think it is important to start setting examples through actions and voicing your opinion. When I feel that someone is being small minded or wrong about something, if I know I try to explain to them that they are wrong (not trying make them feel less of course).

      Like

    • I completely fail to understand how someone can walk away from a friend when her relationship status changes. What does relationship status have to do with friendship? But I suppose, I just answered my own question. For those who left you, THAT is exactly what the friendship was based on – both being married, being “similar”. They don’t know the meaning of friendship and will never experience it in it’s true form.

      Like

    • Its alarming how women don’t find the need for friends through out her life ,….its only when children are grown up that they will come for the2 hour lunch and some lighthearted gupshup meant to be forgotten once they go back to husband and their cocooned lives !
      What do I do with such friendship and casual artificial conversation all the time ?
      I am not like this- superficial relationships drain me now !

      Like

  25. I can so relate to this. Facebook connected me with my friends of the long lost past. We were so happy catching up. But something was amiss.

    One of them asked me “When are you going to bring home a daughter in law?” And the other started interrogating me on different aspects of my life.

    Initially I was polite and attributed it to old times and the entitlement that goes with it. But later one of them started blaming me of not having “trained” my husband (properly) to be obedient to me, just as she had done to hers.

    Our journeys were different, our values were no longer the same, we had no common interests and we were poles apart in every aspect.

    I was already getting uncomfortable with them online and on phone when they both announced that they will be visiting my city and staying with me while they are here. I was finding it difficult to hold a conversation with them without feeling outraged. How would I put up with them in such close proximity, answering their every probing question and taking their judgement of me politely?

    I blocked these friends on facebook and decided I will be more guarded in future.

    But the story does not end here. The “husband trainer” kept stalking me everywhere from facebook msgs, to my timeline, to my daughter’s timeline, to another group I was member of. She left no stone unturned to reach me. Where had the self respecting girl of yore gone? She was not like that before. Settled abroad, she now mingles only with people of her community. Maybe that is the reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I wanted to post here about my mother. She’s 56 years old now. She is super close with her high school friends to this day. There were 32 of them in her high school class. 15 of them still live in Mumbai and meet up at least once a month. They all get together every year to do good things for their school – they sponsored a projector and screen last year. The point I’m trying to make it – these are all men and women who’ve been through it all in life but you should see them when they get together. They turn into giggling 16 year olds! Pulling each other’s legs, laughing at that teacher who spoke too fast and what not! It’s been 40 years, Priya! 4 decades since they all passed out. But they’re still in touch.

    2 of her high school friends live abroad. One of them is in Canada and the other in Australia. My mom skypes with them at least once every couple of weeks. I keep teasing my mom anytime she’s not available to talk to me “Are you gossiping with your friends again!!” It keeps her going. I can see how energetic she becomes when she’s had a day out with her friends. The best part about all this is that my father has become so close to that group. One of my mom’s closest friends from high school calls me father “Anna”(tamil word for elder brother) and calls our house and hangs up after talking to him alone🙂🙂

    They all invest so much into these friendships, Priya. 20 out of 32 of the graduating class showed up at my wedding(5 from out of town). I didn’t have those many of my high school friends show up! I won’t go so far to say that they’re all confidantes and super close friends but some of them are. And those that are, have known my mom all her life, literally! It’s just mind blowing to see how they’ve maintained the friendship through so many years of marriage, moving and kids. Every time I hear about one of their days out, it reminds me to text or call a friend that I recently haven’t had the time for. When I asked my mom what she missed about Mumbai when she came over and stayed with me for an extended period to help with my newborn, her list was short : “My father and my friends”🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Hi Priya,
    This is a very good and thought provoking post. I have been thinking about this for some days now and you have beautifully articualted it.
    IHM, sorry for this long comment….
    I would like to talk about my mother, grandmother, MIL and finally about myself here. To begin with my maternal grandmother was a very bright student but was married off immediately after her SSLC and she has no friends other than the family ladies who like everyone have said here are more a pain than help. But, she was a strong lady who insisted that all her 3 daughters should finish masters and be working before getting married and she also fought with my grandfather and enrolled them in arts classes and encouraged them to read a lot. Over a period of time she got invoved in an organization run by our community people and is currently the Executive member there. She is 75 years old but is much more busy than me and my cousins. She has enrolled in a crochet class, is activiely involved in spiritual activities and has many friends from there.
    My mother is currently 54 years, she was working till 2012 and quit purely because she decided she had had enough of the hectic life and also she had saved a considerable amount of money and so she quit. My mother has many friends, they have a huge group of school friends (both girls and boys from her school ) and meet every fortnight to have fun. A lot of her friends have moved places but then they are in touch via whatsapp. She has a best friend from her M.Sc days and till date both these women are more like soul sisters. Apart from this she has friends from her work place. In fact while she was working, there were many occassion where she would call and tell my dad that she is going out for a movie from office and so my would come home early and fix us dinner, check our homeworks and then put us to bed. My father has his own circle but he could not get along with my mom’s circle, so she goes out all alone. Till date, she has a huge circle and is very happy with her hobbies and friends.
    I am 28 years old, married for the last 4 years and had an arranged marriage because it was my choice to have an arranged marriage. I saw how cool my parents were and was not able to find any boy who could adjust to me an my parents. My ex-bf had a problem and called me and my family “page 3” and “aristocrats” as he could not digest the fact that my mother had boys as friends and also divorcess as friends. Prior to this ex-bf I casually dated a couple of boys and everyone of them would be shocked when I would call them home, talk to them in front of my parents and one boy in fact told me he could not accept the fact that I was so open with my parents as he felt that was wrong.
    My ex-bf and I dated for 3.5 years and in all those years he left no occassion to ridicule my parents – my mother for having friends and my father for not controlling her. I had no choice but to leave him. So I got married to my husband and nothing changed in my life. I still go out with my friends, stay out till late in the night and talk on the phone for hours together. But I conscioulsy dropped a lot of my friends from college, because they could see me having such a happy and carefree life after marrigae and would comment on my husband and taunt me. So I realized that a lot of girls themselves cannot handle life and friendships, these girls are ready to give up everything for a guy and that is why girls end up having no support system.
    My MIL also has a lot of friends, she regularly calls her friends home for lunch etc and has a very good social circle.
    So, I think it all depends on how much effort we as individuals put in and our priorities in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So good to see such open-minded and supportive parents. My mother too has a big friend circle….my father was in gov job so all their life they kept moving to different places. Wherever they went, my mother would make lot of friends….her frriends are more from temple for kirtan and satsang as my mother is quite religious. My father has very few friends, that too, he rarely visits.
      I am like my mother in making friends😀
      In my wedding, total of 25-30 of my collegeaues and friends showed up🙂 Most of them are very dear to me, though after moving abroad, I rarely get a chance to talk to them often but yes we are still in touch. More so, because I have made new set of friends here.
      Life without close friends feels so incomplete. Its so important to make friends and socialize once in a while. It helps in building self-esteem and is an easy mode to find out you are not alone.

      Like

    • This is the crux of it. A lot of women themselves do not see themselves as individuals first and wives and daughters-in-law later.

      It’s all about having an identity that is not defined by relationship status and parenting status.

      Many Indian women can’t see beyond these definitions — they cannot see that we are all human beings, each with our unique identity, not square pegs that should only be seen with other square pegs.

      Like

  28. Krith and Ramaniyam,

    It was great to read your mother’s stories of friendship! Your mothers are of my generation – I’m 45, so they’re 10 years older, but that’s how old my sister is. Technology has been a big boon for women, starting with my generation. Not only for friendship, but for the exchange of ideas, awareness, and freedom, in general. My mother is 75 (just to put things in perspective), so your grandmothers’ gen. They did not have the access to technology that we do, nor did they have other simple avenues like driving, telephone that facilitate friendship or a even TV which helps them learn about the outside world. Which goes to show we are moving forward with each generation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true about technology. Getting my mom an iPad and a smart phone was literally the best decision ever. It’s helped her keep up with her wide network even better. I cannot recommend a smart device highly enough!

      Liked by 1 person

  29. There is one more thing to touch upon and Fem, your comment brings it up:
    “while I do have good relationships with most of the people I have called ‘friend’ over the years, I have changed so much and so irrevocably over the last years that I simply don’t belong any longer. We don’t share the same interests, we don’t have the same values, and I feel rather disconnected from most of them.”

    Some people have “lighter” relationships – they like to hang out with other people, have a good time, joke around. They tend to be less picky about the conversation and ‘value sharing’ and more interested in the camaraderie. These types of people generally enjoy having a large group of pleasant friends, whose innermost thoughts they don’t need to know.

    Some people are more invested in their relationships – not just their primary one (spouse/partner), but also their friendships. They enjoy deep conversations. They like to ponder the big questions (how, why) , tend to go off into philosophical discussions and analyses. These people have fewer friends. They are happier in smaller groups.

    Neither type is good/bad or right/wrong. It’s just a personality/nature thing and we have little control over it. The best example I know of this my husband and I. My husband falls into the former category. He has lots of friends on FB, gets together for alumni meets, uses every possible app, etc.

    I’ve outgrown many of those alumni friends, I have very few friends on FB (I mainly use it to share pictures with my family in India) because I dread being updated about someone’s daughter’s wedding or someone’s honeymoon to Hawaii:) Another thing I dread about FB is the endless number of well meaning forwards and the meaningless one line assurances to problems, “You’ll be fine.” and “Everything will get better. Just hang in there.” (How the heck would you know??) Texty lingo takes the place of meaningful conversations and real listening.

    The funny thing is – when I get back from my walk, my husband sometimes asks me, “How did it go? You had fun?” etc. He knows a little bit about their backgrounds. He’ll ask me something like, “Is Anne still working at the same startup? Because I heard they’re being acquired.” And I’ll say, “I have NO IDEA.” because we had been discussing some book (that day I remember it was Daniel Pink’s DRIVE) during the ENTIRE walk, breaking it down 10 different ways:) A book about work that too, but I failed to pick up on the trivia:)

    Point being, it’s fine to have fewer, deeper friendships, if that’s what makes you happy. Even one good friend is good enough, if she is true to you and affirms you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is exactly what I mean by connected. I enjoy talking about different things and experiences and learning more and more. In this, I can safely say I love talking to my grandmother who is chock full of information about any darn thing you care to name, rather than friends of my own age, who are rather limited in their lives and ideas. They work for money, they work at home, they have drink parties and they take ‘respectable’ holidays. That’s not life! I want to talk about books and movies, history and politics, learn about new places and experiences, maybe travel once in a while, cook together, play games together. This is what you lack in a conservative culture. Anyone can give support by saying ‘hang in there’. But when I am down, that’s not what I want. I don’t want their advice either. I want to be taken out of myself, freshen up in their company and finally come back to the problem with a fresh mind and solve it myself.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ditto.
      I realised these types of friendships few days back…..My husband makes friends of former kinds…..like get together with friends, leg pulling, have fun sort of stuff…though he is not comfortable with big groups…only with few 4-5 guys.
      I have friends of both kinds….. one group where in I can have hearty laugh and full of fun…..and another group of 3 girls where in we all discuss our day-to-day lives and problems…. I think I need both kinds….sometimes to have fun and sometimes to share the burden of my thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Well I don’t usually talk about these personal issues with my friends,, but I do with my cousins whom we all are trying to stay together despite coming from a sort of dysfunctional family. I do know what you are getting out. In terms of being a (Indian) women, our duty after marriage is be the traditional housewife and cook/clean/rear kids. I feel because my own mom feels the same way as she can’t really go anywhere and do anything she wishes..especially seeing old friends and I empathize. I wish women can know they can fight back and go for what they desire rather than being a doormat 24/7. Friendships are amazing…having a few close friends can bring alot of perspective. Luckily I still have my college friends around and hope to keep in touch with them throughout lifve..though it’s been hard lately. Also just to add, maybe we all who are usually active here on this blog can get together and meet (not sure how likely since everyone is from different parts of the glove, maybe via skype is the best then?). Maybe then we can form new friendships with each other and talk about these issues face to face then and find solutions to make things better for all Indian women and break this nasty cycle. I’d love to meet everyone here!

    Like

  31. I’m very lucky. I have great friends, both men and women, both married and unmarried. I can go to them whenever I want to, and they come to me when they want to. We discuss science and politics and relationships and movies, all with equal fervor. We support each other in whatever way we can.
    I’m also one of those lucky people to have made friends as an adult, which is rare.
    And tonight, I’m going to meet one of my school friends who’s visiting dubai, and we’re going out for drinks. She visits her parents who live here, though she’s based in Chennai. She’s running a business with her husband, living with her in laws, and while it’s difficult, they’re making it work and she’s raising her daughter to be an independent woman, like her.

    I really think we should be focusing on the positives that are happening around us as well, cos it is what everyone is striving for, and if you speak of a real-life example, maybe others will realize it’s a possibility and not some pie-in-the-sky dream.

    Like

  32. Just stumbled upon this post which actually reminded me yet again what I am missing on in my life the most. I worked for 5 yrs in NCR before getting married and moving to a relatively smaller city. Though it is one of the biggest city of that state, still it is not in any way comparable to anything in NCR. Be it companies, culture, people, their mind set…nothing. So it was a major shock and loss for me when I moved here. I till date have only professional relationship with people in my office even though its been 6yrs in this company. People came and left, but I could not find anyone with same mindset and thinking. In all these 6 years, there was only a guy who was with this company for 2 yrs with whom I can relate to. Our friendship was building up when he decided to go for MBA in Cambridge and left a couple of years back. Again I came back to the same state of mind after that. When I talk to my husband about this big void in my life (no friends), he asks me to go out and meet more people. I don’t know where should I go to meet people who can share common interests with me, with whom I feel a common link or with whom my thinking matches. All old buddies are long distance friends which is not same as physically having a friend close to you..whom you can look forward to any time of the day. I am introvert by nature..I can’t open up very easily, but I love adventures, traveling, trying new things, gardening. Even though mine is a love marriage, my husband is completely opposite of me. He does not like to any of these things except for traveling a bit (probably that is why they say, opposite attracts🙂 ). I always feel that the fun, joy and enjoyment of life is missing somewhere. Life is nothing without close friends with whom you can open your heart out without the fear of being judged, who can actually tell you things without being biased, who can scold you at the same time love you all by heart🙂

    I am still living in this hope that I may cross paths with someone like minded and would relive those joyous moments once again🙂

    Like

  33. This is a wonderful post.
    This has been on my mind for the longest time. My father has a very large circle of friends for more than 40 years and he has kept up with them well. My only sibling is much older and therefore, there’s no one in my family who I am close to or can vent.
    I have always craved for close friendships but somehow have never been able to keep them. From school to college to work – I keep moving on – I think because I have never had a close relationship with a female(in family) I actually dont know how to interact with women and how to share..this is what I feel.
    Trust me I have tried very hard to build friendships but with little success. Some of my friends moved on with their new friends. And yes, later in life I made friends with my husband’s friend’s wives or lately with mums with kids of my kid’s age.
    I like what the article has to say – but frankly I am looking for some very real practical advice on how to make friends – someone whom you really connect with. Had no luck😦 at 37+ no real friends for me yet….or is it too late now..

    Like

    • PX, thank you for sharing. Sometimes, we don’t make friends because we have certain standards, certain values, and if we keep running into shallow people, it becomes hard to connect with them. It is never too late for anything in life. Most people outgrow the friends of their younger days anyway. The friendships you make when you are older are far more mature, and since you’ve learnt from your mistakes, you know which people and what conflicts to avoid.
      Practical ideas –
      – pursue your interests/hobbies, join a class if possible, to meet people with common interests
      – people at work or gym or sports (tennis/swimming/etc) – are there one or two people that are on the same wave lengtht?
      – start a blog or frequent a blog you like (yes these are people you can’t see or meet but it’s still nice to exchange ideas and have discussions)
      – start a local club based on your interests (such as a photography club or a book club for women). Meet in public places to keep things safe, in the beginning. Once you get to know people better, you can take turns hosting it at homes if you like.

      Like

  34. Pingback: “I remember the first time I got slapped was when I bought some pasta home for $2.00 when the similar thing could be bought for 40cents.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  35. Pingback: “I saw my sister was on the first floor and she was locked and she was crying badly with her daughter.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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