With age brings wisdom and maturity, or so they say. However in discussing relationships, friendships and the psychology of human nature with my mother recently she quipped “It doesn’t get easier with age.” The comment stuck with me, as though she had burst my proverbial bubble that one day, if I work hard enough at this, I will solve the mysteries of human connection. Laughable really!
It’s not that I really think I will solve the mysteries as I know the issues we face are as individual and unique and complex as the people involved in them and no 2 stories or problems will be identical. Therefore a one size fits all solution is little more than a utopian pipe dream. Alas, mother was right, it never gets any easier to navigate other people. Added to that, we never stop having thoughts and feelings about it either.
A man in his eighties is just as prone to feeling threatened and jealous of his wife’s friendship with a recent widow for example, and a woman in her sixties can just as easily be upset by a friend. At no age does it seem you get a magical birthday card containing a congratulations and an exemption from any further unpleasant feelings or taking things personally.
Actually, perhaps it can almost seem the reverse is true. This topic of friendships isn’t hugely popular among people my own age, and if I had to speculate, the reason would not be that my friends don’t care about friendships or each other, just that this is the peak time of life to be busy enough that it isn’t considered a priority. While I want to challenge this, and make people my age specifically try harder, that is because soon enough life will slow down again and it will start to matter to you again.
Talking with my friend’s mother, she expressed profound disappointment that several of her close friends had failed to remember her 60th birthday. I’m not sure if it is relevant, but she couldn’t recall if these same friends had remembered the previous year. This stood out, particularly as it was a milestone birthday. Of course, expectations come into play here, however it did not appear my friend’s mother was expecting anything extravagant. Just to be acknowledged, remembered and celebrated by the people she had celebrated along the way.
60 is a grey area. In more ways than one! It’s too old to be considered prime time and too young to be classified as old age. Most people are not yet struggling with memory loss at 60 and most of them do seem to participate in social media, although perhaps not as heavily as some of us! It seemed my friend’s mother wanted to be able to offer her friends an excuse for forgetting her special day, however she was coming up with nothing plausible for most of them.
Although she chose not to disclose her hurt to her friends, my friend’s mother expressed that it probably still seemed petty and silly to be upset by it at her age. However, why would it be less upsetting due to age? Feeling forgotten, not valued, over looked or unimportant is not any easier to handle at an older age, where you are also struggling to still feel seen and relevant in society. My own mother’s words rang in my ears. “It doesn’t get any easier (or simpler) with age.” At this point in the conversation my friend chimed in that someone important to her had forgotten her birthday this year too, and although she understood (it was not a milestone birthday and her friend was currently navigating a separation) it was still out of character for her friend and didn’t feel good. Like their friendship was slipping away.
This prompted me to ask my friend why she never planned her birthday party this year, as she has done in previous years. She said it all seemed like too much hassle. Finding a time and place that would be suitable for everyone, would allow for groups to co-mingle and co-exist and would fit within her own and everyone else’s budget seemed more trouble than it was worth. My friend said “You don’t have parties, you know why!”
She’s right that having a party is not my idea of fun. She quipped that my good friends never forget my birthday, and indeed I have some very good friends who remember on their own merit weeks in advance and ask to plan something with me. That said if I had to guess I’d be willing to say more of them know my birthday is in August in general than the specific date it is on. That’s ok, social media will do the rest for them!
It occurred to me as we discussed it further that my friends don’t forget my birthday because I don’t allow it. Not really. If they don’t suggest something first, I will suggest a catch up myself. Not for the gift or the food, but just as a welcome excuse to enjoy some face time together. Some years I may get 50 birthday messages on Facebook (ok that’s a total exaggeration! Haha) and other years I may only get 5. It doesn’t really matter because if we are actually friends, I’ll be seeing them in person sometime soon anyway.
So what is the moral of the story? Don’t sit back and quietly test your friends! Help your friends remember. Even if you don’t want to plan a party or a get together, mentioning your special day in advance in casual conversation. “Eeek I can’t believe I am going to be 60 next week!” Should be enough to help your friends along. It might hold more meaning if they remember on their own, but you’ll feel better if they remember regardless. And you’ll save them the embarrassment of forgetting too.
Prevention is always better than cure!
Your Best Friend ForNever