The husband is an ardent believer in the “age is just a number” concept and a steadfast practitioner of the “you’re only as old as you want to be” theory. It helps that he is constantly proving this to be true by behaving half his age when he chooses, like when it comes to doing chores and errands around the house; and swinging all the way to the other end of the spectrum when the situation calls for it, like when we go out partying and beg him to push his bedtime by a few hours. Of course he rarely agrees. Conveniently declaring he is “too-old-for-this” when he can’t fight his sleep any longer, but finding mysterious reserves of youthfulness when it comes to packing in that extra slice of chocolate cake that he could really do without.
It’s probably why even though I have always had mostly older, male friends when I was single, our life together has drawn a steady crowd of younger, energetic and youthful company. I’m no good at this see-saw business. And I choose to stay pretty much child-
like ish. It could also be that the larger part of out years as a couple, we have been in Goa surrounded by precisely that kind of company. And while we’re loud and boisterous hang-out company, we’re also the people our friends come to with conversations about life, career moves, marriage and other issues of settling down. It’s a bit like enjoying the best of both worlds.
As we drove home from dinner yesterday the husband looked visibly bored and drained from an evening spent with men his age, but far older in their heads. While I was fairly bright eyed and happy at an evening spent in company refreshingly different from the kind I usually enjoy.
“It’s nice to do this once in a while,” I said, having fully understood the perks of being a wallflower. The odd ones out, in a gathering of people mostly in the next phase of life. The phase we find ourselves still comfortably distanced from. The phase we will probably never fully embrace, in the way Indian societies expect us to.
“So nice to be around women once in a while,” I confessed to the husband, “It makes me realise how all my life I’ve almost always been surrounded by boys.”
The husband shushed me, very matter-of-factly, “Yeah because that’s your style. You don’t do chicita or aunty-party.” And because it is in my nature to compulsively over-think, ponder over and analyze such statements, I thought about it.
We were at a birthday dinner yesterday And once the typical social pleasantries were exchanged, drinks handed out and the port wine began to warm my insides, I couldn’t help but notice that unlike the usual settings of clinking glasses punctuated by loud guffaws amid spirited chatter, yesterday the sound of a child yelping in excitement was the loudest, fast drowning out everything else. Punctuated only by the shoes the child had on. The funky kind that go poink-poink-poink, with every step the baby took.
When said funky shoes are on the feet of a cherubic baby who has just discovered the joys of walking, you quickly go from cooing at every adorably-unsteady, but determined step he takes, to trying your level best to zone out the endless symphony of poink-poink-poinkpoinkpoink-poink-POINK-POINK-poink-poinkpoinkpoink-POINK-poink that fills the room around you.
I looked around me. While each one of us was around more or less the same age (28-35), give or take a few years; and had enough basic similarities (having left behind homes, families and friends in other Indian cities and moved to Goa for work; sharing a professional background in communication/advertising/design field) to bond over; almost every one else (except us) in the room were either already in the “next phase” of life or desperately trying to get there. I’m talking about babies, of course. The favourite Indian hallmark of being “settled”. Babies seriously alter social dynamics. Between married couples, between them and other couples, and in larger gatherings too.
That was some seriously unfamiliar territory for us. Many of my friends have been married for years and some have had babies, but my immediate social circle has always been filled with boisterous boys, mostly single, and our idea of hanging out has always been unorganised fun, with lots of backslapping, guffawing, vehement conversation and quite unlike the situation we were in yesterday. But here’s the surprising change. I quite enjoyed myself.
It was refreshing to be around women, for one. It was nice not to be amongst the oldest people in the gathering, for a change (we were probably the youngest couple around). And it was even nicer to be placed in that wonderful cusp; with one foot firmly stuck in the dregs of my 20s and everything that comes with it, and the other teetering into the fringes of the 30s that are soon going to come upon me.
Despite being surrounded by fathers fawning over their children, mothers who sought kinship in discussing the woes of playschool, vegetable prices, and travelling in the rain, and the incessant poink-poink-poink that refused to fade away, I found myself feeling kind of pleased. But mostly in that wonderful way that a wallflower manages to. Of knowing I didn’t quite fit in, but managing to blend in. Not quite fully noticeable, but present enough to soak it all in with a smile.
It was refreshing. And even though I had very little to contribute to conversation, I managed to stay afloat and actually enjoy the evening. Enough to want to do it once every so and then. The old me would have spent those few hours tearing my hair out wondering when we could silently slip away. But it seems I might have learned to cleverly straddle age in that convenient way that the husband does. Maybe I have finally learned to enjoy the company of married 30-somethings, as much as I do the usual bantering bunch that I have come to love so much. Maybe when the next opportunity comes along, I will enjoy being around them and their kids too, without wishing for some peace and quiet. Maybe I’ve finally figured out the formula to be only as old as I want to be.
Except, next time, I’m going to subtly take those damned shoes off the babies’ feet first.