'The best part about making younger friends is that you tend to leave your worries at home'
Wearing gold shoes can be impactful in more ways than one
Walking into a new workplace can be intimidating enough without looking around and realising most of your colleagues are the same age as your daughter. Apprehensive about the age gap and worried about making younger friends, Tanu Kaushal Sharma admits she was uncomfortable disclosing her age initially. “Saying I was born in 1977 sounds ancient, dinosaur ka zamaana to those born in 2000.” Sharma shares her experience with making younger friends at work and how it’s enriched every aspect of her life.
I became a fauji wife at 23. The other officers’ wives were much older, so I had friends who were 15 years my senior but it didn’t matter. That’s where I learnt how to get along with people of different ages. Little did I know that two decades down the line, the tables would turn.
When I first took up this job, we were working from home, so our interactions were largely virtual. It was only when the lockdown restrictions were lifted and we started going to office that I realised they all looked very young. They didn’t know I had two daughters, one of whom was as old as them. It wasn’t like I hid that information, it’s just that it didn’t come up. Instead, we used to talk about what was happening in their lives, and I’d share my relevant experiences with them.
The fact that I enjoy experimenting with fashion also helped. I have my own style which isn’t necessarily similar to what others my age would prefer wearing. One day, I walked into the office wearing gold hoops and matching golden shoes. Everybody began complimenting me and asking for styling advice, and that broke the ice.
When they finally learnt my age a few months later, we had already bonded as friends, so they absorbed the information gracefully.
The benefit of making younger friends is that you tend to leave your worries at home. My life has different problems, I may have body aches or an issue with my husband, daughters or mother-in-law. But when I am with that age group, I get to talk about topics that they can relate to and pitch in as a friend with no judgement, not as an aunty or a mother. They discuss heartbreaks, dating apps, physical relationships… topics that are new to me and which I have never even discussed with my own daughter.
Whenever they plan parties, they say, ‘Will you come, you stay so far away?’ I say, ‘My daughters are old enough, and my husband is there to take care of them. I have no worries at all.’ They love that I never say no to parties, I’m free and I want to join in the fun.
Sometimes, I even forget that I am married with kids. I am not joking. Recently, one of my male colleagues in his 30s threw a party. I was working from home that day but they made a Whatsapp group and sent a respectful message inviting me. I had a frozen shoulder that day but I still went, with the only request being that I wouldn’t be able to sit on the floor because it would get difficult for me to get up. Though he had a small house with just two mattresses, he arranged a chair for me. Our is a friendship with a pinch of respect, which I’ve earned because of my age because it’s like ‘Tanu ko toh bulana hi hai, party mein toh usko aana hi hai, whatever she wants, we’ll make her comfortable’.
I’m also protective of them. I get worried about those who live far away and tell them to text me when they reach home if they’re leaving late. Sometimes, I feel like they shouldn’t drink or smoke as much. With them, I’m 30% a mother and 70% a colleague.
We learn a lot from each other. I share advice about relationships and marriage, and they give me tips on dealing with my daughter. They’ve taught me how to work on Google sheets and Canva, how to give presentations. And I’ve helped them improve their people skills.
I always tell them about the good parts of my married life and the small things I do with my husband — how I used to be a teetotaler but now I drink with him. How we have a motorbike which we take out for a ride whenever we want to feel young. My colleagues tell me that we’re giving them couple goals on how to enjoy life when they turn 40. I’m just living my life the way I want to, but I feel I’ve done something right if people half my age want to be like me.
The best way to go about making younger friends is to meet them at their level. I think the older person has to be the more flexible and accommodating one. Otherwise it’s difficult to survive. Don’t expect them to act 45, you have to become 25 because you’ve been through that age. Earn respect with your work because when you’re spending eight hours in an office, you need to make friends with your colleagues so you can enjoy that time. If you’re not happy, you tend to carry all the baggage back home and make your family life hell.
This is a personal account as told to Shivani Pathak