Category Archives: Friendship

Contemporary Entitlement

entitThe word entitlement is thrown around a lot these days, and often it’s used as a pat definition for an entire generation, by a generation that struggles to understand an attitude and way of being that differs from theirs. Yes, I’m talking again about the Boomers fighting the Millenials. We are accused of acting entitled because what we want and how we act varies widely from their experience. But I’d rather hear what we have to say about it. I recently read an article about the comedians Key and Peele who explore contemporary entitlement, defined as “concern with one’s personal rights combined with non-interest in one’s duties.” It feels familiar. Aziz Ansari’s new special features him doing a bit about how we’ve become an exceptionally rude group of individuals, valuing our needs and wants and time over that of our community. Perhaps our brightest comedians (usually some of society’s sharpest critics, if not visionaries) are warning us that the social fabric is breaking down around us, and we’re the problem. Continue reading

Loyalty Ain’t A Thing

loyalLoyalty was a quality largely absent (hidden?) both in relationships and the broader societal context, so much so I barely noticed. In fact the concept had become so distant and shallow I began to think of it only in the context of consumerism–brand loyalty. And even then, I was really only out for the best deal, most of the time. Could the same be said of my relationships? I’m not sure I even understand what loyalty truly means anymore, in practice that is. So I crowd sourced via social media for some thoughts on why loyalty has become both under-expressed and undervalued in the modern age. Understanding I’m part of the shift, if for no other reason than that I’m alive at this time, I wondered what I could do to bring it back. Because didn’t life feel better, less treacherous or unstable when we knew for sure we had people, communities even, behind us? Continue reading

The Interview Series: You Can Go Your Own Way

IMG_20150220_170714We’d recently reconnected via social media and shared a chat about our experiences of being depressed in high school. We had been peripheral acquaintances at most, and we remarked that perhaps we could have been supportive friends to each other had we known the other was struggling within the same all-encompassing grey cloud. I hoped he would be open to an interview about his experience of depression, since mental health issues in men are so rarely discussed in the culture outside of professional circles, and he agreed.

“Depression is such a central theme in my life, I can’t separate myself from it. Guys are conditioned not to show or talk about this aspect,” he observed, agreeing that the public conversation about men’s mental health issues has a long way to go. He’d had his first Major Depressive Episode at age twelve, and continued to grapple with the disorder well into adulthood. A single man in his mid-thirties, he’d at last broken through due to a combination of factors. “Dialogue, communication and connection have been inextricably linked to me coming out of depression,” he told me. For many years before there had been bleak periods of intense isolation and misery, which impacted his life negatively, drawing it down to a very small existence. Continue reading

The Interview Series: The Shame Game

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“When it went down originally, people wanted to push it under the rug. I lost a lot of friends,” she told me, as we began our conversation about her experience of being raped during her junior year of college. She had been describing the reaction of a recent long-term boyfriend, and how his response wasn’t unlike that of her social circle at the time of the trauma. After dating for over a year, she had finally worked up the nerve to disclose to him that she had been raped, an important step for relationships with men that appeared to have long term potential. “It’s a pretty defining moment from my life. It creates trust issues for me. If you want to know me, you need to know this.” They were on a ski trip together, and one night after they had some drinks, she ventured into her past. No sooner had she spoken the words than he became angry, visibly upset and uncomfortable. She dropped the subject for the time being, bringing it up again the next day. He became defensive, informing her in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want to hear about it, or talk about it. He wasn’t the one who had raped her, so why should he have to confront her truth?

As she and I spoke we returned to the theme of silence, again and again, brought on by forces internal, social and cultural. Continue reading

Seven Year Itch

sevenI follow Uberfacts on Twitter.

If you don’t follow Uberfacts, you are missing out on dazzling gems such as

252 million tons of pepperoni are eaten each year.

Shakespeare invented the name Jessica.

Approximately 49 moons could fit inside of earth.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s first onscreen kiss was with a man.

Then one day, sometime in the last year or so, Uberfacts told me that

The average friendship lasts 5-7 years.

My initial reaction was, ‘why, how sad. Friendships should last a lot longer than that.’

Then I took stock and thought about all of the friendships that I have which are more than seven years old. I had a few ground rules.

First, no family. I know people who say they are best friends with their mom. I knew a set of triplets back in high school who were ‘sisters by chance, best friends by choice.’

That all deserves a post of its own.

Second rule, no significant others. I don’t do ‘married my best friend.’ When I see that on Facebook or a wedding announcement or in an obituary, I simply don’t understand. That’s my personal view. You do you.

Third rule, what does ‘average’ mean? (Stats nerds are laughing) Ordinary? Normal? Unremarkable? Plain? Homely? Since words are tools and need to be used properly and precisely to have much meaning, I decided that ‘average’ doesn’t mean boring, run of the mill, hum drum friendships. Tonight I decided that ‘average’ simply refers to the length of time for the kinds of friendships that would really hurt you to lose. The people that you would actually notice if they disappeared from your life.

It’s about quantity, not quality.

The fourth rule: what is ‘friendship?’ Well, the relationships that would really hurt you to lose.

It’s about quality, not quantity.

And the fifth rule of Fight Club is…

I see some categories as gray areas that may or may not count. Coworkers, for example. Say you go to the same job every day for ten years. Let’s say a number of your coworkers last as long as you. All of you go to the same job every single workday for a decade. Now imagine that you actually like these people. Are they your friends?

I suppose it depends on how much work you put into cultivating and maintaining a ‘friendship.’

Well, we go out for happy hour… every payday Thursday.

We play basketball together on Wednesday nights… when we aren’t all too busy.

Our kids go to the same school… but don’t really like each other.

Maybe those are the kinds of people you consider friends. No problem, it’s your call. I hadn’t really put much thought into it until I moved away from a community where I spent 7 ½ years. That was pretty eye-opening. The structure of the workplace provides an easy medium for developing potential friendships. Because it is all based entirely on that singularly-defined context, however, it can be grossly misleading.

No matter how much work and effort you put in, there’s always a chance that you blink and realize it was all an illusion. A flimsy house of cards.

Sure, it can be like that with any relationship. But remember that when you are making friends with coworkers, you risk having a friendship built on a foundation of nothing more than the shared requirement that you all punch in at the same place every day.

I’m certainly not belittling work friendships. They make going to work bearable, even enjoyable. And if you see some people outside of the work place and you enjoy their company, life just feels that much better. I love working with people that I can hang out with socially.

But that’s not the point of my exercise. I’m looking at friendships that can and do exist outside of the job. Those that, when the time comes to sever the work bond and leave a job behind, survive and thrive. I have very few.

What about classmates?

We’ve been best friends since first grade.

The four of us walked together at graduation and are still best buds ten years later.

My sorority sisters and I were all in each others weddings.

My dad was Army so we moved a lot. From age 8 to 15 I lived in four different states plus Germany. I did fourth grade in two different countries, seventh grade in two different states, and I had the pleasure of being a freshman at one high school and then a sophomore at a different high school that was 10th through 12th grades.

I was basically a freshman twice.

On top of that there were a million other kids just like me. All of us military kids were in the same boat. Every week someone you knew was moving away and you would never hear from them again. And it’s not like these kids were moving down the street, or across town.

Hey Bobby, let’s go to that German bakery off base after school next week! Sorry, can’t, I’m moving to Louisiana tomorrow.

Mom, can Jeremy spend the night this weekend? Sorry, Honey. He’s busy helping his family get ready to move to Japan.

Hi Joe, welcome to the school! Do you want to join the baseball team in the spring? Sorry, we’re only stationed here for four months.

And this was the dark ages: no internet. Email didn’t become mainstream until I started college. And forget phone calls. Cell phones were the size of cinder blocks and were restricted to movies like Wall Street. And long-distance charges? I can’t even imagine what it would cost to make a phone call from Germany to Pennsylvania in 1989. Probably five hundred dollars. You could always write a letter, I guess. And I did, once or twice. But two ten-year olds are going to have neither the focus nor the life experience to sustain any meaningful written correspondence.

Some of the communities where I lived had a pretty sizable civilian population, so it was always really weird to me when a kid was born in the same city where I would later meet them in middle school. I couldn’t imagine living in the same place, with the same people around me, for my whole life. I needed constant change.

Needless to say, I have zero friends from elementary school. Zero from middle school. I can count on two hands those from high school and college.

The one caveat that serves as the white elephant is the stack of Facebook friends that I have collected over the last decade or so, many of whom I knew from one of my earlier educational experiences. I like those folks, and do consider them friends to the degree that I may wish them happy birthday or like their cat videos. But almost all of them were long forgotten until we discovered social media and started stalking one another.

Don’t misunderstand. I had good, comfortable numbers of friends at all levels of school. It’s just that none of them lasted. My peripatetic childhood was at least partly responsible, my natural instinct being to churn and burn through similarly nomadic friends at a fairly rapid pace.

Plus I can be pretty hard to be around at times.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Uberfacts tells me that the average friendship lasts for 5-7 years. I can see that.

I just recently reached that mark with a bunch of people who I find are no longer in my life.

I’m well beyond 7 years with a handful of very special people.

I’m very early in the timeline with a number of other people whose company I particularly enjoy and I hope to continue to call my friends for many more years.

And there are plenty more that I know who are right in that 5-7 year critical time period. For all of those people, let’s enjoy each other’s company as much and for as long as we can.

Because the clock’s ticking.

Guest post by RMK, attorney for a paycheck, not a living.

Round Hole, Square Peg

RoundI’ve previously discussed my often overwhelming need and desperate attempts to fit into various groups over the course of my life–the cool kids at school, the hipsters in my neighborhood, my family, etc. Being myself didn’t feel like an option. Not only that, I hadn’t the first clue about what that would mean. A blank space existed where my sense of self belonged, and it wasn’t until I was near the end of my twenties that I began to attach certain truths to it, like some sort of existential pinterest board. I started thinking about this struggle again recently, prompted by a friend’s facebook post, where she posed the question: at what point should an outcast try to conform? Continue reading

Askholes

Askholes

I discovered this fantastic word (concept, really) on some recent meme. It was defined as a person who asks for advice and then goes out and does the exact opposite of what you say. I’m going to add to that definition a person who asks for your advice, then refutes each of your points and does nothing. They are both forms of what we used to call “energy vampires” back in my beauty industry days. Those customers who would spend an hour talking your ear off about their needs, then shoot down every suggestion and criticize every brush stroke. They latched on and demanded full attention, sucking out every last drop with their TMIs, rapid-fire questions, and talking-over. By the time they left, you were a husk lying on the floor, dried out and crunched underfoot. I know I’ve been an askhole, so unsure of myself that every little conflict or discomfort required hours of analysis and counsel with anyone who would listen. Askholes are entirely insecure, with little to no self-awareness or impulse control and a high level of need. Or at least that’s how I was. Continue reading

Keep It Off My Wave

PPG_WAVE_2.2When you study psychology sometimes it has the effect of making you empathic to the point of needless self-sacrifice. I’ve stayed in relationships far longer than was healthy simply because my understanding of the human psyche kept me from being honest with myself. I’d have a friend who was constantly negative, self-absorbed and abrasive, whose company I didn’t particularly enjoy, but I’d keep calling and inviting because I’ve been depressed and I understand what psychological stress can do to a person. The lengths I’d go to to excuse bad behavior sometimes appeared limitless, but I justified them because I felt I had special knowledge and understanding. I’ll admit to you that I was a “mean girl” from about third grade through the beginning of undergrad (we can talk more about that shameful period of my life, and why people bully another time) and so I seemed to think that unlimited empathy was a sort of karmic reparation I was paying. I wanted people in my life, a lot of people, and I would take all kinds. It didn’t matter whether they were giving anything in the relationship. I could more than compensate for what they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) offer, because I have the skills to bridge the gap. What a bunch a self-serving shit that was, and it drew quite an assortment of toxic people into my world. Continue reading

See Something? Say Something.

See somethingHave you ever been in a situation where things weren’t going well, but no one around you seemed to notice or acknowledge it? I think the high value we place on privacy and autonomy can cause a kind of social paralysis, where we’re not reacting honestly to what’s happening around us. Louis CK has a stand-up bit where he talks about a friend’s teenage country cousin seeing her first destitute homeless person in Manhattan, and how while the man didn’t register to Louie or his friend, the cousin got down on her knees to do a welfare check. The anecdote illustrates Louie’s embarrassment at the cousin’s reaction, and the internal revolt he feels at his own jaded inaction. Don’t we kind of do this a lot as a society? Certainly we can’t help everyone, and we tend to accept what we feel we can’t (or won’t) change. But what about when it comes to the people we’re close to in life, when we see something that doesn’t look right, or sense something’s wrong? It’s a minefield, and I’m not sure how to cross it without something getting blown up. I keep trying, though. Continue reading

Exclusion is Not a Form of Style

10599706_10152578076188346_6511525159134575491_nI was walking through the mall the other day and stopped in my tracks in front of Wet Seal when I saw a tank top featured in the window that read “You Can’t Sit With Us”. In small text underneath the line was attributed to Mean Girls, a movie from 2004 that explores the phenomena of adolescent cruelty and cliques. It’s a marvelous flick (written by the brilliant comedian Tina Fey) because of its clear-eyed look at young female viciousness and resolution through revenge and redemption. However, its messages of exclusion do not belong on clothing marketed to tweens and teens. Retailers are smack in the middle of back-to-school sales and marketing clothing that glorifies bullying is heartless and wrong. For a moment there it seemed like perhaps America was making progress on rooting out bullying in schools, or at minimum speaking openly about it. Projects like itgetsbetter.org and thebullyproject.com raised the issue, attempting to instill a sense of hope for victims and responsibility in peers, parents and educators. Now my local Nordstrom is posting pro-bullying clothing and accessories available in its teen department on Instagram. Continue reading