Dear Friends

21 Mar

Dear Friends,

TV shows lie to us, which is fine.

But sometimes the myths become so pervasive they’re hard not to ignore. And sometimes they’re judgy. Like the myth about how we should all have a group of 5-6 friends, and all of us should live in awesome apartments, and date each other, and not really ever have to go to work, and if anyone breaks up, it’ll be awkward for approximately 8 minutes. At the most 20. Even if there’s a baby involved. Eventually somebody (well, 2 somebodies) will get married and everyone will apartment-swap and also hug.

For past examples see Friends, Party of Five, Friends, That 70’s Show, Dawson’s Creek, Friends, Saved by the Bell, Beverly Hills 90210. For current examples, see Happy Endings, Whitney, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, The League, 90210, etc, et al, ie, ergo, and so forth.

Forget the sweet apartments, the barely-present babies, the comic marriages, the impossibly high-paying jobs and low-rent living situations. Forget that no one ever grocery shops.

What if you don’t have the friends?

Yeah, I said it. WHAT IF I DON’T have a group of five-six close-knit friends who share apartments and last names and private parts and babies and toothbrushes?

I’ll give you guys a few minutes to pick your jaws up off the floor and wonder what sort of ghastly world I live in and what’s wrong with me (body odor? mental illness? hoarding? addiction? dingy bra straps?). What other explanation could there be that I don’t have a Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Joey, Ross, and/or Rachel stuffed in my closet, waiting to jump out and yell “surprise!” in two days on my birthday? (This whole post is an elaborate ruse to shill my upcoming birthday.)

What can it mean for my potential as a lifemate if I’m not going to end up dating and marrying some dude I’ve been sitting next to and essentially ignoring for the last six seasons of my life as he dates random personality-less hos that I know won’t last longer than their alloted three-episode arc? Who will I possibly be secretly in love with if my best friend’s boyfriend doesn’t live across the hall from me? How will I possibly talk to my best friend about this guy I’m sort of seeing if she doesn’t also eat dinner with him every single night and maybe is his sister or at least his ex-wife/baby mama? How will I ever end up with Pacey if I don’t grow up being platonically in love with Dawson and secret-girl fighting with Pacey’s girlfriends and letting Dawson climb through my window on a ladder which is totally somehow not creepy in context?

No, seriously— how can I ensure that I end up with Pacey?

What if my married couple friends aren’t friends with my main single girlfriend and what if none of them know my ex-boyfriend? What if– hold on to your hats here– I don’t hang out with my ex-boyfriend on a regular basis? Or (gasp) at all? Because, you know, when we broke up there were hurt feelings that lasted longer than the space of a commercial break and it turns out that after we broke up, we didn’t have any reason to keep hanging out, because his best friend is not also my roommate and my best friend is not his brother’s girlfriend and our brothers never slept together, because we don’t have brothers. In fact, our main tie to each other was that we were dating. And so when we stopped dating, that tie was severed. And so when we stopped “seeing” each other, we also stopped seeing each other.

You get my point, and if you don’t by now, you’re never going to. Except I haven’t even made my real point, which isn’t solely to make fun of the incestuous and ridiculous nature of these tv shows, which I love, and who would want to watch a show about a bunch of random people flitting in and out of each other’s lives with a cast in the hundreds and no through line? You wouldn’t care. I’m still mad Ted and Robin broke up and then that Robin and Barney broke up, because who gives a shit about this Quinn girl and you’ll notice they haven’t even tried to make us care about Ted’s love life in three seasons.

My real point is that life can be lonely and lovely and it rarely looks at all like it does on television, and we know this but we can feel “less than” nonetheless. My friends are scattered all across the country, and even the ones in the same cities aren’t necessarily friends with each other– they’re my friends, they’re friends with me— and even if I could put all of us in the same city, I wouldn’t necessarily want them to hang out all the time, even if it was in my power to force them to do so. And I certainly wouldn’t want them all sleeping together and breaking up and continuing to hang out. If you’ve even been friends with a couple who broke up and continued to try to be friends: it’s usually heartwrenching and uncomfortable and it involves another break-up, and possibly a third. If you’ve ever had a baby: it usually requires more than 30 seconds of screen time in the tv show of your life. If you’ve ever had a job: you usually have to show up.

I’m not, it turns out, suited for groups. I like a one-on-one kind of friendship, I don’t like to negotiate with six people about where to eat dinner. I will not go see the Hangover 2 instead of Bridesmaids just because that’s what the two loudest people want to do.

And yet still there’s something in me that asks: where is my cohort? Where are my “people”? Who are my friends and do they exist if they don’t all know each other and continuously validate each other’s existence and my integral function of holding up one of six tentpoles / designated comedic roles? I want a band of thieves or outsiders or ninjas or jovial ex-boyfriends and their sisters! I think. Maybe. I’d issue a casting call, but unlike the rest of the world, I know the The Truman Show is a prophecy and unless Pacey’s going to show up to play himself, it just doesn’t seem worth it. But it’d be nice to have a group to go to brunch with. I’m in a city not only without a gang, but without my sister, without a BFF, without a boyfriend, without a roommate. It’s quiet around here, sometimes. Sometimes that’s ok, sometimes it’s necessary and needed and important, sometimes it’s busy and cheerful and not quiet at all, sometimes it’s just how things are.

I’m about to have a birthday and I have friends, here, and they’re good people, and they’re adults, so even though they don’t know each other, at my birthday they’ll introduce themselves and make conversation and generally behave like human beings and it’ll be good and I’ll eat french fries and drink something with gin in it. Some people who I’ve invited will come, and some of them won’t be able to, and some people who I’d like to be able to invite live across the country, and some people who were once in my life are not any longer, and some people who are in it now will pass out of it, eventually, maybe, and then they will reappear, or not, and some hurts and joys last longer than 22 minutes and and and.




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