succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, September 23, 2005

Chosen Families

There seems to be a fair amount of nostalgia going around. I finally came across the journal entry I scribbled while home a couple of weeks ago, after catching the tail end of "Kicking and Screaming," about how movies about the end of college or the years immediately following college make me both nervous and nostalgic. Nervous because I can remember so clearly watching those characters and thinking of them as grown-ups, despite the fact that they were depicting ages a mere couple of years older then me. And now we've all reached those places, in one way or another, and I figure I'll never really feel grown up, but still, something about this particular life stage sort of freaks me out.

And Sid just got to have a reunion of sorts in OH, so it was nice to catch up on people via his blog, even if it did make me feel guilty for almost completely losing touch with the vast majority of that group...

And Carrie comments that often what we need, and get, from our closest friendships is the ability to take them for granted. So that both our chosen and our biological families are 'stuck with us' in the sense that we can, from time to time, take advantage of their love and support for our own stength without sacrificing the relationship.

Which finally gets me around to the epiphany of sorts that I had this afternoon. I've long known that I weigh my friends' opinions above my own, particularly when it comes to other potential friends or dates. If I bring a boy home and my friends disapprove, he almost immediately becomes less attractive (and conversely, if I come home from a date feeling luke warm about someone and my friends rave about him, he immediately gets bumped up in my own estimation). To a certain extent this is due to the repeatedly reinforced impression that I have terrible intuition when it comes to people and that I'm better off relying on trusted friends to clue me in to 'bad' people. (I'll eventually reach the same conclusion, it just takes me longer, so believing others' opinions is just a shortcut to the same end) But at least part of this is also due to my unwillingness to test my support system - if things within my group of friends are functioning well, and I've just introduced someone to the mix that the group dislikes, it's far less scary to simply sacrifice the new person and side with the group. But if I take a moment to think about the other side, to remember all the times that other members of the group made decisions we thought were 'bad' or entered into relationships we didn't favor, I would remember that we still stood by that person. The whole point of good friendships is that they let you make mistakes, and help you right them afterwards, with minimal judgement. I know this. And yet somehow I haven't made much use of it in the past.

What I'm trying to work out, rather obtusely, is that I'm starting to navigate a new, rather ill-defined friendship/relationship that I'm a little wary of but feel like I'm going into with my eyes open. I have a tendency to avoid potentially messy relationships, and while I'm a magnet for the ill-defined date I always take myself out of the equation before it turns into an ill-defined relationship. A practice which has protected me from a certain amount of hurt, but also from quite a bit of potential fun. So here I am, taking babysteps towards this thing, which, frankly, has quite a bit of potential for me to get hurt...but looks like a damn bit of fun in the process.

I thought I'd post a response to Sid's chastising in comments. He's right, I've violated the code, my role is pollyanna. And I believe him that there are damn fine people out there. I haven't lost my faith in individuals. I think rather I've lost my faith in the American Public as an entity. In last weekend's Times Magazine there's an article profiling Bono, and it says, "He believes - he knows - that the American people would demand action on Africa if only someone would tell them the facts." I used to have this sweetly naive idea too - that when presented with The Truth the American people would act thoughtfully and justly. Not necessarily in a way that aligned with my own personal views, but in a way that could be logically followed as a rational reaction to The Truth. But the past few years have just time and again shown me how willing the masses are, nay, how eager they are, to avoid using any hint of the critical thought processes they may have rattling around in their heads. Or even to prioritize. How is it possible to sacrifice a dozen other things you may believe in (for example, education, job security, healthcare, etc.) for a single solitary issue (perhaps abortion or 'security')? It just doesn't make any sense. And hence the only conclusion I can see is that the American Public, en masse, is highly unlikely to act in its own best interests, much less anyone else's. But maybe I'm not really that cynical. If Bono can still believe, maybe I can too. Carrie's suggestion ain't bad - Barack does make my heart go pitter pat.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I've mused about this before, but a series of conversations has percolated it back toward the front of my brain, so here we are again. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not actually looking for a Partner in the serious permanent commitment right now sort of way (actually, anyone who knows me knows I'd really rather just get laid as soon as possible) but nevertheless, I miss partnerships. Mark and Carrie and our lives back at Belmar definitely constituted a partnership, one that I took for granted a little too often. Living with them, leaning on them, relaxing around them, certainly went a long way toward keeping my sanity, in a way that I clearly have not been able to replicate here, given the summer I just crawled out of. I'm trying to convince myself that relationships like that take time, that it took three years in Cleveland before I figured it out, and this is my third year here, and I'm no longer living alone, so...maybe I can find it again. I'm trying not to be cynical and believe those people who say you just make fewer connections like that as you grow up. I just want someone (or someones) in front of whom I can allow myself to cry, people around whom, from time to time, I can stop pretending and let them take care of me a bit.

Speaking of pretending, A has been thinking about that lately, and though we've reached different conclusions, we managed to have a brief but interesting conversation about our varying points of view (she thinks part of growing up is having more people expect you to pretend, to tone down the emotional reactions; I'm coming to terms with being more honest, with worrying less about making people worry).

Anyway. Those are the random thoughts of the evening. I'm slowly starting to get school back under control (the first couple of weeks of class ended up feeling much more hectic than necessary due to my complete denial about the beginning semester and thus procrastination of all work until a single weekend that was also full of social engagements that I refused to pass up). TA-ing for three classes should be interesting (I'm supposed to be grading papers right now) so we'll see how that goes...

Oh, one more random musing - I watched Thirteen Days the other night, and it nearly broke my heart. I realize that the Kennedys are romantacized and idolized beyond recognition, and I certainly don't know enough about the Cuban Missile Crisis to have any idea of how accurate the movie is...nevertheless, the way the characters spoke about the president, the faith they had in him to protect their families, to act thoughtfully and carefully, the references to morality and a personal set of ethics...I just can't even imagine feeling that way about a leader any more. I'm not sure a person about whom I could feel that way could ever get elected.