Friday, October 09, 2009

Bowling Alone

Thanks to
for the photo.

It's strange. You hit adulthood. You live in a neighbourhood and get married and have children and whathaveyou. But you never, or at least, it'd been my experience, have those friendships you did in school. That clamouring crowd of like-minded individuals, all bursting with excitement and energy and the undaunted optimism. A buzzing outlook tempered by anxiety and parental expectations and the blazing possibility that you just might have a charmed life. And, just as likely, that your life will crash in a multitude of failed tests/interviews/jobs and you'll end up one of those pitiful characters featured in Coen Brother's films.

One moment, you don't have time for all the people you know or are interested in knowing. And in the blink of a year or ten, you're in a perpetual hamster wheel of commute/work/family/Weekend Activity Planned By Extended Family.

There's that somewhat seminal book Bowling Alone, that looks at the fall of civic engagement and group whatever. The takeaway is that no one is joining bowling leagues, no one is squeezing themselves into their monkey suits to go to Elk Fundraiser or hob-nob at a Rotary function. There is almost no way to add more friends to whoever you glommed onto at school, and whoever you may work with.

I mean, where is my Barney Rubble? Where is my Jeremy Piven? Jeremy Piven, as you probably don't know, played what I consider to be the epitome of 'best friend' in two movies that I should feel embarassed for liking but don't: "Family Man" and "Serendipity". He was funny and odd and warm and shared in-jokes with the leading men that showed a closeness you only get through years of knowing each other.

It's likely a losing strategy to compare my social life with those constructed by cocaine and adderall addicted screen writers trying to get six figures for their latest script about the heart-warming strength of the family and about how love really can conquer all, even if you have John Cusack as your lead. But there's something in me that recognizes Piven in those films.

It's like Plato's shadow on the cave wall. It's maybe this imaginary reflection of an ideal that's only pulled out to sell more beer and week-long Alaskan fishing trips. Or maybe it's a representation of what we think we should have. That bond between men. Metaphorically speaking.

As all my semi-deep rants seem to end up in a hap-dash evolutionary discussion, let's go there. Back during our most formative years, tens of thousands of years ago, hunting and gathering as hunter-gathers are wont to do, there had to be friends right? Hunting together, making sure Baak didn't get gutted by a sabertooth or that Tarkuk got his fair share of the mastodon. It was a bond formed on real stuff.

What I'm saying is that call for close friends is not coming from nowhere. Social monkeys that we are. But there is no hunt anymore, there is no grind to strengthen that stuff between men.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. Possibly to a Al Pacino monologue, I think.

I saw "I Love You, Man", recently. And damnit all if I wasn't the main character. Socially separated and without any number of dudes who he could call friends. His painful attempts at trying to cultivate guy friends hit a little too close to home. Having 'man-dates', keeeeeripes if that didn't make my skin crawl through my ear and die on the shelf of my brain pan. But his continued awkwardness on what was cool, what was 'right', what was 'guy-appropriate'.


I dunno what happened, jobs happened, maybe, schooling happened. Life and kids and the stuff of being an adult happened. That vast sea of free time that we seemed to have to go to McDonald's or awkwardly stand in line at club vanished.

It's all pretty confusing. All I know is I don't got no Piven.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Well said brother... Well said. The part of this aging experience that seems to be the most aggravating for me is that there actually seems to be no shortage of good people that I'd make time to hang out with... it's just that they all live in another state/ country.

Maybe I should get to know my neighbors.