Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sometimes, even Frasier Crane is right

One of the TV shows I am re-watching my way through right now is Frasier, one of my all time favorite shows.
While most of the time Frasier is a pompous windbag and you have to laugh at him; one episode ("The Friend" [S3.E11]) really struck a chord with me.

Frasier had been given two tickets to a luxury box at the race track and when neither Niles nor Martin could go he was unable to find a friend to take with him. He complained that he had been back in Seattle for two years and had yet to forge any new friendships. When he was discussing this on the air, he said something that made me stop and replay the scene.

"So why is it we have so much trouble making friends? Is it because we have become closed off? No longer want to reach out to our fellow-man?"

Now, I am not recently returned to town, but I have noticed a similarity. I have not made a new friendship in a very long time. The ravages of time and parenthood have moved my earlier friendships to nodding status and I have not made any new friendships to take up the slack.
That is not to say that I am not friendly with people, there are quite a few people with whom I can have a conversation or a laugh with. Though I wouldn't, for example, call them with tickets to the race track. Getting back to the question posed by Frasier on his radio show (yes, I know it isn't real, but how else would you say it?) If I am honest with myself the reasons stopping me are nothing more than excuses. "I would but there just isn't time" or "I am just too busy with work and the kids".

I work for a company that goes to great effort to make employees friendly, asking everyone to do simple things like smiling and saying hello when they pass someone in the hallway. They welcome new employees by putting a tray of "Rookie Cookies" on their desk and email everyone to come and say hello and have a cookie. How do those excuses stack up to that? I think he was right, we become closed off at some point. No longer able to reach out to our fellow man.  It certainly isn't because I no longer want to reach out. Surely I wouldn't have felt a connection to this episode if that were the case. It can't be a lack of options since as I just pointed out there are a number of people I see every day that I have shared interests with. I have the great privilege to work with some of the smartest people I know and since we all work in the same field (IT) and in the same place there is a built-in connection there. I just don't have any idea how to move from the colleague stage into friendship. There are some challenges that would make friendship difficult, age differences, marital and children status. But these start to smell of excuses again.

Social media adds a new wrinkle to the problem. You can have friends on social media, but while I am unable to think of a better word, friend doesn't seem correct. How can you possibly be friends with someone whom you've never met and really only know the things they are willing to share on the internet. I follow a number of people on g+ that I have a great deal of respect for. They are articulate, have great senses of humor, and share many of my interests. Their posts always make me think, laugh or lead me down endless rabbit holes of discovery. I look forward to every new post as I would a call or letter from a friend. Once again though I am forced to admit, I wouldn't call them for a day at the track.

My kids are nearly grown now, in a couple of years they will be out there living their own lives and then even the excuses will be gone. Then I will have to face that question again. without excuse, am I no longer willing to reach out to my fellow man?

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