Monday, May 28, 2007

Time keeps on tickin', tickin'...

I have often been told by a friend or an acquaintance that he or she has "outgrown" something. Whether it be X-Box Live, or Days of Our Lives, or body shots with strangers, when viewed in the condescending light of a new found maturity whatever "it" is, is no longer appropriate. The most frequent application of this phrase seems to be in reference to one's friends, "I don't know, I feel like I've 'outgrown' my friends." The inner analyst in me will always translate this to mean that, "I'm tired of getting fucked up as a source of amusement. I need classier friends."

Fair enough. I can certainly see how a social scheme that involves group drinking and whatever reprobate shenanigans ensue might be found tiresome by a portion of the population.

Fable #1
As a hypothetical, let's say that two friends find themselves somewhat over served at happy hour last Thursday. In a populist attempt to spread the joy, the two begin barraging a third friend with phone calls and text messages to join them on the Carpool patio as he resides a mere one block away. Now let's say that this third person is actually at home but studying for a professional certification exam which was far more important than the recently elapsed happy hour special on domestic draft. Never ones to be discouraged by a failed first charge, the two libertines skittered through traffic across Fairfax Drive to the 7-11 on a mission to bring the mountain to Mohammad. Six dollars later, Number 3 answers the knocking on his door to find two drunks standing in his hallway with bursting bladders and 120 ounces of malt liquor. The End.

The point of that rambling, Aesopian tale is that I do get how people can feel as if they have outgrown a group of friends. But that is usually a look from the top down. What about from the bottom up? Have you ever felt that perhaps your friends were "outgrowing" you?

Fable #2
For our second hypothetical, take the case of a large group of college friends who at one point in the mid-90's (think O.J. Simpson, Rusted Root, and Milwaukee's Best Ice) all lived on the 7th floor of a certain dorm at a certain university with a long name in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. Through the mediums of softball, alcohol, and nuptial after nuptial, these friends managed to stay closely connected up to the present day. Among their group traditions is the annual pilgrimage to a friend's lake home where each Memorial Day weekend for the last seven years there has been much eating, drinking, and merriment. Like any living organism, the nature of this journey evolved over time as evidenced by people entering serious relationships, then marriages, and then child-rearing. As a reflection of this, girlfriends and then wives and most recently children began to join the annual festivities. To their credit, the lake trips remained as light-hearted and fun as ever even while many, well most, actually just about all had moved on to the Next Phase of their lives. With another couple getting engaged at the most recent Memorial Day trip the passenger manifest became firmly locked down with all of the regular attendees being either married to one another, engaged to one another, or "seriously dating" one another. That is of course except for the hero of our tale who is the consummate bachelor and the lone shot of singleness in this largely betrothed cocktail.

While he vainly enjoys the public attention his bachelor status yields at this event, upon reflection of the past seven years (especially in light of the most recent engagement) our hero was left to ponder, "Have my friends outgrown me?" For 99% of the group, the weekend at the lake serves as a respite from the stresses of home, hearth, and family offering an opportunity to imbibe and revel in the days of yore. Our hero on the other hand approaches each year from an opposite route. He looks forward to his weekend at the lake as a respite from the intensity of his constant social solipsism (see Fable #1) which he views as his time to "dial it back" for a few days. Fortunately these two curves intersect at the same intended point but he wonders if this will continue to work out in the years to come. As more conversations turn to marriage and mortgage, will our hero have anything to contribute other than his cynically pragmatic philosophy of The Avoidance of Both? Perhaps no.

As long as he continues to look forward to and enjoy his days at the lake, his presence each year is assured. But it is hard to believe that this will continue on forever. To be 30 and still renting an apartment in Arlington makes a certain statement, whether it be subtle or overt, about how one plans to spend his off-work hours and it does not involve trips to Home Depot or Bed, Bath & Beyond irrespective of how much time you may have. That is not a judgement in the positive or negative but it does point to a future incompatibility with what may soon become your friends' family getaway.


At 5/28/2007 10:32 PM, Blogger Carrie M said...

You're back! And using $1.50 sentences at that. Bravo.

Thankfully, I have other friends to spend my weekends with other than the few that belong in the smug married group. That said, I do know what you mean.

At 5/29/2007 11:11 AM, Anonymous CT said...

Isn't this your second Mem-day post that made an appearence in WaPo-X ?

At 5/29/2007 11:18 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Back indeed. We'll see how long I remain inspired.

I just saw that bit in the Express -- the print edition, no less. Given the holiday weekend, there must have been a dearth of new blog posts to include.

At 5/29/2007 4:50 PM, Blogger dara said...

I've been expressing a similar sentiment lately, as more and more of my friends pair up and start heading towards that "next phase," and the rest of us are left with the same old tired souces of amusement (i.e. bars).

Of course, if your pool of friends is large enough, you'll have a few that wind up getting divorced -- and that inevitably involves some sort of regression on their part, similar to your first hypothetical. Those are fun to watch.

At 5/29/2007 6:46 PM, Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I felt some existential angst this weekend when singing "Jack and Diane" with you and the group because I finally really got the lyric, "Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone."

And coupling is not linear (single to coupled) but rather a continuum as Dara points out - there is single, dating, seriously dating, shacking up, baby mama/daddy, marriage, parenthood, divorce, widowed, dating again, friends with benefits, and a whole other host of options that I think no one will outgrow if we all live to be 100. Sooner or later we'll all be at different points, so we might as well relax and enjoy it.


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