Friday, June 23, 2006

Lonely Americans

I used to have friends, really I did! I even have the pictures to prove it, do you want to see them?? I am not a total and utter leper! And now there is proof that I am not alone in my aloneness! As I have long suspected, I am not the only loner/loser/hermit crab out there. A recent article in Reuters says that:

Americans are more socially isolated than they were 20 years ago, separated by work, commuting and the single life, researchers reported on Friday. Nearly a quarter of people surveyed said they had "zero" close friends with whom to discuss personal matters. - Reuters

Ouch, so you see, it isn't just that strange odor you are emiting that keeps the people away from you! It is the mere fact that YOU are an American and in America there are many important things to do such as work, make money, work, watch TV, work, drive places, work, shop, work and surf the internet for porn.

Apparently, making and maintaining friendships is just not very high on our list of American priorities. To celebrate this turn of events, join me now in a reviving rendition of My Country 'Tis of Thee.

I suppose I could blame my current friendless state on a variety of factors. I spent most of my life moving so I had sets of close in friends in each place I lived. Whenever I moved to a new place, I slowly lost touch with the old friends as time passed. Now I keep in minimal contact with as many old friends as I can but an occasional email or phone call does not really an intimate bosom buddy make.

Additionally, I am of the advanced age whereby most healthy, well-adjusted people have paired off and begun procreating. Unlike me, they do not continue to live with their family in an arrangement which most people would qualify as "odd." Say no more.

People with children do not have much in common with people without children, unless the latter care to discuss the poop size of little Baby Xanadu in intense detail. Nothing against the breeders out there but there are just different conversation topics to be had. We have to focus on the kids to raise them right but those of us who are not raising chillin' sometimes find this intense focus disturbing.

Additionally, everyone is SO BUSY these days that it is next to impossible to make plans without everyone flaking. When I was living in Oakland, it was a scheduling feat to get 3 girlfriends together for dinner and drinks. We would commute from opposite ends of the city to meet up at one house - one girl from SF, one from Albany and me from Oakland - each of us driving over 1/2 hr on the freeway to Richmond.

All of us late and harried with traffic stories to share. Everyone exhausted and frazzled, making cell phone calls and planning our next moves. 1.5 hours later it was a mad rush for everyone to get home to clean their houses, meet their men, feed their cats...etc...

Lastly, I blame my friendlessness on the fact that I work all day long to pay the bills and then I work all evening long to fulfill my creative urges. Altogether, there is too much work involved and when I am not working, I am obliterating my brain cells with You Tube, trashy TV and liquor.

I do miss the years of my youth when I lived with a gaggle of friends, worked side by side with them and spent all of my free time cooking group meals and galavanting around town. But I think that special utopian time of your life is fleeting and then hard work, dedication, loneliness and adulthood sets in and you become a solidified hermit. Oops, maybe that is just me! I am gonna be in big trouble when the next big natural disaster hits!

That means that in daily life, personal emergencies and national disasters like Hurricane Katrina, those with the fewest resources also have the fewest personal friends to call for advice and assistance.

"It's one thing to know someone and exchange e-mails with them. It's another thing to say, 'Will you give me a ride out of town with all of my possessions and pets? And can I stay with you for a couple or three months?" Smith-Lovin said. - Reuters

But with all of that said, I do have close friends (maybe, if they will still talk to me after reading all of this) and I wish we could have more time to chill out, eat good food, go on long walks, explore the nooks and crannies of the city - but I am happy for the little bits of time we do get and I am glad that these researchers have proven that I am not the ONLY unpopular American loser who lacks a gaggle of friends. And more importantly, I must plead with the few local friends I do have to STOP leaving town (Abbie and Christine!!) as I will never be able to replace you guys!!

So take that Heatherp2006 who recently taunted me with this comment on You Tube:

New Comment Posted to video Skel-fab and Jared Leto
well have fun staying home on friday nights playing with dolls while everyone secretly laughs their ass off at how gay you are. O h yeah stop making fun of nicole she is asume and she fu*king rox!!!!!.

HAW HAW! Who is laughing now Heather!? Gay ol' me, alone on a Friday night playing with my paperdolls - that's who! Actually, You Tube seems to be the hub for people with no friends. Just look at You Tube Queen Little Lisa Nova who went from friendless to 681 subscribers in the spawn of a couple of weeks! Just think of the limitless possibilities! You Tube is the place where you can make casual friends that you will never have to drive to the airport or take care of when they are sick.

Perhaps You Tube is the answer America? Screw those snooty Europeans and their "authentic lasting family structures" and the tacky way they all greet each other on the street and value their old people! We have You Tube where we can flame people we hate anonymously and make many new friends with 40 yr old men in the Mid West and 13 yr old American girls who like to shake their booty! Hip hip horray!


steve said...

Huh, you're always blogging about going out with people and stuff, so it at least sounds like you have some social groups to hang with. It doesn't sound like you lack companionship. Be thankful for that, at least.

It's tough maintaining friendships in your 30s, for many of the reasons you mention. Amd I can't really enjoy hanging out with people and their boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband. I also find it sad and pathetic to eat out by myself. And watching movies, yikes. But who else wants to see Nacho Libre? (Well, I didn't really want to see it, but it was hot on Sunday... and boy, that movie entered entirely new realms of suck.)

I think what you're supposed to do is be in clubs or do community service type work. That might extend your social circle, but it's hard to say if you'll find actual friends, the people you connect with.

I don't know. I've never figured out how to be 30-ish. In involves babies and owning real estate and having a portfolio, I think. I live in an apartment and play a lot of videogames. A part of me is fine with this strange existence, but another part of me thinks I'm missing out on something.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

yeah, i think it does have a lot to with age. and i think everyone is always wondering if they are missing out on something - no matter how perfect their nuclear family, 2 car garage, 6 figure paycheck, looks great on paper life may be. that might be the nature of the human beast, to wonder about greener pastures?

yeah, i can't really complain about my social life (what there is of it) but i do wish i could stay tighter with my friends from Cali. i have long ago given up on staying close to friends from college and Bloomington and high school - sometimes you just have to give up on the older friendships.

and i realize it was my choice to move as much as i did. and i also realize that my priorities have changed - even if they aren't babies and 401K, they are more home based and more of the focused, computer work variety.

my mom is definitely a fan of the community service social thing and she has gagles of friends. perhaps when i am in my 70s i will hit that up, in the meantime, i have plenty inside my house to keep me occupied!

and i think strange existences are fine. and i don't even mind going to the movies or out to eat alone - especially when traveling - it is sort of like a vacation with yourself! hard to find better company! this is the 21st century, anything goes...

steve said...

Yeah, all of those married 30-somethings are surely like, "It must be great to be able to date, and not have all of these responsibilities!" Yeah, well... do people actually like dating? Ugh, it's horrible.

I find long distance friendships incredibly unsatisfying, which makes it hard for me to keep them going. I have a ton I'm met through work, but I sort of wish I had more people to hang out with here in town, know what I mean?

I also worry about having lived alone for 12 years now, and spending most of my time by myself. I had a girlfriend staying a few days with me a year or so ago, and she started looking at something in my closet and I just freaked out... it was really weird.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

i know, it is so easy to get into patterns of having everything in your home "just so" - that makes it hard to have other entities come in and potentially disrupt your life by moving something out of its place or looking in your closet - eek! but in the long run, it seems worth the discomfort.

long distance friendships are hard but i am always impressed with how easy it is to hang out with one of these long lost friends when they do emerge from the woodwork. like not a day has gone by since you were best mates! it is nice to know they are out there if you ever need a shoulder. but ideally, a strong local community is the way to go, i have no doubt.

i do feel like America is going down an unhealthy path and that we are all too seperate from one another doing our little computer, TV, video game thing alone in our houses...but who knows, after peak oil, perhaps we will be forced to tell stories by firelight again? hmmm...

steve said...

"i do feel like America is going down an unhealthy path and that we are all too seperate from one another doing our little computer, TV, video game thing alone in our houses...but who knows, after peak oil, perhaps we will be forced to tell stories by firelight again? hmmm..."

It's easy to think this, but it's hard to say it's worse; it's just different.

I mean, when the family unit started to break up, people said the same thing. When women entered the work force, people said the same thing. Almost every change in America has been considered an "unhealthy" past by someone, and it's usually people that are so wrapped in a certain ideal that may or may never have existed. You're officially pining for the "good old days."

I have more friends now than I ever used to have before computers and living out in the East. We e-mail, we IM... it's communication, but it lacks intimacy. Which is ultimately what we're trying to figure out, I think. I probably just need to get laid.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

yep, that tends to heal many ailments i find!

i know there is no golden age. but i can't help but critique things, like this society's lack of community and intimacy, in the hopes things can change for the is to hoping (and i could not LIVE without email and you tube!!)...

Q_Monroe said...

i'll always be your friend! it's mojito night -- yeah!

Eva the Deadbeat said...

thank god for mojito night and suzanne!

Brooke said...

So now Casey and I are in San Fran-your old turf-and I am feeling rather lonely. Just me and the hotel wi-fi, catching up on Burlington blogs, wondering about the paths Casey and I have yet to travel, missing my cats like crazy. Casey is sleeping. I want those old people connections-I think. But my best friends have had babies, or they've had acting careers that take them overseas, or they're just in Austin, TX, but it's too late to call them. It's always too late to call people with babies. I think I want those friendships, but when the potential arrives, I mainly claim to be too busy. But why? Too busy with what? With reading people's blogs? With feeling alienated and alone? Too busy to make the commitment to social interaction? Why is seeing someone in person so much more difficult than talking with someone online? I don't know you, yet I know we have a lot in common from your blog. I don't write you personally, I just leave comments. I don't call Tanner and say, "hey, let's all have dinner." No, instead, I just read you blog and comment on the odd medical or shoe post. Because, what? To meet you would be to cross some unacceptable boundary? Because then I'd have committed to a potential friendship with all of its potential failures of time commitments and birthdays and such? Because I'm really a hermit who usually likes spending most of my time with my boyfriend and our cats and hamster? Kind of.
But then there are some nights, nights like tonight, when I would like a friend to send an email to. Or a stranger. Someone who won't worry about the implications of my confessions (such as the rather mundane note that Casey and I had an odd conversation about a controversial French author whose work I haven't read, a conversation that doesn't mean much in any larger scheme, but for some reason, at nearly 3 am Burlington time, I'm still trying to sort out as he sleeps). And I saw that article and showed it to Casey and my father, as if to say, "See? You're not alone. No one has friends anymore." But what about me? I've always prided myself on my friendships, but where are they now? One of my closest friends in this world is due to have a baby in a very few months and I still haven't actually talked to her. Why? Why? Why is it so hard to make a phone call? I want to save up several hours to spare her to talk about everything, but those spare hours never come in their tidily- wrapped chunks. So I postpone calling. And in the end, I wonder if I shouldn't apply for that slot in the spaceship that John Malkovich had at the end of Making Mr. Right.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

brooke, i just wrote an epic response that got lost when my browser quit out on me. is this a sign or something? am i supposed to talk to you in person instead of responding via blogger posts? man, i am steamed that i lost that. i am going to try to paraphrase what i was blabbing about. argh...

i think you totally hit it on the head. it is not so much that we don't have friends anymore as that we don't really want to have friends anymore. a crucial difference.

i, for instance, work all day in an office interacting with people. by the time i get home, i feel so drained of mental energy that i can barely grunt out responses to the people who, luckily, don't mind me in this vegetative post-work state. it is almost like my skin is too thin, i should be able to handle these multiple daily mundane interactions but instead, they take a lot out of me. and then i need to recharge my battery before I can engage with people directly again...

perhaps it is because we are so used to TV and the internet that human interactions become more and more trying and exhausting. when i do make plans with people, i often regret it because i know it will be tiring going through the motions and learning about their lives and remembering the names of their pets, parents and poodles. not to mention the fact that i am not even on top of my current long distance friends bdays, more or less new friends! it is not that i am anti-social, i just find the gaps harder and harder to bridge as i get older. my tolerance gets lower...

and it is SO easy to hop on the internet and reach out to people. you can connect without the effort or the post-conversation exhaustion. there are fewer rules of engagement, fewer uncomfortable silences where you frantically think of things to say. you don't have to wonder if they are staring at your messed up teeth, or if they think you look foolish when you gesticulate too much or worry you are making too much scary eye contact! a lot of the pressure is off.

but STILL, i do want to talk to people and have friends locally. and i don't want to lose my old friends (two of whom just had babies in LA and i have not even met the lil critters yet! travesty!). but how to do that? i wish i could be more mellow and outgoing but it just isn't me. i am part anti-social and part social. a swell friday night with my family, boyfriend, cats, good food and talk is a winner in my book. call me a loser, go ahead, i am a happy loser.

ultimately, my other, longer (if you can believe it) post was far superior to this one but that is the thing about the internet, it makes conversations disposable, stale and 2D (you can lose them all together if you are not careful) but this also makes them less exhausting to the senses and also, less fulfilling. so somewhere in there, there has to be a balance.

i know what you mean about SF. it is so large and bustling and impersonal - i had my fair share of loneliness while there. but i love its majesty, landscapes, diversity, vitality and ocean. even after 10 yrs, i still felt like an awestruck tourist.

check out the presidio and chrissy fields (under the GG bridge) if you get time and GO to the pet cemetery (under the freeway, near chrissy fields by the horse stables) for a magical experience. speaking of magical, it is rainy and humid here with intense thunderstorms.

i can totally relate to john malkovic's character going to outer space at the end of Making Mr Right (i gotta see that movie again!). i think i could probably be ok with this arrangement, i work well by myself. but i guess there is a whole lifetime for me to be a hermit and while i can still move about the cablin freely, i want to talk to people live and in the flesh. that said, i will be spending friday night at home as usual, gotta love it!

but thanks for your post brooke, it made me feel less alone in my loneliness (??). and if you and casey ever want to bridge the gap, we should have you over for dinner and we can all stand around awkwardly - no, i am sure we would be chatty - but don't stare at my googly eyes!!

Brooke said...

Thanks for the San Fran tips. Alas, it is too late! The glory and the splendor of the pet cemetary and the Presidio will remain unknown to us, at least for this trip. But we are enchanted by this place. I am in vegan heaven! I imagine we'll be coming back sometime to explore more.
The drive up pacific coast 1 was one of the best expereinces of my life. Though the hairpin curves made me very nervous, the views made me want to turn around and drive it again.
Thanks for the response to my comment. Well-said, madam! I'm going to hold off on my space-ship exclusion, because, as you said yourself, I am still here and still have many many more great moments to share with my family of man and cats and domesticated rodents and coastal drives and books (our bags will be filled with books from all of the great bookstores out here) and music and everything else. Now I must go spend one more day in San Fran.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

have a great day in SF brooke! wish i was there! today we have strange humid rain weather so you are not missing out at all! good luck getting those bags of books through security - nothing is more lethal than words!!

PS the way i see it, the spaceship is always there but it is that much harder (and rewarding) to try to be a part of things and participate. all that said, now i get back to my day of editing on my computer in seclusion! eep! spaceship, here i come!

Anonymous said...

I finally feel validated. I am a quite attractive 36 year old woman who hesitated before joining the breaders. I now have 2 beautiful daughters under the age of 2 years. I think I became a parent reluctantly, but happily now. When you hit 30 the music dies in a way. People just stop having the fun they used to. To plan something with friends such as a party you may not even get a call to tell you that they can't make it. I gave up. I take a reactive approach to socializing with friends as I have been burned too many times. I miss the days of wine and roses-also the days of seeing Sloan live almost ever week in Halifax. I am happily married but every now and then wish someone who is my friend and married would like to revisit the fun they had but most do not care to. People have less friends but that also goes with saying that people are less considerate than they used to be. It is all one big parcel.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

sigh, i think you are right. there is good and bad as the aging process commences into your 30s. but i want to be peter pan and stay young forever, so i'm not sure if i can take the breeder route just yet. i figure nature will take its course and i will either become a mom or not. and if yes, i know i will love those kids dearly, and if not, i know i will make lots of cool art with all that free time.

i DO miss my younger days but i also know that i am too old in some ways to be that young again. it is all tied up to a moment which you can never fully rewind to. my main goal as i age, is to stay felxible in both mind and body. if i can do this, i can remain open to life an change and perhaps little beasties is a journey, that is for sure...itis one helluvah ride.

Anonymous said...

Younger days - we all miss those - I just don't miss my ignorance back then - It would be nice to go back with the knowledge I have now - life is tough - it's just a roller coaster ride with one unexpected turn after another.
now if i could remember that....

Eva the Deadbeat said...

now THAT would be the trick, eh? sigh, i guess whoever built us (backwards - young and dumb to old and wise) did it for a reason...although i have no idea what.

roller coaster ride, indeed! just when you think you have control over your motion sickness, just when you think you know every hairpin curve, SWOOSH, and you lose your cookies yet again. i guess that is what keeps life beautiful, its many unexpected suprises...