We’re just like that show…
It’s perhaps the fact that I grew up reading about the bash street kids or watching a group of turtles fight crime and eat pizza, but it seems to me, that all I and a lot of my peers want to be is part of the gang.
As our teens beckoned we left cartoons behind and instead found This Life, Coupling and Friends. Each, in its own way pointing us to a life of 20-something’s living in each others pockets, sharing weekends away and looking suspiciously on any newcomer wanting to infiltrate their precious crew. Potential boyfriends or girlfriends were quizzed and then rated. The better they did with the gang the more likely the relationship was to survive but even then some nights out, some celebrations and some jokes would always be ‘in’ and they would always be ‘out’.
As these days became a distant and often embarrassing memory of blonde tipped hair and global hyper-colour, we found new ways of cementing our posse. With the tagging of posts or the uploading of photos, we’ve ensured that now everyone can know just how tight our little group is. Like kids in a playground, we give them names or acronyms; we might no longer need the homemade membership card or the intricately secret handshake, but we ensure that everyone else knows that what we have is equally aspirational and unachievable to the unfortunate onlooker.
We rationalise that not everyone can get on with everyone in the same way or that sometimes, we just need to be with a smaller group of people that we know well – and both of those things are true. But if I’m really honest, if I spent more time with those people, I probably would get on with them just as well. When I really need to be with a smaller group of people I know well, it’s usually because I need comfort or challenge in a way I’ll never tag on Facebook.
Maybe like those neon lycra shorts, we’ll just grow out of it. Like the characters in friends, we’ll start families, move away from each other and then try not to cringe too hard when we see Joey still going for it solo. We’ll try not to let the jealousy overawe us when we see our former nearest and dearest now having an ‘amaze-balls time’ with their new clique. We’ll click ‘like’ through gritted teeth whilst muttering like a spurned and embittered lover.
Or maybe we’ll try harder. We’ll make sure the lonely and vulnerable aren’t left out. If there must be photos and status updates they’ll scream JOIN US rather than NOTICE US or worse, ENVY US.
If I’m honest I’ll probably get this wrong. Time and/or my patience will run out. I’ll feel left out or get sick of trying to not leave anyone out.
They never showed you that bit in the cartoons. Even the sit-coms struggled to make the tough bits of friendship last more than a couple of half hours, before everyone made up and balance was restored in the group. But maybe that’s because what we should be after isn’t a gang at all, but a growing body of loved ones.
Maybe it’s not a loyal crew we should be trying to form, but a loving community that embraces more people than we’re comfortable with and will never fit onto a couple of chairs in a coffee shop.