Monthly Archives: September 2012

Friendly Harassment

 

Agree or disagree? Do tell.

Me, I believe it.

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An Open Letter to Merriam-Webster

Dear Merriam-Webster:

I know you love adding words to your ranks. Usually pop-culturey entries like “aha moment” and “unfriend” and “f-bomb.” Here’s the thing – I love pop culture too! So, I’d like to submit a nomination for your consideration. Next year, I propose that “Friend Zone” should make the cut.

The term, is credited to–what else?– Friends. In season one (1994!), Joey tells Ross that not only is he in the friend zone with Rachel, the girl of his dreams, but he is “mayor of the zone.”

And while it may not have received your blessing  yet, the term does have its own Wikipedia entry: “a platonic relationship where one person wishes to enter into a romantic relationship while the other does not. The most typical friend zone situation involves a man that is romantically interested in a woman who does not reciprocate or is unaware of his interest. It is generally considered to be an undesirable situation by the lovelorn person.  Once the friend zone is established, it is said to be difficult to move beyond that point in a relationship.”

The term is so mainstream that there’s even an entire TV series called FriendZone. It’s on MTV, and it’s just about the most uncomfortable television viewing of my life. On the show, teenagers/20-somethings who are in the friend zone ask their BFF to be a wingman on a blind date. Then, when they get to the date, they confront said BFF and–gotcha!–admit that the date is really for them. Will they  try out a relationship and move out of the zone?

Merriam, Webster, think of your most awkward interaction. Multiply it by a gagillion. That’s how it feels to watch this show. I literally cover my eyes during the big reveal moment. Ack. I wanted to send you  a clip directly, but for whatever reason it’s not working. Instead, you can experience the pain yourself, here.

Despite the show’s awkward moments, MTV is solidifying the place of friend zone in the cultural lexicon. Kids everywhere know what it means. Adults know what it means. Everyone who has ever had a crush on a friend knows what it means.

So, there you have it. I’ve made my case. Admit you like it. I mean, like-like it. I don’t want us to be stuck in the friend zone.

Sincerely,

Rachel

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The Hard Facts: Happiness Attracts Happiness

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“There’s an assumption that happy people strike others as annoying and shallow, but in fact, they tend to attract others. Happy people are more likely to be energetic, sociable, enthusiastic, and optimistic, in contrast to the unhappy, who are often apathetic, more likely to complain, and sap others’ energy.” (Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin)

I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin, both as an author and a person. Her books and blog are both inspiring, and I really love that they give small actionable steps to increasing your happiness. You don’t have to move to Bali or become a professional chef to be happier. You can just make your bed everyday, or kiss more, and voila! Happiness boost.

Gretchen’s latest happiness book, Happier at Home, hit bookshelves yesterday (check it out), and I love the section on “avoiding happiness leeches.” Basically, to increase her own happiness, Gretchen resolves to stay away from people that actively deplete her happiness bank. As she puts it: “Because happiness and unhappiness are a catching, a potent source of unhappiness are the happiness leeches who suck away the lifeblood of happiness from others.” She goes on to identify three types of leeches: Grouches, Jerks and Slackers.

I find this research fascinating, because I’ve known it to be so true. Hanging out with friends who are generally happy, even just in an especially good mood, is a great boost, while hanging out with people who are unhappy is exhausting. I used to have a friend who was constantly stressed out, complaining of all the reasons why her life was so hard. By the time our get-togethers would end, I too would feel stressed out. Stress by osmosis. It’s not a good feeling.

There’s research to support this stress contagion too. “Because of the ‘spillover effect,’ when we see others act like grouches, jerks, or slackers, we’re more likely to imitate them–both because that kind of behavior is on our minds, and because our inhibitions have been lowered. Research shows that the group member who scored lowest on conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability often sets the tone for the whole group.”

So there you have it. When looking for new friends, seek out the happy folks around you. Chances are it’ll help you be happy! And, as a friend yourself, consider your attitude. No one wants to be around a happiness leech, so try to slap on a smile and feign a good mood. Fake it ’till you make it, right?

Do you find that being around happy friends makes you happier? And, do your happiness leech friends get you down? Any tips on how to handle them?

Gretchen Rubin herself read MWF Seeking BFF and said “I couldn’t put it down.” (Thanks Gretchen!) As of Sunday, MWF is on the Emerging Authors shelf at Target, so check it out there… or wherever books are sold! I’d be ever so grateful. 

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