Category Archives: Everything I Know I Learned on TV

Now Casting: My New BFF

This weekend marks the end of summer for all practical purposes (don’t hate me for stating the facts). School’s back in session, the public pools are closing down, and the long sleeves are coming out.

But there’s nothing to cry about. In case Sunday night’s Emmys weren’t uplifting reminder enough, let me draw your attention to one very exciting fact: Fall TV is upon us! All hail the return of new shows.

I celebrated summer reading with my wannabe literary BFFs. Today, TV is getting the same treatment. Here, the folks I’d stitch friendship bracelets for anyday.

1)    Cameron Tucker, Modern Family. In his own words. “I’m sort of like Costco. I’m big, I’m not fancy, and I dare you not to like me.”

2)    Clarissa Darling, Clarissa Explains It All. Not only did I want to be friends with her, I wanted to to be her. A teenage journalist with wacky outfits and a BFF who climbed through the window? Yes please.

3)    Alistair, Huge. My heart breaks for the kind, misunderstood, and understatedly clever underdog in the ABC Family drama. He’s been the butt of much harassment this season, but he totally won my adoration.

4)    Ashleigh Howard, Greek. Another ABC Family favorite. Ashleigh is a fashion-forward BFF (I’m noticing a pattern: Ashleigh, Clarissa, Six. Throw in Lisa Turtle for good measure. She has always been my fave) and the surprising voice of reason to Casey’s drama queen.

5)    Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights. She’s brilliant and gorgeous, level-headed and playful, stern and supportive. We see her as a wife, mother and principal, but rarely in the role of friend. I’m quite confident she’d do just fine.

6) Ethel Mertz, I Love Lucy. She basically invented the onscreen BFF. She’s always up for a bit of trouble-making, but not so much to land you in the slammer. She’d be the pal I’d recruit on my let’s-go-on-an-adventure days.

7) Seth Cohen, The O.C. Yes, I was very much on the whole Chrismukkah bandwagon. I’m a Jew who celebrated Christmas, I could relate. (Was raised Jewish but Dad converted so we celebrated with his family. Neither here nor there…)

8 ) Cristina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy Meredith’s a bit tortured for my liking, but Cristina has that great sarcasm. She’s the one who says aloud the bits that I would censor (and my self-censor is subpar as is). And underneath all her overachieving crazy there is a really quality friend.

9) Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother If I have to pick just one of the McClaren’s gang, I guess it’d be Robin. She’s just so normal. Except for the whole Robin Sparkles thing. Which is GENIUS. (I’d rather just be adopted by the whole group please. NPH I  love you.)

I know I missed some here… because either I never watched their shows (Rory Gilmore, Veronica Mars) or because I love the show but think the individuals are just annoying (Topanga, Kimmie Gibbler). Tell me—what TV character would you grant BFF status?

{ Some blogs I’m acquainted with are celebrating September as “The Month of Friendship.” Today, Shasta from GirlfriendCircles writes about why needing new friends is normal.)

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In My Opinionation…

It’s Friday, it’s been a long week, and I think we all just need a little break from the friendship analysis.

Instead, let’s take a trip back in time. Let’s visit a pair of BFFs who had a profound impact on my youth.

My childhood BFF Katie and I used to go to the mall and buy hats with big flowers so we could be like Blossom and Six. We fought over who got to be Six… she was so super cool wasn’t she?

I remember wishing back then that I had a friend who would show up at the front door unannounced. (Remember when the spontaneous pop-in was considered a welcome surprise rather than an annoyance? A post for another day.) Katie lived a car ride away, so she never just appeared at my house. She called, asked if it was ok to visit, and then got a ride. The surprise visit from a pal always sounded so exciting, as did Six’s crazyfast speech pattern. Basically, Katie and I wanted to be them.

Since I started writing this blog I’ve come to realize how much pop culture friendships—especially in books and TV shows—have influenced what I want from my own relationships. I’m not saying I want to mimic the content of the exchange below (no thanks!) but it gives me a bit of nostalgia: For teenage friendships, high-speed talking and a TV favorite of my youth.

See for yourself. (If you’re reading this in an email or feed you may need to click through to watch the video.)

Happy Friday!

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, The Old Days

“Buy Her a Beer, That’s the Reason You’re Here…”

Maybe some of you remember this Coors Light commercial from some years back (click through to watch the video if you’re in a feed). The brief-but-brilliant ditty immortalized the mighty wingman, who is defined by the very official Wikipedia as “a role that a person may take when a friend needs support with approaching potential partners.” My personal favorite of all wingmen is Ted Mosby of How I Met Your Mother fame, though the critical role was perhaps first embraced by pop culture after Swingers, the original wingman flick.

It’s true that a wingman is usually around to help a guy get lucky. But if you’re serious about picking up friends, a wingman—or wingwoman—is an indispensable accessory.

When Matt and I got married, I expected he would be my most intimate companion, my biggest supporter, the someday father of my kids. I didn’t anticipate he’d double as an amazing go-to wingman of the friend-search variety.

What do the responsibilities of a seeking-BFF wingman include? In Matt’s case, the job entails scoping out potential friends in restaurants and departments stores, agreeing to go on unlimited couple-dates (even when the game is on and  the male half of the couple isn’t his type), and encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and ask a potential BFF for her number no matter how crazy she might take me to be.

Out-of-town guests also make for great wingpeople. (That sounds like some sort of villainous species from Wizard of Oz. Wingpeople. Huh.) Being with an old pal when you’re trying to pick up new friends is helpful for multiple reasons; mostly, the BFF target will see that you’re out with someone (meaning, you do have some friends) which seems to warm people to friendship advances. You’re not a creepy lurker preying on friendly bartenders/boutique owners/yoga instructors to find someone to chop into pieces. Instead you’re a nice, bold woman who’s always looking to add to her circle of friends. Old pals will also give you that extra nudge when you’re teetering on the edge of talking to the girl with the great purse. And if you’re too shy, the tried-and-true just-in-town-for-the-weekend friend might approach the potential BFF for you: “Have you met Rachel?” The old friend has nothing to lose.  Even if she makes a fool of herself, she’s got the next flight out of O’Hare.

This weekend I found myself in the ideal wingpeople situation. One of my closest friends from college was in town—one who’s super interested in my search and eager to help me find someone to add to her ranks. And of course Matt was around ‘cause, well, he’s my husband. We live together. So when Matt and I went to dinner with Jenny and her boyfriend, and I mentioned that our waitress seemed cool (“definite BFF material”) they may or may not have convinced me to leave her a note. With my digits. On our receipt. Not something I would’ve ever been bold enough to try had I been eating alone.

If any of you out there are on your own BFF search, I encourage you to employ a wingman. (And if you do or have, please—pretty please!—let me know how it goes.) It could be a friend or husband or sister or just about anyone who has your best interests at heart and isn’t too shy to take the plunge every now and then by, say, writing your note to the waitress because your handwriting is totally illegible. For example.

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Filed under BFFs and Marriage, Everything I Know I Learned on TV, Pickup Lines

Famous Friendships: The Golden Girls

A discussion about The Golden Girls is long overdue on this blog, and not just because of Betty White’s incredible career resurgence or Rue McClanahan’s death last week. Aside from being a work of comic genius, it’s a fabulous reminder of why friendship is important at any—and every—age.

Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia are the kind of friends I hope to have one day. They don’t always get along. They call each other out on pretty much everything. But they’ve got each other’s backs, and they’re fiercely loyal. If Blossom and Six had the kind of BFFship I wish I’d had as a kid (I even bought one of those hats!) then the Golden Girls are who I want to be when I grow up.

I didn’t know until tonight—thanks Wikipedia—that Blanche, Rose and Dorothy weren’t lifelong friends. They met when each responded to a room-for-rent ad—Blanch and Rose were widows, Dorothy was divorced. It certainly got me thinking about what life can throw at you. And how much easier it gets when friends—new or old—are in the trenches by your side.

So to honor the show, and also the brilliant women who made up the cast (only Betty White survives) I spent the last hour on youtube watching clips. This is not an endeavor I recommend if you’re trying to get any work done today. They’re addicting. And amazing.

The final scene (if you’re reading this in an email or feed, you’ll have to click through to see the video) is pretty much perfect. A real thank you for being a friend moment. Makes me want to buy  a condo in Miami solely for group hugs.

Think it’d be possible to have a real life Golden Girls gang? And, if not, who do you think are the most realistic TV BFFs?

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The Hard Facts: Realistic or Not, Friends Want “Sex”

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

“Ticket sales for the sequel to ‘Sex and the City’ are currently 81 percent of ticket sales happening on Fandango.com. … According to a survey Fandango issued Monday of more than 2,000 ticket buyers—of which 94% were women, the statement noted—nearly 80 percent of the moviegoers are going in groups with other women, while only 7 percent are going to bring a date.” (CNN.com, “’Sex and the City 2’ Ticket Sales ‘Looking Good’” May 25, 2010)

It cannot go unnoticed on this blog that Sex and the City 2 comes out at midnight tonight. These days, I feel like SATC—not the characters so much as the entire franchise—is at once my BFF and my nemesis. It’s perhaps the single most in-your-face pop culture model of female friendship, and thus serves as both the pinnacle of what I’m striving for as well as the driving force behind my without-gals-to-brunch-with-I-am-nothing-ness.

I’m not the only person who gets mixed messages from Carrie and friends. Feminists seem to vascillate between celebrating the show for empowering women and hating it for focusing so much on the need for a man. Upon the 2004 series finale, The Guardian wrote a piece in which a number of experts spoke out on the show’s impact and the only thing they each seemed to agree on was that ultimately it was more about friendship than it was about love:

“It’s almost given [women] permission to have female friendships that are more important than anything else.”

“Before feminism, women were told that they had to be wary of other women because they would steal your man. But what feminism was in part about was friendship between women, which is what Sex and the City shows.”

“What made Sex and the City worm its way into so many women’s hearts, I think, is the way that it foregrounds female friendship. That sounds counter-intuitive, given that it is meant to be about the hunt for a good man, but this show is intensely idealistic about the way that women can get unconditional love from one another.”

Let me be clear. I loved Sex and the City when it was on. I enjoyed the last movie, and already have plans to see the new one. I’m part of the nearly 80% going with friends—the same Chicago ladies I saw the last one with—though we might wear sweat pants as a general stand against stilettos at the movie theater. (According to that Fandango study, 53% percent of ticket buyers plan to dress up for the occasion, and I just can’t think of much that sounds less comfortable than watching a movie in heels. Yes, I know I’ll be sitting, but still.)

I’m excited to revisit my old onscreen friends, though nervous I might leave feeling more unfulfilled friendwise than when I got there. And this isn’t just my craziness. Social comparison theory says that “there is a drive within individuals to look to outside images in order to evaluate their own opinions and abilities.” The SATC gang is an image which many women use to evaluate their own friend situations. And though I think the deep friendships between all four women might not be entirely realistic, that doesn’t stop me from striving for something similar. I’m optimistic. I mean, I’m here, aren’t I?

Do you think the Sex and the City friendships are possible? Does watching the show/movie make you more satisfied with your female friendships or less? And would you ever be one of the 7% who are bringing a date??

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Ann M. Martin’s Infinite Wisdom

I like to consider myself something of a pop culturist. But you already know that. So it’s no big surprise that there are bits of popular culture that have largely (mis)informed my expectations of friendship. When I’m old, I want to live like the Golden Girls. In my 30s, I figure I should be brunching on Sundays a la Carrie Bradshaw and co. I watch these TV shows (and Friends, and How I Met Your Mother, even Meredith and Christina on Grey’s) and I think it’s completely expected for my life to be filled with Serious Unbreakable See-You-Everyday Friendships.

As I’ve written previously, it all started with The Babysitters Club. I read the BSC books when I was a wee lass and learned early  that true friendships could withstand any boy, clothing or babysitting charge drama. They got together twice a week, lived on the same street and sent flashlight messages from each others’ bedrooms in the evenings. What more could a girl want?

It had been about 15 years since I’d read a BSC book until recently when I read the new prequel, The Babysitter’s Club: The Summer Before. Considering the book was written for 12 years olds, I was a tad surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Like, stay-up-past-bedtime-reading levels of enjoyment.  Yes, it’s for young adults—children, even—but ultimately The Summer Before is a story of friendship. Given my search, this seemed the perfect escape novel.

Approximately three days after I started, I reached the end (200 pages written for 10-year-olds move at a quick clip). As I took in the final pages, I realized that either a) issues of friendship don’t change as we get older—the circumstances may be different (we’re arguing over wedding party scandals rather than cafeteria seating arrangements) but the underlying emotions are constant, or b) I act like a pre-teen and need to grow up. Either way, it was the perfect light read for me at this very moment.

Thanks to the wonder that is Google Alerts, BSC author Ann M. Martin’s publicist caught wind of my Ode to BSC post a few months back and asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing her. Ummm, yes please. I had a total nerdfest rock star moment. Ann M. Martin??  Talking to me? I worship modern technology.

During our interview, I asked Ann why the friendships between the girls were so universally adored. Something she said stuck with me. Sure, Kristy and the gang were each very different, so every young girl could relate to at least one, if not all, of them. But more importantly, she said, “They’re not perfect friendships. I think that’s how most friendships are, they’re imperfect. Maybe that’s why they seem even more important to us. The girls fight, but then it’s important to them to make up, and they always do. Sometimes it takes a couple of books, sometimes it’s a chapter or two, but they always make up. I think that’s important for girls and women to know, that maybe your best friend isn’t somebody that you’re always on good terms with. I think maybe a best friend is somebody you feel comfortable enough to have a fight with, and then make up with.

Defining the term “best friend” is perhaps the hardest and most important factor of my quest. I love Ann’s take. It’s a perfect measuring tool. So often we think our best friends are the people we’d never fight with, those relationships that are always easy. But there are only a few people in my life that I’m confident I’d make up with no matter how bad a fight got. Those just happen to be the same people I consider my closest friends. It’s an interesting and insightful spin.

What do you think of Ann’s definition? How do you define BFF? And are you so excited about the return of the BSC? Do you like reading books about friendship?

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Someone’s in the Kitchen with Rachel

Tonight Matt and I are taking a cooking class. My husband’s  not much one for cooking—though he makes a mean smoothie and should probably patent his granola concoctions—but we got a gift certificate for our wedding and this session is Italian food (Pasta with clam sauce! Cannolis!), so I was able to twist his arm.  These classes call for four chefs to a station, which means we’ll be paired with another couple. I’ve already warned Matt that we need to time our arrival perfectly—we don’t want to be too late because I want to scope out the couple we’re paired with, but we don’t want to be too early either, lest we be the scopees rather than scopers.

If we do end up spotting a really promising-looking couple, I’m a little scared my enthusiasm for the potential new friends might turn us into the Heffernans in this King of Queens clip—I, of course, being the Kevin James of our duo (if you’re reading this in an email or RSS feed you’ll have to click through to see this video… Do it! It’s worth it):

Yes, I would be the one all “Hi, I’m Rachel. You like to cook? I have a stove! Come over! We’ve got enough aprons for everyone!” Matt would be the one hiding. Inside the oven.

So as to save me from embarassment and divorce, let’s decide now what I should do. I’m thinking perhaps save the movie and Olive Garden invitations for another time. Start small, perhaps go business card again. I’ll do the number exchanging with the female half of the couple. Guys seem to think friendship advances are creepier than women do. Unless he’s a Red Sox fan, in which case he and Matt will be bonded for life. And we’ll all live happily ever after.

Got any advice for what I should say tonight to avoid turning into Kevin James? And what should he have done in this scene, anyway? Was there any way to make the move without prompting a restraining order? Please rescript this trip to Home Depot, or let me know if you have any brilliant ideas for tonight. I promise to keep you posted on the flip side.

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, Pickup Lines, The Gender Gap, The Search

It’s Real and It’s Deep

Over the weekend I came across a blog that linked back to me. The author, Jenn, is on a BFF search of her own. She writes, “Juggling work, kids, husbands, boyfriends and families while trying to develop friendships is much harder than it once was! The time I spend with my friends is time something else is not getting done – laundry, housework, yard work, painting, reading…and really I have a fairly tenuous grip on those things anyways! I recently ran across a new blog [this was me… thanks Jenn!] that is asking similar questions. And even though I had been thinking about this issue and in fact had written something last year, I never wanted to publish it because I felt a little, well, crazy. Even though we talk about making friends, and wish for deep connections with others, we don’t really talk about how or why.”

What Jenn says is spot on. People talk plenty about the importance of friendships. We celebrate the great ones. But when it comes to admitting that we want more, or that as adults we’re not entirely sure how to go about finding them—that making friends can be difficult, or hilariously awkward—we clam up. Why?

I think it’s because if you say to someone “I want more friends” what they often hear is “I have no friends.” There’s quite a difference. And wanting more friends must mean you’re lonely, and being lonely must mean you’re….sad.

The Sex and the Citys of the world have made it ok—even encouraged—to scream “I want a man!” from the rooftops. Why haven’t we given ourselves permission to do the same when it comes to friends? Jenn didn’t write her blog post last year because she was worried she sounded nutso. She thought she was the only one. And that’s what I keep hearing from women in the same situation. “I’m so glad I’m not crazy!” “It’s such a relief to hear I’m not alone!”

I toyed with the concept of this BFF search for a while. I knew I was eager to make more close friends locally, but, like Jenn, I felt crazy. I didn’t want people to think I was friendless. Or unhappy. I was neither.

Then I realized that the desire for social connection is universal and biological. As my friend Grace Adler would say, “It’s real and it’s deep.” (Granted she was talking about Jews and chicken, but it works.)  I learned there are plenty of women in the same boat and figured we might as well talk about it. But there are absolutely still days when I feel silly telling people about this quest. I say “I’m searching for a new BFF” and then “I do have close friends, it’s just lot of them live far away” in the same breath, before anyone can conclude I am friendless.

Why do you think women are embarrassed, or feel crazy, when we talk about wanting new friends? Why is it so awkward to admit we’re not sure where to start? What can we do to end the stigma?

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My Reality TV Dreams, Crushed

Because I tend to ponder Life’s Big Questions, I always wonder if I could make it to the merge on Survivor.

I was reminded yesterday that the answer is no.

One of my favorite YouTube videos of the last few years is the “I’m not here to make friends” montage—a collection of various reality TV stars (I use that term loosely) reminding their fellow contestants, or the at-home viewer via confessional, that they are by no means on a BFF search.

The “I’m not here to make friends” mantra is generally used in one of two scenarios: an excuse for back-stabbing or, oddly enough, as an excuse for being nice to someone (as in, “no, I’m not here to make friends, but if we butter her up now she’ll join our alliance later”).

Luckily, this blog is entirely unrelated to Paris Hilton’s reality show, My New BFF, though I recognize the thematic similarities. There will be no reward challenges or elimination rounds. Because if this video taught me anything, it’s that I am not made for TV. And that reality show contestants are insane.

As an attempt to extract a serious question out of a ridiculous video, I ask you this: Are competition and friendship mutually exclusive? Can you be up against someone else for a $1 million, or the love of a Bachelor, and simultaneously forge a bond? Clearly we know what they think, but what about you? Also, does anyone other than me think this video is amazingly hilarious?

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I Think You’re Swell

Now that I’m spending so much time trying to make new friends, it’s  easy to get lazy when it comes to the old ones. This is not okay. The problem is that I’m not really a phone person, so when I do have a break between working, writing, seeking out new BFFs and, oh yeah, spending time with my husband during our first year of marriage, I want to be living my life rather than recapping it on a long-distance call. That said, no one I meet today will have been my friend in high school or college—as one commenter astutely put it, “It is difficult inserting yourself in someone else’s history”—so I need to give those relationships the attention they deserve.

So it was as if the friendship gods were sending me a message when I came across this statistic from the Gallup organization the other day: “Those who have told a friend how much they value a friendship in the past month are 48% more likely to be ‘extremely satisfied with the friendships’ in their lives.”

Not only will reaching out to my dearest buddies remind them that I think they’re the coolest, it’ll also make me feel better about the overall state of the friendships in my life, which—I don’t know if you’ve noticed—is something I think about sometimes.

So I decided to send out some quick e-cards. A small, easy gesture that could be executed from my cubicle and would deliver the message: “I’m thinking of you. Thanks for being awesome.”

A quick search in the friendship section of my favorite site, someecards.com, returned a card that screamed Sara: “Our effortless friendship fits perfectly with my laziness.” Extra special because yes, our friendship is effortless and yes, I can be lazy, but so is she. I typed up a quick note: “Since we’re both lazy, it’s even better… love you!” and sent it her way. She loved it.

Then I came across another site, Hipster Cards, which has fun vintagey greetings. I sent one that said “Gossip Louder, I Can’t Hear You!” to my friend Emily since it reminded me of the first time she and two other friends came to visit me in Chicago and, because I had to sleep in the other room, I asked them to not talk without me. True story.

The website for the book Friend or Frenemy also has a collection of non-cheesy ecards. Fair warning though, they double as plugs for the book, and look a little more like advertisements than I’d like. Still, when I saw one that said “You’re the Serena to my Blair,” I knew it had to go to Danielle, since 1) I was sure she’s a Gossip Girl fan and 2) she calls me B.

So, in all of 10 minutes, I told three friends how much I value their friendship. I may not have written long odes, but I think the message was delivered.

What do you think of the Gallup statistic? Make sense? And what do you do to tell your BFFs that they’re rock stars?

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, The Hard Facts, The Old Days