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Tuesday, 3.8.05: Rethinking friendship

In the movie "Good As It Gets," Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is a reclusive writer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder -- a misfit with a difficult personality. By the end of the movie he has -- amazingly -- made two friends.

In "Station Agent," Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) is dwarf sick of being stared at, who tries to isolate himself in an abandoned train station in rural New Jersey. By the end of the movie he too has made a couple of friends.

These two movies make me think about the nature of friendship. Maybe we grow up with a romanticized notion of it, like we do "love." And, especially in our cantankerous older years, we wonder why we can't make new friends.

Those movies both seem to say that friends are not the people you would chose in some abstract way. They are not like the cliques you ran with in high school or college -- those clusters of people most like us who reinforce our preferred self-image.

In middle age, your friends wind up being the people who won't go away. Like Melvin and Fin, people who have matured into their own unique and prickly personalities spend a lot of time judging others -- too stupid, too ugly, too pitiful, too lower class, too bookish. And then one day you realize that all those "not my types" are the only ones left who can tolerate you.

I guess, in the end, this is why families are important. Even though you spend your early years separating yourself from your families, in your later years, you realize they've become your friends -- the ones who still like you in spite of all your faults. Or maybe they have the same quirks as you. Or maybe they put up with your oddities because "you're mine" and no one else will do it. 

This isn't my whole "philosophy of friendship" -- just some stray thoughts on how our ideas about friendship might have to change over the years.

NOTES

Good as It Gets (1997)

The Station Agent (2002)

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