Hello, fair readers. Michelle here, Ian’s little sister, guest blogging for Ian as his family is on a skiing adventure somewhere in the mountains with no internet.
Ian asked me to write about boys. I would, except it would either be extremely dull or extremely fantastic and definitely not very interesting. Although I did have an “Animal House” Flounder moment at the gym today: I was on that contraption that looks like a large torture chair, designed for pull-ups and leg lifts and I was halfway through a third set of leg lifts when I realize a rather tall and strange looking young man is standing in front of me, waving and talking. I, of course, had my earbuds in, my workout mix firmly in the middle of “Groove Is In the Heart”, so I couldn’t hear a word he was saying. He, too, had earbuds in, but didn’t seem to be similarly impaired.
Assuming I must know him, even though I don’t recognize him, I put my legs on the rungs of the chair, pull out an earbud, and say, “… hi?” And he stands there, nods, smiles, and says, after a bit, “You, uh, working out?” I take a moment, look around at the thirty other people in the weight room, look back at him and say, “Yeah. Yep. Um, you?” He starts to answer, but I realize that this is going nowhere, so I put my earbuds back in and resume my lifts. He weirdly followed me from machine to machine for the rest of the hour, but at least he didn’t try to break in again. It reminds me of when I was working on my computer at Ozzie’s, a coffee shop in Brooklyn, when an obviously very sweet but slightly misguided young suitor tried the following line: “I see you have a clamshell iMac. I, too, have a clamshell iMac!” as he fondly patted his bulging messenger bag.
I suppose you could say that both men found the common element, the potential conversation starter, the foot in the door, and that they had the cajones to actually say something. I guess I’m just waiting to be swept off my feet with just a little more eloquence.
So rather than write about boys, I’d like to write about connections. I’ve made several reconnections with old friends in the last few months, and although staying connected can be challenging, I’m really happy that I’m making a new practice of it. When 2007 was drawing to a close, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about how I wanted 2008 to be different. I loathe the whole idea of New Year’s “resolutions”, because resolving to do something is very different than doing it. (To quote Yoda: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”) So rather than making a list of resolutions, I’m actively doing just a handful of things that I believe will make my life better, and one of them is staying in touch with a number of friends far and wide. But I’m also realizing how little I see my friends who live within walking distance of my home.
This last year has taught me that most of the world- or at least, most of the people who live in this little place I call home- might feel the same way. I’ve been involved in a county-wide public process that sought input from the full community on arts issues. We held open meetings in every city and town in this county, and the common theme was that people did not feel connected to one another. People in the small towns- populations of 5000, and even less- felt like they didn’t know what was going on in town, and didn’t even know their neighbors. We heard the same feedback in the city with a population of 75,000.
This reminds me of the study I read that had some terrible number- something like only 1 in 15 people- knew the names of their neighbors. I think that’s sad. As much as it’s great that we have the internet and email and all the other technologies to connect with each other, it’s created, I think, a troubling distance and a lack of real human connection. I feel that lack, and I mourn it. So one of the things I’ve started this year, a little thing that I think can make a difference, is a series of dinner parties. It’s a themed series, and the latest name is Dinner With People I Really Like Who Probably Don’t Know Each Other And Whom I’d Like To See More Often. Every month, I’m going to host a dinner party (which means I get to bake and cook!) with 6-8 colleagues or friends I’d like to get to know better, and who probably don’t know the other folks I’m going to invite.
For my first dinner, early in February, I’ll be cooking for two artists, one microbiologist, one early childhood advocate, one CPA, and a funder at a local foundation. I’m the degree of separation between all of them; we all live within a couple of square miles of each other; and this will be a first meeting for the bulk of them. I think I’ll make lasagna. And pie.
So, dear readers, how do you combat this problem? How do you stay connected with the people you know and love who are far away; and how do you stay connected in your own community?