What’s in a Friend?

I’ve often wondered what kind of “friends” my Facebook friends are. And at the same time, it makes me wonder what happened to the courtesies and considerations we are all supposed to get from real, true friends.

I don’t understand why Facebook Friends insist on adding me as a friend without so much as a “Hello!” a “How are you?” maybe even a bold, “Nice to see you’re on FB! Long time no talk.” People seem bent on having as many friends as possible without developing or nurturing any real relationship. I’ve stopped accepting friends who don’t at least send me a short message with their friend request. And I delete people that I don’t talk to or chat with at least a few times a year.  I just don’t feel it necessary to be one of those people that helps you get to 500 friends. The true friends I have are good ones, and we’re already in touch. Why do I need 152 “friends” I never talk to?

And that “People you may know” feature on FB is maddening. It guilts people into adding more people as “friends”.. people they likely have zero interest in conversing with. Let’s see, if I know you and like you, and want to get to know you better, wouldn’t we already be friends? I have to find a way to block this. Help me if you can.

But when it comes to “real” friends, it seems the role of a friend has changed dramatically. To me, a friend is someone who I’m interested in, who I genuinely care about, whose life stages I follow with interest, who I’ll bring soup to if they’re sick, someone I’d have to my house for a home-cooked meal, someone I can hug, and someone who will lean on me if they need to. A friend is also someone I can debate things with, buy fun birthday presents for, be loyal to, and support, and someone who will support me. Also someone I can tell outright when they’re making a mistake or doing something I think is wrong, and they’ll respect me for being honest, not become vindictive because we don’t see eye to eye.

But sadly I’m learning even the best of true friends can let you down and make you feel less important. I have a friend who will take cell phone calls in the middle of dinner, or while we’re having a glass of wine and talking. Why is the person on the phone more important to you?

I have friends who don’t return my phone calls or e-mails for days. And I have friends that are wholly unreliable—we can make dinner plans weeks in advance and I know for a fact “something” will come up on the day in question without fail. “I’m tired. I’m sick. I’m so busy. I don’t want to drive across town.”

I also have friends who don’t RSVP to event invitations I send out. How hard is it to look at a calendar, mark a date and hit “reply” to an e-mail?

Or what’s worse these days, when friends DO RSVP to an event, they don’t show up. I’ve had reservations for 8 where three people have shown up—and I was one of them. I get that things come up, but why can’t people make a phone call to say, “Sorry I can’t get there”?

The crux of why this makes me mad?: Why is it we think that we can treat our friends with less respect than a business associate and that’s somehow ok?

Does “work appropriate” clothing still exist?

Flip-flops.  Cargo pants.  Basketball shorts. Backless shirts. Crop tops.  It’s a long-running debate; what is “work appropriate” clothing today? 
Style has evolved so much in just the last 15 years I’ve been working, that it’s hard to know what you should and shouldn’t wear to work.
Now, I’m not really as interested in debating what people who work in law offices or in artists’ collectives are wearing, as I am in what the average person should show up to the average office in. (i get that creative fields and casual offices can get away with a lot, and I also understand the more traditional workplaces have stricter rules)
I’ve always been a believer in the “Dress for success” mantra, and it’s served me well to this point in my life and career.  I believe people take you seriously if you dress the part.  Now the opposite of that fact is true too; if I’m going to a punk show, I sure don’t wear a dress and pearls.  We all dress for certain occasions, but it seems that increasingly, work is not one of them.
In the offices I’ve worked in over the last 10 years, I’ve seen it all; ripped T’s, “Fuck You” shirts, mesh blouses with pleather bras underneath.  More commonly; jeans everyday, running shoes, worn out shoes or clothes, and even club-wear at work.
So it makes me wonder if my thoughts on dressing for the office are a product of my aging, 10 years of habit, being too uptight, or if I’m right and we’ve stopped making an effort to be professional.
This is where I ask YOU: what are you thoughts?  Which of the clothing I mentioned earlier is ok, and which is not?  And consider this; Are camo cargo pants ok, if worn with a cashmere sweater and kitten heels? Are flip flips ok if they’re worn with khaki capris and pearls? Are shredded jeans just fine if they cost you $450?
And what has the way you dressed for work gotten you, or conversely, prevented your from getting?
Weigh in here…

Prison: Not Your Average Day Trip

I have, and now I can say I’m glad it’s a one-off.

I once made a trip to Saskatchewan Pennetentiary  to visit an inmate convicted of killing his daughter’s boyfriend.

<Aside: it was for a documentary I was working on some time ago for a local company. To my knowledge the film has yet to come to fruition>

The family had accused the boyfriend of hooking their daughter on drugs, injecting her with morphine, sleeping with her (even though she was 14 and he was 22) and selling drugs to the town.
Sask Penn is old–a building of those old brick and stone walls that seem to tower above you to the clouds. The rough and rugged walls are topped not just with barbed wire, but with that extra-painful looking razor wire. Guard towers man every corner and double borders of chain link hug the building creating concentric circles of security.
Even so, security seems deceptively low key, even for this medium security facility; but maybe that has something to do with my media pass, camera-crew-entourage, and the presence of a minder. We sign in, present ID, go through a metal detector and have a guard look in all our bags. He shrugs as he paws through wires, lights, tripods and stacks of tapes. “How am I supposed to know what half this stuff is?” he says, But satisfied there’s no contraband, even among things he doesn’t recognize, we’re allowed to pass.
Three sets of steel and heavy glass doors keep the outside world safe. Each opens remotely with a loud “thunk” and an electronic buzz. Guards nod to

each other as we pass.
I see no other inmates, and only two other visitors. They seem like they belong here, in that they’ve probably been here many times. They are seated at small round tables bolted to the floor and with chairs attached to those tables by rigid arms.
We set up our equipment in a tiny visiting room. There are exactly three chairs and a faux wood folding table.  Inmates who are not generally considered to be a problem are allowed to come here, with the priviledge of more privacy than is afforded others. More dangerous types use the single plexiglass boxes with phone connections in the room next to us.
I’m unsure of what to expect when I meet our interviewee. After all, he shot a man to death by firing 10 bullets at him and hitting him with 50% of them. The man bled out on the floor in front of him and his drug addicted daughter as he shakily dialed 911.
We’re here because there’s more to the story; the man believed his daughter was one injection away from an overdose; that the boyfriend had threatened to “make her disappear” as revenge for the parents intervening in the relationship. The father told us that when he arrived at the boyfriend’s house, he was threatened, and the boyfriend, a former bodybuilder, charged at him.
In so many ways this could be a self defense case. The jury didn’t see it that way.
The father shuffles towards the door with his head bowed, looking at the floor. He’s not wearing handcuffs or orange coveralls, but simple jeans, a white t-shirt and black runners. His red hair is still visible among the grey; mostly poking though his full beard. He definitely looks like the Scottsman he is. Dressed this way, he could be a plumber or a carpenter.  Instead, in this context, he is simply his label; a killer, an inmate, a man to be locked up

and kept from society.

We shake hands; I can see he’s visibly nervous. His hands shake, his voice quivers, his eyes dart. He sits and fidgets with one rolled up pant cuff.
I can tell he’s frightened. The camera and bright lights will do that to people.

How interesting that a man convicted of murder is afraid of me, and the questions I’m about to ask him beside the unblinking eye of the video camera.

-Originally written for friends in 2006