Friday, September 21, 2007

It's Lunch At Lutece Or Nothing, Baby

I don't usually read the sports news. But the great thing about reading The Times online is that you see things you might not see in the print edition.

Right on today's online front page there's a featured story illustrated by a photo of an older, very buff woman. I'm like, "What's up with that"? So I click.

The headline is

At 51, Establishing a New Body of Work

And the story is about Eva Birath, a Swedish woman who got laid off from a good job and decided to change her life. She rediscovered her love of painting. And she became a competitive body-builder.

I'm a sucker for stories like this, probably because of my ongoing fear of growing older. I love knowing that at pretty much any point in time, you can just up and change what you're doing, do something else, start a new series of life projects.

Eva sounds really happy.

In this the story bears a close resemblance to another recent Times feature, "Life Changes, With a Latte to Go." Here, a guy with a good job gets laid off, gets a brain tumor, starts working for Starbucks for the health insurance, downsizes his life, and lives happily ever after.

In both cases, The Times emphasizes the money aspect: isn't it amazing that a person can go from making lots of money to making a little money and actually be happier? I don't blame them for taking this angle: it's probably what Times readers are thinking. I think it too.

But both stories also contained a strange, sad detail: The bodybuilder and Mr. Latte say that when they changed their lives, they changed their circle of friends.

Mr. Latte just says he stopped hanging around with the same people, and now spends a lot of time listening to classical music. The bodybuilder says, "You know how you have those circle of people who are your friends? Suddenly, I wasn't invited to those parties anymore. I think they thought I was strange, but I don't care."

I know people hang out with people they have things in common with and all, but still, it seems sad. It's consistent, though, with recent findings that people are closer with family now and less close with friends. A 2006 study at Duke showed "Americans' circle of confidants has decreased dramatically in the past two decades." I guess a circle of friends is now more like to be a circle of co-workers or co-squash players or something. Once you don't lunch at the same place, you can't really be friends any more.

While you're raising a toast to Ms. Birath and Mr. Gill, don't forget to raise a glass to The Times, for dismantling its paywall. No more Times Select! Archives for everyone! Hooray!

1 comment:

Captain Colossal said...

The Duke study is funny, because when I was in college (within the past two decades) I felt like there was this whole "your friends are your real family" ethos. This one friend of mine was telling me about how his girlfriend's parents got along really well with his parents and how he thought that was important and I think I nodded while on the inside thinking "are you out of your mind?"