I have to admit, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. After a 10 year battle with dementia, my grandmother passed away. Though it wasn’t sudden, my family had been preparing for this moment for a number of years. So, we celebrated my grandmother’s life on a Saturday afternoon in a dimly lit Catholic church. Even though she was 90, the crowd at her funeral was impressive.
Because of her dementia, my grandmother hadn’t left her home in about 3 years. (When does this post get funny, amirite?) I was shocked when some of her friends showed up to the ceremony. Maybe it was because they had nothing better to do, but I’d like to think that they held my grandmother’s friendship to the highest accord. After all, she was a pretty incredible lady.
I remember my grandmother having friends. She was close to the woman that lived next to her in the row of houses she lived in for years in Northeast Philadelphia. She volunteered at a number of church and chorus groups and was always traveling to New York or Atlantic City to spend a day with her girls seeing a show. When my mother was a kid, my grandmother was a Den Leader for the Cub Scouts, part of the Mother’s Club, and even managed to have a good time cleaning the church every week with her friends. She had a pretty active social life.
Which made me question where I got my social skills from. My mother is anything but social. Her idea of a good time is watching M*A*S*H* at 7 p.m. and promptly going to bed at 8. I can only name one or two of my mother’s friends, and I don’t remember her taking any weekend trips with the girls. I wouldn’t say my social skills are as dire as hers, but they weren’t as solid as my grandmother’s either.
So, how do we learn to make friends? Are our parents obligated to teach us the art of conversation as much as they’re obligated to potty train? Are social skills genetically inherited like beautiful blue eyes or perfect hair? If you weren’t born with it, can you have social skills surgically implanted into your personality… like calf implants?
Unfortunately, no. No one from my family sat me down to teach me how to make friends. They told me I talked too much and that I was gassy–but that’s about it. I guess I was supposed to learn by watching my family interact with others, but when your grandmother is a church obsessed socialite and your mother is an anti-social beach bum–you’re not completely sure which example is right for you.
Your family is a guide, but your social circle is ultimately up to you. So, I guess that means less Facebook time and more getting out from behind my computer. I think the reason my grandmother was a part of so many people’s lives was because she was so active. More and more, millennials are slinking into their houses and hiding behind their screens. Maybe the problem isn’t necessarily our social skills. It’s the lack of interpersonal face-to-face conversation with one another.
So, I’m going to follow my grandmother’s example and get the hell out of the house.
Jo Anna Van Thuyne is an actor, comedian, and producer residing in New York. Her column, Why Can’t We Be Friends?, posts every Thursday. Check her Snapchat/Twitter/Insta @JoPincushion.
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