Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Search for the Real Lizzie McGuire

By now, I think everyone knows that Hilary Duff was my main girl during my first 2.5 years of high school, thanks to me discovering Lizzie McGuire right after the start of freshman year.  While the show had its share of detractors--and which one doesn't?--it catapulted Miss Duff into super stardom, and has a cultural impact that is still felt today, especially by people who grew up with it, much like I did.  Lizzie herself was a likable character; a New York Times article called her "the luminous and loyal friend any kid would want to have at a stage of adolescence when the world just begins to seem very dark." Looking back, I think part of the reason I revered her as highly as I did was because I didn't have an actual best friend; sure, there were people I talked to often at school, church, and elsewhere, but I rarely did things with them outside of those places.  It was true that a kid that my mom was taking care of introduced me to the show, but, to this day, I question whether or not he was my friend, only because he acted like a jerk half the time.

I don't watch Lizzie near as much as I used to, though it does make for some nice nostalgia material now and then.  Still, just like with other previous favorite entertainment entities of mine, its impact is still felt to this day...but, in this case, more than any of the rest of them.  You probably already know how Hilary Duff and her show changed my life forever, and woke me up to a whole world of entertainment I'd be missing out on otherwise; I doubt I would have ever discovered my later celebrity crushes or pretty much any show I've enjoyed in the past decade or so if it hadn't been for Lizzie.  What you may not know is how it has also impacted my views on friendship, though whether that's for good or for ill is up for debate.

If you're unfamiliar with the show, you probably don't know this, but, despite its title, it wasn't only about Lizzie.  She had a family, of course--mom, dad, and pesky little brother--but she also had two best friends, Miranda Sanchez and David "Gordo" Gordon.  From the outset, the three of them did pretty much everything together.  Not only did they have all of the same classes--which is actually possible in middle school; I know from experience--but they attended functions together and often got in trouble together as well.  They were pretty much three peas in a pod, until Miranda made an exit towards the end of the show for reasons I never did quite understand.  Together, they braved evil cheerleaders, family drama, school dances, the struggles of growing up, and plenty more.  The same could be said for the main cast of other similar shows, ranging from Austin & Ally to even Nickelodeon's iCarly; even when there was enmity between some of the main characters, they ended up doing the right thing for each other, and, sometimes, became friends before the series finale.

When I think of these shows, I have to ask myself: Where is my Lizzie, or my Miranda, or my Ally? (Yes, the last one was intended as a pun.) I'm not saying that I'm searching for some lovely young single blonde, brunette, or Latina to marry me; if you think that's my focus, you're sorely mistaken.  In fact, the person who could fill that role could be already married, older than I am, or maybe even (gasp!) a guy; what I'm saying is, I'm looking for a best friend.  In the past, I used to have some good friends who took me to the movies and such...but they're all gone now.  Two of them won't talk to me anymore thanks to my own dumb actions, while others have passed away or moved away, if not both.  While it's great to keep in contact with old friends via Facebook or even old-school style--i.e., on the phone--you can't deny that distance and time puts a strain on any relationship, even if it's completely platonic.  Still, I get along with pretty much everyone at my church...but, other than one older couple and my family members, I hardly ever see them outside church events.  I'm not sure I'd call most of them close friends, and I'm sure they'd say the same about me.

Friendship is a concept that has always proved rather enigmatic to me.  I've had bad experiences with people who laid me out--sometimes in public--over nothing, or generally acted in a rather ugly fashion, yet others said of those folks, "They are your biggest advocates!", "They're the best friends you've ever had!", "She is your biggest fan!", or "He likes you and you don't even know it!" If I'm going to have friends, I expect them to treat me with respect, not constantly make me feel like I'm back in seventh grade, dealing with middle school bullies again.  Seriously, when someone comes over to your table only to blast you over something completely innocent you said on is that not persecution? Where is the Christian love in that? I would say that a true friend wouldn't do such a thing...but others would say I'd be wrong about that.

To use another television analogy: I've been a fan of Mork & Mindy ever since my mom first introduced me to it in 1999, and a big part of that is because I identify with the character of Mork.  Just like him, I continue to struggle to understand human ways; after twenty-seven years on this planet, I'm still at a loss to explain some people's actions.  True, sometimes, nobody can explain why someone said or did whatever; my mom has said more than once, "I don't know why _______ said that!", and, depending on the incident, the person in question was anyone from my sister to my elementary school principal.  Still, more often than not, others seem to "get" what people are saying...whereas, I just don't.  It's not that I intend to misunderstand or do the wrong thing; I try my best, but it usually isn't good enough.  Mork needed someone to explain Earth concepts to him, and, as a college student, Mindy was a perfect fit.  I know they eventually married, but, this isn't about a relationship; in fact, in the first season, Mindy's father and grandmother also helped Mork out.  What I want is just someone to look out for me; someone who will help me out if I mess up, not make me feel like an idiot.

Unfortunately, that just seems hard to come by; even people who I should have been able to trust did me seriously wrong.  I found many teachers in school hard to respect because they acted like jerks; even my kindergarten teacher was rather cold and aloof.  I had two different principals at my high school, and hardly anyone respected either of them; the first one got booed at a pep rally, while the second was complained about by many teachers, all because of their overreactions to certain situations.  My family and I ended up leaving our home church of nearly three decades because of corruption within the leadership; they were doing whatever they wanted without regards to how the congregation felt, and many longtime members departed as a result.  My parents often try their best, but, due to their age and everything they've had on their plate over the years--even just this year alone--they often don't have the time or energy to deal with situations as they'd like.  I'd say I need a true best friend...but, I wouldn't know where to find one.

I will conclude by saying this: While I believe that anyone who wants to be my friend can be (Luke 9:50), in my experience, women seem to "get" me better than guys do.  It's not that every female human I've known has had the utmost respect for me--I currently know a few who pay me absolutely no mind, though, in more than one case, I have no idea why--but, in most cases, the women seem to understand me while the guys just sit there flummoxed.  I recall an incident at a high school youth retreat where we were discussing media discernment, and I proudly proclaimed that the only "R" film I'd ever seen was Vision Quest; when one of the girls heard that, she was shocked and quickly replied, "That was bad! You shouldn't have watched that!"...but, one of the guys thought it was no big deal.  I have to say, I agree with the member of the fairer sex; in fact, I only saw that dumb flick because another guy in the group lied to me about its content.  You might say that was just immaturity, but I've had the exact same problem since then countless times.  That's why I'm more inclined to think that I would need a female best friend like Lizzie McGuire, Mindy McConnell, or Ally Dawson; then again, maybe I'm totally wrong.

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