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Definitions, Dialogue and Doing

By Jamie Rodney

One of my favourite forms of procrastination is watching Saturday Night Live videos on Youtube. I try to kid myself that this is because SNL has a tendency to make smarter, more thought-provoking comedy videos than its competitors, but that's probably just an attempt at self-justification. One SNL sketch in particular, however, got me thinking. In it, Abby Elliot plays a game show host trying to work out what exactly her relationship with the guy she's dating-who just so happens to also be a contestant on her show- is. (I've probably not explained that well at all, and you should probably watch it to get a better idea. The link's in the article and it's about five minutes, so I'll wait. You done that now? Good, I'll move on.)

Now, obviously the good acting and snappy dialouge help, but the reason I think this sketch works so well is because of it's relatability. More or less everyone's been in a situation where, like Elliot's character, our relationships are tricky to pin down. And this is, understandably, problematic- people like labels, and that's perfectly natural. Labels, definitions, parameters, help us to understand what's acceptable and unacceptable in a relationship. X is a close friend, so I can make fun of them. Y is only an acquaintance, so I probably shouldn't. Z is just some creep I really shouldn't have added on Facebook and now won't stop messaging me, so I can be as impolite as I want.

Now, due to how natural, and how prevalent this urge to slap labels on relationships is, I don't think it's worth getting into a discussion about the rights and wrongs of it all. Instead, what I'm going to do is try and give some advice on what to do when you find yourself in this situation. (We don't all have the ear of game show networks, after all.)

I'll start with things you definitely shouldn't do. For a start (and I don't know if a lot of people do do this or I'm just emotionally immature), don't try to force things. Sometimes, acquaintances turn into friendships in the space of days or even hours, other times things take longer to click, or don't click at all. Secondly, don't try to base a friendship on arbitrary criteria. When I first started at St Andrews (refer back to my point about being emotionally immature), I decided (not sure why) that I wasn't going to consider anyone a friend until I'd spoken to them for at least a month. Now, to be fair, like most spur-of-the-moment resolutions this is one I utterly failed to keep, but I still can't work out what possessed me to make it. Sure, some friendships take longer to form than others, but it's perfectly possible to realise you have a lot in common in the space of one conversation. J.K Rowling said in Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone that '“There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.” That's probably true. But what I didn't know was that having a chat about a subject you're both interested in could be one too.

If this article has been a bit confused, then I apologize. If it's more relevant to my experience than yours, I apologize too. But I think that this is genuinely an important point- it's sometimes better to go with the flow and let definitions handle themselves.

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