On Becoming A Man Chapter 11

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Chapter 11

Choosing Friends

This chapter contains the same ideas as its female counterpart, but is a little bit different. So, let’s see exactly what those differences are.

When you were a boy you had many young friends, and you thought a great deal of them. During childhood you took these friends more or less for granted. You did not have to choose them. You simply became acquainted with them because they happened to attend your school or to go to your church or to live in your neighborhood. But now that you are approaching manhood, friends are meaning more and more to you. From now on you will exercise your right to choose whom you will as your friends, and the choices you make must be made intelligently.

I never really took any of my friends for granted, for the simple fact that I rarely managed to make any. When I made a friend, it was a conscious choice. As far as intelligent choices of friends went…well, anyone who didn’t call me “retarded” was pretty much a good choice. Or so I thought at age 7.

In any case, teenagers really care a lot about what their friends think.

Your choice of clothes is influenced by what the other boys are wearing.

I thought boys didn’t really care much about clothes. At least, the ones on planet Adventist didn’t, if they didn’t want to be thought of as gay.

The author goes on to say that teen boys’ attitudes toward their teachers and their preferences for entertainment are also often influenced by what their friends think, to the point where, gasp, teen boys care more about what their friends think than about what their parents think!

Ok but what about what they think? If you can’t form your own preferences without friends to guide you, you need to sit down and rethink your life.

It is perfectly natural for you to want to be received well by your friends. When you are “in good” with them you feel secure…. but when, for some reason, your friends criticize you, you feel downcast. When they make fun of your clothes or call you a piker or sneer about your job, you take it seriously and set about changing things so as to bring yourself into favor again with those whose tastes and opinions you respect.

What the hell is a Piker? According to google, a piker is”

  1. one who gambles or speculates with small amounts of money

  2. 2 :  one who does things in a small way; also :  tightwad, cheapskate

So, the teen boy in Shryock land is either being made fun of for not gambling enough, or for being a tightwad. I would venture to guess the author is referring to the latter definition because Adventists, in general, are against gambling.

I still maintain that anyone who worries that much about what his friends think needs to sit down and rethink his life. If your friends don’t like your job, who cares? Screw them and their opinion and go find new friends. Life is too short trying to waste time pleasing snobs.

This increased emphasis on the opinions of your friends, now that you have reached your teens, is part of the normal process of learning how to be on your own.

What he describes here actually sounds more like someone who is dependent on their friends’ opinions.

The author goes on to say that the desire for friends and social activity is a very normal part of growing up.

This normal desire for companionship lays the foundation for the later desire to have a home of your own.

So, desiring friends is normal because eventually it leads to the desire to have a wife?

The author goes on to say that it’s important to develop a large circle of friends, because then you learn what you do and don’t like in a partner, and will be better equipped to select a life partner.

I don’t disagree that having a large circle of friends can be a good thing, but it’s not for everybody. There are people out there who prefer smaller groups of close friends, and that’s ok too.

The author also says that, as children, we placed the same value on each friend. But as we reach our teens we develop a friend we like best of all, and we refer to them as “our pal.”

This book is very very dated. I would have used the term “best friend.”

The author goes on to describe how best friends work, and it’s pretty normal stuff: they talk about things that are important to each other, they help each other when they get into trouble, they like to be members of the same ball team, etc.

But if you have been wise, you have not allowed your friendship with your pal to make you snobbish in your dealings with other boys.

Funny. This is the exact thing he said to the girls.

See, even though a boy has a pal, he should still be friends with lots of other boys, because it’s good to have a wide circle of friends.

Not everyone wants a wide circle of friends. Not everyone has the privilege of getting along with lots of children their own age. Sometimes the reason for this is the person in question, and sometimes there are circumstances that you can’t control.

If you fail to make friendships with the larger group, it is possible that you will become selfish and think more of your own interests than of the possibilities for helping others and being of service to humanity at large.

When I was a teen, this sentence struck fear into my heart. I was not the type of person who could make friends with the larger group, even if I had wanted to. First because most of the school population had decided they didn’t like me, and second because I didn’t want to. I am an introvert. I want a small group of close friends, and that’s about it. I do not want a large group that I am not close to. There are various ways of being normal, and I feel like this author thinks only one is actually valid.

The author also thinks It’s also a good idea to become friends with a wide variety of people because that’s how you develop a well rounded personality.

Teenage boys are often painfully frank with one another. When they observe certain peculiarities they mention these freely, allowing adequate opportunity for them to be modified. So you learn to give and take in this association with the group of boys your own age, you will become less sensitive and more agreeable.

Well, ok, but why can’t you have this same thing from a slightly smaller group of boys?

Somewhere in the mid to late teens, your interest in friends will widen to include, gasp, girls! Because you’d never have thought of being friends with a girl before! Girls had cooties, yuck! (That was me being snarky, the author does not actually mention cooties.)

As you make friends with girls, one particular girl will become particularly special to you. In the beginning, you feel free to discuss this with your best friend pal, and if your pal approves of the girl, you become even more interested in said girl. If your friends do not approve of her, it’s likely that you will stop wanting to have anything to do with her.

Wow. Sounds like the author thinks teens’ actions are pretty much based on the opinions of their friends. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it can be a good idea to ask your friends about a particular person you are thinking of getting romantically involved with. But unless they say things like, “She totally tried to put her hand in my pants after I said no,” then terminating a relationship based solely on their opinion sounds really unhealthy.

Oh and of course you’re looking for a girlfriend. We already had a chapter on homosexuality, so there’s really no need to mention it ever again. The author literally never mentions homosexuality outside of chapter 6.

Eventually, perhaps in your early 20s, you will form a friendship with some young woman who seems to mean more to you than any of the boys. When this time comes you will even be willing to risk  the disapproval of the boys, if necessary, in order to continue the friendship with the one you admire.

I have seen this happen in the late teens as well. Not sure why the author is placing this event in the early 20s. But sure, we’ll roll with it.

This change in attitude indicates a shifting of your loyalties in preparation for the time when you will establish your own home….the fact that your loyalties have shifted will indicate that you are approaching a time when your first allegiance will be properly reserved for one who will become your wife.

Hang on, I’ve always thought you were supposed to listen to your friends when they say they dislike your boyfriend, because you’re probably a little blinded by your infatuation? At least, that’s the advice –I– got growing up.

Also, if I ever do have a family, my first allegiance won’t be my spouse. It’ll be any children I have. A spouse could eventually fend for his or herself. A child could not. One’s first loyalty should always be to one’s children.

Now that we have traced the sequence through which you will pass in establishing your various friendships, it is time that we should back up a bit and discuss the significance of these friendships.

Oh, goody.

It would be fun to survey people and see if they have actually passed through sequences of friendships as the author has described, but ultimately I have better things to do with my time.

The author goes on to talk about loyalty, and how loyalty to one’s friends can influence a person. I wonder if this is what Shryock was like as a teenager, if he was the type of person who always had to make sure his friends approved of his clothes, his job, etc.  Sometimes a person’s writing tells us more about themselves than it does about whatever they’re trying to tell us.

In OBAW Shryock gave the example of a girl who buys a dress, and asks her friends’ opinion on it. In this book, he gives an example of a boy buying a new bike or motorcycle or a new suit.

The first time you display your new purchase before your friends, you are eager to observe how they will react. If they admire it, you feel reassured. Your confidence in your friends opinions makes you feel that you have made a wise choice. But if they criticize the color or the brand of your new purchase, you feel somewhat taken aback and lose some of your pride in that article forever after.

Yanno, I would use this illustration as a good example of someone who needed to become their own person and ride that bike or wear that suite regardless of what their friends think about it.

The author doesn’t think like that. He jumps straight from this into saying that if our friends are studious people who care about getting good grades, we will also be studious people who care about getting good grades. If our friends ridicule us for getting a good grade, however, then we will find ourselves trying to fail just to prove we are not different from them.

Anyone who goes to that much effort to please their friends needs to develop a backbone. The teenage Shryock must have been a very insecure little boy who was secretly terrified of losing his friends. Either that or he was well adjusted but somehow thinks no one else is.

This human trait of craving the approval of one’s social group becomes such an important factor in your life that it can even modify your attitude toward religion.

Ah, this argument. If your friends are religious, you’ll try to be religious too. If your friends are the type to fall asleep in church, you also will be the type to sneak Star Trek novels into church in your bible case.

This is the real reason they want you to choose your friends carefully. It is also the reason I have cut off contact with a great many people I used to be friends with. If you are one of those people, I am so sorry.

From this discussion you will realize that the approval or disapproval of your teenage companions may have a tremendous influence on your conduct, attitudes, and ideals. In fact in the cases of many teenagers, young friends mean even more in this regard than parents.

It is true that I sometimes considered my friends’ opinions as more important than my parents’. In some cases I now regret this, in others, I don’t.

Because they are influenced so much by their companions, parents sometimes feel that their sons have become rebellious.  Actually, the teenage boy does not intend to rebel against the wishes and ideals of his parents, but when these are in conflict with the attitudes of his companions, he may prefer the sanction of his friends to that of his parents.

I would say this is true in a lot of cases. However, in my case, I absolutely wanted to rebel against my parents’ wishes and ideals. Not because I wanted to rebel, but because I saw that my parents were trapped in cult like thinking, and I wanted to be done with that. At 16, I wasn’t physically able to leave, and I wasn’t really able to make myself leave mentally either, but I did take that first step of realizing I needed to.

In any case, there’s a lot of danger in placing the opinions of our friends over that of our parents, for it means we might end up making compromises and going against our consciences.

So, what’s a teenage boy to do when his friends want to do something his parents wouldn’t approve of?

The answer is preventative: the teenage boy must choose his friends carefully. The type of friends you have will determine what kind of person you become. Or so they author believes.

In order for friends to enjoy each other’s companionship, they must think very much alike and act alike.

I find that Seventh Day Adventists in general do not know how to be friends with someone who is fundamentally different from themselves. It’s probably why I never learned to do it either. I don’t need to think or act like my best friends in order to enjoy their company.

When you choose your friends, you should ask yourself, “is this the type of person I want to be?” If the answer is yes, then go ahead and be friends with them. If not, then reconsider.

Look. If I thought that way, I’d never have any friends. Or I would have only friends who thought the way I did. And What fun would that be? I have an Adventist friend, still. Do I want to be like her? Absolutely not. Although I love her dearly, I do not wish to become an Adventist again. But there’s no reason we can’t still be friends and do things like go to the aquarium or the holocaust museum together. She lives in another state now, so we don’t hang out as often as we used to, but we still enjoy each other’s company. I’m sure many of you could tell similar stories, or give different examples of having friends with very different values than you do.

But on Planet Adventist, friendships are essential, and you must choose correctly.

But you say, “the young people in my community have different ideals from those of my parents. They think my parents are strict and that I am peculiar because I will not do the things they like to do. how can I choose ideal friends under such circumstances?

Notice, first, that the author talks about a child worrying about finding friends to match their parents‘ ideals. In the next paragraph, the author will talk about the teen’s ideals. It’s assumed that these will be one and the same, and that’s not always the case.

Actually it would be better for you not to develop intimate friendships than for your friendships to be developed with those whose ideals and standards are lower than yours.

I don’t have a citation for this, so I could be wrong, but isn’t this incredibly untrue? It’s not healthy to refuse to have any close friends, especially if the only reason for not having close friends is that these friends have different ideals than you do. Also, by choosing friends who are very different from you, you learn how to get along with others outside your tiny little bubble. And that is a very important skill to develop.

Even I could use a crash course in “getting along with people who believe differently.”

The choice of friends becomes especially important when religious considerations are at stake. were you to form a close friendship with one whose religious beliefs differ from yours, the chances are that your own views would become modified in the direction of those of your friend.

A lot of Adventists (though by no means all of them) will not make friends, or at least, they won’t form close friendships, with non Adventists. Is their faith really so fragile that they are scared that one friend could tear it down?

Now, by all means one should respect the religion of one’s friend. If your friend is constantly making fun of you for your religion, then yes it is time to find some new friends. But otherwise, why can’t an Adventist be best friends with a Catholic?

Even though you decide to attend a boarding school where most of the students profess the same religion as you, you will still find many whose personal ideals are not so lofty as yours. Even here, then, you will have to exercise discretion in your choice of friends.

There are actually a surprising amount of students at Adventist boarding schools who aren’t Adventist. Usually they’re fleeing undesirable home situations, or they are the children of Adventist parents who are forced to attend. Some of these children do eventually convert (or reconvert) to Adventism through the efforts of the Academy.

You are not being snobbish simply because you choose your friends carefully.

Yes, you are. That is what we call it when someone will only make friends with someone of the “right” religion.

If the author was talking about not wanting to be friends with someone who, say, freely throws around the N word, I would agree with him. I don’t want to associate too much with racists. But barring someone from close friendship simply because your faith is so weak that having a Muslim best friend would destroy it? That’s snobbish.

A young person shares the reputation of his friends. Therefore, if you keep company with young people of questionable reputation, it will be assumed that you are fo the same type. But if your companions have high standards, you will be given credit for the same.

I think people need to stop judging people based on their choice of friends, but that’s another rant.

During your early teens your close friendships are with other boys.

Because of course a 13 year old boy would never have a girl as a close friend. That never happens!

As you become older you will be seeking opportunities to become acquainted with certain of the young women.

Because boys never befriend girls before they hit puberty, of course.

When girls decide who to get close to, they look at you and your friends. If your friends are of an unsavory sort, they will assume that you are the same, and they won’t want to get to know you. Now, I could kind of see this being a good thing if your friends are the type to try and grab a girl’s ass as she walks by, but otherwise, really? Maybe she should stop being so judgmental.

It is probable that many of your companions of future years will be selected from among your acquaintances of the teens.

Actually, I remember learning in health class the year I went to public school that most of our teenage friends wouldn’t still be our friends by the time we reached adulthood. Has the world changed that much since this book was written? Is this advice incredibly dated? Or is it one of those situations where what the author wrote was never true?

Of the close friends I had as a teenager, I don’t think I speak to any of them today. And if I do, I don’t talk to them very much.

So, how does one tell if someone is a good candidate for friendship? Well, if you live at home, invite them over for dinner, then ask your parents what they think. If you live at boarding school, you can’t do that. In OBAW he suggested a girl ask the advice of the dean or the guidance counselor. Here he takes a slightly different approach.

I recall that as a young man I hesitated to seek counsel in my choice of friends. I believe that most young men react as I did and hate to ask one another, “what do you know about John Jones?” Or, “What kind of girl is Mary Smith?”

Basically, he’s saying that even he didn’t like this advice as a teen. He didn’t mention this at all in OBAW.

Usually the information by which you can judge another young person comes indirectly and casually in conversation, rather than in direct answer to your questions. Therefore, if you are observing and if you act deliberately rather than hastily, you can usually pick up enough information by casual contacts to enable you to make a wise decision.

This….actually makes a lot more sense than going to the dean or a guidance counselor and having them choose your friends for you. If I had gone to Mr. H and asked him who he thought I should be friends with, he’d have given me an odd look.

Shryock does still urge the teen, in this book, to seek out the advice of an older person in helping you to seek friends. But he also mentions being friendly and observant with other students.

Remember, this book was written first. It’s possible that Shryock got some flack for the way he answered this question and was told, for the next book, to just tell the young ladies to see an older person first.

The author then goes on to talk about how careful we would be if we were loaning out a car to someone. We would hesitate to loan a car to someone we didn’t know and trust, and if we were considering doing so, we’d ask around about the person’s reputation. Is he or she a safe driver? Will he or she pay for any damages that might occur?

But in the choice of friends you are dealing with a possession much more valuable than a mere motorcycle or automobile. In this latter case it is your own personality and character that are involved…..

If you entrust your personal reputation with friends who do not have good records of their own, you will later regret such friendships. Why should you hesitate, then, to seek counsel in such an important matter?

I am not a car. My personality and character are not something you can take with you and put in your pocket. I am a person, not a possession. Just because I hang out with a Muslim does not mean I am going to convert to Islam. And if someone decides to base their opinion of me on my friends, fuck them. They’re probably not someone I want to be friends with anyway. Life’s too short to hang out with judgmental pricks.

Then Shryock says something I agree with:

It should now be emphasized, however, that you, as an individual, have as much responsibility to your friends as they have to you…..

You must not expect your friends always to come to your rescue and carry the responsibility for your welfare. You must recognize that you owe as much to them as they do to you.

This is the end of the chapter, and the only part I really agree with. Otherwise I think one would do well to read this section as an example of what not to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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