Tag: urban tribes

Urban Tribes, Big Brother and Survivor

urban tribes2

Spoiler alert- if you don’t know the winner of big brother do not read this blog!!!

So if you guys didn’t know I really love strategic game shows like Survivor (well especially Survivor and watched Big Brother for the first time this year).  I find it fascinating to see how people work together and what rationale they use for different moves.  It’s a gimmicky social experiment but still a social experiment and I find it very entertaining and occasionally enlightening.

Well Big Brother just ended last night and Derrick had been dominant the entire game.  He had aligned himself closely with Victoria who was sweet but had done little strategically, and with Cody who had been more cutthroat throughout the game.

derrick and cody
Derrick and Cody

In the final HOH Cody had the choice whether to take Victoria who had almost no chance to win or Derrick who hadn’t been nominated once out of 55 times for the block and had been allied with almost everyone.  And he chose Derrick?

Why?  Cody could have won the 500k almost certainly but he chose his ally, his best friend in the game over a sure win.  Many in my RHAP patron group couldn’t believe it.  What a stupid move we all said!

The interesting thing is earlier this year in the fantastic Survivor Cagayan season we had almost the same situation unfold.  Kass had been an angry version of Victoria.  She had burned bridges with everyone and just been very unpleasant all season (I would go nuts with someone like her!). Then there was Woo who was a taikwondo instructor and his ally Tony who had played like a maniac all season building spy shacks, cutting alliance members and speaking in llama (probably my personal favorite survivor player ever).

Just like with Big Brother Woo, the calm, team player, won the final immunity challenge and had the chance to take Kass to the end and win a million dollars, and he chose Tony out of loyalty and respect.

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Tony and Woo

Both Cody and Woo said they felt their partners had ‘earned his spot in the finale’ and they’d rather lose to their friend than win to a nothing person. Seeing these two scenarios play out so close together had me thinking.

Is this just random or is there some kind of cultural reason that we value loyalty and friendship so much, even over money.  Or we value them when we are young and unmarried even over money.  Is there a connection?I could be overthinking it but here’s a thought.  I love the book Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters.  urban tribesWatters wrote an article for the New York Times that he then turned into a book about an experience he had at Burning Man.  He was there with his closest friends and as he headed towards the fireside he saw his friends and realized they were his whole life:

“It looked like home, that little encampment in the dust-home because these particular people were there waiting for me. And then I could see the scene in a different way- as an anthropologist might who was studying a group of great apes . It was almost dark now and I stopped 20 years away…

Certainly each of these people had a relationship with me, but they all had distinct relationships with each others.  There was a web of love affairs, friendships, rivalries, work partnerships, and shared homes.  Connect any 2 of these 25 people and you would find a history of hundreds of hours of conversation, secrets, gossip and all manner of insights into the world”

He goes on:”Maybe I had not been delaying growing up, my real life, but had been living it fully- sailing through my 20s and early 30s as a member of a functional urban tribe”

Now you might be thinking how can an urban tribe exist in a game show where people are voting people off the tribe?  Isn’t that counter-intuitive?  Yes, and no.

First of all, not everyone playing the game is used to living in an urban tribe environment but the young single (especially men) are, so they are perhaps most vulnerable to this type of attachment.  But aside from the votes,  which some like Woo and Cody are basically kept safe from, the dynamics of alliances and a tribe/house are near-perfect urban tribes.  They satisfy family roles, traditions, gossip, work (challenges), insight etc.

So if you are a young person who is used to living in an urban tribe environment like frat boy Cody or martial arts instructor Woo perhaps their choices at final 3 aren’t that surprising?  Both Tony and Derrick were very confident they would be picked so it didn’t seem to be a tough decision. It was that much a part of who they are to make the choice easy.

I am less an urban tribe dweller now I am 33 but there was a time when I fit the description and I ate up Watters book.  I felt like someone was finally telling me my life wasn’t a total waste of time because I was unmarried.  You should see my copy it is underlined and highlighted.  So, there is a time when I would have absolutely made the same choices as Cody and Woo.  In fact, I’m still a very loyal and friend-oriented single person so I might still do it today.

And people say ‘it’s only 39 days or 3 months’?  How can you get that kind of urban tribe bond in such a short period of time.  I actually find that completely believable.  On my mission I was isolated from my family and friends and there were people I would have cut off my arm for if they had asked me.  I would have done anything for them.  And most of the time I had only known them for a few weeks. My companions I had for 6-12 weeks and I was incredibly loyal to them (some I wanted to rip their head off but most I liked!).

In fact, when you are in that kind of intense experience the bonds form even faster, and I know if I was on an island somewhere you can bet I would form an urban tribe real quick that would be tough to severe for money.

I realize it is a game but I just think the culture of urban tribes has created a loyalty-over-all-else culture and I’m actually glad to see it.  It’s kind of refreshing in a way. Especially as a single girl, it is nice to know there are guys out there who put loyalty and friendship over money and success.  As a married woman I might want it differently but I don’t know?

Watters quotes a woman named Leah and she pretty much describes my life “I’ve grown a lot through my tribe.  I’ve found out more about myself, developed in areas I would not have if I weren’t involved with these people.  I now know what I want out of life or at least what I don’t want.  I know I will not settle for the wrong man or the wrong job. I have a strong source of support…I guess you could say I have found myself”

Now that I am in my 30s, some friends are gone and this type of close-knit bond is harder to find for daily support.  But fortunately I have my roommate and great friends who are there when I need them.  They are honestly more important to me than family as far as this type of support goes.

I could be completely wrong and an urban tribe mentality may have nothing to do with Cody or Woo’s choices but it seems probable.  I can at least imagine it influencing them.

What do you think of urban tribes?  Do you watch Survivor or Big Brother?  Did you watch these seasons?  What do you think?

In the end, friendship is everything to some of us (and seriously Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters is a great book!).

Friends with Kids


I’ve never been afraid of a sensitive topic on this blog and this will probably be one of those so be prepared.

I just want to share another side of the story.

Recently seemingly everyone I know with kids have posted this video.

This is a charming video and I get why especially stay at home Mom’s respond to it but as one of those friends without kids let me try to explain the other side of the picture.

First some societal trends that come into play.  Americans, even Utahns are getting married at older ages, usually in the post college years.  This gives sometimes a decade or more for single American’s to form friendships and create meaningful bonds/memories.

These groups of friends are often more important than family to the modern young American as they have shared experiences and group empathy that is not the same in a typical family.  There is no real hierarchy to an urban tribe; where even the most high functioning family has an order and chain of command leading to the main decision makers, the parents. A group of friends provides a space without judgement or the expectations of a family.

This is perhaps less common in the Mormon world as family is universally praised over friendship. Family bonds are eternal and you are after all not sealed to your friends…

Nevertheless, urban tribes do happen and even if not a group of friends the same reliance as with groups can exist in individual friendships between singles. I’ve never fallen in love so most of what I know about love is shared through friends.  I always felt very different from my family but felt at home with my friends.

Last year when I swam GSL the reporter asked me who I was going to call first and I said I wanted to see my friend Etsuko because we had shared that experience together.

But we grow up and people fall in love, marry (or sometimes not marry), and start having their beautiful babies.  We are happy because our friends are happy but we are also a little heart broken…

Is it a selfish response?  Of course it is, but it is also a very human one.  In the 50’s the average age for a girl to marry was 22.  This meant she would be lucky to graduate from college before getting married and having a family.

Now it is 26 (28 for men). Like I said, that means for almost a decade men and women have lived their lives relying on friends and then seemingly overnight their support system and world has completely changed.  Suddenly there are new priorities and they can be pushed to the side. I cannot overstate how devastating that abandonment can feel.  It may be childish to feel that way but I’ve felt it and I bet most singles have too.

Of course, the change in lifestyle the video depicts is necessary but just because something is necessary does not make it any less painful.  In fact, some essential things are the most painful. Giving birth for example.  Do we tell a young mother that her pain is less valid because it is necessary to bring her baby into the world?  Of course not!

I can’t tell you how many times I have been a bridesmaid at a friends wedding, or thrown a baby shower, or something important like that and then I never hear from them again.  I will call and call and then eventually give up.  I will see photos of their kids on facebook and smile.  On my bitter days it can feel like everyone else is moving on with their lives but me.  My support system is gone and I don’t even get a baby out of the deal…

On my peaceful days I smile and hope my day will come and that I can do a better job at keeping in touch with my single friends.  I’m sure like the video shows it will be hard, but I hope I can at least be cognizant of their pain.

She does say in the video that she loves her friends but she is also very judgy.  Assuming her friend has all this free time and can hop off to Vegas whenever she wants.  The truth is said friend probably has worked a 10 hour day with a boss breathing down her neck and this 20 minutes with your kids is the only real human interaction she gets.  Your single friend and you may be catching Shark Tank when you are exhausted in exactly the same way just different exhaustion causes.

Both single women and homemakers with kids sacrifice most of their days for other people and leave completely frustrated and worn out.  A single girl may not understand the cheese or the door slammed in her face by a toddler but she does understand feeling frazzled and pushed around by other people and most likely what’s pushing her around does not love her the way your baby loves you.

I’m not trying to minimize being a young Mom.  It is super difficult but I’m just saying assuming one person has it so much easier than another is a shame.  You miss out on support you could be receiving and ostracizing yourself to only bonding with one type of person, other young Moms.

Of course, singles can do the same type of ostracizing and be too inflexible in adapting to the new situation. But can’t we all be grown ups and just say ‘my daughter threw cheese on the ground.  Isn’t she a rascal?  Could you help me with this? I bet you got into all kinds of messes when you were little…’ A conversation starts and an awkward moment becomes one of friendship instead of distance.

At the very least I would urge you to treat your single friends a little more gently than the video describes.  They may not be calling just to hang out.  Merely assuming that every time a single friend calls you it is for something superficial isn’t worthy of the friendship that was seemingly so important to you before you got that ring on your finger.

I understand there just isn’t time for everything and that some friends will be dropped but perhaps we give up too quickly?  Perhaps we assume because we can’t keep up our original relationship it is all over?  Maybe we could create a new relationship? Maybe it doesn’t have to be completely abandoned simply because it isn’t the same?

I have friends I only see once or twice a year but I know they are there for me.  I know they love me.  There is that gentleness and kindness which tells me ‘yes I have these kids and yes, its tough but I love you and you are important to me’.  At the very least I don’t feel abandoned and that I was a tool for a wedding photo.

A few years ago I went traveled and spent time with many friends with kids.  All of them unnecessarily apologized for their kids behavior.  Maybe I was giving a bad vibe or something but it wasn’t how I felt.  I can’t imagine just sitting there talking while friends are entertaining kids like the video suggests.  I get in and play or talk to the kids, talking to my friend at the same time. Occasionally I may have a day when I am not as kid-friendly but I don’t think it’s the rule of thumb as the video shows.

Most of the time my friends with kids want to meet me outside of the kids, not because of me, but they see it as an escape for them, but I am more than willing to meet at Chucky Cheese or a playground and talk to you, get to know your kids.  The video seems to show it is either going out, getting a sitter or a frustrated experience, and I think with a little creativity it doesn’t have to be that way.

I would also never tell a mother that I am going to be strict with my kids.  I can’t think of a single adult that would say such a thing to their friends with kids when they are with said friend.  That would be super judgy and rude.  They may say it behind their backs which I guess is bad but the woman on this video has strange friends if they say that as part of light discussion during a visit.

In the end, I guess if I made a video it would say ‘be kind’, ‘be gentle’ and spend a minute to let someone know you love them and I bet that will make your time with those little one’s a little easier too.  Maybe it will help you to not feel so alone when you know you have a friend who is rooting for you?  It would for me.

Friends are not simply role-players in our lives- someone we use to get through the day.  They are real people and relationships with real people matter.  So, if worse comes to worse, maybe pray that Heavenly Father will help you find a way to express love to your friends. Just maybe He will inspire you with an idea for a get-together or a cute text.

And if a friend does need to be dropped just try to be gentle about it.  Try to understand how they are feeling and as Jesus taught ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.  That goes for all of us married, single, divorced or widowed.

Friendship is too great a gift to let it pass without much thought.  I promise it’s worth the effort.

The truth is it is harder for single women over 30 to get together.  It is just harder when you are older, so maybe that is part of the change.  You can set up plans for weeks, get everything organized and then someone gets sick or there’s a blizzard, or a late assignment at work.  It is just harder post 30 but again worth the effort.

(I have no problems with my friends btw.  Only posted this because I saw the video so much and wanted to share how the person on the other side of the phone may be feeling).

Feel free to share your opinions of what I have written.  How have you made friendship work as an adult? My Dad is a great example of maintaining friendships.  It is a natural part of his expression and I’m kind of the same way.  I need friend, so thank you dear friends.  Love you and your kids!

Generation Next


camera-002My sister and I used to joke about when it was we have officially “turned out”?  You know how people always say “she’s turned out well” or “he turned out with lots of problems”.  When do we turn out? When have we officially grown up? According to a recent study done by my Alma mater Brigham Young University the age of achieving adulthood has changed in recent years.  In fact, there is a new term, an “emerging adult”, that is used to describe young adults between the ages of 18-25.  This is like a teenager phase II.

Here’s  a press release from BYU on the topic:


I have noticed this phenomenon amongst my fellow young adults.  It does seem like people my age are still searching for their roles and motivations when in the past they would have been forced into them- or at least in the past young people wouldn’t have thought of other options.

When I look around at many of my contemporaries I notice this trend and some of the negative sides.  There are  more “emerging adults” than I would like to admit who are 25ish and are still finishing their bachelors degree, undecided on their career and living at home- just kind of directionless.  This has always been hard for me to understand as I have been the opposite.  You can even see it in recent films by Will Farrell and Seth Rogan about older men who behave like children or teenagers at best.  It is like the frat boy mentality never dies.  It is seen in girls also but harder to put into words.  I think girls are more likely to develop peer groups like the ones exemplified in Sex and the City to replace the need for traditional female roles.  This lack of motivation is the negative side of the “emerging adult” phenomenon.

On the other hand,  I do not think this trend is necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many of the articles and studies on the topic found some positive benefits to the new behavior of young adults.  For instance, there is a new closeness between young adults and parents that didn’t exist in past eras.   There is also a commitment to family, careers, and goals once they are made that may not have existed in previous generations. Perhaps we wait because we value the commitments of adulthood not the other way around?

Another benefit is that the “emerging adults” typically have a broader exposure to different cultures, families, philosophies and lifestyles.  They tend to be more diverse and well-rounded as a result. Regardless of how you view such a  change it is important to recognize that it has occurred and then we can look at the pluses and minuses.  At the very least it makes me feel better about being single- evidently there are a lot of other young adults out there around my age who are unattached and independent like myself!

It all reminds me of a book I LOVE called Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters.  It made me feel validated and I read it with a highlighter and a notepad.  It just spoke to me.  For the first time someone was actually saying that by being single and forming groups of friends I might actually be showing my commitment to family instead of schlepping my life away.  I also liked the way that Watters asked society to look through a new lens- that maybe there were negative aspects to a new trend but let’s at least analyze it for what it is and not what it isn’t.  These groups of Urban Tribes (or emerging adults) are changing America in lots of ways and its hard to appreciate those changes if we do not acknowledge their existence.  I will do an entire entry later on that book. I loved it so much! I will be very curious for your thoughts on this subject. Do you think this trend “emerging adults” is a good thing, bad thing, neither?  Look at this interesting NPR article:

Generation Next’ in the Slow Lane to Adulthood

December 20, 2007 · Recent studies find interesting differences among today’s young people compared with those of decades past. There’s even a new term for the generation age 18 to 25: Generation Next. And a new label for this period of development: “emerging adulthood.”

Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist at Clark University, coined the term “emerging adult.” Arnett says a number of cultural changes over the past five decades created this lengthened path to adulthood.

“Go back 50 years, the median age of marriage for women was 20; for men, 22. And they likely had their first child within one year,” Arnett says.

Back in 1960, Arnett says, most people in their early 20s had chosen a life partner, finished their education and were in a stable job if they were male; full-time mothers if they were female.

But none of that exists today, Arnett says.

“Now, if you heard of somebody 19 to 20 years old planning to get married, you’d think they were crazy,” Arnett says. “It’s so unusual now to do that. The average age for women to marry is 26, and for men, 27 and a half.”

Colin Herron, 21, is a senior at George Washington University. Lindsay Tingley, 23, is a law student at Wake Forest University. Herron and Tingley pretty much reflect the thinking of their generation.

“I’m not feeling like I’m in any rush,” Tingley says. “I think people get married a lot older these days and they have kids a lot later these days, and I know that I, myself, want to have a career. I don’t see myself getting married for another, I don’t know, three to four years. Three to six sounds good.”

When asked if they feel like adults, Tingley says what most 20-somethings say: yes and no.

“I do have a roommate down at school. I feel independent in that way. I have to make sure my rent gets paid and I buy my own groceries, take care of my car, feel like I have adult relationships. I’m responsible for getting my work turned in and staying on top of things, so in that way, I do,” Tingley says.

But complete financial autonomy? No way. Tingley receives financial help from her parents and from school loans.

“I don’t know a lot about investing, and I feel like at my age, that’s something that I should really start learning about,” Tingley says. “I certainly wouldn’t know how to buy my own house at this point.”

Herron says that the fact that he’s in school leaves him dependent on his parents.

“Because I have strings attached as far as school goes — loans and how I’m paying for school — that’s kind of what’s keeping me from entering adulthood,” Herron says.

And school is the other part of what Arnett calls the “quiet revolution.” The number of early 20-somethings in college has doubled over the past five decades. Today, there are more women than men attending college. Attending graduate school is more common, also, thereby increasing the length of time people spend preparing for adulthood.

Developmental psychologist Larry Nelson of Brigham Young University recently completed a study that appears in December’s Journal of Family Psychology. Nelson surveyed 392 unmarried college students and at least one of their parents.

“We wanted to know if parents considered their child —18 to 26 years old — adult or not,” Nelson explains. “Over 80 percent of mothers and fathers said, ‘No. They are not yet an adult.'”

It’s not just financial ties. These young people are also emotionally close to their parents.

“We have a really great relationship,” Tingley says. “We’re really close. You know, I don’t talk to them about everything, but I feel I could if I wanted to.”

Herron agrees. “There’s certainly a security net in the sense of an emotional security net. I know that they’re there. They certainly have let me know as long as I can remember that they will be there as long as they’re alive for whatever I need.”

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center shows eight out of 10 young people surveyed had talked to their parents in the past day. Nearly three in four said they see their parents at least once a week.

What does it add up to? A generation that’s closely connected to family. And one that’s taking its time to figure out the future, which, according to Arnett, isn’t such a bad thing.

“Once you take on adult responsibilities, you’re going to have them for life. So, why not take this time in your 20s to do the sort of things you couldn’t do before and never will be able to do again?” he says. “Once you get married and have kids and have a long-term employer, you can’t just leave them because something interesting comes along. But in your 20s, you can.”

And much of this time experimenting with life is balanced on the other end, Arnett says, by a lifespan that continues to rise.

“I say, more power to them.”