Jack Donaghy, Liz Lemon and How to Love your Neighbor of the Opposite Sex

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There have been a few times that I’ve introduced a friend to my favorite TV show 30 Rock and in the first few minutes of the show, they ask me, “Are Jack and Liz an ‘item’? Do they ever hook up?” And as I think both of these fictional characters would react, “No! Yuck!” While their relationship is filled with respect, adoration and playfulness, it is also completely platonic. While this may only be odd because this show exists in the ‘sex sells’ mantra’d prime-time television, male-female friendships in the real world don’t escape unharmed. (or male-male, female-female- awkward doesn’t discriminate)

Now, if you spent a day living in my brain, you would notice that I never miss an opportunity to relate my life to 30 Rock/Tina Fey. About once a week I find myself trying to retell a joke from the show that barely relates to the current conversation topic. I have had two male bosses for the past two years and I’ve felt they’ve been pretty symbiotic relationships. Both of these bosses are happily married to beautiful women. So naturally I’ve sort of seen these men as my Jack Donaghy’s, perhaps with a poorer sense of comedic timing, but supportive nonetheless.

When I lived in South Africa, that was probably the biggest cultural difference I struggled with. Especially among the isiXhosa, there was an understanding that if any male and female were alone together, hanky-panky was involved. No exceptions. I found I had to keep things superficial with men. There were even a few times where my being friendly was wrongly interpreted as “let’s get it on!” Awkward.

I’ve talked to monks about how freeing they’ve found celibacy to be- that in all of their relationships, because sex was 100% off-the-table, they felt able to connect on a deeper level. That is admirable. This is inspiring. This is not for me. Someday, I fully intend the enjoy the full range of marital benefits, but for the 2,999,999,999 men out there who aren’t my future husband, let’s just be friends. Really.

But I hope this is a sign of progress of the women’s movement: that we’ve come to a time where men and women who aren’t related can possibly, no, normally have worthwhile relationships that have nothing to do with sex. Perhaps (and this is a really long stretch) Jack and Liz’s mentor/mentee relationship is a modern day Jesus and the woman at the well in that we should see a person for the beautiful person they are, and not that labels our culture likes to put on them. That our gender doesn’t put limitations on loving your neighbor.

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Tina Fey, my imaginary mentor

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So my copy of http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=thatswha06-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0316056863&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrTina Fey’s Bossypants arrived in the mail yesterday. Let me say that I only have two methods of reading books. One is to steamroll through them, gorging out my intellectual appetite. The other way is to read a chapter, get bored, an let that book with its well-meaning bookmark collect dust until I only remember it later because I’m moving and books are the heaviest part of a move.

There is no middle ground for me.

So I finished the book by 9:30 pm last night. A little jealous that if I ever write a book, I won’t get to crack jokes about my awkward sexuality, but certain I could make it just as funny. Has “Priestypants*” been trademarked yet? So many times I feel like Tina Fey is just me, but in a different life. But then I remember that her book is currently the #2 bestseller on Amazon. Apparently there are a lot of other brainy brunettes who act weird around boys they want to date. But really, someone once told me that I reminded her of Tina Fey, or more accurately, Liz Lemon, and I consider that one of the nicest compliments I’ve received, though I can’t tell you why.     

Being that Tina Fey is a comedian and this is a comedic book, I’m not sure I should glean some great insight from this book. But I did. Because Tina Fey talked about learning to do improv in Chicago at Second City and she talked about how those lessons translated to life lessons. Let me quote:

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun. 

Now obviously in real life you’re not going to always agree with everything everyone says. But the rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you. 

 As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life who first answer is no. “No, we can’t do that.” “No, that’s not in the budget.” “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.” What kind of way is that to live? 

What if more people have theological discussions with the Rule of Agreement in mind? What if more churches approached new ideas with the Rule of Agreement in mind? If I were further along in my theological studies, this is where I would bridge this to a ‘theology of abundance’, but I’m not there yet, so bear with me. Because Fey continues that passage with the YES, AND rule, saying that everyone shouldn’t be afraid to contribute, which is probably the same thinking that gave me the audacity to start a blog that had almost 150 page views last month.  

Let me leave you with a new word that Tina Fey coined (like Shakespeare!). Not only does this word describe me now, but I have a feeling it will describe me all my life. Blorft. “Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything was fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.”

*- If you’re a part of my Commission on Ministry, I fully acknowledge that there’s much more to do in my discernment process and ordination is still by all means a ‘maybe’.**

**- If you have no idea what this comment means, consider yourself lucky.