Examining the Impact of Roles and Social Pressures on My Life
I spent a recent evening watching a movie with my erstwhile girlfriend Jaimie, along with two of our mutually close friends, Jason and Michael. In the half hour before starting the video, we rearranged Jaimie's furniture to make room for the four of us. During the screening, we laughed together at a child's antics, made jokes about trite and improbable situations, and watched silently as the story drew to an emotional climax. As the credit scroll began, it was clear that I was both welcome and expected to stay in the room in a casual social gathering with the other three. However, my response was to mumble something about having to leave, and, retreating to my own room, to spend the remainder of the night playing video games and guitar. One may ask why I chose to leave, when my social role as friend to those individuals would have me stay. In fact, the forces contributing to my curt exit, though partially individual, are predominantly social, and include influences from the five major stages in my relationship with Jaimie, the sociological roles and expectations I played in each stage, and the counsel of my other friends.
The first phase of our relationship involved adjustment to our new roles as Boyfriend and Girlfriend, and the feelings that accompanied it. This occurred quickly; for my part, I had not been more than casually involved with a woman for seventeen months, and was feeling the pressure and judgment of a society that expects its members to engage in heterosexual courtship at my age. Jaimie was in the process of terminating a mutually destructive relationship and had experimented with several unsuccessful liaisons; she too was eager to join what seemed to be a more stable bond. For two months, we spent nearly every moment, both waking and sleeping, in each other's company. My other friendships seemed trivial in comparison, and I began to drift away from them. Scarcely a week after becoming acquainted, Jaimie and I professed what we each felt was mutual love for one another. It is still unclear whether these feelings arose out of actual love, or out of infatuation, relief from loneliness, or the intensity with which we threw ourselves into our roles; but considering the short time during which the feelings emerged, the last seems the most likely. Peter Berger points out that "the role forms, shapes, patterns both action and actor" (98). By falling into theses roles so quickly and completely, we assuaged each other's self doubts; like Garcin in Sartre's No Exit we each needed the approval of another person to free us from the hell to which we had imprisoned ourselves (Sartre 39).
All went well until we parted for the Winter holidays. After three weeks, during which we were only connected via telephone, and that only three or four times per week, we returned to college with reevaluated lives, though in ...