Dear High School Freshmen Everywhere:
High school is hard! I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but the halls of high school are full of kids running in all directions. The nerds, the cheerleaders, the band geeks, the athletes, the mean girls, the mean boys—I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but they are all there.
The point is that you will encounter all kinds of people. This is not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. True, you may feel most comfortable when you are with people who like the same music as you or who like to play Minecraft for five hours a day.
But some of the best friendships are forged by opposites, as I learned by watching TV in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Yes, you can glean life lessons from television characters, and I can prove it. For instance, take a look at these unlikely friendships:
Greg Brady and Johnny Bravo (The Brady Bunch)
Okay, these two are really the same person. But there’s a lesson here! Greg ditches his old, groovy teenager self to become someone who another person determines he should be. Really now, how crazy is that, even if the suit fits you?
The lesson for our teenagers: Clothes do not make the man or woman, especially if bell bottoms are involved. Resist temptation to believe fast-talkers who really don’t care about you but more what you can do for them. They are not your friends. For true friendship, look to the people who don’t care whether or not you fit into your outfits.
Richie Cunningham and Fonzie (Happy Days)
They don’t come much cleaner-cut than Richie Cunningham, yet his best friend had slicked-back hair, wore a leather jacket and rode a motorcycle. While Richie had absolutely zero edge, Fonzie had cool down to a science. Hey, he didn’t even have to comb his hair once, even though he always had a comb in his back pocket. But these two had a bond, and they would have done anything to help each other out.
The lesson for our teenagers: Don’t dismiss someone because they look different than you. Everyone brings something to the party. Also: Aaayyyy!
Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney (Laverne & Shirley)
Oh, boy, did these ladies get into trouble. And really, it was Laverne’s fault, because Shirley was a goody-two-shoes and Laverne loved adventure. Together, the two of them had a blast. Shirley’s world was much more exciting because she gave in to nudges from Laverne to loosen up a bit. She even said yes to a date from Carmine! The rest is classic television history.
The lesson for our teenagers: Find a friend who is a little more adventurous than you are–but not too adventurous–so you don’t miss out.
Alex P. Keaton and Skippy Handelman (Family Ties)
Alex was best buddies with Skippy, his nerdy neighbor. They couldn’t have been more different: Alex was most comfortable in a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, and Skippy was all about being goofy.
The lesson for our teenagers: Even though you and your friend might have different perspectives, you can still find common ground.
Doogie Howser and Vinnie Delpino (Doogie Howser, M.D.)
Doogie was a teenager who, incredibly, was also a doctor. Vinnie was just a regular kid, but he had mad climbing-in-windows skills. Everyone needs a Vinnie in their life to just be silly with and to spark ideas for their personal blog.
The lesson for our teenagers: Develop a wide array of friendships, even outside of your academic and career path, so you have something to blog about. Also, lock your windows.
Blossom Russo and Six LeMeure (Blossom)
Blossom was a quirky, intellectual teenager, while Six talked a mile a minute and probably always turned her homework in late. Together, they wore fun hats. Whoa!
The lesson for our teenagers: Everyone has their own sense of style. It’s okay to like the same things as someone else or to try something new, but don’t just copy someone else’s preferences. Find your own favorites. And save your floppy hats for the beach.
Brenda Walsh and Kelly Taylor (Beverly Hills, 90210)
This friendship went through more ups and downs than a teeter-totter. One day they were besties, the next day they weren’t even speaking to each other. The cause of most of their arguments? A guy!
The lesson for our teenagers: It’s great to have a boyfriend, but not at the expense of hurting your best friend. Your mother was right: There are lots of fish in the sea, so keep your hooks off another girl’s guy and you’ll have smooth sailing.
Monica Geller and Rachel Green (Friends)
They weren’t teens, but they faced many of the same issues, from dating to the perfect hairdo. Through it all, they had lots of great times at the local coffee shop.
The lesson for our teenagers: After high school, stay in touch with your bestie, and who knows, you two may end up sharing a fabulous apartment in New York City and date all your friends!
Lindsay Weir and Millie Kentner (Freaks and Geeks)
Lindsay dumped her childhood geeky friend (and fellow mathlete) Millie so she could hang with the freaks. But pulling pranks and living dangerously only got Lindsay in trouble. When Lindsay partied too hard and then realized she had promised to babysit the neighbor’s kids, it was Millie to the rescue.
The lesson for our teenagers: If you really are a mathlete, embrace it. Otherwise you will never feel totally comfortable in that green army jacket.
So, newly minted freshmen, you are about to embark on an awesome opportunity. Find the people who will be Fonzie to your Richie and Blossom to your Six. And for goodness sake, if you’re good at math, please, please do not quit the mathletes.