Monday, July 7, 2008

Refrigerator Rights Review


A while back, I wrote that Dr. Will Miller was kind enough to send me a copy of his book Refrigerator Rights. Between the book club books and other books and staying current with Time, it's taken me a while to get it read, but I finished it yesterday.

Written in conjunction with his colleague Dr. Glenn Sparks, Dr. Will makes a compelling case for one reason behind our societal ills: the loss of refrigerator rights.

He defines refrigerator rights as that certain level of comfort and familiarity you have in some people's homes, and vice versa. I.e., do you feel at home enough to open their fridge and help yourself to a cool beverage? Do they feel equally as comfortable in your home? We feel this most often with family members (I opened my sister's fridge when we were at their house in Friday, in fact) but there are some friendships that, with time, become as close.

Dr. Will and Dr. Sparks believe that we are rapidly losing these types of close relationships, whether family or friends, and that the loss of such a support system is harmful both to ourselves and to our society. They believe the cause of this is threefold:

1) Frequent relocation. How many of us live in the town in which we grew up? I do, but that was after over a decade of living elsewhere. How many of us have family members in the same town? These are people that helped shape our personalities and know details of our childhoods and our pasts. Refrigerator rights come with common knowledge and experiences, and frequent moves do not allow time for the development of deep relationships.

2) Extreme individualism. I think most of us admire someone who is "independent" and "self-reliant." That's how we're raised--to be able to take care of ourselves. My Dad occasionally expresses happiness and a sense of pride that the three of us girls are so independent (although he always cautioned me that career shouldn't be the complete focus of a balanced life). However, personal independence comes with a price when we grow so focused on our careers that we ignore our personal relationships. There are times that we need to turn to someone for advice and support, and if we don't have such people to turn to, we feel isolated and alone.

3) Media, especially electronic. There are so many distractions out there: TV, movies, video games, the computer...we fill our spare time with such distractions, at the expense of face-to-face time with family and friends. We are unable to build lasting and deep relationships without putting some time and effort into it.  

Our social isolation means that we are unable to get support when we need it, and we are becoming an increasingly anxious and depressed society. It's a vicious circle, because as we become more and more withdrawn from social interaction, we are shunning the very relationships we need to ease our feelings of alienation. Such relationships also help us grow, as they are the ones that can provide constructive criticism, and get us "back on the path" when we go astray.

Dr. Will makes a compelling case. I tried to read it with myself and my behaviors in mind, and I am guilty of much of this. I have a few questions for him, such as while I don't see my family every day, when we get together, we are all very close and loving. And while I'm very much a loner, I'm also very content and fairly anxiety-free. What does this say about me? Hmm.

One of the things I really liked about Dr. Will's book is that he included many examples of his own life and own behaviors. He readily admits to having to work on some aspects of his own personality, such as irritability and a quick temper. He has an attitude of "I'm not perfect, either, no one is, so stop obsessing!" It's somewhat comforting to know that he doesn't pretend to have all the answers, but believes that there is always room for improvement, and that growing and learning as a person is something to strive for.

He seems to be a genuinely kind and decent person, and I suspect that he'd eventually get refrigerator rights in our home! Thanks for the book, Dr. Will. You're a mensch!


chat2missie said...

Enjoy your day!

buckoclown said...

Interesting entry.  I will look forward to reading the book, perhaps on our CA vegecation coming up soon :o)

Coming from a small family, and typically not having a lot of close friends, I find the concept that this is part of the deterioration thought provoking.  On the flip side is the close relationship I have been able to from with your family.

I also look forward to practicing the Refrigerator Rights with the kids as they grow and spread their wings.

howiseeit101 said...

This is right up my alley.  When I go to my mom's, Bob's, friends I feel close to, and open their fridge without hesitation it is saying how comfortable I feel in their homes.  But I never looked at it as a socialization affect.  I am a loner and I like it that way; so this fridge attack I do with those I love and trust is a statement of some sort.  I guess the statement is: love and trust.  Thanks for this entry; it got me thinking!

carouselqueen70 said...

i am not a very social person. I find myself staying away from people. That is probably why I am depressed so much. I have bad social anxiety so i feel isolated. Very nice entry. It all made sense. Thanks for sharing....hugs, Christine

dbdacoba said...

Since no one ever visits me I've never had the refrigerator rights tested.  But if you come over here you can open mine any time you wish.  You won't find much in there to interest you, though, I'm saorry to say.

mpnaz58 said...

Great title and subject matter!  I can say my parents home is probably the only place, other than my own, where I feel I have fridge rights.  My mom's house if always filled with "stuff", and the grandkids always help themselves.  My brother lives there now, and its kinda awkward because we don't know what is his...not that he would mind, but ya' know, its just not the same!
xoxo ~Myra

queeniemart said...

that book sure sounds i sit and think there is not a fridge on earth other than my own that i feel comfortable enough to go and open. That is sad, huh? We always have had the kind of relationship with our kids friends that says go ahead and get in there for a soda and don't ask. Then later that night Rick will complain for an hour about the loaf of bread, the boloney and the 10 Cokes that got drank.

rdautumnsage said...

The way I see it, if your in my home I'm comfortable enough for you to help yourself to whatever is in the frig. I'm one of those people that i have to be comfortable with you and want to invite you in my home before you step inside. Having been corresponding with you (and Ken) and writing back and forth online I have no doubt, if I ever met the two of you, you would be given intant hugs and told to help yourself to a cold drink from the refrig. It's not bad manners on my part, it's my acceptance and trust of someone to allow them that comfort. (Hugs)Indigo

jmoqueen said...

How on earth do you manage to fit reading all that stuff in one day lol............


markonit said...

... good topic ..!  We are more and more alienated from each other as technology makes things so that we draw our stimulation from non human contact ... we no longer place a premium on humanity ...

... your entry about cheaper to by the salad is a part of this as well ... the society that has been good enough to last human kind thus far is disappearing ... and that makes me fill with dread ...

... sorry if it doesn't makes sense ... but I KNOW what I am saying..! :0)