Jon Barlow and I have been online "friends" (Facebook, blog comments, etc.) for probably 4-5 years, live five minutes apart, are graduates of the same seminary, have many mutual friends in the PCA, and are involved with the same school (I'm a teacher; he's on the board). Both of us have four kids each (I have four daughters; Jon has four sons), and we both love our wives, our kids, theology, philosophy, good writing, interesting music, and well-made films. We both think pretty well in terms of pop culture, and both of us probably spend too much time online (though Jon's finishing his PhD at SLU, so I'm not sure).
The funny thing is, while there seems to be a degree of mutual respect for one another, Jon and I have never met face-to-face. I think our story would make a good movie.
Here's the thing: the thirties are a busy time – possibly the busiest, I've been told by many, for a variety of reasons (young families growing, career paths taking off/changing, etc.). For those of us guys who are more introverted and emotionally fragile (yes, I'm being serious), it can be hard to get below the surface of news, weather, and sports with other men. While I can't speak for Jon, I know I haven't had the depth of male relationships in my thirties that I had in my twenties; more breadth, yes, but depth, no.
Here's a post from Jon's blog which, after reading, I knew we could be friends:
"At church, I feel like a ghost. It is so hard to get to know people in the few milling-around minutes that are available each Sunday. Especially when you've gotta watch your four boys to be sure they aren't running around or misbehaving. At school, I feel like a ghost. What am I going to do – hang out around the office and talk theology? How is that going to ever happen? I'm least ghost-like at home in the few hours between when I get home and when the boys go to bed, and I'm least ghost like in situations where I have to be there for a set amount of time to do some task. But even at the office, I find it hard to really get into my co-workers lives and learn about them. I keep thinking how the boss needs to get this project finished so he can bill it and make payroll for me and the others.
Part of this is also just the season of life that one is in at the time. When kids are young, you can't really be hitting the nightlife, whether recreational or educational, even in a great city like St. Louis and even community involvement is very difficult. And so I think you grin and bear it and hope for a better day and just try to stay sane and healthy and do what you can. The hard parts are those quiet moments – maybe you wake up before everyone else or you're in a public restroom or walking somewhere and there's no radio, no television, no one talking, and you're just stuck with yourself and all the crap in your life is circling your brain like electrons around the core of an atom and you're bewildered and saddened. But I guess that's why they invented the cell phone, so that a game of solitaire is never too far away. Pitiful, but true."
What if Jon and I – without ever meeting – wrote a screenplay about two average, semi-interesting, clearly heterosexual guys who are married, have children, and struggle to make ends meet in their quest to educate themselves and others about God's Word and world. And yet while they know of, know about, and know electronically the other, they never meet – on purpose, it seems – even though they have every opportunity to do so geographically, vocationally, and relationally? What would be gained or lost? And do they meet in the end (and so what if they do)?
Last week, Jon posted on his Facebook page that he was in need of some new clothes because, after years of seminary and grad school, all his clothes were wearing out all at once. I happened to have pants that no longer fit me but matched his measurements, so I messaged him and told him I'd be glad to get them to him if we could figure out a drop that maintained our non-acquaintance existence (the whole thing has kind of become a joke between the two of us, but honestly, I think we're both a little afraid of what might happen if we actually meet face to face – too much friendship pressure). As he had a board meeting at school (in my room, no less), we agreed that I would leave the pants in a bag on my desk for him. The drop worked and we maintained our no-meet streak.
Think of all the humorous scenes we could play out like this in a movie. We've already been in the same room together with neither one of us realizing it until later; we've both found out after the fact that we've been at my township's local arts fair at the exact same time but our paths never crossed; we've both had people tell us (or at least I have – I won't speak for Jon) that we'd be fast friends, but for whatever reason, even when we once tried to get our families together for dinner, things didn't work out. (I'm sure we've been at other events that neither one of us knew about the other being there as well.)
But here's the best part (for the movie, at least): What if, after we get the screenplay written (separately, of course) and some independent film company picks it up and produces it, what if as part of the build-up and promotion of the film, we finally meet on opening night at some film festival somewhere, families in tow and with the joke finally over? What if the film turned into some huge commentary on the challenges of real male friendship in an extremes-preoccupied world (sports fans on one end, geeks on the other), as evidenced by the reality that terms like "man crush" and "bromance" have crept into the vernacular as guys try to describe respect and even affection for one another without being talked about with raised eyebrows? What if?
I'm just throwing it out there. Would you go see a flick like that? What other motivations, scenes, or characters might make it compelling to watch? What would you call it? And do any guys resonate with what I'm talking about, or is this a movie no one would go see? I know the idea is rough and needs refining, so here's your chance to make it better.