I realized this last night at a New Year’s party. The media (specifically, movies) have created this construct of what it means for cool 30 year old’s to hang out and bond (beer, reciprocal altruism). Teens emulate these social mores. A friend told me yesterday, with seriousness, "Come on, we’re just being adults right now."
As Goffman articulates in the Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, we all wear "masks" all the way down (there’s no "true" self beneath the bullshit). What masks we wear – that is, what behavior we project – depends on the social situation.
Thus, when a social situation is created so its participants can bond, everyone must wear the mask conducive to such a goal. With such a collective effort (with everyone scrambling to find the right mask as defined by what we see our media darlings wear) I find it often breaks down.
Instead, I find the moments of true kinship/happiness/joy/insight come at times when we least expect it. When it’s unplanned, unorganized. The knot has tightened on my closest relationships not at the official birthday party, not during the holidays, or any other organized time.
It tightens at that expected moment, when life is most beautiful.