Refrigerator Rights

Let’s start by pretending. Would that be okay?

Imagine you’re at home, at the end of the day. Kicking back. Comfortably settled in, doing whatever it is you like to do.

Heck, maybe you don’t even have to imagine that. Maybe you’re there right now, in fact.

So let’s keep going. You’re tucked away in your life, and the door bell rings. You get up to answer it, and surprise. It’s me!

Hi! How are you? What’s up? Who are you, again?

We exchange greetings, catch up, chat about work, the family, our latest adventures. You know, all the things people talk about.

And right in the midst of our conversation, I get up and mosey over to your kitchen. Open the refrigerator. And survey its contents while hanging on the door.

Wow, I’m famished. Thirsty too.

So I pull out those delicious leftovers you were planning to eat for lunch tomorrow, and while I’m at it, that bottle of imported beer looks too good to pass up. Yum!

Back to right now.

OK, we’ve stopped pretending. And I’m curious. What did you think of my antics? Wasn’t it a bit bad-mannered of me to raid your fridge like that? Who do I think I am? As a matter of fact, how cheeky of me!

Yes, it would be perfectly normal for you to react that way, because we don’t really know each other. At least, not in a flesh and blood way.

But the thing is, if we did know each other, and I sauntered into your home and poked my nose into your Frigidaire or Maytag or whatever brand you favor, it would actually be a good thing. Because it would mean that we share refrigerator rights.

Refrigerator Rights

In case you haven’t heard it before, the term was coined by Will Miller and Glenn Sparks, in the book of the same name. And the moment I learned of it, I felt a pang. A deep emotional response. I knew exactly what they were talking about, and I remembered how much I longed for such richly sustaining friendships. Those that go beyond casual acquaintances, and become family.

Turns out that in this day and age of scattered extended families, we need refrigerator rights relationships more than ever.

But the truth is, in the rush and roar of the 21st century, I don’t have many of them in my life. Neither do most of the other people I know, including clients. And it’s a wistful story I’ve listened to many times: the yearning to connect more often in real space and real time. To talk about real things.

It’s well-traveled territory to identify the things that get in the way of refrigerator rights relationships: 50-plus hour work weeks, long commutes, social media, frequent relocations, the internet, fatigue, and suburbia, to name a few. And of course, good old American individualism. So if you’re in another country, you may have a better chance at developing such friendships.

What the future holds

We all know how important it is to have strong social support systems. And there’s actually science to back this up. Apparently almost half of the brain’s cerebral cortex is devoted to visual input. This is the part of the brain where social cues are processed.

So even though we may think we’re getting our social/connection needs met through the wonders of technology, our brains our actually starving for face time.

Last week, when I wrote about The Art of Friendship, several people left comments about how challenging it can be these days to create friendships that include more face time.

I certainly don’t have an answer for it. Maybe just a plea today: if you’re not doing so already, go out and connect. Nurture relationships in real space and real time. And don’t be surprised when you find people opening your refrigerator door.

Oh, by the way, if you’re ever in my neighborhood, drop by. You can raid my fridge any time.

Now, about your own refrigerator rights relationships

How do they enhance your life?

Would you like to have more?

And if I were to look in your fridge right now, what scrumptious delight would be waiting for me?

15 thoughts on “Refrigerator Rights

  1. I have thought about this over the last few days. It is one thing to have the ability to be welcome in another person’s fridge and another to feel comfortable actually taking advantage of that right. I often think that if someone is invited into my house, they are usually friends, and they can help themselves to whatever… and yet it just occurred to me that I might give them that but how about their comfort in receiving it? My daughter’s father says she has free access to everything in his house – my daughter doesn’t assume that right or feel comfortable assuming it. Just a different perspective there.

    Yesterday I found myself craving philosophical conversation – the kind of conversation that was common in my academic career long ago. It is more difficult to find now – and I miss that. It is a kind of exchange that doesn’t work well over social networks – one that is about the phone or sitting together at a table talking.

    These posts on friendship have me thinking…

    And I didn’t answer your questions… I miss having the exchanges that I once had before social networking, my fridge is usually pretty empty if you don’t count the science experiments (ha), and I wanted to share this. My daughter is nearing 10.5. She isn’t a big PC person nor does she want a mobile phone etc. She doesn’t play video games. She goes to her dad’s and sits with her siblings texting via their DS. It frustrates her – We are sitting right there. Why can’t we just talk!

    We are interconnected via technology such that I wonder if we don’t think to “talk” to one another or if the art of conversation is on its way out?

  2. I don’t mind if people very close to me open my fridge. I mean, they can help themselves. I invited them in my home so they’re free to do whatever just as long as they don’t abuse. Sometimes, a friend knocks on my door and says, “I’m home!!” when she has her own home LOL.

    If I would like to have more of these Refrigerator Rights relationships, then it should be only a few. Like, a handful of people.

    I love everything that revolves around Interpersonal Relationships.

  3. Umm, I really only have one friend with refrigerator rights. Some family members, sure, but really only one close friend. And I love how close we are, she and her boyfriend and me and my husband. We’re informal – no stress about what to serve when they come over, no need to plan every detail, just casual “what are you guys doing tonight, wanna come over?” And it’s great. But I need more of that. A lot more. And it’s hard because I know it takes time – years – to cultivate this kind of closeness. Not to mention meeting new people in the first place, hoping my husband likes them, etc. It’s so hard, Patty!

  4. This was a fun analogy Patty. Love it! 🙂 I would like more of these refrigerator type relationships in my life with one exception… I feel my space being invaded if someone peeks through my fridge no matter who they are. Maybe I’ve been living alone too long???

  5. Patty — I don’t how to respond to this. I’m in a strange place regarding friendships…at least the real life ones that might raid my refrigerator:~)

    I have JC and we’re really good together, but we haven’t really clicked with each others old group of friends. It’s hard as you get older and people are more settled..or maybe that’s just an excuse I’m making.

    This is something I probably need to ponder for awhile…so I’ll get back to you on it.

    Regarding my refrigerator, normally there are wonderful treats in it as JC is a chef, but lately due to his work schedule there are more half-empty pizza boxes than gourmet meals…and some of the pizza boxes you might not want to try unless you need a dose of natural penicillin:~)

  6. Hi Sara! How positively delightful, this phrase refrigerator relationships! Love it! My friends really ARE my family, and making yourself at home in my house is totally acceptable and in fact expected.

    My fridge always has lots of cooked veggies, salad “stuff”, fruits, juices and herbal iced teas – help yourself!

  7. I have almost too many refridgerator buddies as we constantly have people coming in and out of our house plus bands traveling through that play at our coffeehouse plus we’re on “Couchsurfers” website and get guests from that on occasion. I love it though and wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Here’s a frustration though. We facilitate so much that it is sometimes just expected of us and can be a let down to people when we don’t. It’s nice when people take turns stepping up to the “relationship building” plate now and then. Not as common as you’d think unfortunately.

  8. Mi casa, su casa Patti.

    Close friends make our lives better. I have a few who do not hesitate to ask for what they want if I neglect to offer. A great thought.

  9. Patty, I’m loving thinking about refrigerator rights! I say we should all have them but that’s far from reality (when still so many have no human rights let alone refrigerators).

    For me? I think I’m open to giving anyone who enters my home refrigerator rights.

    I’m now dreaming about car rights…purse rights…baggage rights…let’s share everything. I do think boundaries are cultural. I feel another one forming in my head: intercultural rights.

    Thanks for letting me dream.

  10. I wish wifey and I had friends with refrigerator rights. I’d like us to be that close to our friends that they feel they could just open ours up and have a looksee, but I’m afraid ours are far too polite for that.

    I think you put this whole concept brilliantly. I wish I’d thought of it before! 🙂

  11. Yes, it does seem like an interesting paradox that, as we’re no longer forced by technological limitations to share resources like refrigerators, we lose the benefit of the learnings we’d gain by having to negotiate with each other for what we want, set boundaries, and so on. There’s nothing like those “refrigerator relationships” to put us in the crucible. 🙂

  12. Hi Patty, I so love refrigerator rights and I too think they are essential for our well being, freedom and feeling safe. Lets have them back as I think this type if connectedness will free us as it once again make us feel safe. Imagine what having refrigerator rights and using them responsible as per a favor bank concept could do to us? We travel through life much easier than with that enslaving current currency of money.
    So when are you coming over? xox Wilma

  13. Thanks, everyone, for your insightful thoughts on Refrigerator Rights. I loved reading them. And if it were possible, I’d invite you into my house in a heartbeat, and you could raid my fridge until the cows come home!

  14. I’m private when it comes to my living space. To be invited into the sanctum at all means I love you.

    Before she moved, my mother complained I never invited her over. One reason was refrigerator rights. She thought she had them, and any other amorphous rights she might like to assume. Nope. So the invitations ceased for that and many other reasons, all having to do with boundaries unheeded.

  15. Pingback: Meaning Mondays: A Simple Philosophy Emerges « Why Not Start Now?

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