I’ve been watching a lot of Frasier the last few weeks. Maybe it’s a hankering for something funnier than today’s formulaic television comedies, or it’s probably just that the show is wickedly entertaining.
The 90s powerhouse comedy features Kelsey Grammer as the titular Dr. Frasier Crane,a pseudo-intellectual radio psychiatrist trying to get through life despite his multiple character flaws. He’s joined by his equally pseudo-intellectual psychiatrist brother Niles, his retired cop father and his snarky British housekeeper as he weaves through a series of unfortunate shenanigans.
In the episode “Seat of Power,” the Crane brothers attempt to fix a leaky toilet to prove to their father they can do more than recite Faulkner and wax poetic on a particularly good vintage. Of course, they fail miserably and call in a plumber; in a twist, the plumber is one of Niles’s high-school tormentors.
Niles wants no more than to shove his foe’s head into the toilet, giving him a “swirly,” the torture he endured many time in high school. Frasier talks him out of it, instead urging him to tout his success: the “living well” revenge.
When that backfires (the plumber drives a Mercedes and has a fulfilling marriage), Frasier recommends Niles simply talk it out with the bully. Though Frasier ignores his own advice when he takes a toilet-water infused revenge on a second bully-turned-plumber, Niles comes to terms with his aggressor and moves forward, settling some 20 years of pent-up anger.
You may wonder what my point is, but I was struck with how well Niles and Frasier’s misadventure mirrored my own struggles with leaving high school resentments behind.
I won’t mince words: with the exception of a solid group of friends and a number of excellent teachers, I didn’t much care for high school. There was too much hierarchy, too little respect and too much profound alienation that really shouldn’t be so widespread among 15-18 year olds. When I couldn’t sleep, my mind would wander back and weigh different scenarios that could have made things a little bit better.
Though I never had my head shoved into a toilet, I experienced exclusion, elitism and all around foul treatment from others. And I’ll never really know why it all had to happen. But I’ve come to terms with it.
Part of it has been the “living well” strategy. At St. Bonaventure, after a rough start, I found success and made genuine friendships. Part of overcoming the past has been finding myself in a new location.
I’ve also made gains with help of that solid core of high school friends.
This summer, being my last anticipated summer in Syracuse, has offered me a chance to reflect on what I experienced. I lived in Washington last summer, so I was able to dodge the necessary feelings.
Any meeting with friends usually winds up with a discussion about high school. It’s helpful that my closest friends have also took a hammer to their rose-colored glasses. Instead of joking about my resistance to returning for a visit they now agree on how superficial it all was.
People were fake, some sought an illusion of control or power and now it’s done.
Instead of dwelling on the people who did us wrong, we dwell on how ludicrous the entire saga of high school really was and why it’s hardly worth a damn to worry about now. It’s the best sort of therapy.
By making light of the experiences, by dismissing them as symptoms of the high-school culture and focusing on the present and future, I’ve reached my Niles Crane moment.
I haven’t wandered the school to tout collegiate success, and I’ve kept my correspondence limited to a number of close friends and admired teachers. I’ve largely made good on my old promise: “I will linger in this place no longer.”
In Frasier’s own words, I’ve left the building.