The Wilsons, pt. 1: A Survey of Typology

When I moved to Atlanta, I was immediately assigned a personality and social role by the friend group into which I assimilated–the Wilson. At first I balked at this, as it is chiefly a supporting role, and I have ever considered myself a leading lady in the unique story that is me. But, as I became familiar with the Wilson role, I grew to understand and appreciate the ways in which the definition was apt. I explain myself and my social function in terms of this paradigm, and thus reaffirm to myself that it is a worthy and well-fitting role. As you are likely unfamiliar with the Wilsons, I thought I would begin with a survey of its most famous examples.

Wilsons are, essentially, a type of sidekick. The title of Wilson is drawn from the TV show House, in which the apathetic and disinterested Dr. House can be said to have one friend–the caring and engaged Dr. Wilson. Wilson provides a more human grounding to House’s worldview, in which a person is the sum of its parts, humanity the sum of the persons. It is worth noting that the people who mapped this relationship for my social group have something of an interest in Myers-Briggs personality tests. I accept their assessment, that House is an ENTJ, while Wilson is likely an ISFJ. Thus the title of “Wilson” came to be associated strongly with that same type (although with some room for movement, to be discussed later).

Wilsons are generally intelligent, compassionate, fastidious,…and loyal. Loyalty is the key trait, as it pushes them to attach themselves to a leader, a House–a protagonist, if you will. But the Wilson’s storyline is not a function of the House’s–rather, the Wilson finds a comfortable grounding in supporting a main character. The House’s storyline is home base.

The first Wilson I would point to is also my favorite: Samwise Gamgee. Sam’s loyalty to Frodo is obvious. What makes him a Wilson, however, is the manifestation of his intense followship. Despite the world-saving nature of the hobbits’ quest, Sam’s first concern is always for Frodo’s well-being. He takes care of Frodo in the wild, as he did in the Shire. He is eager to stand up for Frodo to those who would create problems for them. And, although he cannot truly bear the burden of the ring, he carries his friend in the final moments of their journey. Wilson!

The next Wilson is the ever-harried Dr. Watson. For our purposes, the most exemplary incarnation of Watson appears in the BBC TV series Sherlock. One function of the Wilson role is that he will take whatever crap his person dishes, and no one dishes quite like Sherlock. Time and again, Sherlock tests Watson’s loyalty, putting him through untenable emotional trials. But Watson always comes out on the side of Sherlock, proving his Wilson through-and-through. Wilson!

Female Wilsons are more rare in pop culture (something to do, I think, with the popularity of the modern bromance), but there is one to whom I would like to point: Meg, from The Phantom of the Opera [WATCH THIS ONE ONLY, on Netflix]. I first began to see her as a Wilson because my best friend is a singer who loves the show. Carmen’s dream, is, of course, to be Christine, and it is not unwarranted. As a less able vocalist, I love Meg’s lines–much power, little tone. But Meg has other classic Wilson personality traits as well. Although her primary role is to support and laud Christine, she takes almost more readily to her secondary role of inciting panic. Meg cannot keep calm. Neither can most ISFJs. In crisis, Wilsons lose their minds. Go, Meg. Wilson!

I said Wilsons are sidekicks, and I stand by that (despite debate in certain academic circles). However, the Protagonist Wilson is not unheard of in cultural memes. A good example of this is a Wilson who begins in a supporting role and transitions to main character: Samwell Tarly, from A Song of Ice and Fire. I am not current on Game of Thrones (the show), but I am fairly certain that I am continuing without spoilers. In the books, Sam begins as a loyal acolyte of Jon Snow, who protects him from the harshness of The Night’s Watch. However, as the books progress (and main characters die off), he gains an independent storyline, including his own chapters. He retains his Wilson status, however, in personality, temperament, and decision-making process.

The Wilson is not a simple type. One size does not fit all. Not all Wilsons are even the same personality type. But the role does exist, and it is easy to spot once you are familiar with the paradigm.

Got it? Good. You are ready for next week’s post.

BDay Weekend

I had an amazing birthday weekend. It was actually overwhelmingly wonderful. In trying to piece together what just happened, I have had many thoughts about life, age, and friendship. I will only be sharing a portion of those thoughts.

I arrived in Houston on the evening of Thursday, April 26th, looking forward to a full weekend with my friends Judy and Esther. I had packed and saved for a particular schedule, and I can’t say I expected anything more or less than the sweet joy of being surrounded by my friends.

On Friday afternoon, however, Judy and Esther blindfolded me and drove around for about 45 minutes. It was a break from the itinerary, but I simply thought they were spiriting me down to Galveston or perhaps the rodeo. So when they finally let me open my eyes, I was shocked and confused to find myself at an airport. I was even more shocked and confused to find that we were going to New York City.

Commence expletives. It was insane, it was impossible, it was a magic that couldn’t be happening. I floated through airport security as one intoxicated. I was going to my favorite place in the world with some of my favorite people in the world! It seemed so absurd to me that anyone would give me such a surprise–that such a lovely thing could happen to me.

This was my frame of mind for pretty much the whole weekend, from our arrival and the discovery of Jocelyn in our room (she had also deceived me as part of the surprise) to the surreal journey back to Austin on the Megabus, surrounded by people who had only been to Houston. My friends planned every activity with me in mind. They took me to places that they knew I would love and fussed over me like I was a princess. And I honestly felt like I was a princess.

There will be other writings about what we saw and did, complete with some amazing pictures. But right now I want to reflect on how the weekend made me feel. I have already said I was overwhelmed, and indeed I could barely process events as they were happening. But perhaps the most overwhelming part of the entire thing was how insanely loved I felt. Giving and receiving love among friends has been an issue with me in the past–I love too hard, and I have expectations that can never be met. Yet the sheer fact of this weekend and the things I experienced made me feel that all the love I had once given vainly was being returned quite suddenly and fully. It was the most wonderfully smothering feeling.

This is not to say that I don’t feel loved–these same people have been a web of goodness and affection in my life for about six-and-a-half years. We came of age together in college, and our bonds have been likened more to family than friends. But this act, wherein live-in-the-moment, make-no-plans Judy, ultra-social, workaholic Esther, and just-back-from-Africa Jocelyn got together and conspired to give me a truly perfect birthday went so far above and beyond even the closest of family bonds. It was an act of love that spoke straight to my soul.

Finally, this weekend reminded me of who I am. One of the reasons I moved to Austin is that I find it so difficult to peel myself away from my friends to accomplish things on my own behalf. I’ve given up tutoring hours to watch Robin Hood, given up sleeping hours to jump a car, and given up eating hours to help with studying. And this full-time friend attitude, while blissfully fun, was detrimental to my personal development. So I left to find myself in a new context.

And what I’ve found is still me. Delving thoroughly into personal relationships is something that comes naturally to me. And this weekend, I heard that it is something that has served the people I care about. It was the most gracious affirmation that striving to be a good friend is not an unworthy goal. If I thought that, by my exertions and affections, I could bring to others a part of the joy I felt this weekend, I would consider myself a true friend.

-Friends in front of the tulips, self-portrait, with tulips

Judy, Esther, Me, & Joce in front of some tulips on one of the avenues…

On birthdays we do toasts…

Here’s to the friends who put this together for me. Here’s to Esther, Judy, and Jocelyn, who made my birthday extraordinary beyond reckoning. Here’s to Bethy, Kelly, Makenzie, Christine, and Carmen, who kept a secret.

Here’s to the friends who are family. Judy, Jocelyn, and Carmen: you ladies have been instrumental in making me who I am. May we have six-and-a-half times sixty more years to grow together. Here’s to Bethy, Esther, and Makenzie: you came late to the party and without invites, but you brought extra wine (literally, for two of you, ahem). And you have all made me so thankful for friends-of-friends. Here’s to the rest of the Fam: Deb & Jimmy–your house and your counsel and your care have been a wellspring of comfort to your (fake) children. You have a real gift for making others feel at home.

And here’s to all of my friends: your names are written on my heart (if not in this post), and you may forever rely on my care and concern, as I have relied on your strength and support and love.

Happy Birthday to me. ❤