Thank You for Being a Friend



CURRENT BOOK:  Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I’m still trying to stay on track and will need to read extra today after going out to lunch with a friend yesterday for the first time in quite a while since they are short-staffed at her office and on top of that she often works through lunch so she can take time off to accommodate her two daughters’ softball schedules.  And after going out for the evening with my husband, after which we forgot to go back to my office so he could get his truck which he had left there, leading to an “oh sh-t” moment at 7:00 this morning when he went to leave for work, and a mad dash for me to throw on the first available clothes and run over to my office with him.  (Thank goodness my office is only ten minutes from our house).

One of the topics Gay explores is female friendship, and her take is refreshing.

Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive.  This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.

This is something I have never understood…I have never felt that way about my friends.  And I’ve never been one to waste my time trying to be friends with the “mean girls.”  I encountered enough criticism and contempt within my own family.  Among friends, I sought the support I never received from my parents or sisters.  Now, if someone has wronged me without making an effort to repair the relationship, I feel that living better than them is the best revenge, and I’m not going to wish them well.  But that’s another story.  And I never had feelings for any of my friends’ significant others — they were never my type, as much as they were perfect for my friends.

Tell your friends the hard truths they need to hear.

One thing that has always perplexed me, is that people will ask your opinion when they are really only seeking reassurance and do not actually want your honest opinion.  Even my husband does this sometimes so apparently it doesn’t just apply to women!  Although Gay does acknowledge the importance of being gentle and tactful.

Gay also explores the related idea of likability.  I found it refreshing that she does not agree that anyone should have to be someone they are not in order to be accepted by other people, as I heard the opposite message from my mother when I was growing up.  She discusses contestants on reality television competition shows who boldly declare “I’m not here to make friends” and various examples of female characters in works of fiction.

In many ways, likability is a very elaborate lie, a performance, a code of conduct dictating the proper way to be … This is what is so rarely said about unlikable women in fiction — that they aren’t pretending, that they won’t or can’t pretend to be someone they are not.

Gay actually finds “unlikeable” characters to be more interesting and admits that she had trouble making friends in high school because she had difficultly being someone she was not in order to be accepted.  Is it really so hard to be liked just for who you are?  Or is that something that shouldn’t even be a worry once you are almost 40 years old?  I do think it becomes less that way as people grow beyond their teenage years and have better values and better priorities.

Roxane Gay and I could be friends.

Gay makes many references to popular culture which help an average reader like myself to understand the points she is trying to make.  I am looking forward to finishing this collection of essays to see what else she has to say.


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