Are Female Friendships a Farce?
Lori Gottlieb never read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” Okay, neither did I. I skimmed it but I got the gist. Men are rubber bands. Women are waves. Men are motivated when they feel needed. A woman would rather feel cherished.
A lot of this is intuitive, right? So I’m surprised that Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, doesn’t seem to know that women don’t talk about what’s bothering them because they want a solution – they want caring and understanding.
“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.’ -Erica Jong, “How to Save Your Own Life”
In her article in July’s Marie Clare, “What if Your Friends are Your Worst Enemies?,” Lori Gottlieb begins by attacking the fabulous foursome. That’s right: Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha. And for what? Because at the end of the first Sex and the City movie the girls toast Samantha for her decision to break-up with Smith. “She dumped a keeper,” she wrote. The implication is that because Smith was gorgeous, loving, and had stuck with her through cancer and chemo that Samantha’s decision was wrong.
I hate to argue for a fictional character but in this case Ms. Gottlieb couldn’t be more mistaken. If you know anything about the series you know that Samantha is liberated, uninhibited, and not looking for the final rose. The girls would have reacted differently if the decision was made by Miranda – and they did. Carrie told her she was wrong to let Steve go, even after his one-time infidelity. For Samantha, choosing to be single was the right choice. And the girls were right to toast her.
The article goes on to suggest female friends are each other’s “yes women” and “enabling is a female habit.” As evidence that there are “dangers to ducking those duties,” Lori Gottlieb writes about suggesting to an out-of-work neighbor that she take a job she was offered instead of holding out for something better. Gottlieb felt rebuffed when the neighbor fired back, “So you’re telling me to settle for a job that’s beneath me?” She backtracked and told her to only go after the jobs she deserves. Then she kept her mouth shut when the neighbor complained weekly about job rejections while she lived on unemployment checks.
Do you think Gottlieb is right? Are female friendships a farce? Do women want reassurance over reality? I definitely don’t think so. In the case of her neighbor, she had made her choice: she was willing to make financial sacrifices to hold out for the job she really wanted. That takes courage. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. I think what the unemployed woman needed was a little support for her risky endeavor. Gottlieb could have made suggestions on how to cut expenses while going through the cash crunch. If the repo man showed up or the woman faced foreclosure, that would be a good time for a dose of reality.
I had a friend who I’ll call Jennifer. She was always attracted to rebels and the classic bad boy. Eventually she found herself in an abusive situation. When she confided in me, she didn’t need my advice. Jennifer knew she needed to leave the bum, she just needed encouragement to face the pain of the breakup… and someone to hold her hand through the restraining order process. I was there to reassure her abuse is never okay and that it wasn’t her fault. She hadn’t done anything to deserve it, no matter how much he tried to blame his actions on what she had done to provoke him. Most importantly, I made sure Jennifer knew she would get through it, she didn’t have to go through it alone, and she would even be happy again.
Reminding Jennifer of the warning signs she’d missed would have just rubbed salt in her wounds. But when she considered going back to the abuser I didn’t miss a beat. I told her she’d be making the biggest mistake of her life that she may or may not live to regret. And I suggested she seek counseling for the issues that drew her to violent men.
Women usually know instinctively when to speak up and when to shut up. People rarely take unsolicited advice anyway. After all, everybody has an opinion. You can go sit at any bus stop, start talking about your money problems, and get financial counsel from someone who can’t even afford a car. (No offense to those “green” people who are fighting pollution.) My point is that when you need guidance you gotta go to the right place. When you have a water leak, you call a plumber. When you have a lawsuit, you get a lawyer. When you need unconditional support, you should be able to depend on your best girl friends. They know you well and have your best interests at heart. So when you need constructive criticism, they’ll give that to you too. That’s what friends are for.