I picked up Marie Claire’s July issue to read Lori Gottlieb’s article: What if Your Best Friends Are Your Worst Enemies? where she argues that, “instead of a frenzied pack of enablers nurturing our self-delusion, what we need is someone brave enough to give us the truth.” Gottlieb makes some convincing points in her article and hits a nerve. We ladies learn about enabling behavior early. Indeed, I recall how I once agreed to keep watch for my BFF while she had sex with her boyfriend during lunch hour. We were in sixth grade. A better friend may have persuaded her that it was not the best idea to give it up at age thirteen, or better yet to a lose her virginity to a boy who was pressuring her, which I knew. However, I didn’t dare disagree with my supposed confidant at the time. I had seen her wrath enacted on others and I didn’t want to be cut out of the loop. Instead, I sat on a floral patterned sofa dutifully watching out for a blue sedan.
I like to think that I’ve grown out of conflict-avoiding, groupthink tactics with friends but I know it’s not entirely true. Over the years, I have undoubtedly encouraged an irresponsible fashion purchase, the wrong guy, and the extra glass of wine (or four). We gals stick together, sometimes to a fault—touché. But I would add to Gottlieb’s advice to women that part of the problem with groupthink is not just that we need to be straight with our girlfriends but that we need to recognize the limits of advice. All the bluntness in the world cannot solve the problem that, as friends, we don’t always know why that guy didn’t call you back or why you were passed over for a job. And in that case, does it matter if he just wasn’t that into you or if he’s gay? On the sidelines, it’s not always easy to discern the right moment for some delusional cheerleading (and I still believe there is one) or the moment for tough love. A wise friend once said to me: “You never know what transpires between two people in a relationship.” Ain’t that also the ugly truth.
Now I must confess that I’m doing a bit of self-assuaging here, because as I mentioned in my last blog I have spent the last few days counseling my friend through heartbreak with a much older gentleman. I was one of her few friends who encouraged her to take the risk and at the moment it looks as though all does not end well. Should I have guided my friend differently when she asked my opinion? Maybe. Certainly there was evidence working against their union and we spent many an hour weighing pros and cons. But my friend was in love. And even after reading all of the preemptive advice in Marry Him: Settling for Mr. Good Enough I’m still a romantic. Perhaps, it wasn’t a case of me not telling her the truth but that there were many truths. What would Lori say, I wonder? Alas, all I can do now is be here, flawed advice and all, to pick up the pieces and/or drive headlong off a cliff.