Thursday, May 24, 2018
Opinion

'Your dress is too tight' and other things real friends say

There are three things only your real friends can do: Tell you when your clothes don't fit, tell you when you're acting ridiculous and help you celebrate a huge achievement.

Strangers can tell you if you have spinach in your teeth. Somebody you've never met before can help you grieve. It's easier to offer an incidental observation or sincere sympathy than it is, for example, to offer authentic, enthusiastic admiration.

But only someone who's known and loved you for a long time can cheer you on and mean it when you receive a significant promotion, drop three dress sizes or win big money on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

A stranger can indicate that you've got something in the corner of your eye through the universally recognized action of desperately rubbing the corner of her own eye until you, chimpanzee-like, mimic her action only to discover that you now have a flake of mascara the size of a tea bag smeared across the top of your cheekbone like an NFL running back.

But only a real pal can tell you that your new iridescent eye shadow makes you look not like Halle Berry but like Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, only less subtle.

It's not easy to be a friend.

Oh sure, you can hit the "accept" button on a social media site and pretend to be popular, but does that really mean you'd be able to identify the person you just "friended" in a lineup? If you could, would you offer to make that person's bail? A real friend offers bail.

Would you recognize his or her voice over the phone? Even more important, if you saw on your caller ID that it was this person phoning you, would you pick up or let it go directly to voice mail? Real friends pick up and don't pretend not to know who it is.

Real friends say, "Oh, thank God it's you," and then admit who it is they are glad not to hear from ("The only time she ever calls is when she needs bail").

I know people claiming to have 1,236 friends who haven't had an actual conversation with a living adult in eight years. You know the kind I mean: the ones having five-second phone calls while texting, while waving to somebody while gesturing to you to "hold on, just one sec." You, meanwhile, are attempting to back away as quickly as possible from this carnival of self-aggrandizement. Sometimes they'll step on the cuff of your pants to keep you in place.

But what's really scary is when these people are pushing strollers. There's some little tyke in there wearing a fabulous costume, which would be great except the kid hasn't had to focus on a human face since the last time a family photograph was taken. Nobody speaks to him directly; his parents are always on the phone. They won't make eye contact with their offspring until they're all in court being asked to stand beside him when the judge says, "Will the defendant please rise?"

Look: Even your dog knows when you're not paying proper attention — making eye contact and friendly conversation ("Lulu, girl, check out that sparrow! That sparrow must weigh 45 pounds, huh, Lulu? How can something like that get liftoff?) Notice how the dog looks back, shaking her head as if to say, "Yeah, that sparrow's built like a Buick." You've just had a little moment of interspecies connection.

As I always say, Lorelei Lee got it wrong in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: It's not that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but it's your best friends who are your diamonds. It's your best friends who are supremely resilient, made under pressure and of astonishing value. They're everlasting; they can cut glass if they need to.

And just as there's no such thing as a fake diamond — it's either real or it isn't — there's no such thing as a fake friend. Fake ones fall off when you get into hot water.

Hold your friends close. Talk to them, in person if possible, and cheer them on. Real friends are a better — and kinder — reflection of you than any mirror.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. © 2012 Hartford Courant

Comments
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18