True Friends Stab You In The Front
I’m a bad girl.
I don’t mean that I’m promiscuous, a partier, or a bitch. I mean I’m bad at being a girl. All my life, societal norms have told me that I’m not a good female specimen. And I’m generally okay with the fact that I play pool, own a snake, am an engineer, like sports, and didn’t own a purse until I was 23.
But recently, a much more glaring phenomenon was brought to my attention.
I was at the bar, playing a pool match, and made a quick trip to the bathroom. A friend of mine walked in behind me, with all the telltale signs of a girl who’s about to have a breakdown. I decided it would probably be better for me to stay and see her through.
Like any good friend, I asked her what was going on. And the floodgate opened.
“I’m not good at anything. I don’t understand what’s wrong with me.”
“I just lost my eighth pool match in a row… I drink too much… My boyfriend doesn’t appreciate me….” I’ll spare you the rest.
I sat her on the sink, looked into her eyes, mustered as much compassion as I could, and I told her to get the hell over it. If she didn’t like her boyfriend taking her for granted, why was she still with him? If she was losing at pool, she should either quit or practice more. If she didn’t like the hangovers, she should put down the pint. I told her that there was absolutely nothing in her life that warranted the kind of self-pity normally reserved for terminally ill patients. And even then, I’ve known terminally ill patients who had a less dismal outlook on life than she did at that moment. I told a woman that she needed to grow a pair. I then splashed some water on her face and told her to quit crying and to get the hell out of the bathroom… because crying in a bathroom is just pathetic. And yes, I actually used the word “pathetic.”
I then realized that this is a common theme in my life. I’m the one people come to when they need a proverbial swift kick in the ass. It happened to the pill-head in Vegas. It happened to the girl who got herpes in college. And it happened to my Mom when she had her mid-life crisis (although I don’t recommend calling the woman who gave you life a “stubborn bitch” after she’s downed half a bottle of single-malt scotch).
Women are supposed to be compassionate, caring, and gentle. I’m about as gentle as recycled toilet paper. And yet, it works for me. My maternal instincts seem to be intact. I was just born without the ability to coddle. I don’t have sympathy for anyone in a situation that they can control. I don’t seek to intentionally hurt people, but I’m not going to fluff their pillow and tell them that everything’s going to be okay if they just stick it out, either.
So does that make me bad at being a girl? Or does it just make me a new, better, more efficient breed of femininity?
A common theme in gender psychology today is the idea that women are so overly compassionate that they hold themselves back in life, in relationships, in the work-force, in everything. Women are so instilled, both environmentally and biologically, with the idea that other people’s needs are more important than their own, that the very trait that makes them excellent at basic biological functions also makes them completely unaware of their own needs and desires.
Not for me, I say. My lack of unwarranted empathy has given me the respect of male counterparts, an amazing ability to tell people the thing that they need to hear, as opposed to what they want to hear, and a die-hard appreciation for all Bruce Willis movies.
But it has had more than its share of consequences. It’s alienated people who didn’t want to put up with my particular brand of therapy, but who were still people I valued. It’s given me the patience of a four-year old (or perhaps that’s a symptom of the problem and not a result?), which has impacted everything from work to relationships to my wardrobe. And it sure as hell makes my relationships harder.
Everyone makes trade-offs in their life. I’ve traded away some friends, some relationships, and even a job or two. But what I’ve gained is a life without whiners. For some, the things they’d lose are more important than having to spend a little time sparing someone’s feelings. For me, I’ve kept the things that are truly important to me, so the losses, while hurtful, are not insurmountable.
It kind of makes me wonder what else I’m going to lose in the future. But hey, when it happens, at least I’m sure as hell not gonna bitch about it!