Cajole, sympathize and enable. The vicious triumvirate of the female friend. The female friend that avoids handing out the bitter slap of truth in order to not seem like a “bitch.” No. Never. Not one of those women who tell it like it is and, in turn, has little to no female friends. Nobody ever likes to hear that a man or woman “is just not into you.”
We enablers come in all shapes and sizes and just like the slithery shape-shifters that we are, we also customize our solicited advice to the individual in question. But let me make it clear. Our cariño brutale is never that brutal. It can never be. Of course, it can’t. We hear the woes of our female friends and then find the strength, the deep inner strength, to tell them that they are, in fact, crazy. That the man in question is mad about them. That he’s probably busy. That his family is in town. That he’s therefore tired and, thus and henceforth, completely incapacitated to text back. That there is no real reason to panic. We excuse everything.
A woman friend will state that she is either an expert or not in a relationship but will still give the kind of fervent advice that she’s unabashedly proud of. They might even tell their friends, in a flurry of annoyance and over-confidence to matter-of-factly forget about this “loser” and move on. But the cycle is not broken. Just delayed. Dating in the city is, as everyone says, a godforsaken unnavigable labyrinth of hook-ups, non-starters, ghosting, benching and wild miscommunication. Your personality is no better than anyone else’s and yes, you are just as crazy as the rest of them.
Let’s blame the partners for a moment. Hear me out. When it comes to break-ups and you are the one calling the shots, how often are you, honestly, honest? I mean, really really spelling it out details et al? Do you also think, when you have been broken up with, that the person in question has been honest with you? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the adage that my female friends have been told: “I just am not ready for a relationship. It isn’t you.” How are we supposed to progress if there is constantly this thin veil between the truth and reprieve? Maybe we can’t handle the truth because we’ve never heard it.
Of course, women aren’t guiltless. They can be cruel, calculating and conniving. What I’m talking about is the standpoint from a female friend’s point of view because I, too, have been (and will probably continue to be) a fierce enabler.
A friend of mine recently went through a heart-wrenching break-up. During the post-mortem examinations, she asked me why we hadn’t warned her when we had seen the red flags throughout. I thought about it and answered her as earnestly as I could, that there was no way I was ever going to tell her the truth. I told her I was afraid that she would become defensive or deaf to my musings. I also didn’t want her to feel sad. There was no malice behind it. I just couldn’t bring myself to be so blunt. To be honest, I also couldn’t entirely support the relationship and so stayed fairly taciturn and insincere when the conversation turned to them. In hindsight, I don’t know what was worse.
I, like my peers, am rooting for one another. We want to see the other happy even if it means a few white lies to her face and then a few eye rolls behind her back. But I see now that there is no sustainable outcome. Eventually, the truth will out.
Is it ever realistic to be 100 percent honest with your female friends? I’m not even sure I would want half the truths that my friends have ever so tactfully misplaced for me. I know what I would be like: defensive, defiant and maybe delusional. But a change has to happen, maybe even a safe word, just to save a friendship in case you get carried away dishing out your ample servings of honesty.
In my opinion, times have changed but for most of us, our base instincts have not. Yes, we want to continue our support but if we are to discontinue bad habits difficult conversations may have to arise. Old wounds may be re-opened. Guards may be put up. But, at the end of the day one truth will always be clear: enabling is not the same as encouragement.