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Monday, December 22, 2008

#12: Is She Really Going Out With Him?

Your best friend has a new guy, so you should be happy for her. There's just one problem - he's a total jerk. So, what's a girl to do when her pal loves a prat?

"What do you think of Tim?" my friend shouts at me for the 98th time on the crowded dancefloor. "Erm, he's nice..." I lie, doing a quick spin. She's not fooled. She shakes her head. "You don't like him, do you?" I mutter something about not knowing him, "I'm sure he's fine." But she knows. And she's terribly disappointed in me. I am tempted, oh so tempted, to say she's wrong, that I think Tim is wonderful, clearly in love with her and definitely the best thing that's ever happened to her. But I can't because it's obvious Tim isn't in love with her. In love with himself more like. I've only just met him but my prat-warning antennae are giving me a headache. He's so full of himself. His attitude towards my friend displays a cavalier sense of his self-worth, not hers. For starters, he turned up late, then hit her with a didn't-mean-it-really criticism of her faulous dress, then looks at me like he wants to kill me because he knows I see straight through him, as any decent friend would. Too right I don't like him. Would you?

Speak up, or not?

Marie, my friend, knows how I feel, yet it doesn't stop her seeing him. She even declares herself madly in love and thinks they might marry. What am I to do? Keep quiet and let her get on with it or offer her the benefit of my highly-prejudiced opinion? Try to talk her out of her as fast as you can, but suppose I'm wrong? Listen, I've drunk champagne at more marriages made in hell than I can remember. Sometimes, it's just obvious from the get-go that a relationship is unbalanced but you never quite have the courage to point it out. For months you don't say anything to either party for fear of causing offence. Then you go to their wedding, heart heavy in your boots, and declare this couple are made for each other when they clearly aren't. I look back now on times when I've done that and think of it as the worst betrayal. But how can I be sure I'm right? Suppose, just suppose, I'm jealous? I know that's what Marie will say if I front up about my feelings about Tim. But I shouldn't let such fears stop me. As more relationships face difficulties, we owe it to those we care about to help them to make a good match, not a bad one.

Truth or jealousy?

Couples who are genuinely right for each other invite very little comment from their friends. We all love a good gossip but there's little fun in commenting and whispering about those who chirp at each other like little loveirds. Those suited tend to be very obviously so. When they're not suited, it's something that is often more visible from the outside. So, I gently try to tell Marie why I don't like Tim. I wouldn't have bothered, ut she's started with the bridal brochures and what's a friend to do? "Why don't you like him?" she snaps at me. "Go on, tell me," she yells. I've never seen my friend of so many years quite so angry. I'm in a painted corner. There's no way out. So I take a deep breath and say to her: "No matter how badly he behaves, or how many times he lets you down or openly humiliates you in front of your friends, you always rush to his defence too quickly." She shrugs, "He's very busy," she says like that excuses all of the above. Then she dismisses me and here comes the comment I knew to expect. "You're just jealous. You're going 30 and still not married. Well that won't happen to me. Get out."

Slimy tactics

Yes, it's true I'm not married. So I suppose I can't comment, can I? At least, not from a position of strength. Getting married matters more to Marie than who she marries. Tim wants to marry her, I opine, because he has her exactly where he wants her - on the floor. And he's fast isolating her from all her friends. More power to have over her. She can't see it because she's totally taken in by what little charm this snake possesses. And oh, how she wants that ring. I've been where Marie is. His name was Paul, but I called him Paulie. He called me spanner face. But I like his ribbing, insisted he didn't mean it. My friend Corinne was sure he did. "You're not serious about him are you?" she asked. I was staggered by her question and blurted out no. She nodded and said: "In that case, enjoy. He's a nice piece of arm candy." But what if I'd said I was serious? Because I was. So I gradually started seeing less of Corinne and more of Paulie. That way, I didn't have to face her criticism. I suppose, deep down, I was running away from Corinne because I didn't like that she knew the truth. But I wasn't ready to face up to that yet. I was blinded by the scenery. Paulie was so good-looking but oh boy, did he know it. As I isolated myself more from my crowd (sound familiar? Marie is doing the same with Tim) I became more and more lonely because convinced as I was that Paulie was right for me, I didn't actually see him all that often. I couldn't admit this to my friends (pride) so I often spent Saturday nights, weekends and holidays alone, waiting. When I eventually wised up and left my so-called relationship, my friends as one yelled, "Welcome back."

Prat Recognition

So, how did Corinne know he was so wrong so soon after meeting him? "He was clearly a con man," she told me. "Much too busy admiring his own reflection to notice you." How could she tell all this? She hardly knew the man. "It's true I only met him a few times but I knew him through what you said about him. Everything he did was wonderful. He was just too, too perfect. You invested him with qualities he didn't have. You went on about his appearance. He's very good-looking. No question. But because of that, you assumed all kinds of other things about him." I did what many of us accuse men of doing: I judged by looks. I was a sucker for a pretty face and a beautiful, well-dressed body. I wanted others to notice me through him. To think more of me because I had this trophy bloke on my arm. Shallow or what? Paul cared more about looks than anything. I've no idea what he saw in me. Appearance wise, we were in wildly-different leagues. I was probably a bit of a novelty to him. Someone who didn't know her Gucci from her Prada, except that they're both Italian, right? Oh how quaint I must have seemed. What a prat he was. No, what a fool I was. Why couldn't I see it. Corinne shakes her much-wiser head than mine. "Well, we did try..." Okay, okay. So should I tell Marie about Tim? Without question, says Corinne.

Speaking up

Interference is what friendships are all about, otherwise they're not worth having. The truth has has to be expressed. If you're right and it all goes horribly wrong, you'll be blamed anyway, 'Why didn't you warn me?' they'll say to you. 'Aren't you supposed to be my friend?' So I say, speak you mind and do it tactfully ...saying something like 'If I was in your shoes,' rather than telling them outright they're dating a jerk. No-one likes to hear that." One way to express this feeling is to say that for you, it would be the wrong decision. She has to make her own choices and learn from them but she still needs you. So try and be supportive rather than judgemental. Deep down, she probably knows you're right. She probably has inner voices of doubt herself, but doesn't want to listen to them. Right now, she prefers to heed the call of the more reckless side of her nature and that's something we all do at some point. We are meant to get it wrong at times. How else can we know when we've got it right? be honest about your feelings because that's what friendship is supposed to be. But in the end, it is up to your friend how she wants to live her life and what decisions she wants to take. But if she realises that your concerns are an expression of love, not condemnation, she'll be very glad of it. Or she should be.

Family of friends

Friends are the new family for many of today's young women. We get closer to our friends, tell them far more about ourselves, and they see us in ways our blood family never do. So whereas we'd be reluctant - understandably - to listen to our mothers or even our grandmothers, as many of us did on the past, today we listen to friends instead. So, you have to speak up.

Try, try again

Eventually, I gather enough courage to try again. I haven't seen Marie in several weeks. This is not from want of trying. She hasn't returned my calls and the one time she did answer my call, she slammed the phone down the instant she recognised my voice. So I go over to the apartment where she lives. I'm uninvited and I'm unloved. Hey, I'm the bad fairy in Sleeping Beauty! But I've got to try one more time. She opens the door, hair up in a white towel, face half-painted. She's clearly going out soon. With Tim, I expect. I haven't much time so I blurt out pretty much everything Corinne told me about Paul. I pour out all of my mistakes. And I ramble on about How I'm glad now I had a friend to warn me, even though I didn't listen to her at the time. I finish up with: "I won't say any of this again. I have a duty to you and I just couldn't rest till I'd done it." Julie nods. She hasn't asked me into her place. "Finished?" she says. I nod. So are they. About two weeks ago. She was too proud to tell me. But she's going out tonight as a free woman. Would I care to join her in painting the town red? We burst into tears, hug, and fall in through the front door. It might not end so happily for you but you've got to give it a go. Think of yourself in your friend's position. Say what you would want her to tell the truth too. Tell her about the prats you've dated before - make them up if necessary. It'll help her to realise that you're really on her side. It's not an easy place to be, but will you ever rest easy if you don't say something, now?

How to set her straight

Here's a quick guide to the right way and the wrong way to tell a friend she's dating a prat.

» Wrong Way "Him? He's a total mummy's boy."

» Right Way "I think you might be competing with his mother for his love."

» Wrong Way "His eyes are too close together."

» Right Way "I don't think he's nice enough for you."

» Wrong Way Laughing hysterically when she says they're to marry.

» Right Way "Promise me you'll wait at least a year."

» Wrong Way He's a disgusting little twerp. Have you lost your mind?"

» Right Way "I'm worried he'll take his insecurities out on you."

» Wrong Way "Are you that desperate?"

» Right Way "You could do so much better."



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