Monday, 2 August 2010

Selfish much?

Every so often, I pick up a women's mag and indulge one of my little guilty pleasures.

Equally often, I remember why I don't do this more often. Today was one such day.

I made the mistake of reading the agony aunt column (which I can never resist). Most of the questions were *amused eyeroll* questions.

And then...there was the *WTF-my-blood-pressure-just-hit-the-roof* question:

I have two best friends and we've been very close for years - I've asked them to be my bridesmaids. Last year, one of them lost a baby and then her partner, and we were there for her. But now she's never there for us. She didn't turn up for my birthday party and if we arrange a night out, she either turns up for five minutes or not at all. I want her as a bridesmaid, but I'm not sure she'd even turn up...

And if THAT QUESTION wasn't WTFable enough, Irma Kurtz's response is even MORE of an epic fail:

She can't be depended on as she can't depend on herself. Misery overrides her best intentions. You could uninvite her as your bridesmaid, using the excuse that it's too much for her. That puts the ball in her court and you may or may not lose her as your friend. Or you could go ahead as planned, giving her time to cheer up or drop out - perhaps even at the last minute. But what difference does that make. All that matters is your loving marriage ahead.

Yes, of course, that's all that matters. Because Irma is feeding the idea, you selfish waste of carbon molecules, that all that matters is you.

Why don't I take the time to do you a favour and tell you like it really is?

Your 'best friend' - in inverted commas because you are clearly no friend of any kind - has just suffered two of the *most devastating losses anyone can suffer* (even if the partner left rather than died - the latter being what is implied). You and your friends were, of course, 'there' for the requisite - what? fortnight? - till the funerals and then expected her to buck up and be the person she was two years ago, before she lost her child (read that again, her CHILD) and the partner she loved.

And of course, equating her not being able to attend your little 'birthday party' and the odd social gathering with 'not being there for you' makes so much sense. Because you need her to be there for you and support you whilst you're eating, laughing and necking shots. She, of course, doesn't need YOU whilst she's grieving (oh, I'm sorry - you think she should be over it), trying to fathom a life without her baby and her beloved, whilst she's struggling to keep her head above water. She has to show up, happy, chirpy, thrilled for YOU. I mean, how DARE she continue grieving eight, ten, twelve months on? It's impinging on YOUR perfect little life. So what if your marriage reminds her, like a knife twisted in the heart, of what she's lost? Who cares about her? You've done your 'pat her on the back and hand her tissues' quota, now she should forget about it all and be there for you as you eat, drink and get merry.

Bite me and every woman who knows what being a real friend is about, c***.

Let me tell you what a real friend would know, so maybe you can be one someday.

Irma is wrong. Your friend is not going through 'misery', she is going through deep, intense grief that is complicated because of the depth of the ties, the fact that she is suffering more than one loss, and that the losses are unexpected, at least in terms of order. She can't 'cheer up or drop out' (WTF, Irma??? 'Empathetic' in your vocabulary at all?). Children don't die before their parents. Partners don't die young. She has lost her FAMILY.

Grief doesn't have a time scale. It's not 'a few months and it's over', or 'after the funeral, she'll be back to her normal, tequila shot drinking self'. It is a cycle that can take YEARS - her life is completely, utterly shattered. She has to accept the loss, go all the way into it and feel the pain, then begin to re-organise her life. That is going to take time.

And even when she re-organises, she will never again be the carefree friend you had two years ago: she'll be deeper, stronger, darker - she'll know a pain that most people will likely never know.

One of the things she'll need to get there is more than a little help from her friends: friends who will let her grieve; who will gently guide her to CRUSE or therapy if she gets really stuck; friends who will understand when she can barely stay for a night out; who will listen. No, it won't be all girly giggles and drinking; but then real friendship isn't, is it?

Sorry, what was I thinking? You don't know what real friendship is. Selfish much?

My agony aunt advice to you, which Irma - whom Cosmo needs to fire before she can do any more damage - apparently couldn't think of?

Listen to her. Love her. Be there. Yes, your wedding is coming up, but guess what? Even at a time like this, the world isn't all about you. Because what's your wedding really about?

Relationship - for better for worse, dark and light, laughter and tears. It would behoove you to learn how to do that.

Right now, you need to start with your best friend.


Anonymous said...

I've become increasingly unimpressed by advice columnists in general in the last year or two, but this... this is beyond the pale. I am honestly not certain which of them disgusts me more, Irma or the bitch who wrote to her.

Cosmo needs to fire not only Irma, but whomever decided she was qualified to write a column.


Playful Grace said...

I've been a bride, and I'm SO tired of the whole wedding things being about the bride.

There is SO much more than the right dress, the right friends, etc. And it's SO easy to loose yourself in the day, because so many people will affirm that it's YOUR day and no one should dare interfere or threaten to ruin it. So totally sad.

After reading that, I just wanted to hold and comfort that poor friend.

Hyphen said...

I am with you totally and completely.

I was floored reading the advice and I had the same thought about that poor woman (the grieving one, not the selfish asshat).

It's one thing for Bridezilla to misunderstand her friend's grief because she (Bridezilla) is so wrapped up in her own experience, but for some "expert" to go along with the insanity is unfathomable. WTF, people, WTF?

Kenetha said...

Today's "western" cultures have no place for grief. It's something to be suppressed, hidden away, kept in secret - and definitely don't let it impact anyone else's good time in any way.

Having been through several horrific months recently myself (although not as bad as the friend in the article), I find that I am constantly under pressure to "get it together" and act like nothing is wrong. I am more likely to get lectures about how I should living my life (generally designed to make sure I don't inconvenience the "listener" with my grief) than I do people who are willing to come sit along side me and let me grieve in my own way at my own pace. And it's not that these people are uncaring! They genuinely think they are helping! But they have learned culture's lessons well and have no space to allow my grief.

I think what we are seeing in this advice column is just a reflection of that cultural attitude. It falls under the belief that if we can just get the grieving person back to "normal" in a hurry, that is best thing for them (as well as for us). 'Tis unfortunate for all concerned, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

You're missing the meta-reading of this advice. The woman writing the letter is beyond help. Rather than advise her with some well-meant counsel which will be poorly executed and risk making things worse, Irma has opted to remove the crappy friend from the equation, which is likely to make the healing process ultimately quicker for the grieving woman. She, shorn of a worthless friendship, may find that the extra free time yields someone who will understand her pain and allow her to move beyond it in her own time.

What's that? What do you mean there's no meta-reading in women's magazines?

Anonymous said...

Is there any way you can submit your comments (or at least part of them) to this magazine, so that Bridezilla can see that there are differing views to those of Irma?