Life Coach Beastly: My Friend is Kind of a Jerk

A friend recently told me the only way I am going to get men to express interest in me is to either a- be more traditionally attractive (long hair, thin, wear more make up, and wear extra feminine/sexy clothing), or b- wait till someone looks past how I look.  Obviously these statements reflect some weird societal norms I don’t agree with, but I’m mostly befuddled that my friend a- thinks these things about me (no one wants to know they’re your “fat ugly friend”) and b- thought it was okay to tell me these things.  I’m not sure how to go about telling her that although I can respect the thought that she is allowed to think whatever (woo free speech even if it sucks); that her statements really call into question whether I want to be friends with someone who views me that way, and doesn’t realize that her comments were hurtful (which I do believe she was not intending to be malicious).
Oooh, child. When I read this, my literal first instinct was all “Come at me, bro.” But, honestly, the answers to your question are thankfully already contained in the question itself. Let me just mirror back to you what I’m seeing, k?

Come_at_me_bro_Patrick
Me as you to your “friend”

One of the earliest lessons I learned when I was a Little Beast was that you can’t call everyone your friend. I mean, you can if you want, but it’s a bad idea. Know why? A friend is someone who meets your personal standard of friendship. What is yours? Mine defines “friend” as someone you can depend upon, love and trust. A friend is someone whose friendship warms you and improves you and makes you feel at home. And you can rely on that person to believe those very same things of you. That’s a relatively high bar, and you’re going to meet and interact with a lot of people in your life who don’t meet it. It doesn’t make them bad people. They can be considered acquaintances, colleagues, peers, classmates, or just randos you met at a Joe’s Crab Shack, but there is no imperative to consider that person your friend unless they meet your personal standard. When I really grasped onto that idea, it was actually quite freeing. I stopped expecting unrealistic things from acquaintances I knew from public transportation or Starbucks. And I started to be more thoughtful about the people I spent the most amount of time with and labeled as my “friends.” I suspect that if you spend a focused minute or two considering what makes someone a friend, you will find the same freeing feeling on the other side.

So the FIRST thing I have to point out here is that this lady probably ain’t ya friend. Don’t mistake my meaning: friends will sometimes say shitty things to you. Human beings are flawed, and sometimes we do shit that’s offside that we’ll have to atone for later. But this particular shitty statement is not what a genuine friend would feel capable believing of you or articulating about you, let alone to your face. So the first major question that you have to ask yourself, which only you can answer, is whether or not you really want to be friends with this person? I’m guessing if she feels comfortable saying this type of thing to you, it will not be the last time. So be prepared for the possibility that much of your future together will probably be defined by you either 1) choosing to look the other way at some of her most aggressively expressed opinions or 2) figuring out how to talk to her about it each time she says something kinda soul-crushing. Don’t underestimate the toll that can take.

Secondly, I’m not going to spend that much time parsing through the statement itself. You’re right: it reflects some terrible societal standards that she may or may not realize are very deeply ingrained in her psyche, but also, it’s just untrue. Her opinions about what will make you like catnip for the opposite sex are sitting on a throne of lies, honey. Here’s a quick rundown of why:

  1. They’re just her opinions! Like assholes, everyone’s got them, and they are all varied in shape, size and general offensiveness.
  2. Your question posits that you are looking to attract the opposite sex, and that you are a female, and that this “friend” is female as well. So not only are her theories and opinions subjective, they’re irrelevant. You’re looking for advice on males from someone fundamentally unqualified to give it.
  3. Attracting people, in general, is not a science, nor does it contain shortcuts. The way you look is attractive to some people already. The way you look is unattractive to some people already. THAT IS LITERALLY TRUE OF PRETTY MUCH EVERY HUMAN ALIVE. You are someone’s cup of tea/shot of bourbon/bump of coke, and for some, you are the opposite of those things. Welcome to life, where everything’s unfair and nothing makes sense, but there are things like mac & cheese and wine so we try not to complain.

The point is, there are people who exist in this world who will not have to “look past” how you look because how you look will be one of the many reasons they want to climb you like a tree. Perhaps you haven’t found a lot of these people yet, but when I say they exist, I’m going to need you to trust me.

Finally, an answer: NO. No you do not want to be friends with someone who views you this way. Seriously. Most of the time, when people ask me social questions, I try to leave it up to their better judgment but there is no better judgment than this: your friends are people who love you and care about you and in general are aware of and try to avoid saying things that may trod on your self-esteem unless absolutely necessary. That is not true of this person. God bless her, but she’s not your friend.

I suspect what you’re actually trying to get at is whether or not to tell this person that this thing she said was hurtful. Feel free to wade into that conversation if you feel you must, but be warned: anyone who can say something like that without the intent of malice is pretty unaware of themselves and social propriety, so the odds of getting through to her are slim to nil. Be prepared for that conversation, no matter how well planned, to not reap you any real satisfaction or closure. Lack of self-awareness does not usually make for a growth mindset, so although I’ll stop just shy of implying it’s useless, I really doubt you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Ultimately, all you can do in this situation is chalk it up to a lesson learned. Shake off the words she said – which aren’t accurate and don’t matter – and start revising the standard by which you call someone a friend for the future.

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