“There Will Always Be Richard”…And How You Know It’s Time to Bestow Honorary Girlfriend Status on a Guy
I love my women friends. They are like my family except for the fact that they don’t make me want to climb the walls and hang from a chandelier when I’m around them. They are also my most trusted advisors, my personal cabinet. Whenever an important issue comes up, I go to them for perspective and guidance, whether the problem is my latest mommy meltdown or the most recent ‘what on earth possessed me to tell my S.O. THAT???’ crisis.
But what’s especially wonderful about these women, three of whom I place at the core of my advisory, is that I know them so well that sometimes I can consult the girlfriend trifecta without actually consulting the girlfriend trifecta.
The other day was a case in point. I was debating whether or not to accept the casual dinner invitation of a guy I had dated a handful of times, wondering if it might send my current romantic partner over the edge to imagine me eating creamy truffle risotto and a chocolate ganache tart in company with a man other than himself. It was not, mind you, that I had any latent romantic interest in this potential dinner partner. It’s just that a writer like myself occasionally likes to interact with someone who can carry on an intelligent conversation about Charles Dickens and William Faulkner, something I knew from experience this potential dinner partner could do.
As I am wont to do with any decision that could potentially screw up the rest of my life, I started to dial my deeply devoted friend of 38 years who has come to my rescue on more than one occasion, holding my hand when I gave birth to my daughter, hosting me for a Christmas Eve meltdown, and handing me her cell phone one day at O’Hare and telling me to just “please shut up and call the love of your life.” So tuned in is she sometimes to my psyche, she often knows what I want or need more accurately than I do.
But before I could finish dialing, I already knew what Sarah would say. She would advise me not to play with fire. Because she is my mother hen and protector, the woman I can count on to make me feel safe in the most dire of circumstances. When life becomes too much to bear, it is Sarah who invites me to her wonderfully chaotic house, where I am comforted by the frenetic activity of her chef husband, her energetic two-year-old son, and her teenage nephew who likes to advise me on all the benefits of owning a Droid over an iPhone.
Of course, I also knew Sarah would speak her trademark tagline after providing her advice: “I love you, and I support you no matter what.”
Hmm, no need to call.
On to the next girlfriend. Shiloh. Outspoken, adventurous, and irreverent, she is not too difficult to predict either. I knew without even thinking about it too much that Shiloh would say, “Go for it!” Ever open to the next adventure, experiment, or big thing, Shiloh has no qualms about risk-taking, even when there is no clear potential benefit. Her life has hardened her against getting wound up about consequences. Though she will admit herself at times, “There are days I consider shots and a round of tennis a viable option for problem solving.”
Sooo….no need to call her either. I had both ends of the spectrum.
That only left Susannah—the practical psychology major whose husband has repeatedly accused her of having more divorced friends than anyone else he knows. She is the one worth calling no matter what, at least so says Sarah, who admits, “You know what Shiloh is going to say. You know what I’m going to say. Call Susannah. She is the only one left with a practical, rational outlook on things. And besides,” she adds, “then you have three different opinions, so likely whatever choice you make will be the ‘right’ one in someone’s view.”
I never called any of my three most trusted advisors that day. I ultimately came to my own decision not to mess with any men’s heads or to potentially play with fire all on my own. Okay, well, not all on my own. I had the voices and perspectives of those three girlfriends heatedly debating in my head.
This is the reason why a wise man not only works to win the heart of his lover but also the hearts of her girlfriends. They may be the ones who determine whether he gets ditched or forgiven one day down the road when he responds to a life crisis one too many times with “I love you. I’m eating Go Lean Crunch now. What are you doing?” Um, having a crisis in case you hadn’t noticed.
I know I can count on the women in my life to still be my friends no matter what crazy trouble I get into. They have this otherworldly power to surround me with a net of kindness and support even when they aren’t actually there. There are occasions when I will call one of their number at 3 a.m. when I wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, but more often than not, my awareness that I can call if I need to is really all I require. I know they’re there, and I will eventually go back to sleep, assured that no matter what happens, these women will be there when things get so bad I have to call.
Men do not always understand this sisterhood among women. Raised to be lone wolves who interact with their BFFs on a whole different level than we do (i.e. intimate friendship means you’re not afraid to get totally toasted in front of the guy and then go play a round of golf and score badly), they may find the close emotional ties the women in their lives share with other women confounding if not downright threatening.
Once when Shiloh and I were jointly in the throes of nasty break-up blues, we seriously discussed the feasibility of buying a farm, inviting other disillusioned women friends, and raising vegetables in company with our daughters and ditching men at least from our day-to-day lives forever. When Shiloh mentioned this idea to a date one night after an especially long “wine flight,” he was appalled and wanted to know if this really was her “five-year plan.” “Don’t you need a man around?” he asked.
His incredulity could only be matched by our own, I must say. What man asks a woman he’s been dating less than two months what her five-year plan is? And who discusses a five-day plan, much less a five-year plan, with a woman he is driving home because she has admitted she has imbibed too much wine to drive herself safely? A man without much experience with women…that’s who.
And so the poor schmuck got what any more experienced gentleman would have known better than to bargain for. Shiloh responded (and forgive my more formal language here; I’ve been banned from subscribers’ servers because of my occasional use of four-letter words), “There will always be more (ahem!) Richard; good girlfriends, however, are a lot harder to find.” Richards, you see, come in all sizes and with various levels of proficiency attached to them. But a female friend who will stand by you through everything—if you find her, hang on tight.
I should know. It’s taken me more than 30 years to assemble my core group of rock solid women friends.
This is not to dismiss the men with whom I am (as this blog attests) so endlessly fascinated. I love men. In fact, I think that is a good part of my trouble. I grew up the only girl at the babysitter, and once in high school, I found the company of boys far more satisfying than that of silly, boy crazy girls. Plus, it was my father, grandfather, and great uncles who made much of me when I was a child. The women were always too busy for me. All in all, I feel incredibly comfortable with men, far more than I do with women unless those women are confident, smart, and sassy gals whom I can admire and respect and who aren’t threatened by a loud and outspoken woman like myself.
But at the same time, I don’t always understand men (hence the fascination perhaps) anymore than they understand me. I love Mr. Go Lean Crunch with all my heart, and, in the end, it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t always know the right thing to say. That’s what my girlfriends are for. What matters is that even in complete bewilderment (and sometimes terror), he has stood by me, rock solid as…well…a woman. I am thinking perhaps we should bestow “honorary girlfriend” status on men like this.
They are more than Richards. In fact, if we want to get truly derogatory, and why the hell not? They are not Richards at all. They stand much taller and do not feel the need to flee when things get tough. They know how to brace for the punch. Where they learned to do this, I can only guess…probably from a woman.
There will indeed always be Richards.
Foolish is the woman who risks the trust or gives up the friendship of a solid and committed friend, be that friend male or female, for a mere Richard. As Elbert Hubbard says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” Banish such a friend from your life, and you may indeed be a Richard yourself.