Towards the end of the first season of HBO’s Girls, there’s a scene where best friends Hannah and Marnie get into their most epic fight ever. It starts out over something small and escalates (as these things so often do) into some much deeper, silent issues. They’re going back and forth saying mean things about one another and finally Hannah says, “There’s nothing that you can say to me that hasn’t already been said to me, by me, probably in the last ten minutes.”
There is certainly an enormous part of friendship that implores that if you recognize flaws in the other person, you will accept them without question unless and until those things start to cause harm to someone or to the friendship. And then they will be tackled, if the friendship is worth it, or abandoned all together, if the friendship is not. This is just how basic friendship works ordinarily. You don’t say mean things about Friend A’s annoying laugh and she doesn’t talk about how you sometimes speak in hash-tags and then we all get on with life.
If someone else were to make disparaging comments about your friend’s laugh, you would probably not be thrilled about that, right? And then they’d go on to pick at little things about her that you didn’t even notice before. Like her muffin top or a bend in her nose or the way her boobs are two different sizes. I’d like to think that we would step in and say, “woah, woah, woah, uncalled for.” Right? We stand up for our friends but we don’t stand up for ourselves against ourselves. Well, I think we need to start doing that.
I mean, if we’re really going to employ the Golden Rule in our lives and treat others the way we would want to be treated, then the way we treat ourselves should be the precedent that is set, by which we decide to treat other people–right?? But that’s not what happens. We treat other people awesome and then we treat ourselves like garbage (constantly picking on the jiggle in our thighs or upper arms or lack of planning) and we find that we’re never really happy. And who would be? Who could possibly be happy when there’s someone following you around talking shit on you all day? “You’re not smart enough, you’re bad at dancing, you have a bulbous nose, you’re too bossy, everyone only puts up with you.”
Yesterday, I was experiencing severe cabin fever and restless brain syndrome so my boyfriend took me to the grocery store so that we could buy enough toilet paper to last us through the next rumored blizzard. I was happy to be out of the house but my attitude persisted. Silently, to myself, I was playing this tape of, “You’re not brave enough and you’re just never satisfied and nothing is ever good enough for you and your boyfriend is totally picking up on your bad attitude and just can not wait to take you home and be rid of you…” Finally I just couldn’t stand it anymore and I whined to Ryan, “I am in such a grouchy mood!!” I stomped my foot–in the produce section. It was a sliver of a tantrum–only the tiniest fraction of how I actually felt inside. He squeezed my shoulders and said, “but I still want to hang out with you.” And that went right to my heart. It made me feel warm in my spirit and it spread to my mind. He didn’t deny what was completely obvious to the both of us. He just got right to the point: there are things about you that are not entirely pleasant all of the time but they do not define you and I like you.
I’m not going to tell you to stop acknowledging the things you don’t like–because that’s just hard and a measure of self-awareness is nothing to sneeze at. It helps us to know what to change and what to embrace. But maybe if we appended those gripes with a kindness. And accept kindness as fully as we accept meanness. “My thighs have carried me miles and miles and miles without acknowledgement or complaint,” is just as true as, “my thighs appear pretty jiggly when I’m wearing these shorts.” So maybe let’s try to find some kindness.