Friends don’t let friends…

‘Friends don’t let friends… ’ This phrase is perhaps most associated with the crusade against drunk driving. Which is a very basic way of underscoring another critical element to a good friendship. A friend is drunk… you take their car keys and drive them home (or put them in a cab, if you are also under the influence.) They may not express their appreciation for your concern at the time, but that is part of the deal. As a friend you are willing to get in their face, tell them something that maybe makes them mad, maybe even belligerent, but you step up and speak up, because it is about their safety.

Another way to say this is that a good friend ‘has your back’. A somewhat contemporary expression, but the imagery is quite clear, I think. A friend stands behind you when you need support. A friend watches your back, alerting you to things you may not see on your own. A friend will speak up and defend you, if it is called for, when you are not there. And all of this is reciprocal – they know that you ‘have their back’ as well.

Thinking about my discouraged and self-doubting post a few days ago, I am aware of the friends who have and are supporting me in my writing. They encourage me – give me courage – when I don’t know if what I am trying to say makes sense. They hang in there with me, telling me what they ‘hear’ me saying and help me to refine my thinking and my writing. So, when I slip into that ‘slough of despond’, I only need to look up and there’s a friend, reaching to help me out. Thank you, readers and friends.

There was one particular section in Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a Woman, which really popped my eyes open regarding women, body size and addiction. I thought that I had posted about that eye-opener last year, but when I searched for it, I see that although I wrote it, I did not share it. Still too close to the bone for me, I guess. So I will offer you a link to her website and return to that piece of writing another time.  In addition to her wacky site, here’s a link to a review of the book, written by Peggy Orenstein and posted on slate.com.  Orenstein quite accurately states:  “Moran’s feminism is as much attitude as analysis. She is, in equal measure, intellectual, rebel and goofball…”

Moran was interviewed recently by Lorraine Berry in the online magazine, Talking Writing. Here’s a bit of that interview. They are discussing publication, which is not my issue, but it speaks to the self-doubt experienced by many women writers.

Berry: Do you think male editors and publishers are oblivious to who they’re publishing? They really don’t notice they’ve wound up hiring all these men? Or do they think men are inherently better writers?

Moran: When people say, “Men are inherently better writers,” they mean that men appear to be more “normal” writers—because the people making that judgment are other men.  So, when they read men writing these things, it’s like, “Yes, yes, yes. That’s generally my experience. That’s how I feel.”

Whereas when a woman writes about what she feels or her experience, suddenly they’re like, [imitating a male voice with a posh Oxbridge accent] “No! That’s weird. She’s gone a bit mad there.”

When they say “better,” they just mean less startling or less weird. Any clever entity will realize that startling and weird are good.

In so many ways, the Internet is great, because now women can blog. They don’t have to wait to be approved by a man to get their voices out there.

Berry: I’ve heard one more explanation for why women don’t get published as often as men. The editor of a very left-leaning magazine said the problem is that women don’t write about serious issues

Moran: Often, women are too scared to put themselves forward to write about serious things… when we were younger… we thought we should just write about women’s issues because that’s something we know about—and we wouldn’t write about war and diplomacy because we didn’t know that much about it.

But when I… talked to male columnists… they said, “You know, we write about politics and war, but we don’t know that much about it, either.” Men just have that confidence to say, “Well! I’m not an expert on it, but I’ll give it a go. I’ll just bring my common sense to it, do a bit of research, and I’ll do it.”

I now write about these big subjects because—you know what? – its me having a bit of a thought about this, and it’s equal to what anybody else is going to write, I reckon. You just need to have that swaggering confidence to do it.

You may think that I’ve drifted off topic, but the truth is that when Caitlin Moran goes ahead and writes things that seem ‘crazy and weird’ she is very much a friend to me. She articulates my concerns about writing honestly about feelings and experience. That’s what was choking me the other day; the fear was cutting off my voice. I love the way she says: “… it’s me having a bit of thought about this…”.

Yes, that’s exactly what I want to be doing here, just as if I were in a conversation with a good friend.  Having a bit of thought. I like that.

And your thoughts about what… friends don’t (or DO) let friends…?

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