Friday, July 01, 2005

Everybody Do the Jerk

First of all, I would like to say that I hate having a cold in the summer. It’s not like I say “Hooray! The days are getting shorter and my nose is running!” when I get a cold in November, but at least soup and warm blankets don’t sound like an abomination. You are not supposed to buy Ny-Quil while wearing shorts. How can I prove that a summer cold defies the natural order of things? It’s called a summer cold. Do you call it a winter cold? You do not, because a cold is supposed to plague you in the winter. I couldn’t feel any more incongruous if I was basting a turkey and making cranberry relish this week.


Veronica flounced in to our lunch date just as I was toying with my second slice of bread. She hit the ground running.

“What do you do when a close friend has married a jackass?”

I asked, “Are we talking Consort? Is this an intervention?”

She shook her head decisively and grabbed a breadstick.

“No, he’s adorable. My family just got back from a week at Lake Arrowhead. We stayed at the house of my best friend from college and her husband.”

I said sympathetically, “Bad?”

“Bad?” she snorted. “Finding out you owe three years of back taxes is bad. This guy is a nightmare.”

“Was he always this bad?”

“Actually, yes, but I didn't see enough of him to know this was his personality.” she said thoughtfully. “We’ve had dinner with them a bunch of times, and I always walked away thinking he was a jackass, but I blamed it on wine. But he’s not drinking now and, if anything, he was worse.”

“Like how?”

“Okay. You know how much he paid for their vacation house? Because I do! I also know how much it has appreciated, and that another partner at his firm paid twice what he paid for a house not as nice as his. He also paid fifteen thousand dollars for the carpet in their vacation house, if you care. Because I didn’t care. And I cared even less every single time he told me.”

“So, it’s money.”

“Oh, no. Just money would be almost tolerable. At one point, I went down to the dock to relax and read a book. After about ten minutes, he plopped down next to me and informed me of the personal details of his recent divorce clients.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“The way he does it, yeah. I toyed with the idea of telling him I recognized the husband with the fetish for online livestock porn and the founders’ stock in Yahoo. But that would have required talking to him, so I decided not to.”

I winced sympathetically.

“He’s a loudmouth with a wallet for a brain. Ouch”

“He also likes to tell my friend, Amelia, how she’s gaining weight and can’t cook and can’t get pregnant. Only, of course, he does it as a joke so she’s supposed to laugh. Of course, it’s a completely unfunny joke, so he’s braying and smirking while she kind of laughs along, but she looks completely miserable,” she said, stabbing fiercely at a tomato. “I seriously thought about drowning him. Only, I’m short and he works out six times a week, which happens to be another of his favorite topics.”

I chewed and thought.

“Does your friend see any of this?”

“I think she does. There were points when he was running his mouth about something where I would look at her and she would just seem…” Victoria thought for a second.

“Sad and embarrassed?” I volunteered.

“Yeah,” she sighed.

We both stared at our entrées and ruminated. It was time to change the subject, so we did.


Every decade or so, all women get to confront the great issue of what to do with a friend who is dating a jerk. In your teens, it becomes just one more marvelous ingredient for the Drama Stew you are all simmering in (“…He’s totally cheating on her, but what am I supposed to do? And do you have the notes for the French midterm, because I am totally going to fail unless you help me!...”)

In your twenties, you have enough dating scar tissue to know that:

A) Men are temporary, but anything you say about a temporary boyfriend is permanent; and,

B) If you get too judgmental about your girlfriend’s choice in men, you will be fated to date a drummer before Thanksgiving.

In short, you give your friends room when they date the extremely irritating, and welcome them back into the fold when they jettison the idiot.

Even into your thirties, you can support a friend dating a fool. Granted, it ends up being a lot of lunches where she cries and you offer things you recall from an article you read in Self magazine “…You have to ask yourself, are you a better person for dating him? Are you happier? Are you remembering to contract your abs during the height of the crunch...Oh, sorry, wrong article.”

Even the worst-case scenario is manageable. She can marry a nitwit in her late twenties or early thirties, and you can wear your bridesmaid dress with a certain confident knowledge she’ll come to her senses. Eventually. Then she’ll move in with you and you can share the waffle iron you just gave her as a wedding gift.

But marry a jerk in your late thirties or forties, and your friends will avert their gaze. They are going to assume the woman they know and love, the woman who was smart enough to get her and her friends through Italy on a two-week bicycling trip without knowing a word of Italian, knows what she has gotten into. That, due either to a fear of growing old alone and developing a need to rescue cats (which eventually eat her still-warm flesh when she dies alone in her bathroom), or the mistaken conviction that this is all she deserves, she has taken on the Prince of Pompous.

Our job is to watch our beloved friends fade away a little more each year, drink a little more wine, stay on the Vicodin after surgery longer than medically necessary, and mourn the happiness they gave away.

That, and hope devoutly that the husband’s heart fails on the back nine while he’s telling a friend about the deal he just got on a condo in Palm Springs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've definitely got a friend or two I'd like to forward this post to. But the big question is, would they understand why?????

3:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

No, this is why I could do this. A glaring lack of self-awareness is part of the jerk's subtle charm.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you are feeling better and that the summer cold is gone. And thanks so much for the update on Stinkeye. You hadn't mentioned him (her?) in awhile and then there was the post regarding Lulabelle's avian slaughter and I thought "oops, maybe Lulabelle did get to consume the supersized Happy Meal after all." Regarding the jerk post and the drummer in the South, instead of a drummer, it's an unemployed good old boy with a bad haircut and a race car he built out of an old Trans Am...

3:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Trans Am"
Some things transcend region.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup - "men are temporary but anything you say about a boyfriend is permanent" - even when the boyfriend isn't temporary. I lost a good friend when I sympathized a bit too enthusiastically with her complaints about the BF while they were broken up. She then remembered every word when they got back together (and married and had a kid). Didn't matter that I was only AGREEING with her - she still held the negative judgment against me. So my advice is to empathize very diplomatically at all stages, and simply avoid doing any couple activities with the girlfriends who pick mega-jerks. Those are the friends who need the girls-only spa weekends the most, anyway!

12:09 PM  

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