Am I A Cow?

Natasha is a Kiwi, born of English parents, married to a South African, living in Australia, and reckons that her take on life is probably about as screwed up as her accent.  She considers cake and chocolate to be two essential parts of a well balanced life, and is often called a cow by her best friend in between mouthfuls and much laughter.

Am I a cow?

It’s a fair question if you’re me.

I’ve never been the type of friend who tells you your dress is gorgeous when it’s obviously highlighting every bit of flab on your body.

I’ll never tell you the man you’re dating is wonderful if you’ve clearly lowered your standards to date him solely because you’re lonely.

And I’ll never just sit back and watch you make decisions in your life that will take you on a path away from Heavenly Father without telling you in no uncertain terms that you are being an idiot.

So does that me a cow?  Before you decide, hear me out.

I’m not like this with everyone.  In order to qualify my sledgehammer comments you have to have made it to the rank of “best friend” which means that we already know the good, the bad and the ugly about each other and yet for some reason we still choose to hang out.  With those I rank as mere acquaintances I’m tactful, smiling, indulgent and decidedly mediocre in my comments, but in my desires to meddle or even know about their lives, I don’t really care enough.  But with my best friends, those women I truly love and care for, I invest a piece of myself in their well-being. I cry with them in their struggles and rejoice with them in their triumphs, and I’m always there if they need me, no matter what.  So when those women ask my opinion or involve me in their struggles, I think I owe it to them to give an honest answer or an honest opinion – isn’t that what separates them from being just acquaintances? Isn’t that what shows them that I truly do love them? Honesty?

I live by the adage that if you’re going to stab someone you love, it’s best to do it in their front.  There’s no joy in telling someone you love something that you know will not be pleasant to their ears, but every so often it’s just got to be done.  “The other dress was better”, “Is he worth what you’re giving up?” and “When was the last time you read you scriptures or said a prayer?” are all blunt little sledgehammers that have come out of my mouth only to be greeted by silence.   I will however, hold off stabbing you with my opinion until you ask for it, mostly, and if you’re really, really lucky sometimes I can even manage to do it with some tact.  But if the situation somehow gets to the point where my opinion is called for, you better be prepared for my honest one because that’s exactly what you’re going to get – as your best friend I love you enough to give it.

So does this make me a cow? Or does this make me a great best friend? (Obviously I’m rooting for the latter, but you can be honest!)

13 thoughts on “Am I A Cow?

  1. Yes, you are a good friend, to some extent, but….

    With me, the closer someone is to me the more I understand them and their motivations. I actually am less likely to think they are making a bad decision because I realize what is behind the decision. With people close to me I usually am more likely to trust that they actually have thought it through and are making the best decision out of their less than ideal choices.

    Also, as time goes on even though I still think I am right about everything, I also realize that everyone has a very different set of circumstances and opportunities. I don’t like it if a friend is a marathon runner and is blessed for it but doesn’t understand that there is no way I could be a marathon runner because of my body and my life. When I am super awesome at life, I don’t want to expect my loved ones to be as super awesome at the same particular thing. It is difficult sometimes, but when somebody seems to be lacking in their relationship skills or life wisdom, I try to remind myself that I can’t expect marathons from someone who has plantar fasciitis. And I need a dose of humility sometimes that my wisdom maybe isn’t all knowing.

  2. I agree with you that honesty is important and can be a breath of fresh air. Sometimes, when I’m in your shoes and a friend is crying to me about something and asks me a question, I’ll say: “Do you want me to just say ‘I’m so sorry, that really sucks,’ or do you actually want advice?” Because as much as I am wired to jump in and solve things, I’ve learned the hard way that’s not what everyone wants. (For example, if your friend has already purchased the very expensive offensive dress, you tell her you like the color because if you give her your opinion at this point, it’s too late to do anything except make her feel awful. Ditto if your friend has already married the scumbag.)

    Anyway, I relate to this. And I had to smile at your use of “cow”–it isn’t a term we often use here in the states in that context (to me, usually “cow” means “fat”).

  3. I am with you. I have a really hard time being friends with people who are all polite and small-talky. I love people who say it like it is – I want my relationships to be based on truth and being real. Social “rules” just seem manipulative to me. I see it as, if I already purchased the dress and can’t return it, it’s a sunk cost and shouldnt factor in. Let’s not add insult to injury by letting me go out in an outfit that’s all wrong for me when I was depending on my friend to keep me from embarassing myself. If you do that, you’re not a real friend. Problem is, most girls want to be lied to in that situation. I want the truth for me and therefore give it to others. This means lots of people don’t like me!

  4. A little while ago I was dealing with a situation where I felt I had been dealt with unfairly. Most of the people I talked to just reassured me that I was right and the other person was wrong, but one friend pointed out some things that I had done badly and could improve on. At first I was a little hurt by her advice, especially because she can be blunt, but upon reflection I realized that she was right and that I could improve. There are many ways to be honest with each other, some more loving than others, but I think that having some people in your life who will help you be your best self is something that everyone needs.

  5. I love real-ness.

    But I think you hit on the key: waiting to be asked. It’s a simple thing I’ve been thinking about recently. I used to think that simply being close meant being blunt was a good and right thing to do. And sometimes it is. But ironically, sometimes the closer we are to people, the more at risk we are to hurting them (or being hurt) or sometimes even unwittingly trying to control.

    So what I like about the wait to be asked thing is that it respects agency.

    I like Lindsay’s approach, which is to ask, “Do you just want me to listen or do you want feedback/advice?”

    Even the strongest of people sometimes just need a listening ear, ya know?

  6. As with most best friend relationships, I think you’re a cow sometimes, and definitely not a cow the other times!

    Like Michelle said, I want real-ness in my friendships. When I love my friend, for me that love means stepping in when I’m concerned, when I’m asked, or worried about what’s going on. Like Natasha, I usually wait until I’m asked for my opinion, but I have spoken before I’m asked as well.

    Regardless of who we are, nobody likes being told their bum really does look big, or that they’re being kind of really dumb, or that they are worrying people around them – but it takes guts (and sometimes a cow’s multiple stomachs) to step up and say the truth, even – PARTICULARLY – if it’s going to hurt.

    So yeah, being that kind of best friend means you can be a cow. But being that kind of friend means that you’re ALSO right in there with them; amid the snot and tissues and anger and confusion of your friends lives, right along with their triumphs, happiness, stupid jokes, crazy laughter and celebrations. And that makes you – and anyone else who loves enough to stab in the front – an amazing friend to have.

  7. A.K.A. Natasha

    I’ve really enjoyed reading the different points of view. That’s the great thing about this website as it brings together a whole heap of women from a number of differing cultures to talk about one topic that affects us all at some point in time.

    We all have women in our lives, and I bet that each of us have faced a significant situation where we have had to make a conscious decision whetther to tell that woman the truth, or to lie to her. I just think its an interesting question to ask yourself which you would prefer from your best friend.

    I would hate to think that I couldn’t trust my best friend’s advice or opinions. When I ask her what she thinks about the significant things in my life I’m asking for her to tell me honestly what she thinks, and not for what she thinks I want to hear.

    I’m not advocating that we all adopt a sense of verbal dioreah and just say whatever comes into your head at any point in time. But on the big things in life – not which dress looks prettiest – I would hope that my best friend has my best interests at heart and would tell me if I was on the wrong track, or if she thought I would get hurt, or that she was just plain worried about me. I would hope that she’d do that because she loved me and cared enough about me to do so, and because I knew that, I hope that I would have enough sense to listen.

    For me, it’s about trust. I find its hard to have trust if you don’t first have honesty. I would be happy to trust my best friends with my fears, my failures and most of all my triumphs because I trust that they love me enough to be by my side for all of them

  8. A hero, as long as you do the whole “reproving betimes with sharpness, but afterwards showing an increase in love lest they esteem thee to be their enemy” thing. Guess why I am able to remember that one almost word for word, eh? I’ve had both: friend that tell you exactly what they think and pride themselves (emphasis on pride) on their bluntness, and friends that will not tell you their opinion if you beg and wheedle and cajole, and pride themselves on diplomacy. I’d much rather the former, but tempered with compassion and charity…bluntness with love is way better than bluntness with the attempt to control which, without the “afterwards” bit, and without kind intent, it seems to wander into the territory of emotional abusiveness. I’ve had that, too. HOWEVER… it’s a JOY to have a friend who will truly tell you, lovingly, what you really need to hear, rather than let you wander back into a bad relationship, off into the spiritual wasteland, or even into a dress that is rather awful. I think that a good dose of bluntness is a blessing in a true, loving friend. and that’s from a woman who grew up in the south, land of false diplomacy and filled with women who say “Isn’t that the sweetest dress. Bless her heart.” (translation: Wow. That’s so far our of style it’ll be coming back into style in a few years. But she’ll never know, she’s so oblivious. Poor thing.)

  9. Telling someone that a dress is unflattering or that their boyfriend doesn’t treat them well is fine by me. It is easy (for me) to see the love behind the statement.

    For some reason though, I am can’t stomach the thought of asking a struggling friend when they “last read their scriptures or prayed.”

    Especially if the question is met by silence.

    It is an accusation. It places blame on your friend. Even if she answered “just this morning”….the insinuation would still be shouting out that she wasn’t reading her scriptures or praying the RIGHT way because the kind of struggles she is facing ought to be solved by the right kind of scripture study and prayer.

    If a friend shared marital problems with me, I wouldn’t say “Are you keeping sweet?” (an accusation with no right answer either way)

    If a friend shared valid concerns about a special needs child’s likely future I would NOT tell her “you just can’t think that way.” (another accusation that also dismisses her feelings)

    We should reason with our friends, our “blunt” talk should be based on the concept that they deserve better than what they are living with.

    Again, I would NOT say “when did you last pray.” Instead, I’d say “You deserve divine guidance here…this is so important, you deserve to know with certainty that this is the right path for you.”

    We should not judge or accuse them.

  10. “When I love my friend, for me that love means stepping in when I’m concerned, when I’m asked, or worried about what’s going on. ”

    I think the flip side of a real friendship is being willing to listen to what a friend has to say. ;)… trusting that it comes from a place of love and concern.

    There’s always a tension in things like this. Always.

  11. I get a lot of blunt love from my husband. When it comes to his opinion on my art, that’s always harder to take because he compares me to the professional artists he works with. I just want an “I like that” or “great effort”. I have grown a lot from his willingness to point out my areas of weakness. And somehow the marriage has survived and thrived!

    I have a few close friends who I think would call me out on bad behavior. I often wish for a friend that would say the reason people think such and such about you is because of such and such behavior. Or maybe I just suffer from insecurity.

    My closest friend recently has such different views on life, it is hard to trust her opinion (she’s an atheist, socialist unschooling mom who likes to use the f word a lot in her facebook posts).

    As a child I often felt isolated and friendless and although I grew out of that, mostly, sometimes I revert to that mode. Then I wonder what it is I do or say that offends people because I do try very had to be sensitive to what others need.

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