The So-Called Rules of Female FriendshipS

There are things every woman should just know she's not supposed to do when it comes to her female friends, right? Right? Anyone? Is this thing on?

Over at Elle, a letter to Ask E. Jean from an advice-seeker named "Totally Frustrated" queries:

I've been finding myself in some questionable situations over the past couple of years that somehow or other always come down to potential violations of the Girl Code. I may be out of it—I'm 28; you'd think I'd have a clue—but what are the rules among girlfriends? What lines shouldn't be crossed?

The sassily pragmatic E. Jean responds with a basic list:

A crone of 28 should be too experienced to follow anything called the "Girl Code." Here's the BLC—Basic Lady Code: Never hate a woman you've never met, never date a friend's ex, never reveal another female's secret, never leave an inebriated friend alone at a bar, never invite a friend's enemy to a party, never dine alone with a friend's boyfriend (unless it's his last meal and he's being shot at dawn).

I got no beef with E. Jean, but I do have a beef with etiquette overload. On some level, etiquette is great, it gives us basic rules about how to act that show we care about our guests and friends in a basic way. Try to remember to cover your mouth when you cough, say please and thank you, give people a chance to talk and really listen to them when they do. Be nice. Acting out of kindness is usually all you have to do.

Where it gets out of hand is when everything feels so overprescribed for situations where it simply can't work in all scenarios. That's why I think basic manners make sense in theory, but everything breaks down in real life, and the only thing you can really count on is your ability to conduct yourself with good intentions that, if not clear, you're willing and able to explain.

The fact that I disagree with about half of these so-called lady code rules just proves my point further. Furthermore, in most cases, you can change the implied female "friend" in these rules with "person" and it's equally applicable.

Let's take them one by one.

Never Hate a Woman You've Never Met

I actually think this one rules. Although it could just be never hate a person you've never met. It doesn't really work for public figures though, because they are so eminently hate-able on sight and often for no good reason, which I think is a healthy way for people to direct their vague, amorphous inner rage. Maybe this notion is better applied to exes, to try not to hate the people you've never met but whom you have more information about than one person can possibly know what to do with because their ghost follows your relationship wherever you go. If that's your damage, please go here. Also, I mean, Up With People alert! I guess never hate anyone? If you can? See? That's broader. And probably better. And applies to everyone.

Never Date a Friend's Ex

The whole thing about friend pools is that these are the people you spend the most time with. You get to know these people, male and female, casually and organically. It makes more sense that you'd fall for someone in this group than someone else? Even if it's hot awkward? Yes, this ups the drama factor, but it's also life, especially in college and post-college but also forever. When two people break up, ideally you would not pair off with a friend's ex if the relationship was volatile or, worse, the friend is still in love with the ex. But again, this is case-by-case. If the friend genuinely doesn't care, why would you care? Not an automatic violation. And this has nothing to do with gender. I've heard about bro code or whatever, but like, not fucking someone else's person should not be about gender code, it should be about gender-free ethics and morality.

Never Reveal Another Female's Secret

Hmmm, OK, so, yeah, don't do this to anyone who asked you to keep a secret. The end. UNLESS it's like, they told you a secret and that secret is they are about to die or something and you have to help them.

Never Leave An Inebriated Friend Alone At a Bar

This has never come up in my entire life, and I've really put the time in at the bars. If you're out with your friend, and that friend, male or female, is shit-faced, do they go "I'm just gonna stay here alone" and you have to be all, no? I seriously don't even know how it works. I've never been out with friends where we were all leaving a bar and one person was like, "I'll just be over here, in the dark, alone." And if they were, I guess, yeah, I'd be like, Are you sure? Cause that's dumb.

Never Invite a Friend's Enemy to a Party

Duh. Totally. Male or female. But like everything, of course there are exceptions. If you have to do this because it's necessary — the enemy happens to be your new boss! — you'd talk about it. Right? You just would? And if you didn't, that person is not your friend.

Never Dine Alone With a Friend's Boyfriend (Unless It's His Last Meal and He's Being Shot at Dawn)

Um, WTF, what the everloving fuck, is this a fucking rule? Is this like how Chavril don't drink when they're apart because that's the only way to stay faithful to each other? Because no.

Again, what is this keep the genders apart bullshit? What if the friend's boyfriend is also your friend? What if he was your friend first? What if you introduced them? What if you all have kids and the respective others are out of town and you're fuckin' bored and need to eat dinner? What if he's your brother? Ugh.

In conclusion, try to be a good person. Or don't. But don't base it on the gender of your friend. Base it on how much of an asshole you are incapable of not being. That takes care of everything.

Image by Jim Cooke.