Because, much as I love men, and yessir, I really do, female friends are as important to me as the air I breathe. What would we do without BFFs? And though it’s possible for many women to have a male BFF, for me, that’s as unlikely as me singing Opera. I just haven’t the talent for it.
I suppose if I lived in an Amazonian world where no men were allowed, I might yearn for that harder, hairier person like the one I’m married to. Logical, pragmatic, unemotional, focused on stuff like cars and airplanes, and movies about war and super machines. In other words, the polar opposite of me.
I like the opposite of me in a sexual relationship, but trying to understand how those “opposites” think and operate is challenging. In my life experience, men have definitely been less vanity driven and less competitive. If a man sees another man who outranks him in looks, talent, and bust size, he’ll say, “Good on you, pal” or “Hey, buddy, better get a man bra.”
Women? Not so much.
But for every-day lunches, gossip, or commiserating about “him,” give me a woman—every time!
I am blessed in that I have a perfect friend. And I do mean PERFECT. For purposes of anonymity in this column, I’m changing her name to Belle.
Actually, that’s quite apropos. Because in matters of organization and efficiency, the two of us exemplify the story of Beauty and the Beast. She’s Belle, the beauty. I’m the Beast.
Belle is prepared! Always. She has the drinking water and bowls for the dogs, the tape and stick pins to hang the sign, the glasses for watching the eclipse. She has gas in her car and motor oil in her crank case.
NOTE: (I had to ask my husband where oil goes in a car. I thought it was the carburetor (he informed me carburetors are rare now-a-days, thanks to fuel-injected motors. PLUS, oil never went into a carburetor anyhow. Mea culpa, mea culpa, big boy.)
To further Belle’s perfection, she never, ever makes fun of me (like Matt just did) for my lack of mechanical or logistical skills. Belle accepts me for the inept, clueless character that drove my mother insane. “Jeanne, you’ll never amount to anything if you don’t get organized!”
Back when I was clawing my way up in the male-dominated world of television marketing, I had a male compatriot tell me, “You’re a ready, fire, aim type of character.” He was right. I got an idea and ran with it to completion. And often, that worked for me. When it didn’t, I was royally pissed.
I finally learned planning when I ran my own advertising agency. While traveling to five markets at a time to produce television and radio commercials for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I had to get my ducks in a row; i.e., make sure everyone knew where they were supposed to be and at what time. Camera people, editors, sound and lighting engineers, directors, and talent all depended on me for timeliness and organization. Good thing they had no idea what a klutz they were listening to.
Finally, I learned to be organized. But boy-oh-boy, it was never second nature to me like it is to Belle.
Later, writing novels forced a great deal of orderliness into my right-leaning left brain. When I start writing, I usually know how the story will begin and end. The middle part greatly appeals to my creative side. Plot pivots come in dreams and daydreams. Sometimes, I have argued with a dream, thinking, “She wouldn’t do that!”
Nonetheless, I’ve learned that usually she would do that and that doing that makes for a more interesting story.
But I digress. Back to my best friend, Belle.
Recently, Belle bought a new car. Only after, of course, reading and re-reading Consumer Reports, visiting every dealer in town and reading the “blue book” to learn what she could get for her trade-in; test driving at least twice each of the three cars she’d whittled her decision down to; and, after making her decision, spending hours on three separate occasions in the chosen dealership.
When I buy a car, usually I look for a shape I like and choose a color. But this experience with Belle might just have changed me forever. Next time, I may become a master deal maker and haggler.
I went with her once—after she had learned from a former car salesman all about the not-so-subtle art of negotiating. It was fun. My imagination got caught up in the multiple dollar bids and watching the salesperson scurry back and forth to present Belle’s latest offer to her sales manager.
At one point, I got an inspiration. I said to Belle, “Stand up.” She did. The salesperson scampered back to us quicker than a bunny in heat fearful we were going to walk out. Try that one next car you buy.
Finally, they came to “the deal.” Well, sort of. Because “the deal” they offered in July might not be available in August, and they didn’t know if they could get Belle’s car on the lot by the end of the month.
For a minute, I thought we were back to square one—a place I didn’t want to be. Then, Belle took out a big wad of cash to “hold” the car, and we left for a firm deal, more or less. It was never clear to me, but apparently Belle got it.
Okay, so here’s the best part. Belle got her auto. It was beautiful and drove like a dream. It had more bells and whistles than a rocket ship, and most of them were actually useful. Belle and I were happy campers.
Until…Until…she called me in a frenzy saying, “I’ll call you as soon as my car dries out.”
What? It couldn’t be I told myself. Though we’d had quite a downpour that day, surely that fancy shiny new car could withstand normal rain. How could it be so drenched it needed to “dry out?”
When she was finally ready to talk about it, the truth came out.
She had driven up in the mountains for an overnight to read the assorted manuals for her new car. The light was poor, so she opened her sun roof. She studied them all, took notes, and made a list of questions for the dealer. More questions? Really, Belle?
When she got to her motel, she went into the room and settled in for a quiet evening. In the middle of the night, she heard the rain. It was soothing, so she turned over and went back to sleep.
Bet you can guess the rest. Yep, she had forgotten to close her sun roof.
When she told me over a glass of wine on my porch, I got hysterical. She, my perfect friend, had fubared so bad I couldn’t stop laughing. I told Matt about it with glee. He’s much like Belle. Anal to the nth degree.
I was validated. Even my perfect friend could screw up! Honestly, I haven’t stopped laughing since. Funny, isn’t it?
Jeanne Charters is a New Yorker blissfully relocated to Asheville. She lives with her husband, Matt Restivo, and their dog, Bucky. Her novel, Shanty Gold, is available at Malaprops and Mountain Made in Asheville, at Highland Books in Brevard, at Blue Ridge Books and News in Waynesville, at The Book Shelf in Tryon, and, of course, Amazon. Her second book, Lace Curtain, will be available soon. Jeanne invites you to enjoy her blogs on Irish jokes and historical tidbits at www.jeannecharters.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She loves to hear from readers.