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Friends, what are they good for?

I read a lot of feminist blogs. Feministe. Feministing. Bitch PhD. Pandagon. Broadsheet. Shakesville. One that I haven't picked up yet is DoubleX, Slate's newish blog that's supposedly feminist. Part of that is due to my risidual disgust from Linda Hirshman's outing of hilzoy there back in April. Part of it is that my google reader is so full that adding another high content blog to the mix isn't helping matters.

At any rate, today, Jezebel directed me to an DoubleX advice column called Frind or Foe. In the particuilar article that Jezebel hated, a reader wrote in a fairly horrifying story. She went to a club with "her two closest friends" and at some point she excused herself to go to the bathroom. There, things got hazy, and the next thing she knew, she'd been found on the sidewalk by a cop and woke up in the Emergency Room. Someone had obviously slipped her something, and this in and of itself is quite horrifying. The rest of the story goes like this:
Since then, I’ve tried to piece together what happened. Apparently, at the end of the band's set, I left for the ladies room with my purse—and didn’t come back. My friends figured I had left, so they left, too. Later, when I called them from the street, sobbing in hysterics and asking for help, they told me to go back to the club and that they would have an ambulance pick me up there. When my mother—who lives 2,000 miles away (and hopped on a plane the next day to be with me)—later called these two friends of mine to beg them to join me while I was recovering, they refused. It wasn't until I told them that the hospital wouldn’t release me until I had someone to drive me home that they came to pick me up. They then angrily drove me to my car, and I drove home alone. By then, it was the next morning.

I have known these girls for more than 10 years, and had until now considered them my best friends. But I can't help feeling as though they’d abandoned me. If I found out one of them had been taken to the hospital, I would have dropped everything and gone to be by her side. Am I expecting too much from my best friends, both of whom are mid-twentysomething professional women?
The response was, er, not a great endorsement of friendship:
Wow, that’s a tough call. A spouse or even a boyfriend? Yes, it would be his or her duty to haul ass to said hospital at 4 a.m. But your single female friends who are already, presumably tucked in their beddy-bies? I have to admit that, if I got a call like yours (or your mother’s) in the middle of the night, I’d do what I could from home, but would be hard-pressed to jump in my car until morning.

For one thing, it’s not even necessarily safe—depending on where you live and how far you live from the hospital—for a woman to head out alone at that hour. For another, presumably, by the time your mother called you were out of danger. Yes, overnights at the E.R. are the opposite of fun. So are disastrous drug trips. (I had one in my twenties, which pretty much sealed my fate as an illegal-substance ninny.) But only nuns make it out of youth without a few ambulance rides.

Here’s a little secret. BFFs are great when you’re upset about a boy/sick cat/whatnot. But there are limits to friendship—limits that don’t apply to our romantic partners or close family members. What I fault your friends for is not driving you all the way home the next morning, or at least following you there to make sure you got through the door on two feet. I also wish they’d been a less critical of what was, by your account, a freak incident. Why were they so unforgiving? I’d wager a guess that they think you’re lying about the mickey, tales of which are sometimes used as a cover for irresponsible behavior. (Only you know the truth.)
At this point, the comments page on the advice column lit up like wildfire. What do you mean that single women whose mothers aren't close at hand can't rely on anyone? A "disasterous drug trip" is all that happened here? Someone slipped a roofie into this girl's drink. And people don't do that with good intentions or just to watch what happens. And what the hell is that last paragraph about? Friends are good for crying over boys and that's it? They shouldn't back each other up, or check to see if they're safe? Fuck.

So Lucinda Rosenfeld decided to address her commenters in another post. This is one of those "put the shovel" down sort of moments. Rosenfeld admits to not having thought of the possibility that the letter writer had been assaulted (even though slipping someone a drug is in and of itself assault). She figures, in some weirdly tortured logic and clear lack of understanding of how roofies work, that since there was no mention of a stomach pumping, that the writer was out of danger when she called her friends. And even though Rosenfeld dismissed the possible sexual assault backstory that was evidenced by a roofie, she imagines a "lied about the roofie" or "already asks way too much of them" backstory because the friends were "angry" the next day.

And of course, my favorite: "But how many of you would actually, honestly get out of bed and get dressed at 4 a.m. and drive to the hospital to keep your close friend company while she recovered?"

Uh, me. My friends. My family members. What decent human being wouldn't go immediately to the aid of a friend who called from the hospital saying that you were the last person they remember seeing and please, please come help? I've done it before, and I'll do it again. I've done it of friends' pets, though of course in the original column that's all friends are really good for. Just because someone is physically ok or on the road to being ok doesn't mean that they're in any way shape or form out of the woods. Or that they don't need their friends.

I have a group of friends that occasionally makes it to the ER because we are dumbasses (a recent facebook post from one of them blames Jose Cuervo for a broken clavacle). We go with each other and make sure that everyone is ok. Candyman squashed his finger a few years ago; four of us took him to the ER and stayed until he was out. Smash took a headdive into the street, and Candyman stopped a party to take her to the ER, insist upon the best plastic surgeon to fix her face, and get her stitched properly. I rushed over to Darklady's house once, dropping everything, and sat with her for a few hours when she thought she might have been concussed. I grabbed a random guy out of our bar at Burning Man last year who was clearly dehydrated and got him some shade, some cool, and some water. I've gotten the two o'clock in the morning call from multiple, multiple people asking me to get out of bed to help get them home from a bar because they were too fucked up to drive. And, lord help me, my friends have done it for me too. When I got out of emergency surgery last April, Smash, Buttery and Drillbit had dropped everything that they'd been up to that morning to visit me in the hosptial.

And blackouts are terrifying. You have no idea how to piece the night together without talking to other people who were there. Who was I with? What did I do? What did they do to me? Last year at Burning Man, we helped reassure someone who'd been dosed and ended up falling asleep for most of the night in our pillowasis. The knowledge that she spent a good hunk of her lost time in relative safety and unmolested helped her peace of mind a little.

How absolutely terrifying must it be to wake up in a hospital alone and have no idea how you got there? And then, to have the only two people who might have a clue as to what happened decide that you're too much of a pain in the ass to get out of bed for?

The outcry about the article and "apology" has been fairly critical. Samantha Henig, another DoubleX writer, is irritated with the victim blaming. Kate Daily at Newsweek relates her own date-rape-drug story. And obviously, Jezebel is on the case.

Lucinda Rosenfeld is right. Those women had no obligation to respond to a call from their companion. But they certainly aren't her friends.



( 12 comments — Say something )
Oct. 14th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
I'm 12 feet past aghast at these "friends" behavior.

WHO treats a friend like a leper after being assualted/drugged ? W.T.F.!! What kind of person refuses to go sit with a friend who is in the ER?

Jesus, who needs friends like that ...

Oct. 14th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine NOT going if someone -- likely even a fairly new acquaintance -- called and asked for help. IF it was someone I call a friend, I would expect the call, and reply immediately.

Once again, I am quite stunned at some of the humans in this world....
Oct. 14th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
the author of this article obviously has really shitty friends, and is one herself. she's also an idiot. possibly these things go together. i don't know.
Oct. 14th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
Wow. I can't imagine not coming when called if one of my friends needed me (although we tend not to run that way). The exception would be that I'd need to find a way to make sure my kids were taken care of first.

There's no excuse for her answer.

For her friends, though, it might be more complicated. We know one side of the story and that sounds awfully damning. I've found that often when something sounds super-clear, it's often a sign you don't have all the information. Still, if it's even remotely like she says it is, those friends of her are no friends at all.
Oct. 14th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
I am not certain I would call that human behavior, let alone the behavior of someone I refer to as "friend".
My friends are my chosen family, and we know we can count on each other, regardless of the situation. Like when I had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor late on a Sunday night, or a friends truck has been towed and a that friend needs help, or a cat has been hit and a friend needs someone to drive him to the pet ER, or "my dad just died, please help me, I can not drive myself home".
There would be some serious BS if one of my friends did NOT call me when they were in one of those situations, and several hundred others. I just can not imagine treating anyone in that manner.
Oct. 14th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
Wow. I haven't read the article yet, but I'm with you. They are not her friends at all, and Lucinda totally missed the mark. How is her first thought NOT that she had probably been raped after being drugged and left out on the sidewalk?

I drove myself to the ER last July, because I had chest pains, and I made llnaughty stay home with the kids because I didn't want them in the ER all night. When my aunt and cousin, who are basically my best friends and who live a few miles away, found out the next day, they were seriously angry with me for not calling them to either take me, come and sit with me, or at least stay at our place so llnaughty could go with me. Like, not talking to me for a week angry. As would I have been had the roles been reversed. They still take a jab at me about it once in a while. (To be fair to llnaughty, I was pretty sure I would be fine to get to the hospital on my own, and I can be pretty obnoxious when I insist on something. He really had no choice.)
Oct. 14th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
And, as someone points out in the comments on the second article, if I got a call from one of my neighbors whom I detest, I would still go a pick them up and bring them to the hospital and sit with them. WTF? That's just decent human behavior.
Oct. 14th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)
I've been lucky enough not to have received that call, but I cannot imagine I wouldn't immediately respond if I did. What the hell?
Oct. 15th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
I've told countless people that I take 3 a.m. calls. I will talk to you, come where you are, sit the hospital with you, take you for coffee, or whatever. I've done it too and not just for friends.

And, I've done more for friends too. Those women weren't friends, they were people who were hanging on.

Hope she gave them the boot from her life...
Oct. 15th, 2009 07:46 am (UTC)
Are they all Objectivists?
If the poor drugged woman hadn't specifically mentioned how she'd known these selfish bastids for 10 YEARS I might say something about our culture making friendship into an over-used category & hence confusing people about those who are just acquaintances (& assholes), etc., etc., etc.

Obviously, that doesn't apply, and I'm going to go with Lindsay Beyerstein's concise analysis instead.
Oct. 15th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
Excellent post 'Stina. I feel sorry for Lucinda Rosenfeld. That woman has a seriously warped definition of "friend".
Oct. 20th, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC)
i would be a friend who would drop everything to help someone in that situation, but i also have friends who wouldn't...who would be so busy with whatever that they couldn't. we all know those type of friends - the kind that talk about how busy they are all the time, so you automatically put them on the lower echelon of "friends good in emergencies". it is what it is.
( 12 comments — Say something )


'stina is, surprisingly enough, a lawyer from Houston, Texas who rambles about quite a number of things.

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