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Suzanne Power: You're no soul sister if you can't share

MAYBE I am fortysomething suspicious, but I've come to realise that perfect friends are a pack of trouble.

Like chameleons, they can change colour at any time to suit any mood. They never put their foot in it, they never turn up to meet you wretched, they never seem to need a shoulder to cry on. They're just there, with a Mona Lisa smile and a propensity to distance themselves from crises. Lucky them. They're like that, I suspect, because they're Pandoras who don't bother to open the box. Their coolness, their calmness, their constant self-assurance is actually a big message: I am doing life better than you.

Every now and then you'd like to fire a hand grenade at them. But chances are they'd catch it and throw it back at you, perfectly pitched. They're so much more together than you, at everything, even grenade throwing. So why do they bother hanging around with people in crisis? I think it's because their need for perfection is so vast they choose volatile, even catastrophic, individuals to play the straight man to.

In the same way you watch disaster movies or documentaries about horrendous lives to make yourself feel not as badly off as some people, perfect people need imperfect friends to show just how brilliant, fantastic and wonderful they are.

These people never fart and never fall out with anyone. The truth of them is they're passiveaggressive nightmares, remaining horribly silent when you reach out too much to them. The only real benefit is they do come up with some level-headed ideas, when your s**t is hitting the fan, because they will never be fully committed to anyone but themselves. They're not feeling your pain, but they can pinpoint with telling accuracy its source.

Scratchy

The only trouble with that is, it’s intensely irritating. It's platonic chicken pox. Scratchy and pimply and deeply annoying. When an ordinary, imperfect friend sees something you need to change, it can be a valuable insight. When a perfect friend makes a welltimed suggestion, you want to punch them in the face. But they're probably black belts.

I once had a perfect friend who got everything right. I was Harpo to her Groucho, the blonde one blowing the horn, but Groucho never listened. She was stylish, witty and ambitious. Her sofas never sagged and neither did her midriff. In the first few years I had no problem enjoying her repartee and accepting my sidekick role. Then I realised I was being kicked in the side. Whenever I discussed a problem with her she would give me great advice, but always beginning with the words: “The trouble with you is. . .” Sometimes this would be accompanied by a Kitchener finger point and so one fine day, when I had enough of feeling small, I stopped phoning my big fantastic friend.

I miss her, but not her diatribe. I enjoyed her directness, but it mowed me down. The trouble with her was she never let anyone in far enough to help her. Her friends got stuck on the advice roundabout, she sat in the central reservation, pronouncing.

I think now some people are so afraid of what you might find out about them they give off the illusion of perfection. Friendship is a shared thing. If the advice is all one way, then where's the sharing?

I remember the last time I saw my friend was at her mother's funeral. I saw fabulous flowers and a beautiful ceremony. But not one single tear. Her whole demeanour said: “Don't expect to see me cry.”

When you know someone well, you'll see them upset at some stage. That moment, that opportunity for intimacy, never came.

Driving home I thought about it, and discussed it with a mutual friend, who had the same feeling. We were all moths to her flame. Perfect friends burn you out, and so are often left alone in their ideal worlds.


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